I’ve been living up in Norfolk for about 6 months now and really loving it. But what with settling in, working the day job and exploring the area, I haven’t really got involved much with the art scene here yet.
Norfolk Open Studios 2022 is giving me a chance to dip my toe into the water.
I’ve also got a big box of unframed pieces that you can rummage through and, of course, my colouring books, Van Doodles and Oodles More Van Doodles
Norfolk Open Studios 2022
Norfolk Open Studios is an annual event where Norwich’s artists and makers open their homes and studios to the public. All studios are free to visit.
This year’s exhibitors include over 200 painters, sculptors, weavers, furniture makers, jewellery makers – and lots more – at all stages of their careers, from emerging artists to established professionals. I’m hoping to feature some of them on this blog in the future.
19 Norwich schools are also taking part and, last weekend there was a preview of their work at the Undercroft Gallery, at the back of Norwich Market. Various local artists ran art workshops there and I did a lino cutting and printing demonstration. I was going to throw away the demo prints I did but I hand coloured this one, just to see what it looked like.
There is a comprehensive Norfolk Open Studios 2022 brochure, which introduces each participating creative and their work and, most importantly, tells you when they will be available for you to visit.
As part of Open Studios, I’ll be exhibiting at my house over the next three weekends (September 24th & 25th ; October 1st & 2nd; and October 8th & 9th) between 10am and 5pm.
Do pop by and say hello if you’re in the area. Details are below.
It would be great to meet some more Norfolk art folk. I might even push the boat out and get some tea, coffee, bikkies and cake. Sorry, I drank all the beer!
If you want to make a day of it, the Norfolk Open Studios brochure suggests a number of Art Trails that you might like to follow. Each one based in a different area of Norfolk. I’m part of the Broadland and Great Yarmouth trail. I’m number 056.
Iron Pier Brewery I’ve been drinking at the Iron Pier since it opened in 2018 and they’ve hosted a couple of exhibitions of my art. Tucked behind Perry Street on a small industrial estate, it’s a fantastic place with a great community atmosphere – and the beer is even better!
At Iron Pier they produce a range of cask , keg and barrel-aged beer to their exacting standards – as they say on their website, it is ‘lovingly crafted, full-flavoured and perfectly conditioned’.https://www.ironpier.beer/beers
The brewery is named after the Gravesend town pier, which is the oldest surviving cast iron pier in the world. And many of the beers brewed there, such as Rosherville Red and Perry Street Pale, have names drawn from the local area.
‘We always knew that we wanted to be part of the community in Gravesend,’ says James. ‘So having the taproom on the same site as the brewery gives us a real link to that community. But we also wanted to be a brewery that went beyond the local market. We supply pubs locally and in East London, and we do brewery swaps, where we’ll send our beer up to Yorkshire or Manchester and they’ll send theirs down to Kent. Last year , we took our beer out to a beer festival in Germany. And it’s really nice, being in Germany as a brewery from Gravesend.’
Brewing in Gravesend Iron Pier is the first brewery in Gravesend for nearly 90 years. In 1932, Russell’s brewery, in West Street – famous for their Shrimp Brand beers – was acquired by the London brewing giants, Truman. By 1935, brewing had stopped on the site, although it was used as bottling plant for about 50 years after that.
If you’re familiar with Gravesend, you can still see evidence of the Russell brewery down by the River, near Asda. Most of the old brewery buildings were demolished, but the original maltings – the building where grain is converted into malt for brewing – still survives, although it has been converted intoflats now. The big square section of The Maltings with its triangular roof was part of the kiln used to heat the barley.
Hops Hops are a key ingredient of traditional brewing, and hop-growing has always been an important agricultural activity in Kent, which is still the biggest hop-growing county in the country. At the end of the 19th century there were about 200,000 acres of hop fields in the UK, now there are only about 6,000 acres.
‘It has shrunk pretty much every year from 1897 to 2017 because of lack of demand,’ explains James Hayward. ‘Beer styles change. Most people now drink so-called continental lagers and those don’t use many hops really, so the hop market completely crashed. But it is coming back a bit now because small brewers like us tend to use a lot of local hops.’
