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8 of Norfolk’s top microbreweries

PUBLISHED: 13:45 04 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:04 10 October 2017

Mike Deal, Wildcraft Brewery (photo: Daniel Lightening)

Mike Deal, Wildcraft Brewery (photo: Daniel Lightening)

Daniel Lightening

We asked eight of the county’s small brewers to tell us a little about themselves and their beers

1. Wildcraftbrewery, Buxton

Owner: Mike Deal

How long have you been brewing?

I have been brewing personally for around eight years. I started with wines but haven’t the patience to wait for them to mature so moved onto beers. My local community in Old Costessey came to regular tastings and convinced me to take my hobby to a professional level.

Does it make a difference using Norfolk ingredients/water?

Definitely! Norfolk has some of the best barley and as we forage a lot of our other ingredients from the hedgerows, the untouched countryside we have is essential for the flavours of our beer. We have also just invested in a borehole to use water fresh from our premises. This is going to make our beer even better than it currently is and is another step toward us becoming ‘off grid’

Mike Deal, Wildcraft Brewery (photo: Daniel Lightening) Mike Deal, Wildcraft Brewery (photo: Daniel Lightening)

How many different beers do you brew?

12 at the moment... five are our regular beers where others are seasonal, foraged specials. Look our for Wild Sting, our nettle beer and Wild Folklore, and Elderflower Saison which are our current seasonal beers, Wild Thing, our raspberry wheat beer is coming soon!

What is your best-seller in the summer?

Funnily enough, a beer called Wild Summer! Apart from that it will be Wild Thing, our raspberry wheat beer which is slightly sour and full of raspberry flavour. Its a fantastic beer for a hot summer’s day.

Where can people find your beers?

All over Norfolk, see www.wildcraftbrewery.co.uk/map to see both shops and pubs that take our beers

Mike Deal, Wildcraft Brewery (photo: Daniel Lightening) Mike Deal, Wildcraft Brewery (photo: Daniel Lightening)

2. Panther Brewery, Reepham

Owner: Martin James

How long have you been brewing?

The brewery was set up in 2010, after the local brewery in Reepham closed down. The premises was then taken over and the Panther brand was born. Inspired by the local tales of Panther sightings across North Norfolk the brand is a nod to the sleek beauty of the animal.

Does it make a difference using Norfolk ingredients/water?

We enjoy using our locally sourced Norfolk water which we believe helps add an extra depth and softens the palate particularly for our dark beers such as our award winning Black Panther. Our malt is selected from local sources which maintains our commitment to help local businesses and grow a sustainable business with Norfolk at its heart. We are fortunate to be based in a county that is globally recognised for its high quality malt production which naturally helps with the quality of our product.

How many different beers do you brew?

Annually we brew 15 different award winning beers which includes our core range, seasonal offerings and special releases. Our core range currently consists of 6 permanently available beers which include the: Golden Panther (hoppy Golden ale) at 3.7%, Red Panther (hoppy Red ale) at 4.1%, Black Panther (Stout) at 4.5%, American Pale Ale (hoppy pale ale) at 4.4% and the Beast of the East (premium strong bitter) at 5.5%. Along with our Hopsta alcohol free craft beer which is available in bottles across Norfolk. Our current seasonal offering in cask is Summer Daze, with our Autumn offering coming out in September.

What is your best-seller in the summer?

Our best seller throughout the summer months so far has been our Summer Daze, due to its light malt profile and juicy hop flavour! We have packed it with some of the best Mosaic, Amarillo and Motueka hops which impart a tropical fruit and zesty lime character to the beer. A true thirst quencher!

Where can people find your beers?

Our beers are available in bottles and casks across Norwich, North Norfolk and Cambridge. We run stalls at various farmer’s markets across Norfolk most weekends and also sell directly from our shop based at the brewery itself, which are the best places to find our limited edition releases. Since the installation of our larger scale bottling line we are looking at international markets as well, so watch this space.

From left to right, Chris (brewer), Martin (head brewer/owner) and Bertie at Panther Brewery From left to right, Chris (brewer), Martin (head brewer/owner) and Bertie at Panther Brewery

3. Norfolk Brewhouse, Hindringham

Owner: David Holliday

How long have you been brewing?

The Norfolk Brewhouse has been brewing for five years, with its inaugural brew in February 2012, following a year-long conversion of a barn into a modern brewhouse.

Does it make a difference using Norfolk ingredients/water?

