In a weird inversion of the usual arrangement, a self-consciously-‘craft’ brewery has just launched a retro ‘real ale’ sub-brand. Well, sort of.
If you’ve read Christopher Hutt’s 1973 book The Death of the English Pub then you’ll know the story of Bullard’s of Norwich: along with the city’s other brewery, Steward & Patteson, it was taken over by Watney’s in 1963, and both breweries’ own bitters were replaced by a generic Norwich Bitter. Then, in 1968, Bullard’s brewery was closed down.
Nearly 50 years on, Redwell (perhaps best known for its dispute with Camden over the trademark ‘Hells’) has acquired the rights to the Bullard’s brand and revived it for a line of cask ales designed, in part, to appeal to those who have fond and lingering memories of the old brewery.
Redwell isn’t brewing on the old Bullard’s site, or using the original branding and, unlike other revived brands (Joule’s, Phipps, Truman’s) there has been no attempt made to recreate historic recipes, or even to ‘take inspiration’ from them. Bullard’s old yeast strain hasn’t been brought out of retirement, either, so, there’s really not much of the original brewery here beyond the name.
And here’s why we said ‘sort of’ in our introduction: the packaging still uses the C-word — ‘Craft Beers Brewed in Norwich’ — and the first products on offer are East Coast Pale Ale, ‘brewed with new world hops’, and a ‘hop bomb of an IPA’.
This isn’t, therefore, the perfect irony we’ve been waiting for — a trendy craft brewery aping the look of, say, Shepherd Neame, in order to market cask mild and best bitter on the sly — but it’s still, we think, an interesting development.