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Published on December 4, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour

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The best-laid plans…

It’s difficult to keep up with new beers by Newcastle Brewing Co, operated by father and son Mike and Leo Bell at Arch 2 Brewhouse & Kitchen in Ouseburn, Newcastle.

One of the latest on the roster is Barberry Blonde (3.6% abv), made from small, red berries popular in continental Europe for jams and jellies due to their high pectin content. In this country they were known as pipperages and were much valued for their ruby appearance but were eradicated by wheat rust which devastated crops. Dried barberries (or berberries) are also used in Iranian and Middle East cooking and prized for their sweet, sour and sharp nature and the vibrant colour they impart to dishes.

In October, Mike and his wife Patricia took a trip to friends in Austria with the intention of loading up the car with barberries for the beer – expecting a bumper harvest just like they collected last year.

But there were none, not a berry, nary a sign of one.Bushes were eerily empty and nobody knew why.

Their friends were bemused, but managed to unload their freezer-load of previous pickings so the Bells could at least have something to brew with. Mike also brought back a boot-full of quinces which he and Leo have brewed a saison-style beer from.

The quince has also become something of a forgotten fruit perhaps because its flesh is astringent and sour, but when cooked they become both sweet and savoury, and perfect for pastes and jellies. And beer.


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Alastair Gilmour



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