This last week we didn’t just spend our time eating too many Easter eggs, we also celebrated a very special birthday… Our own!
Since we can’t celebrate together quite yet, we thought we’d take a trip down memory lane, with our top Woodforde’s moments of the past 40 years…
1981 – Where it all began.
We’ll set the scene. After years of experimental homebrewing, a mishmash of equipment including lemon juice vessels – turned fermenting tanks from Colman’s of Norwich, and a lot of love from Ray Ashworth and Dr David Crease… ‘Wherry Bitter’ was born.
1988 – The Ball is Rolling…
Not to blow our own trumpet, but between 1984-88, Woodforde’s started growing at a pretty impressive rate. Wherry Bitter was becoming one of the most popular cask ales in Norfolk, and we even created a new beer, Nelson’s Revenge. (Fun fact – this was initially created as a house beer for The Limes Hotel in Fakenham!)
1992 – Oh, What a Year!
1992 was a definite big one for us.
In May, we purchased our first public house – The Freemasons Arms on Hall Road, Norwich. As if that wasn’t enough, a row of cottages next to the brewery in Woodbastwick were also converted into a public house and restaurant, and just like that, the Fur and Feather Inn was born!
August of 1992 also saw Norfolk Nog become CAMRA’s Champion Old Ale of Britain at the Great British Beer Festival, and then go on to become Supreme Champion Beer of Britain – you can’t really complain when you’re the no.1 beer in the UK, can you?
1996 – Picking up the Pace
3 years on from our first bottle-conditioned beers being sold (thanks to Howard Miller!), you could buy Woodforde’s Home Brew Kits in Boots, developed by Muntons.
If you were at the Great British Beer festival that August, you may also remember Wherry Bitter becoming CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain, and then Supreme Champion Beer of Britain… Well that award resulted in a huge demand for Wherry, with our brewery soon operating at maximum capacity, and annual production exceeding 5,000 barrels!
2001 – Millennium Madness
A year on from Woodforde’s cask and bottled beer touching down in the USA, the Woodforde’s Club was established (remember that?).
Our first website also went live, which included an online shop. Bottles were rebranded, alongside new pump clips with gold framing! Definitely a great start to the millennium.
2002/2003… The Big Brewery Expansion (Part 1!)
Look, we don’t want to bore you with the numbers, but this was huge. The farm isolation unit was demolished, and in its place the new brewery shop with offices and a boardroom above was built.
Okay fine – we’ll bore you with the numbers. 4 x 60 barrel and 2 x 120 barrel stainless steel square fermenters were added from A. B. UK in Doncaster, and 2 x external water storage tanks, and 2 x racking tanks were installed on the mezzanine floor.
A new malt room was also created where the original shop had been, and a new Alan Ruddock 4 x roller grain mill, together with a new conveyor system and outside grain silo was also added into the mix.
2007/2008 – The Big Brewery Expansion (Part 2)
and Trips to Glastonbury!
In 07, sales increased by a record 34%(!) to over 13,000 barrels. Since signing a 5-year contract in 2004 with Glastonbury, we returned for our third year as a main supplier of cask ale, with a bigger team and a bigger order!
We were also chosen to be one of the first suppliers of bottle-conditioned beers for M&S, and a second water borehole was installed at the brewery (which we still use to this day!)
And the big one – the expansion. We purchased and installed some brand-spanking new equipment, including a mash tun with automated grain removal! The new brewhouse was also commissioned, with the first brew of Wherry Bitter taking place on Feb 1st 2008, with total investment in the new brewhouse and site exceeding £2.5 million!
2014 – The Ale Trail, and a General Upgrade!
A new project to install an automated bottle line was confirmed, and to develop national and international beer sales.
We also launched a new website, and a Woodforde’s app to support the Ale Trail, which allowed participants to not just find nearby pubs, but also collect their trail stickers via QR code – and it even worked in areas with no signal (believe us, that certainly came in useful in rural Norfolk…)
2012 – End of the World for Some, Not Us!After production exceeded 20,000 barrels (not a typo!) the year before, and with us also having won Champion Brewery of East Anglia thanks to readers of The Morning Advertiser, we were extremely privileged to win the EDP’s Pride of Norfolk award. Being recognised for our commitment to being Norfolk born and brewed was a huge feat for us, and we still consider it one of our greatest achievements.
2018/2019 – On the Ball, CityIn recognition of our commitment to Norfolk, we commenced a 5 year sponsorship of Norwich City and the famous Barclay Stand, giving supporters a taste of Wherry and Norada to the club’s bars and kiosks. The following year, our new IPA, Volt, won Gold at the International Brewing Awards – arguably one of the most prestigious awards in brewing around the world! It was launched in bottles the following year, and quickly became part of our core range. So, that’s where we’ve come from! But where are we heading? Well, since you asked… Even as the world shut down, we carried on as best as we could to bring you a taste of comfort.
Since the launch of our Adder Cyder and FIFTYTWO° NORTH range we’ve seen a lot of love for something a bit different, but don’t worry, we’ll always keep Wherry close to our heart; In fact close to yours too, Wherry can now be found in almost all big supermarkets by the bottle, in a can, a mini keg or in one of our brew kits!
A huge thanks to every single person who has supported us so far, and here’s to raising a glass to the next 40 years!