To my significant other,
Thank you so much for my Valentine’s present of a craft beer experience at ‘Newcastle Brewing Ltd’. It was freezing outside as the moment of the experience approached, and darkness was settling in the North. I thought of Game of Thrones as at this point, because even in late February, as Spring is meant to be approaching, it truly felt that “Winter has come”.
We arrived and hurried inside to get into the warmth of the bar at Arch 2. It was an open room, with pictures all over the upper walls. I noticed an unfamiliar bar setup – the beer taps were coming from the back wall behind the bar, with chalk marking the names of available beers above.
We were quickly greeted by one of the owners, Leo. It is him and his father that own this microbrewery in the heart of the north of England. He invited us to sit with him at a table, just the three of us, and I noticed that he had 4 little sealed jars with him. Introductions were exchanged, and I started to pinch myself – I was sitting down with a real-life beer brewer! Three half-beers were brought to the table and on reflection I think I then went quiet, as my partner was pulling me through the initial conversation, asking the questions I should have been asking. I think I was a bit in awe at the current situation of drinking with a beer master.
Nonetheless, conversation soon flowed easily between us. The experience was informal in nature. Leo would introduce a beer to the table, we would start sampling it and then we would literally just “chat”. Primarily beer related, obviously, Leo spoke about the initial purchase of a home brew craft beer kit that was the starting point of his beer journey. He has shared this beer journey with his father and the two of them seem to have a strong, inspiring relationship. When I think of my relationship with my father, particular prominent memories include sharing a few beers with him on various holidays and the first beer that I bought him when I became of legal drinking age. The fact that Leo is able to share the process of making great beer on a daily basis with his father is brilliant – such a bond is apparent and would be needed in order to run a successful business together.
As the different beers were sampled, more information on the history of ‘Newcastle Brewing Ltd’ was gathered. The pictures that lined the wall all depicted famous landmarks within Newcastle. It turns out that this artwork is produced by Leo’s brother in law, and these artworks have been used as the backdrop of the labels on the brewery’s beer bottles. Keeping so many aspects of this business within the family made the brewery stand out.
As further topics were discussed over further beers, Leo revealed further stories about the business that were really interesting. These included issues regarding battles with larger brewery firms, methodologies of different kinds of beer brewing and future company adventures. I’m not going to go into any of this in detail. These comments are for Leo and his father to share – so all I can recommend is visiting them and hearing about their journey for yourself!
One of the beers we sampled was ‘Cardinal Hybrid’, a 4% ABV pale ale/lager hybrid. It was light and refreshing – a good beer to open the palate. Whilst drinking this beer, Leo opened the little jars he had brought to the table, each of which contained different hops and malts. Being able to smell them whilst drinking the beer reinforced the scents and flavours that came through in beers. I was able to appreciate the pine and citrus notes that leapt from the American Citra hops, whilst another variety was more floral.
This was then noticeable when drinking ‘Dr Rudi Pale Ale’. The drink flowed with the conversation and we found ourselves discussing future collaborations, aspirations for the company and brewing successes and disasters!
After our sampling session, Leo guided us round to the production room. Leo showed us the processes and techniques in person. All the barrels were labelled with the names of the brewing beers. The room was packed with thermometers galore and vats filled with a variety of smells. The completed barrels were tucked away behind a wall divider, which then facilitated passage of the beer directly into the taps on the wall in the bar!
A quick summary of the beers tried;
- ‘Cardinal Hybrid’ – light with a slight hint of bitterness. A good opening beer to cleanse the palate, with a 4% ABV
- Rating: 3.0/5
- ‘Dr Rudi Pale Ale’ – a double dry hopped variety of the original version. Floral and pine notes evident, with a 4.9% ABV
- Rating: 3.5/5
- ‘Satsuma IPA’ – a bright, fresh beer with tonnes of juicy fruit notes. Leo presses all these satsumas by hand in order to maximise the flavour and fruit profile, which just shows how dedicated these guys are to delivering great flavour. With a 6% ABV
- Rating: 4.0/5
- ‘Imperial Chocolate Stout’ – stouts aren’t for me, I usually find them too heavy and bitter. This one promised the taste of chocolate, which it delivered in combination with deep roasted malty notes. Whilst not for me, the beer definitely delivered what it stated, with a 8.5% ABV
- Rating: 2.25/5
- ‘Arch2IPA’ – brewed with Slovenian hops that can rival their American counterparts, giving primarily citrus and pine aromas, more herbal than many other IPAs, with a 5.0% ABV
- Rating: 3/5
- ‘New World IPA’ – this wasn’t included in the tasting but having had a great evening, I couldn’t face going back out into the cold without sampling another beer. A well-rounded IPA that was a great way to round off a brilliant experience, with a 5.2% ABV
- Rating: 3.5/5
Here are a few shots listed below
Rating: 4.75/5. This was an absolutely phenomenal experience, that I cannot recommend highly enough. Lots of fun, informative and just a great time had all-around. For any beer lover, this a brilliant way to spend a few hours in Newcastle.
Thanks for reading – for info on what Leo had to say for Meet The Makers, see here