As the saying goes, what goes in comes out – any beer will only ever be as good as its ingredients. Water is fundamental to brewing – not only is it the biggest single ingredient but the profile of the water will affect fermentation and taste – so it is critical. The Norfolk Brewhouse is lucky that it uses water from its own borehole, using water from 190ft from beneath its floor. This water passes through a large chalk seam which makes it great for brewing with. As for barley, well we are in north Norfolk which is widely regarded as one of the top places in the world to grow barley, with the perfect soil and sea breeze conditions. We are also lucky that Maris Otter – the premium brewing barley – is popular with Norfolk growers. The barley imparts a great flavour base to the beers, and we only use malt from Crisp Maltings just a few miles down the road a from us. Maris Otter from Norfolk is a huge success story – exported as it is to over 20 countries around the world – luckily for us it is literally on our doorstep.

Norfolk Brewhouse (photo: Rae Shirley) Norfolk Brewhouse (photo: Rae Shirley)

How many different beers do you brew?

We brew two craft lagers; DewHopper a light crisp 4% abv lager and StubbleStag a fuller-bodied sat tyle 5% abv. Our range of Moon Gazer ales is ever growing as we like to brew at least one new beer style a month – we have five core ales ranging from a light Moon gazer Golden up to a dark mild, but regular special mean we currently have over 10 ales. We also like to join up and collaborate with other Norfolk producers – so we have done beers with and using ingredients form Norfolk producers such as Grey Seal Coffee, Nelson Tea and The Chocolate Deli.

What is your best-seller in the summer?

Moon Gazer Golden at 4% is our go to beer in the summer as it is light and refreshing – but also DewHopper Norfolk Lager is a real summer drink and is extremely popular. The DewHopper recently came second in a national competition for the best British lager and since then its popularity has have grown amazingly.

Where can people find your beers?

We are regular in many pubs across Norfolk so thankfully you won’t have to go far to find them and you can also pick up a bottle to enjoy at home from a host of farm shop and delis we have in the county.

Norfolk Brewhouse (photo: Rae Shirley) Norfolk Brewhouse (photo: Rae Shirley)

4. Yetman’s Brewery, Holt

Owner: Peter Yetman

How long have you been brewing?

I started the brewery 12 years ago (2005) but had been brewing on the kitchen table for myself since the early 80’s. Then in the last few years of our restaurant in Holt, used to sell pints to our customers.

Does it make a difference using Norfolk ingredients/water?

It’s more about the quality of the malting. I use Maris Otter barley, but it goes to Warminster in Wiltshire to be malted by hand, at the oldest floor maltings in the country. It’s a first class product using the best raw material. Most hops are grown in warmer parts of the country, so sadly my hops are not from local sources.

Good consistency is everything when you’re brewing, and the water for brewing bitter needs to imitate that at Burton on Trent, the home of British ale, so the water is ‘Burtonised’ to give the optimum brewing medium.

Micro brewery owner Peter Yetman (photo: Simon Finlay) Micro brewery owner Peter Yetman (photo: Simon Finlay)

How many different beers do you brew?

Five bitters and a stout

What is your best-seller in the summer?

I’ve just launched a new one for the summer; Yetman’s Yellow. It’s light and crisp, and great with summer food.

Where can people find your beers?

In local pubs on draught -Wiveton Bell, The Ship at Weybourne, The Maltings at Weybourne, Red Lion at Cromer. In bottles - Picnic Fayre in Cley, Blakeney Deli, Budgens and Byford’s in Holt, Giddy Goat and No.10 in Sheringham, six East Anglian Waitrose stores (including North Walsham and Swaffham) Drove Orchard in Thornham, Moorings Restaurant in Blakeney, Blakeney House and Wiveton Cafe

5. Buffy’s Brewery, Tivetshall St Mary

Owners: Julie Savory, Roger Abrahams

How long have you been brewing?

We started our brewery in 1993 and were trailblazers at the time - one of the first small micros in Norfolk!

Does it make a difference using Norfolk ingredients/water?

Water is the single most important thing in brewing. Ours comes from a deep borehole and does not need to be treated chemically in any way. And our beer is made with 100% Norfolk hops grown on The Branthill Estate at Wells next the Sea. Shame that we cannot get a consistent supply of Norfolk hops but there are growers out there working on this.

Buffy's Brewery Buffy's Brewery

How many different beers do you brew?

