As part of our meanderings around Norwich pubs, the next on the list for Julian and I was the Freemasons Arms on Hall Road. This has been a pub since the early nineteenth century, although was known as the Billy Bluelight between 1994 and 2005 during the period that it was owned by Woodfordes. Billy (1859-1949) was a runner who used to amuse those on pleasure boats on the Broads by racing them into the city using footpaths by the river. Although I don’t suggest he isn’t worthy of having a pub named after him, I’m not overly keen on licensed premises changing long held names, so the reversion back to the original name seems entirely sensible to me.
The bar had a wider range of beers that I had anticipated, including three cask options which were from Mr Winters, Cloudwater and Lacons. The service was friendly, immediate and inviting with the pub having a comfortable and laid-back feel to it.
I went for the SoCal from Cloudwater, a beer that I hadn’t had before, and it was well kept, at the appropriate temperature and was suitably refreshing. The day that we went was exceptionally hot, so refreshing was quite high on my list of priorities. This football table is sensible located away from the main part of the pub, but with access to the main bar. This would also make a rather lovely space for a bar billiards table, but I won’t digress too much on that matter.
There’s a pleasant beer garden which was clean and organised. It was far too hot for me to sit in, but it’s a useful resource for the pub.
I hadn’t realised before how substantial this beer garden was, but that’s the purpose of these rigorous research study tours.
I’m a little unsure of the set-up here, I think Julian thought it was formerly a skittles alley but it doesn’t seem to be attached to the pub now and there’s no mention of it on their web-site.
It’s not a large pub, but they’re making an effort in their food offering which seems appropriate for the venue.
It didn’t impact us as we had already been served, but the venue was without any visible staff for some time and a couple of customers came over to us to ask how they could get a beer. Their patrons weren’t put off though and they waited patiently.
We occupied ourselves with some of the pub games. These were nearly entirely beyond me.
It kept us amused anyway.
Evidence that I worked how to separate at least one of these things, which I understand was the aim of the arrangement. Julian seemed to manage with a little more success than I did if I’m being honest.
There were a lot of good ideas in this venue which was purchased by a small pub company earlier on in the year. I’m suitably impressed by their efforts, they’ve got a decent selection of beers, the pub was clean, the service was friendly and it had the feeling of a community pub.
The frontage from another angle, this pub is certainly worth a visit and I wouldn’t complain if this was my local. My memories of it over recent years are that it has at times been a little beat-up and tired, but it feels refreshed and more at ease with itself now.