Norwich Beer Mash-Up

The Norwich Beer Mash-Up, held in the disused St Laurence's church, was the opening event of Norwich Craft Beer Week. If I was living in Norwich, I am sure that I would have gone to several of the events over the course of the week. As it is, I was glad to have been able to find a place to crash for the night, enabling me to go to the opening session of the Mash-Up. 

Early Friday evening at the Mash-Up, lively but comfortable.

Arriving an hour or so into the session, there were already quite a few people milling around, and there was a definite buzz. I had been anticipating this evening for a week or more, since seeing the beer list. My wife Fi and her friend Becs, my two companions for the evening, enjoyed telling me that my eyes lit up as soon as we entered the church. What can I say? Living out in the sticks, I don't get to see a range of breweries like this often.

In case you hadn't seen it, the full list of breweries was:

Grain Brewery, flanked by Nene Valley and Bexar County

Now, Grain and All Day are breweries that I come across quite often, and Fourpure have recently started appearing in the supermarket; Burnt Mill and Ampersand are fairly local, but I have never seen their beers in local pubs and only very rarely in bottle shops (I live in a real rural backwater); as for the rest of the breweries, I only knew of them through social media. 

After a quick glance around the church I soon found myself at the Nene Valley bar, by simple virtue of the fact that it was the the closest to me. Somehow I had missed All Day, who were actually closer to the door, but seemed a little tucked away in the corner. I chose Pulping on Your Stereo for my first drink, partly because I had a hunch that Fi (my wife) would like it. It was a delicious American IPA with a full-on orange aroma and flavour, reminiscent of Brew Dog's Clockwork Tangerine, but without the slightly artificial tang that that beer has. Sure enough, I soon found myself swapping my beer for the Fuggle Pink Grapefruit and Mint that Fi had chosen from All Day. As a general rule I like All Day beers, but I have to say that this one didn't hit the spot for me, tasting rather medicinal.

Am I the only person who pronounced this wrong?

I had always had every intention of writing a review of the Mash-Up, but experience has taught me that going into full on beer geek mode often doesn't make for a good evening out, unless I am in the right company; so I had left my notebook and pen at home. Instead I used the voice recorder on my phone to keep a few notes, mainly just of the beers that we drank, although we did also record some tasting notes. Fi and Becs entered fully into the spirit of becoming fledgling beer critics, and the recorded notes became increasingly amusing to listen back to as the alcohol took effect! 

Delicious food from Bala Chang

You might be glad to know that I will not be cataloging every beer we drank. Instead, I will tell you what an incredibly friendly crowd were enjoying their beer on the Friday night at the Mash-Up. We got chatting to several complete strangers, including one guy who gave me some tips to deal with my  sourdough problems, and another who talked to us about his PhD (although I can't remember now what it was about) and the beer scene in northern England. Equally friendly were the people serving the beer; in many cases these were the people who had brewed it as well. It feels a little mean on those I don't mention if I single out just a couple of people, but I will anyway! 

Beers from Three Blind Mice

We had lovely long chats with the folk from Three Blind Mice and Nene Valley, although sadly I didn't catch their names. It was also really good to talk Leanne from Grain, especially about Continental Drift, which was being launched at the festival. I had had a pre-release sample at FolkEast the previous weekend, when I thought that it smelled fantastic, but tasted disappointingly muddy. Drinking it from the keg (instead of from a plastic pop bottle) it was a completely different beer and the flavour lived up to the promise of the aroma. However, I have to say that the highlight of the festival for me, from a sociable point of view, was chatting to Andy from Elusive Brewing. Early in the evening we talked about brewing, his book ('CAMRA's Essential Home Brewing', which he was selling), and mutual friends, amongst other things. Later in the evening I went back for another glass of 'Shadow of the Beast', as it was my beer of the evening, I fear I may have been talking rubbish by this stage, but Andy was friendly and tolerant - a true gent!

Andy and Shadow of the Beast. It's always a good idea to drink the same beer as the brewer!

Between the three of us, we sampled a good few beers that night. I think that there were just two that didn't really hit the spot; not that there was anything technically wrong with them, just that they didn't go down so well. On the whole, the general standard of the beers on offer was very good. However there were a couple of beers that particularly stood out for me. Apart from 'Shadow of the Beast, the only beer I went back to a second time, I must also give honourable mentions to:

  • Nene Valley - Bourbon Barrel Aged Bible Black
  • Ampersand - Experiments in Evil
  • Ampersand - Under the Wing
  • One Mile End - Imperial Biere de Garde

The vast majority of the beer was being served from kegs; although some breweries also had a few bottles and cans, and Grain had a couple of beers on cask. The evening session ticket price was £10 on the door, cheaper if bought online, especially during the early bird period, and this included a festival glass. Each brewery had its own bar, and set it's own prices. Typically these were around £1.50 / third-pint or £2 / half-pint; obviously, some of the stronger beers were a little more expensive.

Judicious use of a phone to read the beer list as the light faded.

It was also good to catch up with Toby of Sir Toby's Beers and have a little chat. I have written about this gem of a bottle shop previously (here). They had a good selection of cans on offer for those wanting train beers for the journey home. I had planned to take advantage myself, but eventually decided that neither me, nor my drinking companions, needed any more.

Three happy punters!

Overall, I have to say that the Norwich Beer Mash-Up was a fantastic festival. Following it on Twitter over the weekend, it was good to see that it was getting lots of appreciation from breweries and punters alike. I hope that it runs again next year; I will certainly be there if it does.


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