We brew seven regular and consistent brews from our 3.8% Norfolk Terrier right up to cracking 9% barley wine. Our second best seller is Norwegian Blue 4.9% a premium strong traditional bitter. We tend to concentrate on beer coloured ales although we are aware the trend is for pale astringent products. We also remain true to our core products in that our beers are cask as opposed to the new craze for craft beer which is basically nitrokeg.

What is your best-seller in the summer?

Our best seller is The Norfolk Terrier 3.8% a classic thirst quenching bitter beer. It is mid amber in colour and a good all round choice for any occasion.

Where can people find your beers?

Our beers can be found in our own pub - the Cherry Tree at Wicklewood - and they pop up at great pubs dotted around the county. But we have yet to convinced to try the supermarket route with bottles! As you know the microbrewing sector everywhere has exploded but it close to saturation point. The strongest will survive but it has got very aggressive between the brewers. Thus the price small guys can achieve has slumped and because there is so much choice everyone is getting smaller volumes out there these days. Despite the rise in the number of breweries the volumes for all of us are not what they used to be. But it is still a beautiful business to be in if you are passionate about your wares.

Julie Savory (photo: Sonya Duncan) Julie Savory (photo: Sonya Duncan)

6. Grain Brewery, Harleston

Location: Phil Halls

How long have you been brewing?

Since 2006 when Grain first opened.

Does it make a difference using Norfolk ingredients/water?

Norfolk is barley country and the best brewing grain is grown on our doorstep. Norfolk water is horribly hard, but there are some tricks of the trade we use to soften it up and make it work for beer.

Grain Brewery Grain Brewery

How many different beers do you brew?

Nine regular beers, and usually one or two specials on the go

What is your best-seller in the summer?

In cask it’s our extra pale beer ThreeOneSix, or our Czech-style lager called Pilsener in keg

Where can people find your beers?

Grain beers are always served at their best in one of the Grain pubs: The Plough on St Benedicts Street, Norwich, The Cottage on Silver Road, Norwich, The Spread Eagle in Ipswich, or at The Grain Bar at the Corn Hall in Diss. Or you can try some new brews at one of our brewery open days in the Taproom Bar.

Grain Brewery's Phil Halls Grain Brewery's Phil Halls

7. Elmtree Beers, Snetterton

Owner: Claire Nelmes

How long have you been brewing?

Ten years, since May 2007.

Does it make a difference using Norfolk ingredients/water?

We use Norfolk malt – Maris Otter from Branthill Farm, this makes a difference in quality 1. Because of the type 2. Because we promote, when we can, as locally sourced.

The Elmtree Beers team The Elmtree Beers team

How many different beers do you brew?

Ten to 15; nine permanent and others occasional/seasonal basis.

What is your best-seller in the summer?

In bottle, Golden Pale Ale. Draught is Burstons Cuckoo

Where can people find your beers?

We are a guest beer in loads of Norfolk pubs and in bottles in local shops within about 10 miles of brewery. We’re always available on draught at The Banham Barrel, Banham, The Eccles Tap, (Railway Tavern) Quidenham. Best place in Norwich is The Kings Head, Magdalene St (frequently). The Leopard, The Playhouse, The Vine, The Beehive, The Earlham Arms, The Murderers often as a guest. To many others to mention. We’re also in dozens of stores across the region.

8. Brancaster Brewery, Brancaster

Owner: James Nye

How long have you been brewing?

Since we took over The Jolly Sailors in 2009. We inherited Brancaster Brewery and wanted to continue the local brewing tradition.

Does it make a difference using Norfolk ingredients/water?

The barley used in our brews is north Norfolk unique due to its coastal climate. Every location has its nuances and so we are making the most of ours.

Brancaster Brewery's James Nye with his father Cliff Brancaster Brewery's James Nye with his father Cliff

How many different beers do you brew?

Four regular beers – Brancaster Best, Oystercatcher, Malthouse and The Wreck. We do seasonal beers too such as The Smuggler and Sharpie K12.

What is your best-seller in the summer?

Oystercatcher is our top summer beer. It sells really well and is the perfect pint to be drinking in the warm summer sun.

Where can people find your beers?

On tap at The Jolly Sailors and The White Horse, both in Brancaster Staithe and also bottle conditioned ales are stocked in lots of local delis and farmshops including The Real Ale Shop at Branthill (who also grows some of the malting barley for us as well!)

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