Have you tried this brewery’s escape room challenge?
- Credit: James Powell
Escape rooms are big business. Every large town in the country seems to have its own version – from wizard to zombie themed.
Something a little more niche is on offer though at Norfolk brewery Grain, where director Phil Halls has come up with an ingenious app which he hopes will eventually be available for customers to use in pubs up and down the country.
Phil came up with The Grain Escape during lockdown. “I get bored easily,” he laughs. “I had time on my hands in lockdown and I like escape rooms so I developed this app which essentially turns any location into an escape room using things that are already there.
“It shows your location on a map and you have to solve clues and combinations, crack virtual locks. It will work in all sorts of places and we’ve been trialling it first here in the brewery.
“People will be sitting around drinking, getting their phones out, trying to crack the puzzles, and finding stuff out about the beers we brew along the way. Feedback so far has been fantastic. It’s a lot of fun.”
You can try the escape room app at Grain’s tap room in Alburgh near Harleston, where there are lots of plans in the pipeline for 2022, including Grainfest on June 25 – an annual celebration of their beer, with live music and food.
Grain, which has two pubs (The Plough in Norwich and Spread Eagle in Ipswich, run by Phil’s business partner Geoff Wright) is 16 this year. It was a grand depart for Phil from the publishing world, but has fed into his true love for proper beer.
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“When we started out this was so much to do with where we’re from. We’re Norfolk boys through and through. We grew up in the countryside and can’t ignore the fact we’re surrounded by barley and wheat. We named the brewery after beer’s main ingredient – grain. I like to think good grain is the soul of every great beer.”
Grain’s first brew was a summery, golden, traditional summer beer. “It’s a classic best bitter made with Maris Otter grown in this area, and a good dose of Cascade. But it’s probably the dullest beer we brew. In 16 years we’ve come up with much more interesting things,” Phil adds.
The 15-barrel plant can make 1,500 pints at a time, with production scheduled two to three times a week, using just water, malt, hops and yeast.
“We seem to have slipped towards a European style of beer. I spent some time in Germany and the Netherlands and I really liked the beers there – dark lagers, wheat beers. We brew a Pilsner based on a beer from the Czech Republic style, and our Weissen is a cross between Bavarian and German wheat beer. I do like our dark larger, Munch Dunkel. It has all the softness and drinkability of a lager but it’s dark in colour with a nice nutty flavour."
Grain’s shop is full of awards – only the gold ones though, there’s not room for the others.
The tap room is open on the last Saturday of the month, with tours, live music and street food. It’s the best way to try their new beers, says Phil.
And every Friday afternoon from 4pm to 6pm there’s a beer drive-through. “That saved our business in lockdown, “Phil adds. “And it’s still a good part of what we do. It worked really well for us back in March and April 2020. We had queues down the road.”
Looking ahead, Phil says he’s optimistic about the future. “I feel like I’m making plans and they might actually happen! We definitely feel in a better place at the moment. We’ve got seven new test beers bubbling away..”
For tap room opening times, visit grainbrewery.co.uk