Published on December 8th, 2015 | by Alastair Gilmour


In conversation with… Andy Aitchison, Northern Alchemy

Northern Alchemy (flavour-led craft beers) is based in a former shipping container next door to the Cumberland Arms in Byker, Newcastle. It may be small but the plans are big. We follow up with news from around the brewery scene

“We’ve been brewing for 18 months now – the first beers were for the Cumberland Arms beer festival in June 2014. Since then it’s been frenetic, non-stop, and a whole heap of fun. At the moment we could sell more beer than we can make.

“As this year has progressed we’ve found we can’t make it fast enough. It’s going all over the country through distributors to the likes of York, Manchester and Northern Ireland where we’re doing a Meet The Brewer event in the new year. A collaboration with BrewDog was a great way of us getting our beer around the country to 24 different venues.”

“We’re brewing three times a week at present and that way we can just about manage to keep up with demand. That’ll be the case until we get a 10-barrel kit and the brewery we have now will become our pilot plant. We’ve got plans for a bigger brewery and we’d love to be able to stay here at the Cumberland Arms, but this is a conservation area and we’d have to get lots of local authority approvals, so we’ll just have to wait and see. It would be lush, though.

“We’ve just taken on Jamie Hall which is a good move. We’ve been borrowing staff from the Cumberland Arms for a day at a time and it became clear we needed someone full-time. Jamie showed a lot of aptitude.”

“All our inspiration comes from cooking ingredients and we try as many different ways as possible to get the best out of them and spend a lot of time discussing when’s the best time to add them to the brew.

“Our latest beer is Whole Coffee Bean and Toasted Coconut which we produced for the Hanging Bat pub in Edinburgh. It’s great to be able to do that sort of thing on our small kit – if we were doing 10 barrels of that it would take a while to shift, but when you’re doing small amounts it’s always pre-sold so there’s not much risk.”

“Our Marmalade and Assam Tea IPA has become a core beer after being developed with the Hop On The Bike beer bloggers from Manchester. It’s basically marmalade on toast with a cup of tea – we couldn’t not make it now.

“Another core beer is 60-Minute Continuously Hopped Pilsner which has been available at Bierrex in Newcastle every day since it opened. We’ve brewed that more than any other beer. On the other hand, we’re also doing a Blueberry and Banana Milkshake beer.”

Northern Alchemy, James Place Street, Newcastle NE6 1LD. wearenorthernalchemy.com

A Tyneside pub that escaped flattening by developers a couple of years ago has survived, thrived and launched its own, in-house brewery. The team at the Three Mile Inn, Gosforth – headed by Chris Shorter – decided to turn from bar staff to brewers after chatting to some of their beer-loving customers, who even helped with formulating recipes.

Now, with the help of a state-of-the-art micro-brewery in the venue’s cellar, they have created two core ales with plans to add seasonal and special lines over the coming months.

Artisan Brew Co’s inaugural ales are Simple Blonde, a full-flavoured golden pale ale, and ABC IPA, a classic, copper-coloured ale with the aroma of traditional English Fuggles hops.

As yet, the ales are currently only available at The Three Mile Inn, but there are plans to roll them out across other Tyneside venues owned by Malhotra Group, the pub’s owner.

Credence is a new microbrewery based in Amble, Northumberland, with a leaning towards balance and drinkability in its beers. The intention of Matt Taylor and Michael Graham is to highlight exciting flavours, appearance, mouthfeel – and drinkability.

Blonde (4.0% abv) is crafted using Northumbrian heritage malt with touches of German malt to add complexity, sweetness and body and hopped with American varieties. Porter (4.4% abv) uses no fewer than 11 varieties of barley, rye and wheat to give a smooth, robust porter, while IPA (5.5% abv) has crisp and clean flavours rolling over one another to provide a long-living taste.

Credence’s official launch took place late last month at The Barrels Ale House in Berwick.

Errant Brewery opened in Newcastle in October in the arches beneath the King Edward Bridge. The hard-working brewhouse is tucked in among car mechanics and fitness studios amid the regular thunder of overhead trains.

Brewer Tom Meads had been brewing for more than five years for West Berkshire Brewery while Martyn Stockley come from a marketing & PR background.

Martyn says: “Showpiece beers are nice and all but we’re all about beers that people can have pint after pint of. As drinkers we’re both very different as Tom is fond of an old English bitter, whereas I much prefer a hoppy American IPA. Our beers are usually a fusion of both inputs.”

Tusk (5.5% abv) is a take on a classic English-style IPA; Knight Session Ale (3.5% abv) is the workhorse of the portfolio, and Silent Knight Spiced Porter (4.5% abv) is Errant’s contribution to the Christmas spirit – a classic winter warmer.

Mithril Brewery has had a great year, according to owner Pete Fenwick. “I saw no drop in the usually quiet months,” he says. The Aldbrough St John (near Darlington) micro is renowned for an ever-changing range of ales that take on current themes. For example, Panto Pale (4.0% abv) has been formulated with the pantomime season in mind. New for 2016 include Try January (3.7% abv) an amber beer to counter the Dry January movement, and Haggis Hunter (3.9% abv) which celebrates Burns Night on January 25.

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Alastair Gilmour

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