Nestled in the East Anglia countryside, the Woodforde Brewery site is as close as it gets to idyllic.

With the brewery having its own thatched roof pub, the Fir and Feathers, right next door, their quality beers don’t have far to travel.
In fact, paying homage to their roots is part of the Woodforde ethos. Even though they’re always looking for opportunities to expand, their commitment is to serving the local outlets in their Norfolk home and East Anglia. 

The other big part of their ethos is quality they will not skimp on any ingredients or processes, 40 years after being established in 1981.
Joe Parks took over running the brewery in January 2020. He had a lot of plans for revitalising the business which was just as well… the entire hospitality industry faced its darkest times just a couple of months later.
But the plans Joe had drawn up helped the company to weather the storm of the pandemic and they’re now in position to hit the ground running when the sector opens up again.

Joe says, “I see there being a core business that is still there but slightly smaller but there will be opportunities and I expect customers to be wanting to operate differently, wanting supportive suppliers and partners.

“Some big companies will struggle to adapt, and some smaller companies may struggle to rebuild. I think we are well placed. We have great beer that is loved and respected. We are small enough to adapt quickly and strong enough to invest in growth. I’m optimistic for a post COVID and post Brexit world, it’s going to be challenging but could be great fun. It’s certainly not going to be boring.”

After being founded by two friends, Ray Ashworth and Dr David Crease, who had started off home brewing together, Woodforde Brewery was founded with the birth of their now-famous Woodforde’s Wherry beer in April 1981. The brewery quickly outgrew its initial premises and set up shop in a bigger home.

That unfortunately burned down a few months later, prompting them to seek temporary accommodation while it was rebuilt. When they moved back in, they created a commemorative beer, Phoenix XXX, to mark their rising from the ashes.

In 1989 the company moved to its current home, a Grade II thatched former farm building in Woodbastwick, and awards for their beers started to roll in, with both Wherry and Norfolk Nog winning the CAMRA Supreme Champion Beer of Britain.

“Our flagship brand is Woodforde’s Wherry a fabulous 3.8% amber ale that punches above its weight for flavour,” says Joe. “Nelson’s Bitter, Bure Gold, Volt IPA, Nog Dark Ale and Reedlighter pale ale make up our core range. We have recently introduced our new craft range under Fifty Two Degrees North Norada Pale Ale, Voltage session IPA, West Coast Wherry American Amber and Conquest Imperial Lager. 2021 also saw the launch of our first cyder brand Norfolk Adder. We also made Wherry available in all formats, the traditional Cask and Bottle supplemented by keg, can and mini keg formats.”

They sell their wares in Norfolk bottle shops, country pubs and clubs, and through regional supermarkets. They get a lot of custom in the summer holiday months and are getting their beers into London pubs so that tourists who develop a taste for them can search them out at home.
“We are a small brewer but one that is well respected, brewing fabulous beer to the highest level of quality and consistency is very important to us,” says Joe. “We never compromise on ingredients. We use the best local malts. hand selected hops and water from our own aquifer. We have some of the most strenuous testing and tasting process that continues for every batch throughout its lifespan. We know how each of our beers age and mature, our sensitive brewing and storage process ensures our beers are supplied in tip top condition. We operate as a passionate team of people who care about our beer and our customers as we know with these three things, we are nothing.”

As well as quality and looking after their local customers, Woodforde prides itself on taking care of its staff as well. There are currently 73 people employed across the brewery and pub, including long servers such as one who started in 1983.

But as well as maintaining traditions, the company is investing in the future, specifically with the Tevalis Epos system, which is a network of smart tills which keep the company bang up to the minute on how business is running in the pub — and with an eye on acquiring more pubs in the near future, this will give Woodforde a fully integrated system.

Joe says, “Since we’ve been using this till system it gives us live information at our fingertips, and it means it’s transparent across the business how we’re performing. We can tell where our peak periods are and where we might need to put more staff and supplies in to make sure service levels don’t drop.

“It’s a really great tool for helping us manage our business, and with our discussions about opening more pubs over the next three to four years this will e a great analysis tool, especially as it links into our retail shop as well.”