Hippies, Pagans, and Zythophiles

Grain has just taken on a new pub, and to those of you who have been to this place at any point since the day you took your first breath, will understand at least some of the title of my article.

The pub is the Geldeston Lock’s Inn. If you’re not familiar with ‘The Locks’, then you have so far missed out on experiencing one of the most unspoilt, timeless, homely, uninhibited places in Britain, probably the epicentre of what is precious about Norfolk.

Just down the river from Beccles, it is indeed in Norfolk, with Suffolk at least ten yards away on the other side of the river Waveney. But you’ll find no hostile neighbours here, just friendship over a decent pint. Accessible by land or river (the Big Dog Ferry gets my recommendation), the Locks has a long tradition of folk music, and ancient celebrations such as May Day and the Solstice, which will most certainly continue under our stewardship. Just don’t get me started on Dwile Flonking.

The Locks is the perfect marriage for Grain Brewery, as the lock and brewing industry relationship goes back a long way. Back in the 1670s, a clever chap called Francis Matthew came up with the idea of deepening the Waveney and building a series of locks to allow wherry boats to transport the grain upstream to the maltings and brewery. They would then return ladened with beer, and the lock keeper’s cottage soon became a stopping point for a pint. The lock itself may now be a dead end, but the beer is still flowing.

As a business decision, it should have been tough one. A quarter of a mile down an old track, sometimes flooding in the winter, there is no electricity, so it’s a mixture of generator and battery power, or candlelight, and it is fair to say that the place is ‘old’. But your head gives over to your heart when you are there, with Constable-like views over the river and marshes, and a feeling of ancient history that permeates you, so any business acumen we had was left abandoned at the other end of the track (and I hope our Barclays Business Manager isn’t reading this).

At Grain we’ve been brewing beer for some time, but have recently introduced great food into some of our pubs also, and if you’ve been to The Cottage on Silver Road, Norwich lately, you’ll know just what I mean. The latest addition to team Grain is Duncan Philp, a local chef with the same passion for putting full-flavoured personality into his food as we have with our beer. Although the bar at The Locks has been open for drinks over the winter, the freshly kitted out kitchen and new restaurant will be open by the end of March, serving meals as well as dishes for sharing. This is no gastropub, but exceptionally tasty food in a comfortable pub and in the most wonderful of settings.

We’ve given the place a caring makeover, getting rid of the worst and bringing out the best, so come by car, foot, bike, or boat to find out for yourself what all the fuss is about.

By the way, if you haven’t googled it already, a zythophile is a lover of all things beer.

Phil Halls