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Changes at West Norfolk CAMRA

The Bar Man column, by Jeff Hoyle, Friday, October 25, 2019

What’s new pussycat? Quite a lot as it happens. Here in our little corner of West Norfolk CAMRA world we have a new leader.

After several years of distinguished service, Steve has stepped down, though his watch is not quite finished as he is our host at Narborough Social Club for our December meeting and organising our post-Christmas meal in January, so you can come along and give him your personal thanks for his hard work.

The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle (CAMRA)
The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle (CAMRA)

Our new supremo is Andrea, who is already bursting with fresh ideas, and you can meet her at our November meeting on Tuesday 12th at the Gate at Fair Green.

I seem to spend a fair amount of time in the Dog House, but I think it is time to upgrade to the Birdhouse. Browsing in Lynn Farmers Market early in the month for sausages, we came across the stall from Birdhouse Brewery.

A quick chat revealed that they are based in Downham and had just been awarded their licence. This was their first outing and judging by the interest being shown by the public, they will need to get the mash tun fired up again to brew some more of their 70 bottles batches.

I believe that there is no cask conditioned ale yet, but expansion is on the cards if things go well.

Around the same time, I received a call from Dale, one of the nation’s top campaigners in the field of saving pubs, being named the CAMRA campaigner of the Year in 2013.

She has heard about the success of the Kings Arms at Shouldham from far away, down at her base in London, and was planning a trip up to have a look round and talk to some of the people involved in the community buy out.

The Kings Arms, Shouldham, which was named regional winner in the final of the inaugural Parliamentary Pub of the Year competition. Pictured are Jo Freeman (Head Chef) and Ian Skinner (licensee)
The Kings Arms, Shouldham, which was named regional winner in the final of the inaugural Parliamentary Pub of the Year competition. Pictured are Jo Freeman (Head Chef) and Ian Skinner (licensee)

She was impressed to hear of other recent schemes in the area such as the Fox at Garboldsham and the Ploughshare at Beeston.

Recent figures suggest that there are around 100 community-owned pubs in the country, and they have bucked the trend on closures, with none of them going out of business.

It seems that Norfolk is in the front line of pub rescue initiatives, and it inspired us to take a trip out to Northwold Crown. This was the subject of a bitter battle between the owners and a community buyout group.

In the end the purchase by the group did not happen, but it prompted a sale to new owners and it opened for business again in July.

It was great to see a row of enticing hand pumps as we walked in. From the four beers on offer I reluctantly passed on the delicious but rather strong Hopback Summer Lightning in favour of a very nice drop of Yardbird.

If the plans for events such as the revival of the old plough related festival and 1940’s weekends happen it could become another classiclocal.

There are a few new beers around as well. The Moongazer range never disappoints, and new offerings such as Jigfoot and Pintail, are well up to the usual standard. Marriot’s is a good place to search them out.

Grain brewery beers don’t often reach here from their base near Harleston in South East Norfolk, but you may find their threeonesix at the bottom of the list in Goldings, and it is one of the best light pale ales around.

Finally, food. Is the chef at the Angel in Watlington new? The lamb I had there was top class. I do love exploring.

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