Published on February 7, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour


It’s good to see them

There are going to be some late departures from Durham Station from the middle of this month. That’s not a warning from Network Rail, but the announcement that a new micropub opens on the northbound platform. Many a commuter will be tempted to linger longer in the former first-class ladies waiting room – there’s always the next train, isn’t there?

The Waiting Room has been carefully restored to a period alehouse under the direction of Graeme Robinson, with the intention of selling ales from regional microbreweries. Four handpulls and four keg fonts should cater for every eventuality.

Graeme says: “It’s a grade-II listed building dating from 1872 and we’ve exposed two lovely fireplaces, put wood panelling around the interior, and uses stonework from the original quarry. We got a grant from the Railway Heritage Trust while Virgin Train East Coast have also been very supportive and upgraded the power supply to the platform.”

It could be argued that railways and beer are in Graeme’s blood – his grandfather was a signalman at Wylam Station, the Northumberland village where he himself comes from, and is also the birthplace of George Stephenson “the father of the railways” – not forgetting Wylam Brewery.

Design work – heady on railway-ania – has been carried out by Newcastle award-winning Collective Design and One Concept shopfitters.

“You need to have the right people on board to pull a contract like this together,” he says.

Andrew Philips had run Priory News in Tynemouth since 2004 and three years later put a small of-license in with a standard range of beers. The postmaster at the Post Office across the road expressed his desire to retire and asked if Andrew wanted to take it over.

He says: “There are so many post offices and similar facilities being lost which is a shame, so I decided to move it into my shop which lost me quite a bit of retail space, especially the off-license which I cut back on.”

So having got tired of hearing himself talking about investing a small taproom, so at the back end of 2017, he and business partner Peter Carr decided to use what was the back office and stripped it back to the brickwork, installed a few keg taps, a fridge and about four metres of shelf space for bottles and cans.

“It’s going well, and we’re trying to get lots of different stuff in and getting people in Tynemouth interested in craft beer,” says Andrew. “It’s about repeat business, they’ll come back to their growlers refilled with something new. Peter and I are both beer lovers and we’ve just taken on a new member of staff so it’s working well between us.

“I always think that in retail if you stand still you actually go backwards, so we’re organising meet the brewer nights and those sort of events.

Paul Hughes founded Black Storm in early December with a core range of four traditional beers – a 4.3% abv golden beer, a blonde at 4.0% abv, a 5.5% abv IPA and a porter at 5.2% abv, brewed at Hadrian Border in Newburn, Newcastle.

He says: “They’re going really well and have been distributed between Darlington and Edinburgh, plus we’ve had our first pop-up bar in a former café in Whitley Bay – which was a sell-out. We’re doing another couple there during February and one for Easter then we’ll apply for something more permanent.

“The beers are very well balanced and very traditional classic British in nature with a lovely smoothness throughout from the yeast and malt. The long-term goal is to have our own brewery, but it’s great at the moment to be backed up by the Hadrian Border team’s expertise. The idea is to build the audience and we’re very happy with the way it’s all going at the moment.”

Newcastle brewing consultant Ken Oliver has invested in his own kit once again after deciding the stop-start approach he had been employing was simply frustrating him. Montagu Estate Craft Brewery was officially launched at the beginning of this month with a tap takeover at the Free Trade Inn, Byker, Newcastle, which featured six of his hand-crafted beers. Ken has previously been involved with Wylam Brewery, Tyne Bank and Northern Alchemy – and if that’s not a reference and a half, we don’t know what is.

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Alastair Gilmour

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