The Brewery Tap at The Shed, Wroxham, Norfolk is a converted boat shed hidden away amongst the basins off the river Bure, nearly impossible to find but serving around 50 real ales from Norfolk microbreweries.
It manages to keep these beers fresh using a
temperature controlled Cellar (a 3 metre by 2 metre cold room), where we have the capacity to hold 3500 pints of beer using our innovative methods of storage preservation and dispensing (Patent Pending)
Apparently this involves decanting the beer into special plastic bag containers, adapted with one way valves to allow the carbon dioxide out during subsequent fermentation. Additionally, the beer is kept at around 9 C, a few degrees colder than a normal cellar, to further preserve the beer. They claim to have kept some beers fresh for over 4 months using these methods.
The patent application explains:
Brewing apparatus comprising a polymeric bag with a dispensing tap and a valve allowing gas to vent and a container to receive the bag. The valve should be a one way valve such as a check valve or Bunsen valve to prevent ingress of oxygen which might spoil the bags contents. The container should hold 36 pints, have a lid weighing less than 25 kg and prevent light from spoiling the bags contents. The tap may project through a hole in the container so that the majority of liquid can be drained but the sediment remains in the bag. A tap extension may communicate between the location of the bag and the serving location. The apparatus allows wine and real ale to undergo a subsequent fermentation stage during storing.
The local Panther brewery, whose beers are served at the Shed, mentions the technology on its website:
Panther brewery is now pleased to support the Fresh Ale Bag Technology Ltd. Fresh Ale Bags (FABs, Patent Pending) allow the real ale to stay fresh for longer once opened (minimum of 3 months) which has always been a problem with conventional casks (5-6 days). We believe this innovation will allow us to expand our business and provide a greater choice of ales for you when visiting pubs and retailers.
The beer selection is great for local brews, featuring some of Norfolk’s finest – Grain Brewery’s Bitter and IPA, Humpty Dumpty Wherryman’s Way IPA and Tipples Redhead when most recently visited – as well as beers from less well known breweries such as Bees from Walcott, Panther from Reepham and Beeston from near Kings Lynn. They also encourage ordering in food to be delivered to your table from local takeways. There’s a pool table, a good jukebox, and the ambience is unlike anywhere else we’ve been – where else would a heron wander into the bar looking for snacks? (a regular visitor apparently)
Wroxham is a 15 minute train journey from Norwich and the Shed is a 10 minute walk from the station. It is not easily found. They’re not allowed to put signs up and even locals may not even be able to give directions. To reach it you follow an unlikely route around the back of boat sheds and along basins full of hire craft. The route shown on this video is now closed to the public but gives some idea of the difficulty involved.
Disappointingly, it seems that the building will soon have to change use to become a bistro in order to satisfy local planning laws relating to flood risks which…
classifies drinking establishments as ‘more vulnerable’ whereas bistros (Use Class A3) fall within the ‘less vulnerable’ classification. The Inspector acknowledged that, based on the provisions of the Council’s Development and Flood Risk SPD, a ‘less vulnerable’ use is acceptable for the application site, whereas a ‘more vulnerable’ is not. It was further noted that the Authority considered a condition necessary to ensure that the actual use that takes place is not a Class A4 (drinking establishments) use, having regard to the previous history at the site of unauthorised use as a drinking establishment… development must commence within three years of the decision
The Broads Authority Planning Committee admits that a succesful pub will be forced to change its use due to a technicality which deems bistros less of a flood risk than pubs:
The current operator has capitalised on a particular niche market and appears to be making a success of the activity. Whilst in general terms this success is welcomed, because of the flood risk constraints on the site it is difficult in planning terms to support this particular use on this particular site.
Already the Shed News section of the website announces ‘From 1 April 2012 The Shed will be operating as ‘The Peninsular Bistro and Club… The Bistro will be open to the general public but the Club will be for members only’
We visited recently (April 21st) and it was not yet operating as a bistro or members club, and maybe it will continue as a pub for a while longer, but it would appear that its days are numbered and that it must be operating as a bistro by late 2014.
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Over the bridge in Hoveton is the large King’s Head hotel, dating from the 18th century, and Hotel Wroxham by the bridge has a Waterside Terrace bar with Adnams often available.