City of Ale will be back in Norwich for 2012

The first City of Ale event proved Norwich was the real ale capital of England – but next year's event is set to be bigger and better.

That was the message from the event's organisers who met for the first time to discuss the 2012 event yesterday.

The meeting was told that, while no figures were available to quantify how many pints were drunk or how many people visited the city during the event, all the pubs and brewers that took part saw an increase in sales and footfall and want to be part of next year's festival.

Next year's event will also benefit from the extra time available to organise it, as the inaugural festival was organised in just six months.

Organisers are even talking about the 2013 City of Ale event coinciding with the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) holding its annual general meeting in Norwich.

Dawn Leeder, co-chairman of Norwich City of Ale, told the meeting: 'This year's event was a test-bed to see if it would work. It was successful and all the pubs and brewers involved want to take part again next year. They all sold more beer during the event and visitors came from across the eastern counties.

'It has given us a fantastic platform to work on and it got us recognised as the real ale capital of England. The challenge is now to make it better next year and to get the message across nationally.'

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Thirty-one pubs and 35 breweries took part in this year's event and there were 214 local real ales available to punters.

The city-wide celebration of real ale in local pubs and breweries took place for 10 days between Thursday, May 26 and Sunday, June 5.

Unlike other beer festivals it took place across the city. Pubs held mini beer festivals and events and all the participating pubs prominently displayed a 10ft banner giving the festival a visible profile throughout the city.

The only concern which was raised at the meeting was the need for major sponsorship for the 2012 event.

They said that this year's festival barely broke even, but hope to persuade Budweiser Budwar UK to be the main sponsors for next year's event.

Ms Leeder said: 'We need to finance this and we need to get an income stream. We must make it sustainable and a minimum of �10,000 has to be in the pot, otherwise it won't work.

'Last year we could not have foreseen that no-one would buy the festival programme costing �1, which was supposed to bring in �20,000, so that will be free of charge next year.

'We have asked Budvar to pay for the hire of St Gregory's Centre for the Arts in Pottergate, where the launch party was held this year and which will be the hub of next year's event, at �200 a day, and also to pay for the live music, also �200 a day, at the church. That means we are looking at �2,000 to �4,000 from Budvar.

She said that Budvar would also be offering a trip to the Budvar brewery in the Czech republic as a prize for the winner of the festival's best beer.

The committee also discussed ideas for next year's event including doubling the number of beers on offer, pubs billeting beer writers for the duration and also a tie-in with the Norwich in Bloom competition, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary next year.

Organisers also plan to make more use of the City of Ale bus, a 1954 Bristol LoDekka displaying the City of Ale banner loaned by Eastern Transport Collection.

Roger Cawdron, landlord at the Ribs of Beef in Wensum Street, suggested a possible return of the 'boozer cruiser' . Brewery tours were also mentioned as a possibility.

The City of Ale event will also be promoted at the 34th Camra Norwich Beer Festival in the autumn.

• Pubs and breweries in the city will soon be given a deadline to sign up for next year's event, which is expected to be held between May 31 and June 10 because of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

The next City of Ale meeting will be on Thursday, October 6, 10am, at the Red Lion, Bishopgate.

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How can the organisers make next year's event better? Email reporter David Bale at