#NFDF2014 visit to @WoodfordesAle – famed for its #WherryBest beer.

Following my visit in July to Crisp Malting, which malts the finest barley in the world, a trip to Woodforde’s brewery was the obvious way to follow the local links from the grain to the glass.

Woodforde’s, like the village of Woodbastwick it calls home, is quintessentially Norfolk. From its trademark Wherry logo and its location in the heart of the Broads, to the local water and premium malt in its award-winning beer, it epitomises the best the county has to offer in food and drink. Similarly, Woodbastwick has a fine church, a cluster of cottages set round a small green and, like many Norfolk villages, a decent pub.

Copyright Woodforde's - with permission

It’s the beer, the whole beer and nothing but the beer

The Fur & Feather is thatched and red brick like the surrounding properties, with locally sourced food every day and, best of all, its own brewery next door. This is Woodforde’s only pub – the firm doesn’t have a large property portfolio or a diversified business. Consequently, as Managing Director Rupert Farquarson makes clear, “the company lives or dies by maintaining the excellent quality of its beer year in year out.”

That quality has been evident since two members of Norwich’s home brewing community turned their passionate hobby into a thriving business in 1981. After the dark days of the 60s and 70s when it seemed the only beers were Watney’s Red Barrel or Double Diamond, the craft beer pioneers were almost guaranteed a hero’s welcome from thirsty drinkers. Wherry certainly hit the mark and, after a couple of years on an industrial estate in Drayton, had to move to larger premises in Erpingham, next to the Spread Eagle pub (now the Erpingham Arms), to cope with rising demand.

A fire almost destroyed the brewery a month later, but the business rose from the ashes – and launched a special IPA called Phoenix to mark its survival. Since then it has grown steadily, building a loyal following not just in Norfolk but also across the UK, as its popular online ordering service proves. It moved to Woodbastwick in 1989 and in September 2014 it resurrected Phoenix as a guest ale to mark just over 30 years since the fire.

Copyright Woodforde's - with permission.

The secret to great beer – great ingredients – and master brewers

Just 15 years after its launch, Wherry won the title CAMRA Supreme Champion Beer of Britain and the company has gone on to win numerous accolades since, including two at this year’s Norwich beer festival. However, the crowning glory came when The Good Pub Guide 2015 named it UK Brewery of the Year. This is great news for Woodforde’s and for Norfolk, which boasts more than 20 pubs in the guide, including The Rose & Crown in Snettisham, which won the Pub of the Year award.

The three main ingredients in all Woodforde’s beers are local water (from its own borehole), malt and the hops. The brewery team works closely with local maltsters (Crisp Malting and Simpsons) to ensure they get the finest brewing malt made exclusively from Norfolk barley, mainly the world famous Maris Otter. “We always buy the best,” says Brewery Manager Bruce Ash, who is one of only 71 Beer Sommeliers in the world. “Our reputation depends on it.”

Woodforde’s tends to use English hops for their bitter flavour and Slovenian hops for their aromatic qualities. “Many brewers use processed hop oil or dried pellets because they are cheap,” explains Bruce, “but we only use whole hop flowers because we want to ensure a full flavour.” Fittingly, it used purely English Golding and Challenger hops for its Royal Norfolk Ale, which it brewed to commemorate the sacrifice of the local regiment in WW1 and to raise funds for its benevolent fund.

Supporting the local community

“The term ‘ethical’ is perhaps a bit overused in business these days,” admits MD Rupert, “but we do strive to put something back into our community. After all, most of our employees are Norfolk born and bred – we even have three members of the same family on the team – and they stick with us because they like our attitude, as much as our beer. In fact, three people have been with us for over 25 years, including Bruce who worked his way up from being an apprentice.”

