Norwich Beer Festival preview

Sarah BrealeyCrafty Stoat, Dragon's Blood and Beowulf Glutlusty. The names alone would make a poem or a fireside tale for a dark evening. Made with passion by independent craft brewers, these are just a few of the 220 or so tipples that will be on offer at Norwich Beer Festival.Sarah Brealey

Crafty Stoat, Dragon's Blood and Beowulf Glutlusty. The names alone would make a poem or a fireside tale for a dark evening. Made with passion by independent craft brewers, these are just a few of the 220 or so tipples that will be on offer at Norwich Beer Festival.

More than 16,000 people are expected to be there over the course of the week. And, while the stereotypical bearded woolly jumper-wearing beer lovers will be represented, the event's appeal goes far beyond the serious real ale fans.

The festival, now in its 32nd year, is the biggest event on the city's social calendar that week, and the queues that stretch outside St Andrews Hall will feature a mix of old and young, men and women, from all walks of life.

The festival is run by Norwich and Norfolk branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), and its organiser, Martin Ward, is also branch vice-chairman. This is the sixth year he has run the festival - something of a Herculean task.

He explained: 'You always worry whether it will be successful. Especially in the current financial climate, you worry whether people will come, but the feedback from other beer festivals is that people are coming out more and treating the beer festival as a special occasion.

'What makes it worthwhile is someone coming up to you saying: 'This is a really nice festival' - a member of the public who says they really like it, they like the range of beers, or whatever.'

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The festival is run with the help of hundreds of volunteers - more than 250 last year - doing everything from serving pints to stewarding. Unlike many beer festivals, non-Camra members are welcome to help out.

Although not all beers are available at every session, there is something for all tastes, from Mawkin Mild, a dark traditional mild at just 2.9pc from the

eco-friendly Mill Green brewery in Suffolk, to Green Jack's Ripper from Lowestoft, a hoppy barley wine with a hefty 8.5pc alcohol. There are European beers in bottles and on draught and more than 25 ciders and perries from East Anglia and the West Country.

Several local brews have been created specially for the festival or will be newcomers. There is Harry Porter from Winter's Brewery in Norwich, Swingbridge Stout from Humpty Dumpty at Reedham, Hop Harvest from Green Jack, brewed with the freshest hops, and Black Forest from Tipples at Acle, an unusual rich dark beer with a subtle flavour of cherries. Perhaps the most aptly named is Snapdragon, from the city's Fat Cat brewery, a light malty ale that reflects the festival's dragon links.

Norfolk and Suffolk ales are always popular with festival-goers, and, with more micro-breweries springing up every year, there will be plenty from which to choose. Norfolk has 31 breweries, the second-highest figure in the country after West Yorkshire, and 25 of them will be represented at the festival, with about 90 beers in all.

Mr Ward said: 'We are second in the 'premier league' for breweries, maybe because this is a traditional area for barley; a lot of brewers source their ingredients from Norfolk.

'If you compare it with 30 years ago, just after Watney's closed in King Street, there was nothing in Norfolk. Then Woodforde's started, and from little acorns mighty oaks have grown.'

To volunteer at the festival, email bfstaff@norwichcamra.org.uk

The festival opens at 5.30pm on Monday, October 26 and runs lunchtimes and evenings until October 31. Tickets �3 Monday and Tuesday evening, �4 Wednesday, �5 Thursday to Saturday, and �1 or �1.50 at lunchtimes.