Fat Cat's tail - 30 years of awards and ale for city pub
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
When Colin Keatley bought the New Inn in West End Street in 1991 and turned it into the Fat Cat he planned to spruce it up and sell it on - as he often did with pubs around the city.
He did not picture that 30 years later not only would he still be pulling pints behind the bar, but that it would be the award-winning cornerstone of a mini-pub empire.
December 1 will mark Mr Keatley's 30th anniversary as landlord of the popular boozer, which has earned an embarrassment of awards over the years.
Across its three decades the pub has earned itself a devoted following and cemented its places as a darling of the Campaign for Real Ale, which has twice named it as its national pub of the year.
And it is evolved from being a single suburban boozer to a family of four city pubs and a brewery in its own right - far beyond Mr Keatley's original vision.
He said: "Would I have expected to still be here 30 years on? God no. I thought maybe I would stay for 10 years then move on, but I still have the enthusiasm for it now, which is great.
"I'd been at a few pubs in the city already, including the White Lion in Oak Street and the Rumsey Wells.
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"When I took the New Inn over it was a bit of a ropey old boozer and I closed it down for a few months before opening it up as an old-style ale house and that is still what it is today."
Its 30 years have seen it survive a changing industry leaving the pub needing to adapt and during the pandemic it swiftly moved to offer takeaway beers through its hatch and even deliver brews like a milk round.
He added: "Being named CAMRA's national pub of the year for the first time is probably my proudest moment, it's still crazy to think about now really."
But the biggest challenge for Mr Keatley, now 71, was outliving the punters he has grown to know so well.
He said: "We've seen so many terrific characters over the years and if I'm honest, the hardest thing is losing them. You really get to know people as a long-running landlord so it's always very sad to lose them."
The Fat Cat through the years
December 1, 1991: The Fat Cat opens its doors for the first time
1998: The pub is named CAMRA's national pub of the year for the first time - the first in East Anglia to claim the prize
1998: The Fat Cat appears in the Good Pub Guide for the first time - reappearing in 2003, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020
2004: The Fat Cat claims CAMRA's top pub prize for the second time.
2005: A sister pub of the Fat Cat, The Shed, opens in Lawson Road - later renamed the Fat Cat Brewery Tap
September 2005: The pub launches its own microbrewery, The Fat Cat Brewery, described by Mr Keatley as "a lifelong dream".
2012: Mr Keatley purchases the Mustard Pot in Thorpe Road and renames it the Fat Cat and Canary
2016: Mr Keatley adds another pub to the family, buying the Perseverance in Adelaide Street and turns it into a function room for the Fat Cat. It later becomes the Fat Cat Percy, a pub in its own right.
April 2018: The Fat Cat closes for refurbishment for the first time in its history.
October 26, 2021: Fat Cat Mad Cat, a special beer to mark the pub's 30th anniversary, is premiered at the Norwich Beer Festival