Published on June 5, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Get your fill
A Gateshead brewery is racing ahead producing some exciting and award-winning products – and also has an offer for the region’s beer sector
“It’s working like a Rolls-Royce,” says great North Eastern Brewing Co managing director Paul Minnikin. He’s not talking about some purring beast of a car, but the impressive new bottling, kegging and packaging unit at the brewery’s Dunston, Gateshead, base.
It looks an amazing conglomeration of moving parts, sensors and flow meters that filters, fills, carbonates and labels GNEBC’s own beers and is now being offered to the region’s brewers as a conveniently local facility. Black Storm and Hadrian Border breweries are already on board alongside a spring water company. The ability to can beers is the next project for this forward-looking company.
Bottles clink rhythmically along a conveyor belt, eight at a time – time after time after time – in a fascinatingly hypnotic process of getting beer as the brewer wants it to the customer who expects it to retain that quality.
“This particular machine was designed originally by a Welshman called Thomas Thistlethwaite,” says Paul Minnikin. “He came to install it and is always on the end of the phone for advice and guidance.”
It’s the “baby” of highly experienced head brewer John Stubbs who swears by the quality and high standards of its construction and operation. The bottling line is just part of a huge investment in the brewery which produces – among others – Rivet Catcher, Red Ellen, Styrian Blonde, Claspers Citra, Great North Eastern Gold and Delta APA. Hopnicity Pale Ale, designed by assistant brewer George Thompson, was recently presented with a gold award in the premium pale ale category at the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) northern competition held at the Gateshead Beer Festival and will challenge for the national equivalent in March 2020, while Graphite Black IPA was a category winner at April’s Newcastle Beer & Cider festival, also in a series of blind tastings.
At the brewery, a new sales office has been created by moving into the next-door unit, with a staff kitchen up and running while a brewery shop and sampling area will follow. An internal area has been reserved for a five-barrel small-run experimental and development brewery.
New recruits include trainee brewer Dan Alldis and Paul Minnikin’s son Ross who is putting a business administration degree to good use. “I’m more of a visionary,” says Paul. “I see things and Ross is here to carry them out. He’s got that young attitude which we need. The bottling facility is principally a service to small brewers throughout the region, rather than them going off somewhere down the country. Some significant companies have been here to have a look at it and the invitation is there to all.”
GNEBC’s adjacent sister company, The Brewery Tap, run by Frankie Burnett, Mark Forrest and Lloyd Croft, has been described as “the most chilled-out, relaxed place in Gateshead”. It features an intimate snug, large main bar and impressive outdoor area offering weekend entertainment via televised sport, live bands and street food plus full wedding and family celebration packages.