Norwich’s City of Ale Festival is back - and this time it’s bigger and better

The first ever City of Ale festival this time last year proved Norwich to be the true ale capital of England.

And the second celebration is set to cement that reputation even further – with even more beers, more pubs and more breweries on offer.

There are 45 pubs taking part this year, compared to 30 last time around, and there will be 218 beers – several more than 2011 – to choose from at the festival, which starts tomorrow and runs to Sunday, June 10.

Meanwhile, participating pubs are prominently displaying a banner giving the festival a visible profile throughout the city.

Last year pubs reported increased sales and footfall, and this year's programme of events has something for everyone, organisers said. There are pub and brewery-oriented heritage walks conducted by blue-badge guides, a multimedia extravaganza of Norwich's pub and brewing heritage airing daily on the big screen at Fusion at the Forum.

The City of Ale bus – a 1954 LoDekka displaying the City of Ale banner loaned by Eastern Transport Collection – is back, as big and beautiful as ever.

St Gregory's Centre for the Arts in Pottergate will be the festival hub, where, between the launch and closing parties, a range of events will be held including a political debate focused on beer and pub industry issues, a local produce fair, a pub quiz grand final, and a fund-raising auction.

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The brewers' market returns to Millennium Plain outside the Forum, showcasing brewers' stalls with ales to try and buy.

There's even a Bloomin' Ale Trail organised by Friends of Norwich in Bloom. Norwich in Bloom is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and visitors will be asked to pick the three pubs they think are the most bloomin'.

There will be eight ale trails to follow and these will be kept open until the end of June for people to collect their stamps by visiting them all.

The City of Ale programme is available free of charge for people to pick up at any one of the pubs and 35 breweries taking part or to download from the website.

Dawn Leeder, co-chairman of Norwich City of Ale, said: 'Last year's event was a test-bed to see if it would work. It was successful and all the pubs and brewers involved wanted to take part again this year. They all sold more beer during the event and visitors came from across the eastern counties.

'It has given us a fantastic platform to work on and it got us recognised as the real ale capital of England. The challenge has been to make it better this year.'

Ms Leeder and Phil Cutter, co-chairman of the festival, said they were already looking forward to next year's event.

They said in a joint statement: 'Next year Norwich has the privilege of hosting Camra's annual general meeting, from April 19 to 21. And City of Ale will return from May 23 to June 2.'

The City of Ale festival is also being backed by the Norwich and Norfolk branch of Camra, and the 35th Camra Norwich Beer Festival runs later this year from October 29 to November 3, at the usual venue, St Andrew's and Blackfriars Halls.

The event also fits in with the Evening News's Love Your Local campaign which aims to get people to support their local pubs.

The Evening News supported last year's City of Ale event, and we have been on board for this year's festival from the start. Back in September we reported that a second City of Ale event would be held, following the huge success of the first event.

This year's event has benefited from the extra time available to organise it, as the inaugural festival was organised in just six months. It was also given a boost by the visit to Norwich earlier this year of six beer writers for a weekend of events.

For more stories on the Love your Local campaign visit www.eveningnews24.

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