Published on December 6, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Best book the tour
We’ve produced the indispensable guide to the region’s breweries. Now all you have to do is drink them dry
We’re delighted to announce the publication of our first book, The Great North East Brewery Guide – a 128-page roam around the region’s beer producers from Allendale to Wylam and all points in between.
Each brewery featured in the book is unique in its own way, even though the process of making beer is common to them.
At it’s most basic, this process is putting together water, malted barley, hops and yeast and enjoying what comes out at the other end. Simple, yet not so simple. Beer 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, their malt, their 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 and shipping containers to huge, 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, charismatic people with individual traits that influence the beer they brew. And we don’t half brew good beer here, and that’s what The Great North East Brewery Guide celebrates.
For example, Jack O’Keefe at Flash House Brewing Co brews the-same-but-different beer as Danny McColl at McColl’s Brewery. Ben Wilkinson at Wylam produces an astonishing array of contemporary styles while admiring what Neil Thomas at Allendale does in similar fashion, and vice-versa.
High House Farm Brewery and Rigg & Furrow brew in traditional agricultural landscapes. They make astonishing beers with a sense of place – what the French call “terroir” – which makes it difficult for others to define where to do it best. Industrial units, pub cellars, old dairies, turkey farms, we’ve got them all, and they’re nicely bubbling away producing great beer for an admittedly very competitive marketplace.
There are now more than 2,000 breweries operating in the UK, around 60 of them in our region, taking the growth of breweries in 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 public demand for adventurous flavours.
We’re all benefiting from better quality beer and more choice, plus the altruistic notion that we’re each in our small way contributing to a fiercely independent movement and doing our bit for 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.
The Great North East Brewery Guide (Offstone Publishing, £15) is available from the 35 breweries featured in the book plus pubs, off-licences, bottle shops, independent bookshops, Waterstones and Amazon