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Published on April 2, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour

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In cahoots with…

First & Last Brewery, based behind the Bird In Bush pub in Elsdon, near Otterburn in Northumberland capitalises on not one but two avenues of brand awareness. It’s the first brewery you come to in England and also the last, depending on your direction of travel.

First & Last (F&L) is owned by Red and Sam Kellie. Red was instrumental in setting up StuBrew at Newcastle University, Europe’s first student-run microbrewery. She has also been heavily involved with Twice Brewed Brewery near Bardon Mill in Hadrian’s Wall country but is gradually cutting back her involvement to concentrate on F&L.

First & Last is deeply entrenched in everything Northumberland; it’s part of their DNA, their USP and their raison d’être.

Sam Kellie says: “As a family-run business, we believe in living life to the full and contributing to the community that we live in. We also like having as much fun as we can along the way.

“Northumberland inspires us. We’re always looking for ways to reduce our impact on this wild landscape and the wider environment. It’s no good just going through the motions, you’ve got to brew with love, passion and care and that’s what comes across.

“We don’t want to get pigeonholed in the traditional market, but we brew to our market which is Northumberland. There’s no point in me doing a heavily-hopped cloudy DIPA which I love drinking anyway. Northumberland isn’t like that.

“I like working with the customer – the pub and the consumer – else we don’t have a sustainable relationship.

“We like to work with other brewers in Northumberland, although I don’t like the term ‘collaboration’; it’s more boardroom than brewery. I prefer ‘in cahoots with’. We love bringing in new ideas and it always interests me how other brewers work.

“We’ve got Jonny from Cheviot Brewery coming to see us as well as Theo from Rigg & Furrow, while Luke from the Enigma Tap in North Shields is hosting a tap takeover for us on May 3. We’ve also been chatting to Heppell Gin about using juniper in beer.”

Working closely with First & Last (alongside the Bird In Bush) is foraging business Northern Wilds, based in nearby Tarset. They collected gorse flowers for an “in cahoots with” pale ale for International Women’s Day and sloe berries for a similar project with StuBrew which resulted in a German-style sour beer called Gose’berry Jam and also featured coriander seeds, salt and raspberries.

“Rowan, damsons, gorse flowers – it’s all about what’s around at the time,” says Sam. “Ingredients are exciting to us and everything like bog myrtle is seasonal and traditional. Hedgerow beers are unique and that’s what makes us part of Northumberland; why we are here.”

Sam believes beer shares a great analogy with music – he loves listening to music while he’s out delivering.

He says: “Hops are my guitar solos, but you have to have a great rhythm section and bass line to get the best out of it.”

But that’s going off on a different riff altogether.


About the Author

Alastair Gilmour



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