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The BIG idea

PUBLISHED: 05:08 15 December 2014

Rupert Farquharson, managing director of Woodforde's Brewery at Woodbastwick. Photo: Bill Smith

Rupert Farquharson, managing director of Woodforde's Brewery at Woodbastwick. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

Please tell us a little about the history of Woodforde's.

The brewery was founded in 1981 and was launched by two members of the Norwich Homebrewers’ Society following the demise of the Norwich breweries and the resulting decline of real ale. Their passion for using only the finest ingredients, particularly Norfolk-grown barley, remains the same today. The brewery moved from Erpingham to Woodbastwick in 1989 in order to utilise the abundant source of water beneath the brewery. In 1992 two cottages opposite the brewery were converted into The Fur and Feather Pub. In the early part of the new millennium the new owners of the brewery installed a state of the art brewery that would ensure the consistency of the beer brewed. During this period the brewery won the ultimate accolade, Champion Beer of Britain for both Norfolk Nog and Wherry.

You’ve just been named Brewery of the Year by The Good Pub Guide 2015. How do you feel about this achievement?

It is a particularly gratifying achievement because the award is voted for by beer drinkers across the UK. The current trend is for very hoppy beers, but we have stuck to our guns and produced balanced beers designed to give pleasure, and so it is extremely pleasing to be rewarded with this major industry award. The other thing to say is that everyone works incredible hard here at Woodforde’s, so it was a real boost for the team when it was announced we had won this award.

Several of your beers are award-winners. Is this down to the ingredients you use or the people who make them?

I think a bit of both. We have very good brewers who are technically very well qualified and they produce great beer time and time again. I was as excited about one of this year’s seasonal beers, Flagondry, as I am about some of our multi-award-winning beers. We have just got to keep innovating.

The brewery and micro-brewery business has developed so much during Woodforde’s’ past 30 years – what do you think are the biggest challenges facing brewers today?

I think the real challenge is that there is still only modest growth in the cask ale market and so many more brewers brewing beer. It is great for the consumer because there is a wonderful choice, but from a business perspective it is going to be hard for all of today’s breweries to survive.

Would you call Norfolk a real ale county? And how are our pubs and breweries working together on this?

I think Norfolk is a great real ale county with over 30 breweries, Norwich as the City of Ale, and the tradition of growing and malting the finest barley in the country. We have lots to be proud of and the opportunity to attract visitors as a result of a great beer offer across the county.

So, what is the Woodforde’s Big Idea for taking forward the brewery business in Norfolk?

I would like to say it’s a secret! We however need to continue to get the basic things right such as a really interesting seasonal ale programme; we will want to celebrate our Brewery of the Year award with a special brew; we are producing some interesting bottled beer, including Norfolk Nip – an old Steward and Patteson recipe from the 1900s, and we want to build sales of Bure Gold, which we think is a real winner!

Woodforde’s, Broadland Brewery, Woodbastwick, near Norwich, NR13 6SW; 01603 720353; www.woodfordes.co.uk

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