Norfolk Brewery History

Traditional English Pub

Alewife Brewery About

Alewife Brewery is the only brewery in Norfolk that is owned and run by a woman brewer, who, having spent much of her childhood and early married life living adjacent to hop gardens in Kent has been brewing for 25 years.

All our beers are produced in a tiny brewery which has been built to our own design and specification. The brewing process is done totally by hand from crushing the whole grain to bottling.

We use a range of malted barley in our recipes which comes from the maltings just a few miles away.

The different malts all give the beers different characteristics and all the barley used is grown using minimal amounts of artificial fertilizers and sprays. The majority of the malting barley is grown by Teddy Maufe at Branthill Farm Wells-next-the Sea. Only whole leaf hops are used in our beers mainly Goldings and Wye-Challenger from Kent.

Alewife Brewery History

It is a fact that at the beginning of the 21st century the vast majority of brewers are men. Yet the craft was originally developed by the women of England who from the middle ages to the 18th century brewed beer as part of their household tasks; much like baking.

It was a skill which was much respected and valued. The justice of Rutland in 1610 decided that servants who could brew, bake and make malt should be paid 24s 8d per year, those who could not, were paid 1s 4d less.

In the 18th century the philosopher Lorenz Crell wrote

“Educated men gape at the insuperable difficulties the common brewer faces while old women are able to make good beer with such ease.”

The Alewife would often sell her surplus beer to passers by, standing a broom outside the gate as a sign that ale was for sale.

With the wages so low especially for women it was often better financially for women to stay at home and make vitals such as beer for the family, rather than go out to work.

Alewives made their own malt by soaking the barley in the wash tub until it sprouted, then laying it out to dry before rubbing it between their hands to remove the shoots. It was then roasted over an open fire until the desired colour was obtained; a very skilful process.

The Church was in charge of many of the breweries in the 14th century ; ale was often sold to raise money. The word ale was used to denote a special festival for fund raising purposes.
Gradually brew houses became bigger, brewing more and more ale and over the centuries much of the original craft of the Alewife wife.

Alewife brewery uses the broom as its logo. Whilst our malt is made for us, much of the way alewives worked is reflected in our brewery. We brew only small quantities of high quality hand made ale without chemical additives; using only whole hops and malt made from barley grown naturally using minimal amounts of artificial fertilizer and chemical spray. We believe this gives Alewife beers a distinct quality which is hard to beat. All Alewife beers are suitable for vegetarians.

Blanchfields Brewery

First came the dream, then the brewing course at the University of Sunderland and after two years’ of planning and preparation, Publican Graham Blanchfield began brewing at the Bull Hotel in December 1997.

A former Norwich Brewery house, the Bull is a welcoming town centre pub which is currently the main outlet for Graham’s award winning beers.

Brewing is currently undertaken once a week on the 2½-barrel plant. There is sufficient fermenting capacity to increase this to three times a week, which is the next phase in the expansion programme, when the beers will be more widely available.

Brewer, Graham, uses locally grown and malted barley, which is cracked fresh for each brew, and the finest English hops from Hereford. The beers are stored in a temperature controlled cellar and allowed to condition for 7 to 10 days.

Much has been achieved over the past months, Black Bull Mild won the Best New Brewer category at the Peterborough Beer Festival in 1998 and in the same year Bull Best Bitter won an award at the Norwich Beer Festival.

Their range of home crafted beers are available for purchase in 17 and 34 pint containers so the connoisseur of good honest beer can enjoy them at home or at his local. The fully air tight containers will keep the beers in good condition for more than 1 week.

Blue Moon Brewery

In March 1981 Peter Turner set up the Star Brewery, in Duke Street, Norwich, to supply his next-door free house, the Golden Star (and the local free trade). Sales to the free trade did not meet expectations and brewing ceased in 1982. The brewery was then reopened in late 1982 (by Hashmat Jalil) as the Tap Brewery — which was also not particularly successful and closed in 1984. The Golden Star is now owned by Greene King.

Brancaster Brewery

Brancaster Staithe is a productive little fishing village here on the North Norfolk Coast. Many local families still make their living from the Staithe, which has always been famous for its first class shellfish.

Take advantage of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by taking a stroll along the North Norfolk Coastal Path or a wander on Barrow Common.

They offer well kept ale, including their own brewed onsite followed by a friendly atmosphere and an open fire in the winter months. Feeling hugry? The Blue Moon have an extensive menu and all of their meals are freshly prepared to order. Excellent range of seafood, including local mussels and oysters from the village harbour.

