Monday, 20 July 2015

Norfolk Part 1 - The North of Norfolk

Last week I was up in Norfolk, in the Great Yarmouth area. The Lovely Jemma's parents had booked a cottage and we joined them for a week of relaxing, walking and maybe even some beer drinking. Norfolk has an excellent reputation for real ale and I was looking forward to trying out the goods. The cottage we stayed in was in the charming chocolate box village of Winterton-on-Sea, featuring pretty houses, a well kept village green and an impressive lighthouse. There was also a pub and it seemed rude not to visit.

The Fishermans Return with its classic red brick fa├žade, homely furnishings and traditional wood backed walls inside fits the part of the traditional village pub. However it has a secret, a large and modern extension to the back, which looks a bit out of place and was empty on the few visits I made, it is presumably mainly used for functions. The small serving area in the main pub had four ales on offer, including the "house ale" Skippers Tipple. A 4% bitter the brewery wasn't displayed on the pump clip, but according to the internet it appears to be a Greene King "house beer," a generic beer which they ship out to pubs who slap a custom clip on the handpull. It was tasty regardless. The Adnams Ghost Ship I tried was also in excellent nick. I didn't get to try the food but the menu looked appealing with plenty of pub classics.  Sitting outside on one of the wooden benches in the sunshine and surrounded by the sweet little village was a great way to start the holiday.

About a thirty minute walk along the beach from the cottage is the seaside resort of Hemsby. It's like a miniature Blackpool, with a small selection of gaudy, neon lit arcades and little shops selling all kinds of seaside tat populated by sugar filled kids and tired parents. The arcades were depressing to visit, all of them packed with two penny pushers and claw machines offering the same tacky "prizes" - I miss the video games and pinball from arcades of my childhood back in the 80's and 90's. On the outskirts of the Hemsby prom is the rather grand looking The Lacon Arms. A large family pub, on the few visits I made the pub garden was usually full of groups enjoying a pint and/or eating lunch. As it was billed as a "family pub" my pub snobbery kicked in and I wasn't expecting much of the beer selection but it was actually pretty good. Alongside the ubiquitous beer from the Norfolk Woodforde brewery, there was also another Greene King house ale and a beer from the recently reopened Lacon brewery, who are based down the road from the pub in Great Yarmouth. Their Encore was a fine, citrusy pale ale which was a joy to drink and possibly the best beer I had on the trip. I would have another run in with the Lacon Brewery later on in the trip.

Another half hour walk on from Hemsby is the cosy seaside resort California, which again has a small prom with a smattering of arcades and cafes, which no doubt get a lot of custom from the large holiday park nearby. There's also a pub, the California Tavern. Rather generic looking inside and out, this was a good spot for a drink and a meal. The Ploughmans Lunch I shared with The Lovely Jemma was very tasty, and my half of Wolf Brewery's strangely named Granny Wouldn't Like It was a rich ruby ale that went down a treat. Sadly my follow up pint of Woodforde Wherry wasn't so great. With a strong aroma of old socks and a taste that was marginally better, this was a disappointing pint of a normally reliable bitter.

On the Tuesday we took a walk in the opposite direction, across the beach and through the outskirts of the broads to the Nelson Head, a picture perfect country pub nestled in the tiny village of Horsey. This small two room pub has a wide range of ales and cider, plus a tempting if pricey food menu. The cider according to TLJ was very good, and the food was very tasty. Sadly the ale was hit and miss. Tom Wood's Best Bitter was either in poor condition or just a poor beer - slightly sour and a otherwise flat tasting profile. There was a lot of sediment at the bottom of the glass as well. I was desperate to drink anything after the long walk but I wasn't impressed. Cheddar Bitter Bully, which was gravity dropped rather than hand pulled, was a million times better, a clean, refreshing and hoppy pint that was a treat to drink. I tried my luck with another gravity dropped beer, but sadly my final pint of Arizona from the Tombstone Brewery was a return to average form, but the very pleasant walk back to the cottage cheered up my mood.

That's enough rambling for now. Over the next couple of weeks I'll be telling you about the pubs I visited in Great Yarmouth and Norwich. Hope you can join me!

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