GAVIN AITCHISON reports on an influx of Norfolk beers into York

THEY’VE asked for it now. If there’s one thing worse than a bad loser, it’s a smug winner. And that, beer lovers of York, is what we seem to have.

Remember last summer, when York held its first beer census to see how many unique ales there were in the city? And remember how we hoped to claim the title of UK Real Ale Capital, only to be pipped at the post by Norwich?

Well, it seems they’re not willing to let us forget. And like a medieval king forcing his vanquished foes to bow, they’ve come to demand respect.

Six Norfolk breweries decided that in honour of their triumph, they should deliver a van-load of their finest beers to the good citizens of York. And so, on Tuesday, local brewer Phil Halls and local publican Phil Cutter brought 15 cask ales north for our humble delectation.

They say it is to showcase their beers and to promote the third Norwich City of Ale event, an excellent city-wide festival that opens next month. But there’s a touch of mischief to it too, renewing the friendly rivalry that has grown between the cities’ beer enthusiasts ever since we tried to take their title last year.

If you ask me, Norwich doth protest too much. They seem keen to prove a point, and no wonder. I mean, who thinks of beer when they think of Norwich? Mustard, Alan Partridge and Jeremy Goss’s wonder-goal against Bayern Munich 20 years ago, sure. But beer? Nah! Even if they scraped past us on quantity (254 to 247 was the final score), we trample all over them when it comes to quality, don’t we? No?

Well, these Norfolk folk seem to think otherwise, and it’s only right that we extend them the Yorkshire courtesy of entertaining and indulging them. So resist the urge to tip their barrels into the Ouse. Put all bias aside – like I’m doing – and let’s drink the stuff.

After all, it’s not the harshest punishment in the world, is it? There are worse ways to lick one’s wounds than this. And fear not, a return trip to take York’s superior ales to Norwich is already planned.

For now though, it’s our turn to be good hosts. The beers will be distributed between Pivní and York Tap, with most going to the latter and all joking aside – whisper it – they’re meant to be pretty good.

Phil Halls from Grain Brewery says the beers and breweries are fantastic down that way. “The legacy of beer in Norwich and Norfolk goes back aeons,” he says, largely because of all the malt they grow. And he says their beers are “definitely” better than York’s!

National experts also routinely sing Norwich’s praises, and while it has only ever been a myth that York once had a pub for each day of the year, it was true for a long time in Norwich. In fact, until the late 1800s, they had enough for two a day. So, let’s greet them with open arms, welcome them to our fair city, and head to the bars when their beers go on tomorrow.

After all, who can begrudge them wanting to test themselves against the big boys, and to show off their wares to the finest palates in the land?

Norwich beers:

Grain Brewery – Oak (3.8%), Best Bitter (4.2%), 3.1.6 (3.9%)
Redwood (4.8%), Blonde Ash (4%) and Bramble (4.5%)
Tipples – Lady Evelyn (4.1%) and Hanged Monk (3.8%)
Golden Triangle – Bonny’s Gold (4%)
Norfolk Brewhouse – Amber and Golden (both 4%)
JoC’s Ales – Norfolk Kiwi (3.8%) and Bitter Old Bustard (4.3%)
Humpty Dumpty – Little Sharpie (3.8%) and Reedcutter (4.4%)