Having made the effort to get to Denver for a tick, it seemed churlish not to make a first visit for 25 years to the other, non-Guided, village pub. A post-emptive, as we pros call it.

Ideally I bring you a host of village highlights as well, but this is Norfolk, so all you get is a stately church.

The stores-cum-village stores was closed all day, so you can’t even buy your copy of the Downham Declarant and a Turkish Delight.

The Bell has pebble dash, a mobility scooter outside and a steady stream of vapers entering and exiting.

25 years ago this was a destination dining establishment, at least by West Norfolk standards, but now it screams “village pub, no more, no less”.

The old dining room looks a little forlorn at the back, but the boozing part is surprisingly vibrant, and the lone Black Sheep pump (Lacons was off) next to the catering jar of pickled onions is really all you need.

Odd seeing a slice of Masham in the Fens (well, Breckland), but Black Sheep seems to be able survive even journeys by horse and cart over the bumpy A1101 (the roads are terrible) and still be rich and fruity (NBSS 3.5). If it got back in the GBG I wouldn’t be astonished, but with Norwich hogging 31 entries alone I doubt it (I know it’s a different branch but you know what I mean).

Loads of tat, some of it educational, some gruesome;

John Smith, of course, survived the botched execution and went on to brew award winning beers up north.

Talking of award winners, the Crispy Beef, Thai King Prawn Green Curry and Singapore Rice was a definite NCTSS4.5+ that night. I know you’d want to know that.


  1. Off topic I know but I’m currently sat in a pub full of blokes dressed up as vikings, having just been to drink a pint of commemorative craft murk in a pop-up bar located in an annexe to a wool shop. Yes, it’s the Lerwick Up Helly Aa. I’m wimping out tonight as the wind is forecast to get to Violent Storm 11 (gusting over 70 mph). The ferry might not be able to get me back to Bill Acres on the island fortress of Bressay. Livestream on Shetland Webcams/60 North Radio, it’s genuinely worth seeing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Bill, that was a real spectacle which I’d never seen before.

      I was going to stream the concert that Martin’s watching right now, but there’s more of that to come.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Plenty of people doing that. You will have never seen so many pissed up people as can be seen the morning after Lerwick Up Helly Aa. People dressed up as tins of Tennents, Peaky Blinders, nurses, hippies, you name it. I’m actually on strike today, which is pointless because no one’s sober enough to even see a picket line, let alone cross it. Ah, here is a bloke in a ginger wig and a corset and another with an Indian chief’s headdress and pink hot pants. It’s pretty full on.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Based on our visit to Norwich I can’t believe the city deserves that many pubs in the GBG. Our sampling of ten pubs was nowhere close in quality to what we find in other places. I’m really surprised by that number.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Apparently the allocation of places in the GBG is “based on a scientific calculation” (page 4); factors include population, number of licensed premises and the number of tourists.

      I don’t know what the Camra count of pubs/licenses is, but on Pubs Galore there are 505 pubs in Sheffield, 314 in Norwich.

      Sheffield’s population in the 2021 census was over half a million; Norwich had under 150k.

      The GBG has 31 pubs in Norwich and 30 in Sheffield. Clearly, there must be an awful lot of tourists visiting Norwich. I wonder how many of them drink real ale?


      1. Any idea what the name of this “science” is, Will?

        Like, I mean, psephology being the study of elections and whatnot?


      2. Are you helping me ground my opinions in facts? What a good way of doing things. Those are impressive numbers. Makes it really seem out of line. With data!


      3. Dave: I assumed your opinions were based on the facts of your own experience of the pubs rather than, say, any prejudice. Before looking at the numbers I had no idea if they would support you, but I’m glad they did.

        Etu: Not sure what the name for this sort of science is, but when Martin writes about pubs in Sheffield which would easily get in the GBG if they were in another city, we can now say we have some idea why that is.

        The skewing of the results towards tourist areas is understandable, I would say. But it must be pretty annoying to people running good real ale pubs in places like Sheffield that they’ve got no chance of ever being in the GBG. The only tourists in Sheffield are beer tourists!


      4. I’ll have a think about this later but Will and Dave offer up some good insight here.

        Of course, no judgement can be reached till BRAPA has visited all 31. Preferably on the same day.


      5. Norwich really doesn’t have that many tourists, I reckon.

        A lot of folk visit the North Norfolk coast, which is rubbish for beer, so I guess the county town gets that allocation.


      6. All I know is what it says on page 4 of the GBG: “each county or region has a listing allocation” based on a scientific calculation”. So I guess it would be Norfolk that’s the county and East of England the region. There would then be some fluidity between the Camra branches based in the city and in the small towns and rural areas, either allocated by the Regional Director, or for branches to fight over. The more touristy areas would be the north Norfolk coast and the Broads (not American broads, Dave – Norfolk Broads).

        But I reckon Norwich still has far more tourists than Sheffield, even if the allocation of GBG places is spread out over Norfolk and South Yorkshire. And looking at the latter, there are the big towns of Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham – big on population, not so much on tourism.


      7. Folk holiday in Norfolk, but I don’t reckon Norwich itself is a big draw. Nice place, don’t get me wrong. Interesting comparison with York, slightly smaller, far fewer GBG entries.


      8. Maybe more people would visit Sheffield if it had 31 pubs in the GBG. The tourist part of the calculation seems to favor things beyond the actual beer quality. Seems to tip things to Bath, York and London. SH, how are Norfolk broads different from American ones?

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Thanks Will, I suppose it’s a practice rather than a science, that of weighting within Statistics as a discipline.

        Like the Swiss are sensible enough to weight votes in their frequent referendums to favour the young in anything which might be permanent. We can see exactly why now…

        Liked by 1 person

      10. I’ve always known it as each county having an allocation which is then likely to be split into branches proportionate to the number of pubs.
        At the suggestion of a reallocation, reduction, to make it “fairer” each county ( Area ) and branch is fiercely defensive of its current allocation even if pubs with poor beer have been getting in.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. I’d be fiercely defensive of my current allocation, too. It’s always possible a branch will see an improvement in the number of pubs with good quality beer, I guess. As an example, the rise of micropubs in Stockton-on-Tees and Middlesbrough in the last decade has seen the number of decent cask outlets rise (at a guess) fourfold, just as some southern towns see cask quality drop as folk switch to diet coke or Madri.


      12. Yes, Sheffield should be fiercely defensive of its current allocation but some areas north of the border where a handpump with a firkin lasting a week ensures a listing ?


      13. And I thought the Norfolk Broads were ladies from Norwich who posed nude(backside only!} for a 2013 calendar. One of them was the landlord of the Ketts Pub and tried to get us to buy one. We gave the money but left the calendar.

        Liked by 1 person

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