Historic Norwich pub to reopen

Sarah BrealeyA historic Norwich city centre pub is to be reopened by a Norfolk brewery, which is hoping to transform its fortunes by offering good quality real ales.Sarah Brealey

A historic Norwich city centre pub is to be reopened by a Norfolk brewery, which is hoping to transform its fortunes by offering good quality real ales.

The 16th-century Plough, on St Benedict's Street, will become Grain Brewery's first pub - and they have big ambitions to open four more in future.

Grain Brewery started in Alburgh, near Harleston, three years ago. It was set up by Geoff Wright, who will be the landlord at the Plough, and Phil Halls, who runs the brewing side.

Mr Wright, 38, said: 'Our intention is to open as a good city centre pub that sells great quality products. It really is about the quality of the drinks.

'It is also a great building. There is an atmosphere you get in a building like this, which has been used for drinking and enjoyment for so many years.'

It is the fulfilment of a long-held dream for Mr Wright, who got his passion for real ale when working behind the bar at the Swan in Ingham, near Stalham, at the age of 18.

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He said: 'It is something I have wanted to do for a long time. I have been noting down good ideas for the past 10 years with the intention of opening a pub.

'It is great to be in the city. People will be more aware of us. It also means we will be meeting our customers and getting feedback - usually as a brewer you don't get to see your customers.'

Mr Wright has also worked for Allied Domecq on its bar and restaurant business and worked as a barman in the United States, but more recently worked for Adnams brewery in Southwold, from where he was made redundant before starting up Grain Brewery. He has even rekindled his relationship with Adnams, which will be a secondary supplier to the pub.

There will be three Grain beers on draught, which will include Oak and Tap Room Bitter, as well as two local guest beers. The brewery's other beers will be available on cask from the cellar and people can buy bottled beer to take away.

In the pub, the focus will be very much on draught rather than bottles. Mr Wright said: 'Draught beer is better and you can only get draught beer in a pub - you can't get it from a supermarket.'

Food will not be available straight away as the kitchen needs to be refurbished. Later on there will be simple food such as ploughman's lunches, which will be a speciality given the pub's name.

The rundown pub had been closed since last summer, and came close to being put on the buildings at risk register. It is now being completely refurbished, with new paint inside and out as well as a new bar. Mr Wright says that one of the big attractions will be the newly replanted south-facing garden, which is one of the largest pub beer gardens in the city centre. There will also be live music events.

Mr Wright and Mr Halls aspire to run a chain of five pubs, of which the next is likely to be in Cambridge, and a London pub may follow in future.

Norwich pub historian Derek McDonald said: 'It is a grade II listed building which has been licensed as a pub since 1822. I am over the moon that it is being reopened. Grain brewery is an up-and-coming brewery and I hope other people will do the same and help keep city pubs open.'

The Evening News' Love Your Local Campaign aims to get punters back into pubs or risk them losing for good.

For more stories about the campaign, visit www.eveningnews24.co.uk/loveyourlocal.

Have you got a pubs story for the Evening News campaign? Call David Bale on 01603 772427 or email david.bale2@archant.co.uk.