Published on February 4th, 2020 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Special brews for a special man
Friends rallied round when a pub regular received some awful news, writes Alastair Gilmour
Last August, Heinz Dieter Sieh developed back pains which his doctor didn’t like the sound of. So he ordered blood tests. Then he ordered more. Heinz, a German national who has been living in the North East for 12 years, was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer.
“It floored me,” he says. “I didn’t go out for a while. Then my old friend Duncan Moncrieff thought about a couple of things to cheer me up again. The first one was getting my oldest German friend over here to Newcastle without me knowing. That really worked out.
“His second idea was a bit more diverse and more difficult – brewing a beer in my name. Following an afternoon of playing pool he cornered Town Mouse Ale House landlord Jon Sibley who then asked Dr Chris O’Malley, project lead at Stu Brew – Newcastle University’s own microbrewery – if this was possible. The answer was yes.”
Stu Brew put together a Fruit Cake Stout and an Irish Coffee Stout on Heinz’s behalf. A single brew was divided in two with different flavourings added to each and diverse conditioning times making them decidedly dissimilar. All proceeds from the beer – the single cask of Irish Coffee Stout disappeared at a special unveiling last month – have been donated to Prostate Cancer UK.
Jon Sibley also commissioned two special pumpclips with artwork by Lewis Ryan who creates a lot of design work for Abbeydale Brewery and has previously collaborated with BrewDog.
“I like Lewis’ style and he puts lots of little detail in,” says Jon. “He’s a clever guy and brews some great beer himself.
“We sent him an old photo of Heinz – he looks a bit like Gerd Mueller in it – and he put him in a Bayern Munich shirt (his team) and added a pool cue and fruit cake, plus Duncan is represented by a little town mouse waving a Scotland flag.”
This is all rather appropriate as Heinz is a popular character around Newcastle pubs, particularly the Town Mouse which is a particular favourite of his – and Tyneside & Northumberland Camra branch’s Pub of the Year in 2018. He had been working in an Irish bar in Florence when Scotsman Duncan Moncrieff became a regular while also working in the city. They became firm friends and after Duncan moved back to the UK (he and his daughter ran a pub in Langley Park, County Durham, for a time) Heinz called in to see him. That was in 2008 when a short visit teamed up with a couple of pints turned into a permanent stay.
The idea was that if he found a job in the North East he would stay on – he didn’t want to go back to either Germany or Italy – and found work in a hotel then in an office, translating documents.
Heinz says: “I had already had cancer 30 years ago and was operated on in 1989 and was looking forward to having a little celebration last October to mark 30 cancer-free years. Now it’s all over the bloody place and they can’t do anything about it.”
Heinz (who is 57) is originally from Cologne – Köln in German – where the local beer speciality, Kölsch, is an unusual top-fermented lager.
He says: “Coming from Cologne I like beer, proper beer, and Kölsch is the best lager in the world.
The most important part in all this, in my opinion, is that money from the sales of the two beers will be going to Prostate Cancer UK.”
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK and is set to be the most commonly diagnosed form of the disease overall by the end of this decade.
The number of men dying from prostate cancer in the UK has hit an all-time high, according to new figures. In 2017 (the most recent figures available), 48,561 men were newly diagnosed, up from 48,523 the year before and 47,864 in 2014. The rise is is largely due to an ageing population, which means more men are being diagnosed with the disease.
However, a man diagnosed this year has a much better chance of survival than a man diagnosed a decade ago.
Heinz has a mischievous sense of humour delivered with an engaging twinkle, but he appears philosophical about his illness. He is extremely proud of his international connections and laughs at what could be the start of a joke: “A Scotsman and a German met in an Irish bar in Italy…”
He’s undoubtedly told that one a lot in the past. Here’s to hope and many more times.
Information and charity donations: prostatecanceruk.org