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Viking beer cements Norfolk-Rouen link

Added: Monday, May 28th 2018

Amitie Norfolk beer

When a Norfolk brewer was mistaken for a French rock star it led to a beer being created that cemented the historic links between Norwich and Rouen in Normandy.

David and Rachel Holliday run the Norfolk Brewhouse in Hindringham where they produce a range of beers under the Moon Gazer title. David knew that Norwich has not only been twinned with Rouen since 1959 but the two cities were also linked by the wool trade since the time of the Vikings.

He was keen to brew a beer to celebrate the connection and was fascinated to find there’s a small brewery based on a farm close to Rouen. It’s called Northmaen to mark Normandy’s historic connections with the Vikings.

David sent an email to Northmaen and was delighted to receive an immediate response thanks to a misunderstanding. Dominique Camus, founder of Northmaen, explains the confusion.

“We get a lot of emails and we don’t always reply quickly. But when we saw the name Holliday we mistook it for Johnny Hallyday!”

Hallyday, known as the French Elvis, died last December. Thousands attended his funeral in Paris and over a long career he had become a French rock legend.

While David Holliday doesn’t perform rock music, he found the two breweries have a good deal in common. Norfolk Brewhouse share a rustic heritage with Northmaen as the 10-barrel Moon Gazer plant is based in a barn.

Most importantly, the two breweries share a passion for the finest malting barley. Northmaen grows its own grain while the Hollidays are committed to using Maris Otter, considered the best barley for beer and grown mainly in Norfolk.

It was the Vikings who brought both barley and a prodigious thirst for drinking ale to Normandy in the 9th century, using the River Seine to transport grain and other produce. Dominique Camus, Thomas Renaux and their team say they are producing top-fermented ales in open vessels, unfiltered and bottle conditioned – all in the Viking style. The beers include Bière des XI Siècles de la Normandie at 11%, along with blonde, amber, red, blanche and an IPA at 6.5% called La Route de Thor, named after a Viking god. The brewery owns a bar in Rouen, La Taverne de Thor.

Norfolk-Rouen collab

Bruce Ash, the brewer at Norfolk Brewhouse (pictured top, right, with Dominique Camus), visited Northmaen at La Chapelle Saint-Ouen where Dominique and his team agreed on a recipe for a collaborative beer that would be called Amitié IPA. Amitié means friendship, which is also the title of the newsletter of the Norwich and Rouen Friendship Association.

David was keen to launch the beer during the annual City of Ale festival in Norwich and he invited Dominique Camus and his team to visit the city when the beer was unveiled.

The 5% beer was brewed at both sites, using a blend of Maris Otter and Normandy malt. The hops are Barbe Rouge and Mistral from France and Admiral and English Cascade. Some caramalt is used for colour and flavour. David Holliday says the beer is less hoppy than his mainstream beers: the two breweries wanted a beer with a good malt backbone, but nevertheless with a fine balance of hops.

Amitié IPA has a dark bronze colour with a rich honey malt aroma balanced by floral and spicy hops and tart orange fruit. Bitter hops build in the mouth with continuing notes of honey malt and tart fruit. The finish is dry and finely balanced between spicy hops, biscuit malt and orange fruit.

It was launched during City of Ale on cask in two legendary Norwich pubs – both in the Good Beer Guide – the Plasterers Arms on Cowgate and the Vine in Dove Street, just off the city centre market. David Holliday is seen above with Dominique Camus in the Vine.

It will also be available in the Taverne de Thor, 13 Place de la République, Rouen. It was be widely on sale at North Fest/Fête Viking in Rouen over the weekend of 16/17 June.

It’s a shame that Johnny Hallyday won’t be around sample it but David Holliday will raise a glass to his memory.

*Tours and tastings at Northmaen are held every Saturday from 3.30pm. La Chapelle, 154 le Bourg, 76780 La Chapelle Saint-Ouen. Tel: 02 35 09 21 54. Email:

Norfolk Brewhouse, Moon Gazer Barn, Harvest Lane, Hindringham, Norfolk. Tel: 01328 878495


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