Moon Gazer Ales at Norfolk Brewhouse | www.moongazerale.co.uk
David Holliday of Norfolk Brewhouse reflects on his Norfolkness!
One positive thing about lockdown has been the ability to hold virtual Moon Gazer tastings via Zoom with groups of just six right up to 96.
For brewers like me, what is really important is talking about our beers, sharing the journey, sharing the story. For us it’s not all about sell this, market that – it goes way beyond that. Yes, it’s about the beer, of course it is, but for team Moon Gazer it’s as much about the ‘why and the how’?
It’s also about promoting the county in which the brewery is based and of which we are so proud: Norfolk. With such a rich heritage of barley growing and brewing it’s a great area to brew in let alone live in.
Now, whilst my wife Rachel is Norfolk born and bred, I do confess to only moving to Norfolk when I was 12 but, 40 years on, I have hopefully become an honorary Norfolk boy! I certainly have the Norfolk twang in the voice.
Anyway, those who know us know just how very proud of our home we are. It’s in our company name, the Norfolk Brewhouse, and the name proudly adorns every bottle or can of Moon Gazer that we sell.
Which brings me back to the Zoom meetings – when one virtual visitor to the brewery, holding a bottle in his hand and staring intently at the label, raised his eyebrows and put me on the spot, asking: ‘what makes your DewHopper a Norfolk lager?’
It was a friendly opening salvo, or so I thought, so I cheerfully replied about the brewery using the finest Maris Otter malted barley, grown in Norfolk and malted in Norfolk at Crisp Maltings, our own bore hole water and obviously the fact we brew the lager here in Norfolk. I also managed to chip in that Moon Gazer lagers have won more national and regional awards than any other Norfolk lager.
After a friendly and completely robust answer we could move on, or so I thought. The master inquisitor had other ideas: ‘But it says here that the hops are from Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovenia.’
Right at this point I could have got a bit tetchy, but actually it made me reflect and actually think the chap was right to question my Norfolk credentials. Fair cop. Now we are very lucky at Moon Gazer that the Sheringham Horticultural Society grows us some very Norfolk hops each year, but sadly it’s only enough for one brew. The rest of the time we select our hops from all over the world, although we are endeavouring to support more and more British hop growers.
The traditional lager hops we use in our DewHopper and StubbleStag are from the aforementioned European countries and, when you are trying to do justice to a beer style you use those hops associated with that style.
The very fact that this chap, nice as he was, had questioned the extent of my Norfolkness got me thinking – what indeed does make something truly Norfolk?
Take Mrs Temple’s Binham Blue cheese. Made in Norfolk – tick box, Norfolk cows – tick box, Norfolk grass to feed the cows – tick box – a true taste of Norfolk. (And a personal favourite).
Take Whin Hill Norfolk cider. Apples grown in Norfolk, pressed in Norfolk and fermented in Norfolk – a true Norfolk cider.
So, in a way I felt deflated – our Norfolk tag, while confidently sitting at 90-95%, is not 100% as this chap was pointing out. However, my saviour came when another participant merrily yet firmly and authoritatively chipped in: ‘The Rolls Royce is the iconic British motor but uses mahogany trim from America – does that make it any less British?’
By the way, I have no idea if his assertions are correct but it sounded good and pulled me right out of the hole.
I guess the point is that however oddly it was reached it is about what you want your beer, or flash car, to represent. We brew Moon Gazer in the county we are proud of, our priority is our Norfolk customers and we use the finest Norfolk barley. Ok, other ingredients come from elsewhere but they are supporting actors to the Norfolk stars.
Norfolk is blessed with so many artisan food producers, and I am pleased to call so many of them friends, and I know those that genuinely have a passion for this fine county.
So, next time you pick up a Moon Gazer, please remember that it is made in Norfolk with 100% pride. Just as it says on the label!