Tag Archives: Microbreweries

Brewing up a Great North East Book

Award-winning beer writer ALASTAIR GILMOUR has just published The Great North East Brewery Guide, a book that celebrates the region’s proud tradition of brewing and those who contribute to its fine reputation for great beer. Those people are what make the drinks we enjoy so special, he writes…

People talk about gardeners having “green fingers” but it’s a description that could readily be applied to brewers. Leek-growers rear their plants like their children, dahlia experts talk to their blooms, and carrots don’t perform unless their rosettes are fondled regularly.

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It’s the same with beer, it has to be treated with devotion at every stage. Brew it from the finest ingredients possible on the best equipment available with heaps of inventive muscle and brains and the results will speak for themselves. Craft brewers are fanatical about their choice of hops, the malt they order, the mashing-in regime, the conditioning, the ageing and attention to every detail. It’s what makes great beer – and here in the North East of England we have some of the most inventive, knowledgeable and skilful brewers in the nation, working on gleaming kit that wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi movie.

Our breweries range from cramped units such as shipping containers to huge and impressive structures lined with Italian marble. The process of making beer is much the same in all of them but honesty and flamboyance come out at the other end – and that’s beer’s beauty. The region’s brewers are a dedicated lot, a set of charismatic people with individual traits that influence the beer they brew. And we don’t half brew good beer here – which is what The Great North East Brewery Guide celebrates.

Latest figures tell us that there are now more than 2,000 breweries operating in the UK, taking growth rate over the past five years to 64%. The North East has enjoyed a similar percentage rise in craft brewery start-ups, many of them by former home-brewers inspired by a public demand for adventurous flavours and the realisation that now is the time.

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We’re all reaping the benefit of better quality beer and more choice, plus the altruistic notion that we’re in our small way contributing to a fiercely independent movement and doing our bit in the growth of the local economy.

Beer can be as simple or as sophisticated as we wish it to be. Breweries produce it, but never forget, it’s people who make it and people who drink it. Cheers!

ALASTAIR GILMOUR is a freelance writer who previously worked for The Journal and The Northern Echo. His work has also featured in national and international media, such as The Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, Prague Post, Brewers’ Guardian, Eastern Airways in-flight magazine, Food & Travel magazine and – once – The Church Times. He founded and edits Cheers, an award-winning pub and drinks publication (www.cheersnortheast.co.uk), as well as having contributed to several books.

The Great North East Brewery Guide is published by Offstone Publishing.

Follow Alastair on Twitter @CheersPal

Beer Blessed

Beer Blogger, PAUL WHITE explores the region’s thriving range of craft beers and microbreweries

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The North East is a fantastic place for food and drink.

We are blessed.

Whatever your culinary preference, there is something for you, and you no longer have to focus on Newcastle, and events like Eat! Great restaurants to suit all wallet sizes are now widespread across the region.

Likewise, we have some amazing drinks being produced in the North East, from Durham Gin to Wylam Brewery.

The craft brewing movement is as prolific here as it is anywhere. I use the term “craft”, because it is now in common usage, but many brewers will tell you that it has been around for years. Black Sheep Brewery, just a short drive south of the region, for example, will argue that what founder Paul Theakston was doing when he established the brewery in 1991 was craft – it was challenging bland beer.

People may look at the North East and think of our brown ales, from Newcastle and Sunderland (Double Maxim), but that’s just scratching the surface. Since I started my blog, Poets Day Pint, at the start of the year, I’ve blogged about a different beer most weeks and, both “professionally” and socially, I’ve sampled 67 different beers (source: my Untappd app, with which I check-in with each beer – correct at time of writing, almost certainly out of date at time of reading).

Many of these have been from the North East and I’ve found some fantastic beer. Wylam’s Jakehead IPA has become a go-to beer, I’ve found a lovely lemon and vanilla oatmeal stout from Northern Alchemy, I’ve rediscovered the joy of Camerons’ Strongarm, and stumbled into the Black Paw Brewery to sample its range, which is now matched with the outstanding food at the Michelin-starred Raby Hunt restaurant.

This is just a flavour, with microbreweries seemingly to be found in every town and village.

My urge to you, dear reader, is to give these beers a try, whether you see them on a bar, in a pub fridge, or in a supermarket. If you’re passing a local brewery, stop to see if it’s open. It may be selling its drinks, or even giving tours.

There’s a joy to be had in finding a new beer. It’s even better if you know it’s locally produced and that, simply by choosing it over a mass-produced generic “name”, you’re helping the local community and a small business.

Visit Poets Day Pint, a jargon free beer blog for the layman, not the drayman.