Published on December 6, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour


Great beer bake-off

A Newcastle bakery is working closely with breweries, writes Alastair Gilmour

Beer is often called “liquid bread”. In the early stages they’re similar products, using grains, water and yeast to produce the simplest of pleasures. They go their own way when the grain is milled into flour for bread and when hops are added (with a lot more water) to produce beer.

One Newcastle company, however, is combining the two by baking bread from brewers’ spent grains – still full of nutritional value – and sending waste bread to brewers for them to make beer from.

Artisan Baking Community was set up in 2013 as The Earth Doctors who started off a community bakery in Wylam at the local village fair.

“We are now baking real bread in communities across the North East and have changed our name to reflect this,” says the project’s founder Andy Haddon.

Artisan Community Bakery has relocated to premises at The Biscuit Factory contemporary art gallery in Shieldfield, Newcastle, and now has a full-time baker in Nick Metcalfe, former bar manager at Close House. It continues to reach out into local communities such as Swalwell, Gateshead; Walker, Newcastle; and Meadowell in North Shields where enthusiasts from every age group and discipline gather to knead, stretch and shape dough.

Andy says: “We have them from two years old to 102 – he’s a gentleman with dementia living in a care home and he loves it. Some have gone off to be bakers elsewhere.

“We don’t go in and say ‘let’s make some rosemary sourdough’ but start them off making stotties to get them interested and develop their skills and the practical side. Some of them are autistic and others have particular difficulties.”

Andy, a former home-brewer, was always keen to introduce a beer aspect, knowing that some beers can contain up to seven different malted grains which otherwise go into animal feed.

“They’re the best, they’ve got more texture,” he says. “We’ve been using wet spelt grain for making loaves which have a really solid crust. Arch 2 Brewpub & Kitchen hollow them out and use them as soup bowls – then you can eat the bowl. It’s a real collaboration with brewers.”

Artisan also uses grains which produce Newcastle Brewing Red Ale, Northern Alchemy’s Imperial Russian Stout and Cherry Stout from Tyne Bank Brewery.

“We want to demonstrate that artisanal products are not just for the affluent, they should be affordable,” says Andy. “You have to make it real for people, make it relevant.”

Allendale Brewery owner Tom Hick is a champion of Artisan and sees the collaboration developing. He says: “We sent some spent grains to the bakery via Andy Nicholson at the Crown Posada in Newcastle. We love experimenting and trying new things, so we’re also looking forward to making a bread beer, which will present its own challenges, but I know [head brewer] Neil Thomas has some ideas up his sleeve.”

Andy was recently named North East & Cumbria Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year at the National Entrepreneur Festival 2017. He continually emphasises the benefits of making bread, some of them not immediately obvious.

“Shaping loaves is also quite therapeutic,” he says. “You just get into the zone. It’s magical.”

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Alastair Gilmour

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