Richard Coldwell posed an excellent question on his Ouhouse blog the other week. “Why are only Derby, Norwich and Sheffield vying for the world’s best beer city“, referring to the editorial in the new Beer Guide.

The answer may be simply because Mansfield, Stockport and Nuneaton are towns not cities.

It might also because there’s more interest in some circles about the number of hand pumps or breweries than beer quality, let alone the quality of pubs. I’m not getting into that debate, as clearly those last two issues are entirely subjective, and counting beers isn’t.

I’ve never had Norwich on my Top 10 list, but they may just me being a bit inverse snob; I do find the pubs a bit middle class for my tastes.

Just like the street art in fact;


That said, it is a lovely place in the Shrewsbury mould, and Mrs RM wanted a day out there to do the new 3 Beer Guide ticks (I’m sure that’s what she said).

I know she was also delighted at my off-the-cuff tour of brewery heritage that took us further away from John Lewis.

Jimmy Bullard no doubt

Norwich is one of those places, rather like Ghent, where you can still get a little bit lost, always turning up at an attractive little square with a church that looks like the last one.  It’s always best to navigate by WhatPub.

The App brought us to the Playhouse Bar, which looked to be the place students came to eat their own lunches and use the free Wi-Fi.  We probably doubled the average age.

To reinforce the youthfulness, Oreos were blocking the view of a fairly old-school beer selection.  I thought of taking one but, remembering Simon’s Olivegate debacle, I thought twice about consuming someone else’s randomly placed confectionery.


The Adnams was picked only because someone else had just bought it.  It would have been fine if served in a glass fit for human use, rather than the octagonal car crash above.

Oh yes, it had a model village stuck to the ceiling as well. Unmissable.

As we moved north the art got weirder;

The what ?

And the pubs got better. The Plasterers is my favourite Norwich pub, so we walked past that to the Leopard, which was a joy.


Norwich certainly has more of this type of street corner local than anywhere bar, perhaps, Sheffield, and they seem to follow a familiar path.

Proper pub furniture, breweriana from the ages, LocAles and craft keg, some humour.  To be fair that sounds like a winning formula to me, but I’m still not quite convinced there’s enough business for them all.  The Lacons was fine (NBSS 3), the keg was drunk by Mrs RM in about 5 minutes (I now know where Fosters man gets it from).

Even better was the refurbished Rosebery, which brings a bit of pub/café Walthamstow to Norfolk.  Norwich has integrated craft (whatever that means) into it’s pubs with some style (better than Cambridge in my view), and this was the place Mrs RM and I agreed we’d like as our local, as long as they keep the Cloudwater on (NBSS 3.5 for the Pale).


Open plan, but with proper seating. Newspapers dotted around, interesting snacks (including cake bites), and music from Rodriguez.  A bit of a change from yesterday’s estate pubs.

Just a shame my photos are so poor.  I’ll do a trip back and compare/contrast with the Plasterers. There was a Bass mirror in that Leopard I missed too.

18 thoughts on “NORWICH – CITY OF BEER ?

      1. Yes, Dave and I were there in Nov 2012.

        We had an interesting exchange with the Landlady of Kett’s Tavern, which seems to be something else now. When I was at the bar ordering beers she pushed a calendar for which ladies around Norwich had posed. I did not quite catch the actual idea of the calendar until she came around to our table to push it further. She bragged that she was in the October and December pictures. She proceeded to show us, and the pictures turned out to be nudes. We really did not want the calendar or to lug it around, so we declined. She persisted, so we paid the 8 pounds, but told her to keep the calendar. We do like to support local activities.

        We did enjoy Norwich. The Duke of Wellington and Fat Cat stand out in my mind. Umberto’s Italian was excellent. We ate there all 3 nights. While staying in Norwich, we also took a trip up to Cromer, Blakeney and Sheringham. Dave may have more to add.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We did have a beer at the Vine on the first day there. Dave had Umberto’s and Indian(Merchants of Spice) on our itinerary. I was a little slow on recognizing my love of Indian. I guess we should have tried Thai.


  1. Prior to going to Kett’s, Dave had read about the Landlady. As we approached he reminded me that he had read that she was a character. So, we were prepared, but not for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another great piece, Martin, marred only by the stray apostrophe.🔈
    I was in Norwich this Summer for the first time for many years. I share some of your misgivings; I had two pints in a regular GBG entry, a pub which is also a regular trade “award winner.” It was a Wednesday evening during the Euros, so busy, yet both pints were poor, just one side of the line which says “I should take this back.”
    I don’t know whether this was because there was too much choice or whether cellar practice was a bit lax.
    One was a beer I have drunk previously and enjoyed very much, the other was a local beer which was new to me.
    Moreover the barstaff ( the inevitable bearded tattoo-ed would-be “hipsters”) were pretty unwelcoming, which made me think that returning a beer would be an unhelpful move.


  3. I am not being biased Martin on this subject,
    For some reason Derby has a massive chip on its shoulders on most things,being beer,shopping or whatever else they claim to be better at.
    My brother lives in Derby and reads the local paper which is in his words says is full of shit about how good the city is.

    It all started when Derby claimed to be the beer capitol of Britain and then the world,Sheffield and Norwich then laid claim to having more real ales on and then Nottingham did and all cities had more on than Derby,so with Derby still having that great big chip on its shoulders they decided to alter the criteria for being beer capitol of the universe and said it was on beers per population which then stuffed Sheffield and Nottingham,but not Norwich and then York came into the fray and beat Derby hands down as did Norwich.but they bleat on and now still think they are the beer capitol.

    I really like Norwich and have done loads of pub crawls there over many years,i also had problems in the Ketts Tavern on 30th June 2012 with very surly service and me getting a soaking of beer with no apoligies,if she had asked me for £8 i would have told her to *iss off

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We completely understand and really did not want to part with 8 pounds, but her husband came in with their two children looking annoyed at her. It was a high price to pay to get out of the situation and the mediocre (a generous choice of words) Norwich Ales served there. Not that I would like to get soaked by beer but those may have been better on the outside then on the inside. We did get soaked by a downpour on the way to the Duke of Wellington, it was well worth it.


    2. I would never assume you were biased Alan, after all you share the A52 and I’m sure that you hate Leicester City now anyway. (joking).

      You’re right that Derby seem obsessed about their beery status.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s