Woodforde’s commitment to the local economy is also evident in its brewery shop (run by Juliet Jones) where it stocks food and drink from 16 other Norfolk producers. It is like a permanent indoor farmers market and well worth a visit – particularly in the run up to Christmas if you are looking for a special present for the gourmet in your life. Feast your eyes on the current selection:

JubberwackyBooja Booja

Yare Valley Oils

Norfolk Sloe Company

Essence jams and chutneys

Algy’s popcorn

Chillis GaloreNorfolk cider

Broadland Wineries

Saffire Handmade Chocolate

Orchid Apiaries

The Little Fudge Stall

Norfolk CordialGnaw

Channell’s Norfolk Preserves

Lady Jay’s Preserves

Peachey’s Chutneys

For a delicious, festive family day out, you should pop along to the brewery’s Christmas Open Weekend (6-7 December). Along with beer and wine tastings, there will be a hog roast, a local food marquee, carol singers and free brewery tours. As further proof of the brewery’s support for local producers, it doesn’t charge pitch-fees for the marquee – which is a particularly generous gesture in these tricky economic times.Copyright Woodforde's - with permission.

Woodforde’s also supported the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival 2014; sponsoring the Aylsham Slow Food Festival and Ormiston Families’ Walk with a Fork, as well as running a food & ale matching evening. In 2015, as in previous years, it will continue its involvement in Norwich City Of Ale Festival in May and the Norwich Beer Festival in October. It will also brew a special ale for the Maris Otter 50 celebrations in September, to mark the revival of the malting barley that is a favourite of craft brewers the world over.

Supporting pubs across the region

If that was not enough, Woodforde’s is again organising the East Anglian Ale Trail. Now in its 15th year it has become one of the biggest in the country. The trail features around 700 pubs – including some 330 in Norfolk. That is enough for a dedicated beer drinker to enjoy two stops a day, every day of the year – and there will be prizes for those who complete different sections of the trail. This is a great way to support local pubs and craft beer makers, not just Woodforde’s (although it obviously does help).

Declaration

This is not a sponsored blog (none of mine are) but Woodforde’s kindly gave me a bottle of Norfolk NIP and a bottle of Tinsel Toes to taste. However, I’m saving them for the festive season – when I can try them with a slice of delicious Christmas cake from Dozen – so will report back on them later. Rupert also donated a box of six assorted bottles of Woodforde’s beers for the Nelson’s Journey Christmas quiz. Thank you to all the team at Woodforde’s for your hospitality and generosity, especially Rachael Shakespeare for arranging my visit and showing me round the brewery.

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We’re blogging for charity

We are using our blogs to raise awareness of an excellent local charity called Nelson’s Journey. If you enjoyed this post, please donate £1 (or more if you can spare it) to Nelson’s Journey today. Thank you.

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About this post

This is one in a series of #NFDF2014 tagged posts about the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival 2014 and related stories – I hope you enjoy them (if you do, please give them a star or five).

If you have any questions or comments, or ideas for future posts, please post them under this blog or tweet them to me. I will do my best to reply.

Thank you for reading – best wishes – Huw.

@HuwSayer / @Business_Write

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Join @NorfolkFDN – the Norfolk network for buyers and suppliers of local food and drink.

Local people with a passion for Norfolk’s food and drink have launched a new networking group for buyers and suppliers: the Norfolk Food & Drink Network (@NorfolkFDN on twitter). Now we want you – producers, processors, chefs, restaurateurs, wholesalers and retailers – to get involved.

This network brings together professionals from across the industry to share knowledge and ideas in a relaxed and friendly environment. There are no membership fees – just a small charge for some excellent canapés and a drink at each event – and there is no pressure to sell yourself or make introductions.

Instead, each quarterly event will feature guest speakers who will talk about lessons they have learnt – and mistakes they have made along the way to success.There will also be plenty of time for members to share their own stories, discuss industry issues and make valuable business contacts. The events will normally be at The Library Bar and Grill on Guildhall Hill in Norwich – but we are looking at other venues for special events.