Buffy’s Brewery

Buffy’s produced its first beer in 1993 and gains its name from a well-known and revered former resident of the 15th Century Mardle Hall, home of the brewery. The brewery was founded by Roger Abrahams & Julie Savory, firstly as a lifestyle choice, but as the beers became very popular with the local pub trade the decision was made to expand the business and offer a wider selection of fine ales to all. The company now employs five people including a dedicated brewer, sales rep and drayman. Over the last few years Buffy’s has established itself as one of the leading brewers in the micro sector. Our fine ales have won numerous awards at local and national level and we strive to produce the highest levels with every pint brewed.

“Buffy’s Brewery will never compromise on quality”

Chalk Hill Brewery

A brewpub, Chalk Hill Brewery has been brewing since 1993, located at the popular Coach & Horses pub on Thorpe Road, Norwich (conveniently close to Norwich Railway Station). Their Chalk Hill Bitter (CHB) abv 4.2% won Beer of the Festival at the Norwich Beer Festival three years in a row from 2001 to 2003.

Finnesko & Firkin Brewery

The Reindeer Freehouse and Brewery commenced production in May 1987 (with Wolfe Witham a partner in the enterprise) — bringing commercial brewing back to Norwich after a two-year break, following the closure of Watney’s Norwich Brewery. The business was sold to the Allied-Domecq’s Firkin chain in 1996 — for an undisclosed but apparently very large amount of money! A new brewing plant was installed and the pub was completely gutted and refitted also. Wolfe Witham later opened his Wolf Brewery in Attleborough.

Firkin pubs serve beer brewed either on the premises, or imported from another pub in the chain. All of these “Firkin Beers” are unpasteurised and unfiltered. Those served from casks qualify for CAMRA’s definition of ‘Real Ale,’ but those served from cellar tanks do not (due to the use of blanket pressure). Other ales and lagers are also available. Most pubs also serve Weston’s ‘Old Rosie’ (7.3%), a traditional cider, but some of the newer ones serve keg cider from a fake handpump.

Fox & Hounds Brewery

Fox & Hounds brewery was the first pub in Heacham to be placed in CAMRA’S good beer guide.

Mark and Marie purchased the Fox and Hounds on 14th December 1999. The pub was in a semi derelict state and only sold Toby Bitter. The first job was to install hand pumps and start selling real ale. After 2 years and 300 guest beers, Mark and Marie decided not to demolish the derelict cottage in the car park. Instead with the help of Brendan Moore (Iceni Brewery) we converted it into the FOX BREWERY.

The five barrel plant became a registered brewery on the 1st May 2002.
In that same year we became the ‘Independant Embiber’s Micro Brewery of the Year’
We now produce a range of beers which are sold throughout the country on draft and in bottles.

Humpty Dumpty Brewery

Humpty Dumpty was featured in the following article below by EDP24:
Hammer blows punctuate the cold air as Mick Cottrell paces around the echoing building which will, he is determined, one day house his dream brewery “experience”.

Already it is home to a busy and increasingly successful microbrewery, a prime example of a growing industry that is helping to shape the future of British beers.

Mr Cottrell was gripped by the brewing bug when he went to one of the regular beer festivals at The Railway Tavern in Reedham, between Norwich and Yarmouth, and met the pub’s then proprietor Ivan Cuders.

The meeting was to set his life on a different track. He launched the Humpty Dumpty brewery from former stables at the rear of the Railway Tavern and its first beer rolled out in December 1998. “I just fancied a change from the construction industry,” he said. “I’d never tried home-brew before that. But we got a consultant in and learned from our mistakes.

“I know that for as many microbreweries that start up as many close, and that every year a couple close down in the area.”

The brewery’s name comes from the nickname of a class of locomotive which used to steam through Reedham, and all the beers in the Humpty Dumpty range are named after the nicknames of locomotives which ran in the area.

Before long Mr Cottrell was having to brew three times a week to keep up with demand and as its success grew, he moved the brewery to its new home at the old Hales Snails factory on the edge of the village. While the beer bubbles away in the brewing tanks, his plans are gradually taking shape.

“We are going to start up a brewery shop with 700 different types of bottled beers from around the country, and different malts, bags of hops and brewery memorabilia. And we will also run brewery tours,” he said.

“Most microbreweries are just one or two men, often working from home or in the back of a pub. We have got to go to the next stage now and become a bigger brewery.

