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Launch of Belgian & Brit collab beers

Added: Monday, May 29th 2023


Norwich’s annual City of Ale festivities are now in their 13th year and the event took on a new dimension in 2023 with a major collaboration between Norfolk brewers and their counterparts in Leuven in Belgium.

The idea stemmed from a visit I made to Leuven and its Zythos beer festival in 2019. I discovered that Leuven is known as Beer City and it has a similar brewing history to Norwich’s.

Leuven once had as many as 52 breweries while Norwich in the 19th century had 27.  In the 20th century Stella Artois, which originates is Leuven, went on the rampage, buying and closing smaller breweries to snuff out competition.

In Norwich in the 1960s, a major London brewer, Watney, bought all three remaining breweries in the city: Bullards, Morgans and Steward & Patteson. It closed Bullards and S&P and kept Morgans open for a few years to brew Red Barrel keg beer.

When it finally closed Morgans it moved production to Northampton where it produced a beer called Norwich Bitter for the large number of pubs it had taken on in Norfolk.

But choice for drinkers has improved with the arrival of new breweries in both cities and regions: there are now close to 50 in Norfolk. I suggested the revival should be marked by brewers in both countries combining to produce beer. The idea was taken up with such enthusiasm that earlier this year four brewers from the Norwich area went to Leuven and designed beers with local brewers.

The Norfolk brewers are Grain, Poppyland, Moongazer and Tindall. Their opposite numbers are Adept, Braxatorium Parcensis, De Coureur and Hof ten Dormaal.

David Holliday at Moongazer brewed with Dimitri Staelens at Adept to produce Dark Horse or Donkers Haas, 4.5%, brewed with 67% oats, blended with Maris Otter pale malt, Cara Special and Fuggles hops. The beer has a pronounced creamy grain character with a hint of banana and peppery Fuggles hops.

Michael Green at Tindall joined forces with Jef Janssens at Hof ten Dormaal to brew Coffee Pale, 4.2%. It’s brewed with a blend of oatmeal and pale malt and a new American hop called Belma. Coffee, made by a roaster in Beccles, is added: there are many beers made with the addition of coffee but they tend to be dark. This beer manages to be both pale and to have a delicious note of coffee alongside creamy grain and fruity hops.

Strangers No More, 4.8%, was brewed by Phl Halls of Grain Brewery and Joris Brams at Braxatorium Parcensis. The name of the Belgian beer is Latin for Brewery in the Park and it stands in the grounds of a 12th century Norbertine abbey where the monks made beer. Wheat and rye are now grown in the abbey grounds and they were used with barley malt and English Challenger and Goldings hops to make the beer.  The rye adds a spicy note to biscuit malt and tart hops.

Strangers Witbier, 5%, is a Belgian-style wheat beer brewed by Dave Cornell at Poppyland in Cromer with Bart Delvaux of De Coureur. This immensely complex beer is brewed with pale and Munich malts, torrefied wheat and rice and hopped with German Hallertau and Czech Saaz. In the Belgian tradition it’s spiced with orange peel, camomile, coriander and cinnamon. The cloudy golden beer is packed with rich spice aromas and flavours balanced by honeyed malt and floral hops.

The beers will be available in some of the 59 pubs that are supporting City of Ale this year. The festivities last until 25 June. For full details of events see:

The launch of the collaborative beers was held at the medieval Strangers Hall in Norwich, which also has a powerful historic link with the Low Countries. Centuries ago, Protestants fleeing from religious persecution settled in Norwich and Norfolk and some stayed in the building known as Strangers Hall. They brought with them an ale-drinking culture and they also grew hops to flavour their beer and give it better lasting qualities than unhopped English ale.

Pictured at the launch, left to right, Dave Cornell, David Holliday, Roger Protz and Dimitri Staelens.