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Nice crisp Saturday afternoon, The Murderers / Gardeners Arms on Timber Hill is our first port of call. Busy place and full of drinkers. The wooden bar is on the right as we go in. It stretches to the rear of the pub. Opposite the bar are 3 semi-separate drinking areas that are worth a look with aging wooden beams and a cosy fire. Plenty of staff working and we are quickly served.
At least 9 real ales are available including Woodforde's City (4.1%) and Wherry (3.8%), Buffy's Norwegian Blue (4.2%), Newby Wyke Brewery Treason (4.2%), Growler Brewery G.B. Growler Bitter (3.9%) and one "brewed especially for the pub" Murderers Ale. These are all on sale in at the lower level bar we worked out must be the Gardeners Arms*. Up the stairs (in the Murderers *) there is a beer festival with beer served straight from barrels through a small hatch in the wall. Round the corner from this is an area for diners. We tuck into a few fresh and tasty beers from the beer festival. Humpty Dumpty Porter (5.4%) is proclaimed to be the favourite.
Our second stop is The Vine on Dove Street. (We actually don't spot this pub when we first walk down the street and have to result to GPS to find it. It's at No.7 for the record). It's a small Thai restaurant. We enter and receive a warm welcome. The first question being, "are you here for food or for drinkers". Four pumps at the bar, with 3 beers available. These are Woodeforde's Norfolk Nog (4.6%), Oakham JHB (3.6%), and a third beer called "Genesis," brewery unknown. We settle for the Nog, a top dark beer that slips down very nicely. The upstairs area is the main dining area. The downstairs caters for both drinkers and diners, and is very welcoming though we all agree that the smell of Thai food could be off-putting for people only after a drink. The staff are friendly and happy to talk about their beers, food and any local gossip.
Our third stop is The Plough, at St Benedict's. Two level bar inside, wooden floor throughout and candle lit. There are 11 beers available 7 of them from the Grain brewery. The range of beers stretches from sweet to bitter, including blonde, pale ale through to black stouts and porters. There is also a "Winter Spice" ale. Should be a beer here to suit everyone, I say. I first try for the Grain, Blackwood Stout (5%) and it's a cracking pint. The Grain Porter ((5.2%) is also declared to be perfect pint, fresh with substantial aroma and taste. The beers here is so good we just have to have another round. This time I go for the Grain Redwood (4.6%) and this also goes down nicely.
The White Lion, Oak Street: we enter the pub through the left hand door and are facing 7 real ales and 18 ciders and Perrys. We are told that the Nero Stout (5%) from Milton brewery is the top seller here, so I opt for a pint of that. Many of the real ales are from the Milton brewery. Bar staff are very knowledgeable about all their beers and they are happy to offer customers a try before you buy service. Not surprisingly, this pub won the 2012 CAMRA cider pub of the year award for East Anglia. It's a fairly large pub with 3 rooms, one of which has a bar billiards table in it. Food is served until 9pm, so we opt for a bowl of chips (with homemade mayonnaise) to help the go beer down.
Not ones to pass an open pub, we call in to The King's Head, Magdalen Street, on the way back to the train station. This pub initially appears to be very small. When we enter it from the main road we encounter a small front room and a tiny bar, but we then step through a doorway into impressive large rear room with a second larger bar that accommodates most of the pumps. An iron girder supports the ceiling across the middle of the rear room, presumably where a divide in the room once split it into two smaller ones. 8 beers are available including a dark mild, which is just what we need. Beer is served in oversized pint glasses to ensure that as a minimum we get at least a pint of beer (usually more) in every glass.