Aussie Dave's taste of ale
Aussie Dave Allan-Petale, with wife Carmen, were visiting friends in Norfolk on their way around the world - and Dave just had to try his first taste of real ale.
I love real ale. There I said it. As an Australian that is almost akin to declaring a love for cold, rainy weather and sensible knitwear. Real ale is served warm, has no bubbles and packs a very strong taste. In Australia, no one ever says 'wanna go grab a few warm ones?'
So for years I resisted, which is strange, because I went to Portugal and picked up a taste for port; Morocco got me obsessed with mint tea; France made me a fiend for Camembert; and Spain served me a passion for tapas. But for years I stuck to the story that drinking England's most traditional alcoholic beverage was for old men with beards who discussed dogs and the weather.
Some of the real ales on sale at The Real Ale shop included the 'Stiletto' ale.
But these days I'm really into the stuff. The warm pint has won me over. Thanks to the efforts of the Campaign for Real Ale and enthusiastic publicans, this traditional brew is having something of a renaissance across Britain. Any self-respecting pub, dive bar or boozer has several real ales available and there are hundreds of brews to choose from. I tried one and liked it.
Then another and another, until I found myself preferring it to the cold stuff. I finally realised the drink is supposed to be warm. A real ale in the Australian outback would be an unbearable mouth invasion but on a cold night in England there is little better.
And I'm always keen to try new brews, so imagine my joy when I found The Real Ale Shop near Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk.
Our friends Alpa and her husband Paul were squiring us around their corner of England for a weekend and taking us to see one of the country's best beaches at Holkham. We rounded a tight corner and spotted a hand written sign on the side of the road urging us to check out the ales The Real Ale Shop holds.
Now, there is always a moment of quiet hesitation when real ales are brought up. Despite the spike in popularity, there is still the danger of being dismissed as a fusty old man. 'I'm really getting into them,' I offered. Paul beamed his relief and said 'I love them! We should go there on the way back and grab a heap'. Deal.
We worked up a thirst at the beach and made our way quick smart to the shop's front door. It's housed inside the buildings of a very old malting barley farm that's still producing brews. There was even a little museum showing how the ales were made and explaining the history of beer from its roots in ancient Egypt to the modern day.
Inside the Real Ale Shop you can choose from loads of different brews – I was like a kid in a toy store!
Inside the shop was an Aladdin's cave of amber nectar with over 60 ales from 15 different local brewers. The names on the bottles were a riot: Norfolk Cock, Winston's Temper, Nelson's Revenge, B-52, Stiletto, Old Stoatwobbler, Hare of the Dog, The Squirrel's Nuts. So many choices and very cheap too at about £3 a bottle. I picked three – Nelson's Revenge, Nonsuch Strong Ale (6%!) and a curious chocolate beer. Eight quid fifty the lot. Job done.
We went back to Alpa and Paul's place in nearby Norwich and got ready for a night out. I cracked one open, poured it out and put the glass to my lips…
It went down a treat. Cheers!
Take a look at Dave and Carmen's video from Holkham beach…
Read more about Norfolk's barley to beer story.