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Wherry brewer Woodforde’s to focus on both new beers and old favourites

PUBLISHED: 11:56 26 June 2018 | UPDATED: 12:45 26 June 2018

Woodforde's Brewery, Woodbastwick. Commercial manager James Armitage, left, and master brewer Neil Bain.
 Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Woodforde's Brewery, Woodbastwick. Commercial manager James Armitage, left, and master brewer Neil Bain. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

Experimentation and tradition will play equal parts in the future of a Norfolk brewery which has created some of the county’s best-known beers.

Wherry remains one of Woodforde's' most popular beers. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLYWherry remains one of Woodforde's' most popular beers. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

With the return of a seasoned head brewer and the appointment of a new commercial chief, Woodforde’s in Woodbastwick plans to continue recent explorations into new beer varieties to set itself up with “a beer for every occasion”.

Further opportunities to expand its local and national visibility are also on the cards.

Neil Bain, head brewer at Woodforde’s from 2008 to 2015, has recently returned following a short stint with another company.

His main aim is to move the brewery’s focus back towards its core products while still allowing room for experimentation and championing new products.

Fermentation tanks at Woodforde's Brewery, Woodbastwick.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYFermentation tanks at Woodforde's Brewery, Woodbastwick. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

“The focus had come off brands like Wherry and Nelson’s Revenge. We have brought them back to where they should be and kept the new ones, so we have the best of both worlds,” he said.

The brewery has around nine beers currently in production. Alongside its new brews, Mr Bain said its staples will need work to ensure they remain up to scratch.

The company has recently invested between £50,000 and £60,000 in a new lab with equipment measuring for factors such as bitterness and alcohol content, where each batch is tested by at least four people to ensure quality.

“Breweries constantly have to look at their recipes and tweak them to make sure they stay the same,” Mr Bain said.

Woodforde's master brewer Neil Bain with fermentation tanks.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYWoodforde's master brewer Neil Bain with fermentation tanks. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Commercial and marketing director James Armitage, a new addition to the Woodforde’s team, is aiming to put Woodforde’s products in the hands of more people by increasing both its range and its reach.

Woodforde’s has around 220 pubs, hotels and restaurants permanently stocking its beers, plus around 300 more who order in barrels as guest ales.

Its retail presence includes Waitrose and the East of England Co-op, but Mr Armitage said it would consider other opportunities “to put the beer in the hands of more people”.

“Retail is an area of opportunity for us with the core beers,” he said.

The barrelling line at Woodeforde's Brewery, Woodbastwick. Picture: ANTONY KELLYThe barrelling line at Woodeforde's Brewery, Woodbastwick. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

“There is a hard core of Londoners who come to Norfolk and love Woodforde’s so it would be great for them to be able to go home and drink it.”

There are around 30 staff at Woodforde’s, 15 in the brewery and 15 in sales and back office roles.

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