“We now have 14 or 15 beers and we won the Darlington Beer Festival last year at only our second attempt with our lemon and ginger as well as a silver at the Norwich Beer Festival with our best bitter.

“We now distribute all over England and even to Scotland through brewery swaps. Our main markets are Essex and Kent although we are looking to expand.

“It is difficult to sell your beer in East Anglia because there is heavy competition from the microbreweries like us and the bigger ones like Woodforde’s and Adnams.”

He added “We work seven days a week, but it doesn’t feel like it. It is a lifestyle more than just a job. It is a nice way to earn a living in that it is not so much work as a hobby which has taken over.”

Iceni Brewery

Owner Brendan Moore had a dream one night of opening a brewery. Only a year later, without any prior experience, but armed with rundundancy money and a grant from the Rural Development Commision, he went ahead and his first brew rolled out in January 1995. After three years the brewery has still managed to keep its’ rural feel while production has increased dramatically to keep up with the demand for the beers. The beers themselves are in general named after elements of Celtic folklore, in particular the Iceni tribe who used to inhabit the land on which the brewery now stands.

Winter’s Brewery

Twice Champion Brewer of Britain

Brewer of Award Winning Ales for many years at Woodfordes and Chalk Hill Breweries. Now running his own brewery in Norwich.

Wissey Valley Brewery

They started brewing in the winter of 1999 at their pub – The Ship at Brandon Creek – where first Brendan Moore (Iceni) and then John Palmer (ex Greene King) put through what can only be described as two unique crash courses in brewing.

“I brewed mainly for the pub but also supplied several Beer Festivals as Cap’n Grumpy’s Beer Co.including Cambridge, Bury St. Edmunds and Bedford – where we won Best Beer award in 2001 for Cap’n Grumpy’s Best Bitter.”

“In October 2002 we called time on our pub life after 10 years and moved to Stoke Ferry – wife, children, dogs, rabbits, hamster and of course the brewery.”

“Largely because of the decrease in duty payable on beer and also because of the relatively new capability to sell locally made produce direct to the public (particularly via Farmers’ Markets) and also because of my interest in all things related to Food and Drink I decided to set myself up initially as a small brewer selling bottled ales but with a long term aim of also becoming a small food producer selling beer related food. The most obvious way to do this is to feed my own pigs the mash from the brews and then sell the meat. To this end our first weaners are arriving in a few weeks – so wish me luck!”

“Brewing from home soon became unworkable, so I asked the landlord of the Bluebell pub if he would like a small brew plant in his back garden. He said Yes!”

And so the Wissey Valley Brewery, craft brewers of ales, milds, porters and stouts was formed and opened in July 2003.

Wolf Brewery

The Wolf Brewery has been established in Norfolk since 1996 and is continuing to go from strength to strength.

23rd CAMRA Beer Festival
The Beer festival held at St. Andrews hall, Norwich at the end of October this year saw a fantastic turnout. There was a lot of interest in Our beers as well as those from other local breweries. Special thanks go out to CAMRA for another very well organized festival. For more information on CAMRA please look at our links page.

Norfolk & Norwich Festival Ale
The Norfolk & Norwich Festival ale is still selling extremely well in the many pubs around Norfolk. Remember this is a limited edition brew so if you haven’t tried it yet don’t hang around.

Woodforde’s Norfolk Ales

Ray Ashworth began brewing in an industrial unit at Drayton, just outside Norwich, in May 1981. In early 1983 the business was transferred to a converted barn adjacent to the Spread Eagle P.H., at Erpingham. Although a fire seriously damaged the building in July 1983 the brewery continued to flourish, expanding enough to warrant moving to even larger premises at Woodbastwick in 1989. Ray Ashworth sold the brewery to Dennis Nudd and Mike Betts in 1999.

Woodforde’s Broadland Brewery history consist of: housed in partly thatched farm buildings, situated in the picturesque village of Woodbastwick, on the edge of the Norfolk Broads and some 6 miles to the North East of Norwich. Everything about the brewery reflects care and attention to detail, and it is these qualities that have contributed to several of the beers becoming celebrated prize winners, including twice winning the supreme accolade of CAMRA’s ‘Champion Beer of Britain’.

The high quality water comes from the brewery’s own borehole; the barley is grown in the surrounding East Anglian farmland, and malted in Norfolk in traditional-style floor maltings. Finest bitter and aromatic hops and the brewery’s own yeast complete the recipe for success.

193 thoughts on “Norfolk Brewery History

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