There are many different hop varieties and new hop strains are being bred all the time, in England and in other hop-growing countries like USA and Slovenia. Every month Iron Pier brew a different Joined at the Hop beer, where an English hop is partnered with a hop from somewhere else.
‘It’s a form or research and development for us, ‘James explains. ‘It gives us a chance to see what works well, and we’ve found a few that we really, really like. There’s a Slovenian hop, Styrian Cardinal, which we used in a Joined at the Hop beer and that is now in our Session IPA.’
Although much farm work is now mechanised, in the UK hops are still mostly picked by hand as they always have been. I was talking to my mum, who is ninety in a couple of months, about when, as a child, she used to go hop-picking with her family. The Kidd family lived locally to the hop fields so, for them, hopping was a series of day trips over the two or three week harvesting period. But some large hop fields had accommodation on site and families, particularly from East London, used to stay on site to pick.
Anyway, here is my mum, Kathleen Grant (nee Kidd) reminiscing.
Thinking outside the taproom
Before the coronavirus emergency, Iron Pier were planning for a busy summer – full tap rooms, more community events, beer tents at local festivals, as well as providing beer for pubs and festivals across the country. So when lockdown started, pubs closed overnight and summer events were cancelled, James and Charlie had to come up with a Plan B to keep their business afloat.
Plan B (part 1) was a socially distanced, takeaway service. If locals weren’t able to pop out to the taproom or a local pub for a few drinks with friends, at least they could enjoy a pint or two of Iron Pier beer in the comfort of their own home. And, as James explains, it is all going very well.
‘When the virus first struck and the pubs were closed we were terrified, because selling our beer to other pubs was such a big part of our business. But our take-away 4-pint and 2-pint carry-kegs are going insanely well – even better than when we had the bar open. We started with two hours on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but we’ve had to extend Fridays to three hours now because the queues were just getting too big.’
It’s in the can Plan B (part 2) swung into operation last Tuesday, as Iron Pier started canning four of its beers – Keller Queen, Session IPA, Rosherville Red and Breezy Day IPA – to sell through the takeaway service and its new online shop. https://www.ironpier.beer/cans.
‘We always had this idea in our heads that we were going to put our beer into cans,’ James explains. ‘It was originally part of our third year plan, but when this all kicked off it was like, well we’re not making beer for pubs any more so let’s do this canning thing now.’
James and Charlie and I had already discussed the possibility of putting my artwork on the cans about a year ago, so they were able to move from idea to product really quickly. ‘Yes,’ James laughs. ‘We didn’t need to find a designer, so for us it was just finding somewhere on the can to put our logo so it didn’t get in the way of the artwork and we were done!’
While the beer is brewed on site, Iron Pier brought an external contractor into the brewery to can the beer. In the future, if the new cans prove popular, the brewery might consider purchasing its own packaging line.
By the end of Tuesday, the brewery had three out of the four beers ‘in the can’. But there was a small technical hitch with the fourth.
‘A new process in the brewery always involves a bit of a learning curve, and something usually goes wrong,’ James explains. ‘We brewed all four beers for the canning day but when we began filling the Breezy Day we noticed that we were still pulling through hops from the fermenter, so we decided not to can it that day.’
The team is going to polish up the Breezy Day ready for when the canners return in a week or so. In the meantime, the other three canned beers are for sale. You can buy them in cases, or individually, through the take-away service or via the online shop.
‘We were really happy to see some great dissolved oxygen numbers in the can,’ James says, ‘so the beer should have a decent shelf life, which was the main thing I was worried about.’
In normal times, Iron Pier would have held a big knees up to launch their new cans, but since these are not normal times, you are invited to a Virtual Launch/Meet the Brewer/ Beer Tasting event, this evening (17th May 2020, @ 7.30 – 8.30pm) hosted by the Admiral’s Arm micropub http://www.admiralsarm.co.uk/ Follow this link for more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/241388767208060/