Photo gallery: City of Ale launched in Norwich
Real ale bosses said Norwich was taking the lead in the UK in the celebration of our national drink, as the third City of Ale event was launched at a packed St Gregory's Church in the city.
Hundreds of people last night welcomed the start of the 10-day festival celebrating the best of Norwich pubs, beers and breweries.
Among them was Mike Benner, chief executive of Camra, who was returning to the city after the watchdog's phenomenally successful annual meeting in the city last month.
He said: 'I don't know anywhere else in the UK that has an event like this. Norwich is leading the way for others to follow in the celebration of our national drink.
'I attended Camra's annual meeting in Norwich last month, which really put Norwich on the beer map, with about 1,300 members attending. Hopefully, the people who attended that event will return to enjoy another 10 days in Norwich.'
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The launch party was also attended by renowned beer writer Roger Protz, who has a special interest in the area, as his son attends the UEA. Earlier in the week he welcomed the return of Lacons Brewery to Great Yarmouth after a 45-year hiatus.
He said: 'It was fabulous to see Lacons return and this is another boost for Norwich and Great Yarmouth. I was in Sheffield the other day, and they were talking about their city being the UK's City of Ale rather than Norwich. But they have never held an event like this. This is absolutely fantastic.'
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Yarmouth MP and pubs minister Brandon Lewis also spoke at the launch party, and said afterwards that the great British pub brought communities together.
He added: 'It's especially great to see, as Yarmouth MP, Lacons back and its ales being available at the City of Ale event. The only way to protect our locals is to use them.'
The party was one of the first events attended by new Norwich lord mayor Keith Driver (pictured).
He said: 'This is the third City of Ale event and Norwich City have managed to stay in the Premier League for a third season. Norwich is really on the map now as the real ale capital of the country.'
Dawn Leeder, co-chairman of Norwich City of Ale, said: 'It's a fantastic start to the event and a great turn-out.'
The event was also attended by Norwich publicans including Roger Cawdron, from the Ribs of Beef, Dawn Hopkins, from the Rose and the Ketts Tavern, Rita McCluskey, from the Adam and Eve, Norfolk brewers, including Wolf Brewery from Attleborough, and the lively Golden Star Morris.
During the 10-day celebration of real ale, craft and micro-brewing, 41 city pubs will be serving hundreds of beers from 36 local breweries.
And until the final Sunday, on June 2, a huge range of events will be taking place giving the city a fantastic festival atmosphere.
There will be 218 beers to choose from at the festival, and bosses at one Norwich pub are pushing a new commemorative beer to help promote the event, and also to raise money to send Normandy veterans back to France to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings on June 6 next year.
Wolf Brewery's new commemorative beer, Monty's Gamble, will be available at the Duke of Wellington in Waterloo Road throughout the festival.
The brewery produced the special cask ale in support of the veterans' fundraising campaign, and will donate 10p per pint sold to the Norwich branch of the Normandy Veterans' Association.
Simon Davey, from the Duke of Wellington, said: 'The pub will actively be selling Monty's Gamble during the festival to help raise as much as money as possible for this worthwhile cause.'
Wolf Brewery was approached about offering a commemorative beer for pubs to sell during the City of Ale, as it is well-known for supporting the armed forces with beers such as Royal Anglian, Battle of Britain and Poppy Ale.