Earlier this year we marked a birthday by heading off to Bury St. Edmunds for a couple of nights, which you can read about in the article 2 Brewpubs, 1 B&B, 2 GK pubs, and a trip to the Apex.
It was our 31st wedding annniversary this weekend, and whilst you may know that the 30th wedding anniversary is Pearl (and I gave my wife a pearl necklace to mark the occasion), you might be surprised to find out that the 31st is the Beer anniversary. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Past masters of fitting a lot into a short time, this 24hours away from home saw us visit 3 pubs, look longingly into the windows of several others, have a slap up Belgian dinner, watch some of the Blowzabella gig at Norwich Arts Centre, look around two museums open free of charge as part of Heritage Open Day, visit a Print exhibition, have a nice cuppa tea, and quite a bit more….
I’ll focus on the beer shall I? Looking for a couple of good pubs in Norwich isn’t a hard task. ‘City of Ale 2015’ it is, and there were several decent pubs within 5 minutes of the Norwich Arts Centre. First up, and next to the mediaeval ‘Strangers Hall’ was ‘The Mash Tun & Gin Palace’ owned by local brewery Redwell. The pub is a long one, bare floorboards and long tables and old church pews in the current style, and the pub is over a couple of floors. The main draw for me was their neat little glass thingies on the pumps, which show what colour the beer in the pump is. Very cute indeed, although it has to be said (and will be said by me, but in the nicest possible way) it rather loses its effect when 19 of 20 of the buggers are pretty much the same colour. Lots of pale ales, IPAs and lagers, and the only dark one on was Guinness. Not much demand for dark beers in the summer, according to the very helpful and friendly bar staff. Hmmm. I didn’t twig the first three on the long beer list were lagers, so ended up with a half of their Steam Lager, which was more than passable. But it wasn’t dark.
They also had an intriguing fruit infuser, which today had summer fruits infusing their lager. It appears that winter time it sometimes has chocolate and chillis in there, infusing dark ale. Now that is something I was schlep up from Colchester to try…. What I would have tried had I been 20, or 30 years younger, would have being their swing music session later that night (we did pass by it on the way back to the hotel later and it was quite lively indeed).
Next pub to try was The Reindeer, an Elgoods Tap, another nicely turned out bare floorboard and old furniture pub, who appear to do some great food, and also boast 22 craft ales on the bar. True enough, lots of cask, and lots of keg, but a similar imbalance in favour of lighter ales, with only one dark ale to choose from, but the Elgoods Talon Stout on keg was plenty fine enough.
Time for some grub, and we popped into The Belgian Monk, attracted by their 5:30-7:00 2x meals for £11.90 ‘Dubbel Deal’. We started by sharing their ‘Een Vegetarische Schotel’ vegetarian platter (Baba Ganouj, Beetroot Hummus, Muhammara, Olives, Sunblushed Tomatoes, Garlic Mushrooms and Pitta Bread), and each had their Wild Boar sausages on bubble and squeak with onion gravy for mains. Accompanied by a half of the excellent Petrus Dubbel Bruin, the whole bill came to less than £25 for the two of us. A busy establishment, we were slightly amused by one visitor looking at the lengthy beer menu and complaining there wasn’t much lager…
Off to the gig – folk band Blowzabella at the Norwich Arts Centre. A great band, but we hadn’t quite twigged that they would be leading organised dancing, and after 45mins of music interrupted by 5 mins of instructions for those dancing, with lots of background chatter noise, we baled out.
Fortunately, The Plough was just over the road. More of the bare boards in another tastefully redone pub, and, huzzah, the pub, the Grain Brewery tap, had their excellent ‘Slate’ smoked porter, drawn from a cask in the cellar, so that was us set fair for the rest of the evening!