I was recently on holiday with the in-laws in the pleasant seaside village of Winterton-On-Sea in Norfolk. It's a lovely area but not exactly overflowing with pubs or decent real ale. Luckily I had bought a stash of Bishop Nick beers with me but a midweek day trip to nearby Norwich was also on the cards. I last visited the pubs of Norwich a couple of years ago, and as always in the fast moving world of the Good Beer Guide a whole new batch of new pubs have made it in, so a revisit was required.
On a damp and dreary Wednesday afternoon the first pub on the agenda was the Coach and Horses, a Greene King house. I'm not even sure if I saw GK IPA among the decent selection of ales on offer. The welcoming pub is split into three areas, and me and The Lovely Jemma snuck into a cosy, tight curved booth. I enjoyed a Tipsy Fisherman by Steamin' Billy which was a delicately hopped and very refreshing session pale, and a good way to start the afternoon. The PA was blaring out a selection of classic rock, and although busy when we walked in it was nearly empty once the lunch rush was over. The pub is conveniently located near the market and shops and is well worth popping in if near by.
Our next stop was meant to be Take 5, located across the road from the cathedral. After walking back and forth several times convinced that Google Maps was lying to us, it turns out the pub had actually closed several weeks earlier, taken over by new owners and reverting back to the original name of Louis Marchesi. Peering through the window I could see the place was empty and the ales on offer not particularly inspiring, so we moved straight on to the Wig & Pen. This large one room pub with a timber beamed ceiling advertised a well chosen selection of ales on the small bar. The place was quiet as lunch time was well and truly over - a menu was snatched away from our table while we enjoyed our drinks. My Moon Gazer Pacific Ale from the Norfolk Brewhouse was another solid session ale, with a pleasing hoppy hit.
After a pleasant stroll down the river behind the pub, we headed inside the Ribs of Beef, one of the more unique pub names I have come across. For some reason the name conjured an image in my head of a modern, trendy bar but I was instead greeted with probably the most traditional pub interior of our Norwich visit. Split into two levels, with a small downstairs room, the pub has a lovely location on the river. Sadly the drizzle meant there wasn't much boat activity to watch. I settled for another session ale - the Golden Jackal from the local Wolf Brewery, which was very easy drinking.
We carried on up the road to the Kings Head. This two room pub looks like it hasn't changed much since it opened - simply decorated, pale yellow walls in one room with the bar serving both rooms and a billiards table in one corner. The beer selection here was the best of the day, some choice real ales, nice list of Belgium beers and a couple of craft options as well. The pub was quiet but comfortable, with a few regulars propping up the bar reading the papers. I was not surprised at all to learn it was the local CAMRA branch pub of the year. My pint of Nasha, a boozy, malty five percenter from S&P Brewery was a delicious treat.
The last pub on our trip was the Playhouse Bar. With no shows on at the adjoining theatre I expected a quiet sup to finish the trip, but instead was greeted with the busiest bar of the trip, with a mainly student crowd enjoying the fine selection of ales, craft beer, cider and fizzy lagers on offer. I enjoyed two drinks in the spacious garden - Woild Moild from Wolf was one of the better milds I have enjoyed, and Skiffle from Shortts Farm was a straightforward bitter. Reflecting on all the pubs I would choose the Kings Head as my favourite, although it would be nice to revisit it when it's a bit livelier. To be fair all the pubs were well worth a visit, and I had barely scratched the surface of Norwich pubs in the Good Beer Guide - it certainly lives up to its claim of being the City of Ales.
The rest of my Norfolk holiday consisting of a lot of walking, a lot of board games and a lot of middling ales. I did enjoy my time at the Kings Head in Martham, with its pleasing location across the road from the village green, and a decent sized beer garden, although sadly those with dogs are restricted to a tiny decked area of the garden. The ale was decent and the food was good - well worth stopping by if you happen to be rambling through the area.