A professional network – organised by professionals

The network has been set up by Emma Arthurton from Larking Gowen, Nicola Butterworth from Howes Percival, Jayne Raffles from Raffles Restaurants and representatives from the Norfolk Food & Drink Festival (Anna Stevenson, the festival’s co-ordinator, and me, in my role as one of this year’s festival champions). We have since been joined by my fellow #NFDF2014 champion Charlie Hodson and by Charlotte Cousens from Contract Personnel. If you want to get involved – please get in touch.

NFDN

We’re stronger together

The Food and Drink sector is a vital part of our local economy. Across the New Anglia LEP (NALEP) region, the Agri-food industry (‘plough to packet’) is worth around £4bn and employs some 15% of the workforce, many in highly skilled jobs requiring good STEM qualifications. Food and drink is also an important part of Norfolk’s tourism offer, accounting for 29% of tourist spending in the NALEP region (more than shopping at 27%). So anything we can do to strengthen local businesses is good for our community too.

BOOK to avoid disappointment

We have now held two events (in July and October) and both were a big success with great feedback on our member surveys – including 87% rating the events as very good or excellent. The next event will be on Monday 26 January 2015 at The Library Bar and Grill from 17:30-19:30. Follow @NorfolkFDN on twitter and look out for the booking info – be sure to invite a business contact too.

To keep up to date future events, please follow NFDN on facebook – and help spread the word by liking their page and sharing with your social media network.

Thank you

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Charity Fundraising

Here at Business Writers Limited we’re using our blogs to raise money for @NelsonsJourneyhere’s why.

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About this post

This is one in a series of #NFDF2014 tagged posts about the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival 2014 and related stories – I hope you enjoy them.

If you have any questions or comments, or ideas for future posts, please post them under this blog or tweet them to me. I will do my best to reply.

Thank you for reading,

Huw.

@HuwSayer / @Business_Write

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Discussing #NFDF2014 Norwich Restaurant Week in #NorwichLanes with @RafflesFood – over delicious Rapido lunch.

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This year is the 10th anniversary of the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival and the organisers are determined to make it the biggest and best yet. The festival is already the largest in the UK – with volunteers running numerous events, both large and small, across the county from 30 August to 12 October. However, this year we want to do more in Norwich – which is where the festival started.

Among the many events being planned is the ever popular Battle of the Bangers, which last year attracted over 5,000 sausage lovers to taste the finest our local butchers have to offer. There will also be the City Farm and a Norfolk Producers market – all outside The Forum on Saturday 6 September. This will coincide with the final day of the reinvigorated Norwich Restaurant Week, which will run from 1-7 September and is being supported by Norwich BID and Norwich Lanes.

The current chair of the Norwich Lanes committee is Jayne Raffles. She and her husband Nigel have been running restaurants in Norwich for 24 years – and currently have three in the Norwich Lanes district: St Benedict’s, The Library and Pinocchio’s. I had the pleasure of meeting them both for a Rapido lunch in Pinocchio’s to discuss their plans for making the most of Norwich Restaurant Week.

Fresh fast food to savour

I have to admit to having a real soft-spot for Pinocchio’s. It’s the place we tend to go for family celebrations, including the day we moved back to Norfolk, the night (four years later) when we finally moved out of a rented house into our own home, as well as various birthdays and anniversaries. It reminds me of the family-run trattoria in Bologna we tried when we visited Italy – with good, honest food, prepared fresh every day.

Nigel, a talented chef who is responsible for the food in all three restaurants, uses local suppliers (such as Easters) and fresh seasonal produce wherever possible. “It’s important to provide great tasting food and great value food, if we are to compete with the big corporate chains. We make virtually all our bread at Pinocchio’s, particularly our pizza dough, although we use a specialist Italian supplier for the ciabatta because they make it using the traditional slow fermentation method.”

