ALE Autumn 2000 No. 299

Four go mad in Norfolk

Tour of Norfolk Breweries

Normal for Norfolk?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that four CAMRA members in possession of a free weekend must be in want of touring as many East Anglian breweries as is humanly possible. Our tale begins as your humble narrator gets up at six o'clock on a Saturday morning in order to fight his way through the pouring rain and reach the City of Cambridge brewery. Only four of us braved this tour, other branch members preferring to sleep - or at least to attend the CAMRA AGM in Derby. We were the few, the proud, the tired - and the wet.

[Brendan Moore & Steve Draper]
Brendan Moore & Steve Draper.
Brendan of Iceni comes to see what's in store for him when we turn up at the end of our trip. Steve is pleased to see the back of us.
By 8.40 City of Cambridge's Steve Draper was playing his part as the first of many who attempted to describe to us the process of brewing, while moistening our throats with a very welcome pint of Jet Black. Particularly important to Mr Draper was his electrically heated copper which, he explained, made for a gentler boil. After much enthusiastic supping of beer, and almost as enthusiastic learning about the brewing process we made our excuses and left the safety of Cambridge for the wilds of Bildeston.
[Breakfast at City of Cambridge]
Enthusiastic learners: Breakfast at City of Cambridge - recommended!

... Or we would have done, but fate was conspiring against us. We found ourselves lost among the twisting country roads. Just as we began to think we may be finding our way once more, progress was brought to an abrupt halt: the keen eyes of our illustrious leader and driver had spotted a shop selling militaria. Dragging Shaun Marsh from such an establishment took a combination of low cunning and bloody-mindedness, but eventually we were able to move on towards the King's Head brewpub.

Which was shut.

[Enjoying long-overdue elevenses] Enjoying long-overdue elevenses - Dark Vader!
Half an hour later, and another antique/bric-a-brac/militaria shop under our belts, we returned to the now open King's Head and sampled their fine beers, including the delightful Dark Vader. A tour of their brewery was, of course, the order of the day. This one was built in a wooden outhouse, dark and dank, the entire set-up home made, relying on the engineering skills, and Heath Robinson mindset, of the landlord.

[Fireplace] Fireplace
['...and this is where we put people who ask stupid questions'] '...and this is where we put people who ask stupid questions'

Moving on, we departed briefly the world of real ale to investigate cider production at James White. Very different from the previous breweries, the cider plant was almost entirely automated, from the apple press to the bottling machine, and the plant itself was made up of bits from all corners of Europe and perhaps beyond. Interestingly, the only place where water was used in their entire process was in washing the apples. The farm shop next door to the cider plant was having a free food tasting - so lunch was free, and remarkably good.


ALE Autumn 2000 No. 299 : Next section
Cambridge & District CAMRA