Features Ouesburn

Published on March 6, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour


Ouseburn pub wears a creative hat

It’s no longer an option to stand behind the bar of your pub and wait for custom to roll in. Of course, if your offer is unmissable when it comes to beer and food, you’ll have a head start. Location helps too.

But even very successful venues have to work hard being innovative and creative to give regulars and newcomers a real satisfying experience that will see them leave with smiles on their faces.

Mike and Leo Bell – father and son – are certainly of the creative ilk at Arch2 Brewpub & Kitchen in the Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle. Their Newcastle Brewing Co is also stretching boundaries with innovative beers on a continuous rolling programme.

There’s an awful lot going on at the community-centred business, as Mike reveals: “The nature of the pub has changed; it’s more of a social space these days with everybody doing something. Being new, we can’t just copy what everybody else does – for example, we’ll leave live music to The Cluny which they do very well. We’re looking at what else is different; we’ve got a unique venue here and want to use it to our advantage.”

Arch2 is concentrating on social events. Artist Mick Bates is offering art classes – Paint Social – with the idea of giving people a subject each time to paint. It’s not a painting lesson as such but a purely social experience about having a good time with nice food and drink. Participants will be supplied with all the materials plus an apron.

“We’ll also have a Craft Social as well as Lego Social for Lego addicts led by Bricks McGee,” says Mike. “As for the normal pub activities, we’ve been really busy since we opened and didn’t feel the effects of the slow January and February that some places traditionally experience.

“We’re looking more at how we build the business – such as physically expanding out the back to create a terrace bar. At the moment it’s just wasteland.”

It’s a project that also excites Leo Bell. He says: “It’s got a brilliant view over the Ouseburn Valley that not many people have seen. We’re talking to our architects about it.”

He’s absolutely right; it’s a steep slope down to where sheep are grazing below the Metro Bridge and the Ouseburn Viaduct railway bridge which, even though it’s grade II-listed, is possibly one of Newcastle’s most underrated structures.

The plan is to landscape the area and the pair have asked The Ouseburn Trust for volunteers to help clear it, but the first challenge is figure out where and how the two floor levels will meet. This was partly in the original plan and it adds further to the amenities of the area.

“We’re hoping to have it open for summer,” says Mike. “It’ll be a great contribution to the Ouseburn Festival over the weekend of July 7-8.

“Elsewhere, we’re still deciding on what to do with the kitchen we have here, whether we go with an established food business to work with – someone to take ownership of it – or bring in a full-time chef.

I always look at the least stressful route rather than the most profitable way.”

Leo’s current remit at the in-house Newcastle Brewing Co is to prepare three new beers to add to the core range.

He says: “We’ve got a Barberry Blonde planned, a sweet and sour beer based on Asian spices which came from Iran originally and are popular in Germany.”

A spin-off is that a friend of Mike’s in Vienna who has located a source of the berries – also known as zereshk – growing near her home, so in October he and his wife Patricia are driving to Austria to load the car up with ripe fruit. It’s anybody’s guess what Customs will think.

A Gooseberry Saison using fruit from Leo’s older sister’s North Yorkshire allotment is on the cards, as is a return of last year’s Rhubarb Saison from his other sister’s allotment in Byker. Wine makers boast about “terroir” so really it’s time brewers did.

The Arch2 mantra is neatly summed up by Mike Bell: “It’s really good to stay creative.”

About the Author

Alastair Gilmour

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