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The ciabatta we had for lunch certainly tasted delicious, packed with chicken, mushrooms and pesto. As did the arancini, deep fried rice balls with chorizo and smoked mozzarella, and pin-wheels (rounds of bread) filled with a rich lamb ragu. Sadly I was driving, so had to pass on a glass of Moretti (my favourite Italian beer if you must know) but the homemade Sicilian lemonade was so deliciously refreshing I was slightly surprised the Famous Five didn’t arrive on their bikes with Timmy the dog just to knock back a jug or two.

Supporting cultural life in the city centre

As you would expect, Jayne and Nigel are also passionate about promoting local, independent restaurants. “It’s the independents who help keep Norwich special,” says Jayne. “They stop the city turning into just another clone town and they attract visitors who are vital to the local economy.”

This passion is reflected in Jane’s championing of the Norwich Lanes organisation, which promotes independent businesses in the city centre. As chair, Jane works closely with the Norwich Business Improvement District (Norwich BID) team, which has raised £3m to improve the look and feel of the city centre. Both organisations support special events in the city centre throughout the year.

The Lanes committee is organising four big events this year. The first was the successful revival of Jack Valentine in spring, with Norwich BID’s help. Next up, on 6 July, is the hugely popular Summer Fayre – which just gets bigger and better every year. Then in October the Lanes will support the 5th Sound & Vision festival at Norwich Arts Centre. And finally, the organisers are planning a late night open-shop/open-restaurant event for December (more on this nearer the time).

Meanwhile, Norwich BID will be laying on street entertainment every Thursday throughout the summer. The Head Out, Not Home campaign (which runs 12 June to 28 August) aims to encourage people to stay in the city after work and make the most of the long (and, we hope, sunny) summer evenings. To keep up to date with what’s on each week, follow #NorwichEvenings on twitter or download the BID’s ‘Discover Norwich’ app.

Norwich Restaurant Week

Both Jayne and Nigel see Norwich Restaurant Week as another great opportunity to attract people to the heart of our fine city and raise the profile of its independent food network. “We are trying to encourage all the restaurants, cafés and bars in the Lanes to take part and help make it a week to remember. The Food & Drink Festival and Norwich Restaurant Week in particular are vital to putting Norwich on the map as a modern food destination, not just an historic visitor attraction.”

Jayne and Nigel seem to thrive on being busy – so they are planning three events for the Food and Drink Festival. “We are going to have a Slow Food Festival in The Library (our restaurant on Guildhall Hill),” says Jayne. “The team behind the Aylsham Slow Food Festival (which is also an #NFDF2014 event) are helping to organise this and it will be like an indoor market celebrating the best in regional food.”

Nigel is organising an American pop-up barbecue in the Warings Store: “This will really appeal to people who love succulent burgers and other traditional American food,” he promises. Then, in the third week of September (not Restaurant Week but still during the festival) Jayne will be hosting a special #NFDF2014 event at City College. “Hopefully this will help inspire more students to pursue a career in catering.”

Celebrating our City of Literature’s heritage

Finally, as if all those events were not enough, Jayne and Nigel are planning an extra special event in November to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the reopening of The (Norwich Subscription) Library building in 1914 (after a devastating fire in 1898). This will run from 1-7 November and will involve The Bookhive, Jarrold, the Writers Centre, the UEA’s Writers’ Circle and the Blue Badge Guides. There will be children’s events on the Saturday (including pop-up bookstalls and storytelling) and authors’ evenings (including book signings) during the week.

Now that seems like a wonderful example of feeding the body and the mind – of which I suspect Epicurus would have strongly approved. It certainly works for me. Thank you Jayne and Nigel for an excellent lunch too.

Be a part of #NFDF2014

If you are interested in taking part in Norwich Restaurant Week, please post your details below and the organisers will get in touch with you.

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More info

If you have any questions or comments, or ideas for future posts, please feel free to post them under this blog or tweet them to me. I will do my best to reply. In future blogs I will talk more about the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival 2014 (see my earlier post about being an #NFDF2014 Champion) – and other food and drink events around the county – I hope you enjoy them.

Thank you for reading.