Published on April 4, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour0
You can bank on it
A name new to Newcastle brewing is going to be one to remember, writes Alastair Gilmour
A head brewer with the surname Brewer could be a hard act to follow. But Alan Dunlop hasn’t been recruited to Tyne Bank Brewery to do exactly what Adam Brewer did before he headed off into education – he intends to make his mark and do a bit of shaking up at the Newcastle brewery and taphouse.
Alan’s background qualifies him to bring innovation and vision into the region’s beer scene, with a slant or two guaranteed to refresh drinkers’ palates. He worked in the music industry in Madrid where he was also employed in a brewpub, and he brewed at celebrated Scottish breweries SixºNorth and Williams Bros – two outfits with style and quality written through them like a stick of rock.
SixºNorth in Laurencekirk, Aberdeenshire, specialises in brewing Belgian beers – and has four outlets in Scotland’s major cities.
“I was there for about 15 months before going to Williams Bros in Alloa for more than 18 months,” says Alan. “I had been a home-brewer for years but learned to brew in Fabrica Maravillas, a brewpub in Madrid. I lived there for 13 years working for EMI. It was just at the time when craft beer was starting up in Spain so I was in right at the beginning. Before that, Spain was all about industrial lagers.”
The music business was falling apart and EMI was changing – nobody was buying in the traditional way. Alan had looked after EMI’s back catalogue – music that’s more than a year old, going right back to the 1960s from The Beatles and Pink Floyd through Blur and Nick Cave and onto Coldplay. Then the company was sold to a Sony-led consortium and staff – including Alan – were made redundant.
He says: “SixºNorth was an extension of what I already knew, the big difference being the use of Belgian yeasts. I actually learned more at Williams Bros. Working in a brewpub is really just a step up from home-brewing so the move back (to the UK) was to learn more and get the experience.
“Williams’ history is great – they started off brewing Heather Ale when an elderly woman from the Hebrides came into their parents’ home-brew store with a recipe and asked if it could be reproduced. Working there was an opportunity for me to learn all about different flavours in beer and that it’s not just pale ale or IPA but can be brewed with bog myrtle, heather and ginger.
“It’s exciting for me to be able to help take Tyne Bank forward; it’s a great opportunity. Newcastle is a great city and the chance to be part of the beer scene here was very tempting. There are some great local breweries producing really, really nice beer – Wylam, obviously, and Errant and Out There are doing some great things – and there are some terrific pubs like the Free Trade and the Town Mouse.
“Now at Tyne Bank I’m looking to liven things up, if that’s the right phrase. I worked with Adam before he left so there was a bit of a changeover and to get the feel of the place.”
Alan’s brief is to experiment more and refreshing a lot of the portfolio, doing one-off specials – a couple of which is Cabana, a recreation of the old and much-loved cherry and coconut chocolate bar.
“We’ll taking a whole new way of looking at things, new flavours, while I’m looking at what’s happening in the beer scene around Newcastle in general,” says Alan. “We’ll always be creating new things here, even if it’s a beer only on in the taproom, but obviously I’d like to get more beer out into the city. I’m hoping people will talk about our beers; that’s how craft brewing works, people talk.”
Alan was brought up with the smell of whisky and wooden casks – his dad was a cooper at Johnnie Walker in Kilmarnock and he would come home from a shift smelling of whisky – in a nicest of ways.
He says: “I also lived in Edinburgh for a few years in the 1990s when there were still a few breweries there. The whole city used to smell of beer and on brew days it always takes me back there.”
Tyne Bank owner Julia Austin is particularly excited about what Alan Dunlop can bring to the business. She says: “We’re very happy to have Alan on board and to build on our recent gold awards from SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) for Helix Czech-style lager and Summer Breeze Light Ale brewed with root ginger and lemongrass. Elsewhere, Mitchell & Butler has recently renewed our contract for another year.”
Tyne Bank is running a Vintage Inns photo competition – just take a selfie with a pint of Silver Dollar to win a meal at Miller & Carter or another Vintage Inn. See www.tynebankbrewery.co.uk for details, plus brewery news and taproom events.