'Gentle giant' and pub campaigner dies, aged 59

Michael Phillips, Norwich and District CAMRA's social secretary, has sadly died aged 59

Michael Phillips, Norwich and District CAMRA's social secretary, has died aged 59 - Credit: Norwich and District CAMRA/Family of Michael Phillips

A much-loved beer enthusiast has died in his home aged 59.

Michael Phillips joined the Norwich and District branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in 1999 and became part of the campaign's committee ten years ago.

Serving as social secretary in more recent years, the ale fan who lived in Thorpe St Andrew was due to celebrate his 60th birthday on November 12.

In the wake of his passing on May 20, a group of CAMRA drinking buddies held a celebratory drink at Fat Cat Brewery in Michael's honour.

On behalf of Norwich and District CAMRA, vice chairwoman Lucy Cousins, said: "Michael will be greatly missed by everyone who worked with him on the Norwich and District CAMRA committee over the past 10 years.

"As social secretary he organised countless pub crawls, campaign trips and brewery visits, enjoyed by many hundreds of CAMRA members.

"People remember his kindness, careful planning and enthusiasm for great pubs and beer.

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"Many CAMRA members have expressed their shock and sadness at hearing of Michael’s passing, remembering him as a lovely, kind person."

"The Norwich pub scene won't be the same without him.

"He had expert level knowledge of beers of all styles. Any new beers you discovered, you could bet he'd already tried and rated," she added.

Michael previously worked in finance at Aviva and retired six years ago.

"He made the most of his free time by travelling with friends all around the UK and Europe to beer festivals, horse races and football games.

"Michael was part-owner of six horses that he enjoyed watching - especially when they won.

"His passion for Norwich City was evident, as well as his great sense of humour during tough times for the club," added Ms Cousins.

When City's relegation from the Premier League was confirmed, Michael jokingly changed his Facebook cover photo to that of a yoyo.

Fellow CAMRA members Helen and David Carr added: "Michael was instrumental in our decision to join and renew our CAMRA membership.

"He was so welcoming and courteous to us whenever we met during the lunch coach trips and when making bookings.

"He selected excellent and varied pubs for the trips that we have since revisited. We had many a jovial conversation with him regarding beer, football and racing."

Leading tributes on behalf of the family, Michael's sister Gillian Crowe, said: "We are all shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden death of Michael.

"Michael had been an active member of CAMRA.

"He enjoyed planning trips to racecourses in the UK and his lifelong passion has been Norwich City Football Club.

"He was a home and away season ticket holder and travelled all around England and Wales to follow the team."

She added: "He also went to Bayern Munich to watch Norwich win 2-1 in 1993 and travelled abroad for pre-season tours, including America.

"He visited every football ground in the English Football League over many years and always looked forward to any new ground changes or new grounds being promoted so that he could tick them off too."

Michael was part of The 92 Club - a society in which members must attend an association football game at the stadium of every current Premier League and English Football League club in England and Wales.

The name derives from the fact that there are 92 teams in the English professional league tier. 

Michael had worked at Norwich Union - now known as Aviva - since leaving school.

Gillian added: "He is known by so many through his many different passions in life.

"He lived life to the full and was often referred to as the gentle giant.

"He was well known for his organisational skills planning group trips to cricket, football, horse racing, brewery and CAMRA trips.

"Everything was planned to the last minute to make the most of the time available."

Michael leaves behind his mother Daphne, sister Gillian, brother-in-law Andrew and nephews Ashley and Stephen.