The Norfolk Brewhouse at Theberton Lion Beer Club

In June the Theberton Lion Beer Club* was welcomed Bruce Ash, brewery manager at the Norfolk Brewhouse, as guest host. The Norfolk Brewhouse was founded by David and Rachel Holliday in 2011, on a farm at Hindringham owned by David's family. The first brew took place in 2012, after a year long barn conversion process, with David being head brewer as well as co-owner. Bruce joined Norfolk Brewhouse in early 2017 as David and Rachel were looking to expand operations. Previously he had worked at Woodfordes for 29 years, starting off washing casks, amongst other things, as a school leaver, and working his way up to the position of head brewer.

I first came across Norfolk Brewhouse beers three years ago, but I didn't recognise the name at first when Tom mentioned that they woud be ringing their beers to Beer Club. All of their ales are named Moon Gazer, after the moon gazing hare which is their logo, and I had, wrongly, assumed that was actually the name of the brewery. David and Rachel are very proud of the fact that they use exclusively local malt from Crisps Maltings, and water from a 200 foot bore hole on the farm. They brew once a day and four times a week, and this routine allows them to maintain stocks of their core range as well as brewing monthly specials.

The first beer of the evening was Moon Gazer Ruby, which is a 4% traditional English bitter. It poured with a decent white head on top of a chestnut brown beer. The taste is led by a full bodied bready malt and backed up with autumn hedgerow fruit. I gave it 3.75 on Untappd, possibly influenced by  my gratitude at finally getting to the pub after a rather stressful hour in the run up.

Next up came the Moon Gazer Amber, another 4% beer, this time a brown ale. Again it poured with a decent head. Bruce mentioned that all of the Moon Gazer ales contain a small amount of wheat malt to help with head formation and retention. The Amber had a rather sweeter flavour, with toffee and caramel both making an appearance, although this was quite well balanced by a slightly more bitter finish. Overall a very decent session beer.

The Moon Gazer Golden Ale is another 4% beer (other ABVs are available!), surprisingly enough with a golden hue. I'm often not too keen on golden ales as they often seem rather bland. This one was nicely carbonated with a good head, and was a clear golden colour. There was a pleasant malt backbone with a distinctly citrus flavour that prevented it falling into the bland category. In fact I could very happily have drunk several of these.

Moon Gazer Mash Up was next. This is something of a mystery beer. Every time it is brewed it has a different recipe, but always the same name. This incarnation apparently contains ten different varieties of malt and six hops. Having had a rather challenging day I neglected to write down any tasting notes for this one - beer blogger fail! But it was so popular with pretty much everyone that Tom resolved to order another firkin before this version sold out. 

Then we had the Dew Hopper Lager. This was always going to get a rough ride at Beer Club where most regulars are staunchly anti-lager in their bias. Personally, I don't often drink lager, but I am not opposed to it in principle. Dew Hopper, named after a Norfolk dialect name for a hare, is brewed with Hallertau, Saaz, and Styrian Goldings, and is lagered for 6 weeks. I thought that it was decent enough, certainly better than a most macro fizz, but it didn't excite me. 

Finally we finished with Moon Gazer Porter at 4.5%. This had a great roasty, slightly smoked taste with hints of orange in the background. Certainly the best beer of the evening for me, although all of them had been very good.

Bruce (left) clearly enjoying talking about his beer!

Throughout the evening Bruce was a very informative host. He talked frankly about the end of his time at Woodforde's, but said that he was very happy with the way that this had opened a door for him at Norfolk Brewhouse where he is very happy. In particular he is relishing the challenge of coming up with a new recipe every month. However he did assure us, contrary to rumour, that he had no plans to do a collaboration brew with A-Ha. Perhaps, with his interest in 80's ska, there might be a Moon Gazer Two-Tone Tropical Stout somewhere in his future?

* The Theberton Lion holds its Beer Club on the first Monday of the month, unless that is a bank holiday, starting at 8.30. For £5 you get samples of five different beers, usually around 1/3 of a pint. Sometimes the beers come from one brewery, in which case there is sometimes a representative from the brewery. On other occasions they are sourced by Tom from different breweries. We score the beers, and Tom uses these scores to consider which beers he might get into the pub.


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