An insider's guide to the county's best kept secrets
Woodforde’s Norfolk Ales
Tel: 01603 720353
Award winning Norfolk ale brewed on the premises; book a tour, purchase from the shop or prop up the bar at the adjoining Fur and Feather pub.
Where to find it
Woodforde’s brewery can be found on the A1151, 10 miles from the city of Norwich and 3 miles from Wroxham, on the Norfolk Broads. You can of course find their ale in over 500 pubs around the county. New for 2013 is the ale trail where you collect stamps that can be exchanged for prizes. It would be a shame not to visit the home of this great Norfolk tradition though. With a lovely authentic pub next door you can sample before you buy or take a tour and learn the history of these ales and why they’re renowned for delivering superb quality beers.
What to expect
Known as the flavour of Nelson’s county, Woodforde’s have been brewing cask-conditioned ales for over 30 years. Pioneers of the new wave of artisan brewers in the 1980s, their range of beers has grown out of their flagship Wherry Bitter, still recognised as one of the UK’s greatest ales having won many an award over the years. They now have a wide variety of beers to suit all tastes plus limited edition new trials each year.
The shop isn’t huge but it is packed with every ale and ale related product you’re ever likely to need. On the walls there is a timeline of the history of the brewery and its development, and once a week they run tours of the brewery itself. The loading bays for the lorries are round the side, as too are endless stacks of colour coded barrels ready for the off, making some great photo opportunities for avid ale fans.
Their adjacent pub is traditionally Norfolk in feel, in keeping with the ales themselves, and is spacious with peaceful gardens and a small pond. There a tables outside for al fresco dining on a summer’s day, and the bar inside all the varieties of ale available, often both on tap and bottled. The staff are amenable to you sampling different brews and helpful in the selection process.
How do you know which ale is for you?
Woodforde’s offer varying taste sensations with varying alcoholic strengths; here’s just a small selection:
Wherry: a fresh zesty aroma with an initial crisp floral flavour that evolves into a hoppy bitterness with hints of citrus. 3.8%
Nelson’s Revenge: rich floral aromas excite the taste buds followed by the flavour of a blend of Norfolk malt sweet and biscuit in its long hop-induced finish. 4.5%
Mardler’s: a mild ale with the sweetness of roasted malts and a low hopping rate giving a subtle yet worthy flavour – an ideal appetiser. 3.5%
Nog: a smooth red-ish black rich ale with hints of chocolate, treacle and liquorice. 4.6%
Headcracker: a strong full-bodied ale with a complex plumy flavour countered by a light bitter edge. 7%
Everyone’s drinking preferences are different. I like mine mild and found Sundew to be a great introductory beer, golden in colour and light on the palette yet with a distinctive hoppy finish. The key is to try them all; it really is the only way of ensuring the best for your palette.
What can you buy here?
All the ales are for sale in single bottles, packs or beer boxes. They also do home brew kits for £21.99, made purely with malt, hops, water and yeast yet guaranteeing the authentic character of Norfolk ale. You can also purchase a wide range of ale related gifts including the likes of glasses and pump clips, mugs and t-shirts. There are souvenir packs and hampers as well as a good selection of books.
Whether you’re a regular ale drinker or a complete novice, this is an experience you’ll enjoy. Winners of the Pride of Norfolk award, Woodforde’s are a piece of Norfolk tradition that lives on through the success of its products and the pride in its county. Visiting the county and not stopping here would be missing part of the deep routed character that is Norfolk.
Open Monday to Friday 10am to 4.30pm and weekends 11am to 4.30pm. Tours operate weekly through the summer of varying days, please check the website for up to date listings.