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PUBLISHED: 05:29 20 April 2015

Martin James working at the Panther Brewery at Reepham.; Photo: Bill Smith

Martin James working at the Panther Brewery at Reepham.; Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2011

Judith Taylor, our voice of farming from Ludham, talks us through her visit to an award-winning Reepham brewery.

Beer at the Panther Brewery at Reepham.; Photo: Bill SmithBeer at the Panther Brewery at Reepham.; Photo: Bill Smith

Panther – described as “real ales with bite” – are produced on the site of the oldest brewery in Norfolk, Reepham Brewery, which closed its doors in 2009. Martin James decided to buy the brewery in October 2010 after being made redundant and turned his hobby into a business. Panther Brewery started trading in December 2010 and is so called because of the many reported sightings in the area of a large panther-like animal.

Made using traditional brewing techniques to create a range of “sleek, modern, full-flavoured real ales” and retailed in very distinctive bottles, Panther Brewery has won several titles including a Gold Award for Golden Panther in CAMRA’s Real Ale in a Bottle competition in 2012 and the runner-up prize for Red Panther in the same competition.

Owner Martin took me on a guided tour of the brewery, his enthusiasm and passion about his business oozing from every pore. The first thing that hit me when I walked through the door was the most delicious hoppy smell.

Our tour began at the water tank, and Martin talked me through the complicated process of brewing. Different ratios of malts give you different beers, while hops – added later in the process – create the various, distinctive aromas. Martin explains that he tends to add more hops than others might, which gives his beer a stronger, more distinctive flavour.

So, what did we think of the beers?

Pink Panther (ABV 4pc) is brewed with wheat instead of traditional barley. Pink and quite fizzy, cloudy, especially if you swirl the sediment into the glass as they do in Germany. Fresh, fruity and slightly sweet.

Honey Panther (ABV 4pc) is a light honey brown and has a good head. It is quite fizzy with a floral, hoppy scent. Very refreshing and pleasantly bitter-sweet.

Panther Cub (ABV 2.5pc) is light to mid-brown, with a small head but big on flavour. Lightly bitter with a fruity after-taste. You would never know it was only 2.5pc alcohol - it’s got all the taste without the ill-effects!

Buy Panther real ales at outlets in Norfolk and Suffolk including farmer’s markets and also direct from the brewery and shop at Unit 1, Collers Way, Reepham, NR10 4SW,t www.pantherbrewery.co.uk.

What is malt?

Only the best quality malting barley is taken from the farm to the maltsers where it is placed in steeping tanks to soak for a couple of days. It is then aerated at about 60°C and turned, encouraging it to sprout. This process takes about five days and it is now called green malt, which is gradually heated up to dry out. The severity of the drying dictates the type of malt: Pale malt is used for most beers, crystal malt is darker and adds more colour, roasted malt has burned flavours for stronger beers.

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