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.
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;
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, brewerania 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.