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Published on June 6, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour

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Brewery boxing clever

A box social is a Victorian term for a social event where guests bring food and drink to swap among them in stimulating, sociable company. All very relaxed and easy-going.

However, Newburn, Newcastle-based Box Social Brewing has rarely sat back in the two years it has been around. First the brewery produced a fine core range with dollops of research and development thrown in, then a bespoke beer for Tygers Of Pan Tang, the heavy metal band that never seems to stop touring, plus the opening of a tap house – The Box Social – in Newcastle city centre.

New branding is coming on stream and expansion plans are also moving at a pace with the site of new premises hopefully agreed this month.

“Two years has flown over,” says Ross Holland, who runs Box Social with his father Steve. “The difference between our first year and our second has been amazing.

“In your first year you’re busy finding customers and finding your feet and getting used to the kit. But we produced our core range which includes Gentlemen’s Nectar – still our best seller – while over the last 12 months we’ve been producing more experimental beers which have been a big help to the business. And we opened the bar which is going great.”

“We’re selling out of beer all the time. The next challenge is to grow the business by moving into somewhere bigger where we can do all our own kegging and canning. It also means bigger volumes so we can sell beer all over the country. But we’ll keep the current brewery with its bar for trial brews and as a tasting room.”

One unexpected spin-off from having their own pub is that it acts as a shop window where local landlords frequently try Box Social beers and invariably like them so much they order them for their own pubs.

“Blonde and Pale Ale are fine, but it makes it easier that way to sell Raspberry Mojito and Blueberry Cheescake,” says Ross. “Gentlemen’s Nectar is so popular it isn’t even out of the tank before it’s sold and people are simply crying out for our Campfire Porter.”

Exporting is very much on the cards with another trip lined up to Copenhagen where Ross has set up contacts in the city’s burgeoning food and drink sector – but that won’t happen until everything else is well in place.

Expansion in personnel is yet another positive development with Darren Scott now full-time in sales and a brewing apprentice being considered. Tyger Blood, produced last year for Tygers Of Pan Tang, has version two coming out with all the necessary hops and malt waiting in the brewhouse for a brewing slot.

Ross says: “It’ll be a similar red beer to the first one, but with more of a hop presence. We’ve also changed the way we dry-hop to have the flavour coming through a bit more. The first version sold stupidly well, even for a red beer.

“It’s all good news, we’ve done it the tough way – the seven-day weeks are starting to pay off – but there still aren’t any luxuries here.”


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Alastair Gilmour



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