Monthly Archives: May 2016

Wylam Brewery: Palace of Arts

 

wylam tap narrowAfter months of eager anticipation, the doors of Wylam’s new premises flew open last weekend.  For those that don’t know, the brewery has itself a new home close to the heart of the city namely The Palace of Arts in Exhibition Park.  The setting is a fascinating location.  For while it is literally a 5 minute walk from Northumberland Street, the heart of the city’s shopping area, the setting is incredibly tranquil and will make for a brilliant spot to enjoy the sunshine and of course the freshest beer, in beautiful surroundings.  I was fortunate enough to be invited along to the launch party to have a good neb round the place.

The history of this building is fascinating and I couldn’t resist a blog post covering what I’d learned of the site.

IMG_3175It’s impossible to do this building justice without first considering the site.  Location, location, location as the old mantra goes and for me this is a cracking spot.  As a city, Newcastle is rightly proud to have what are known as the moors, basically large areas of green green grazing land on which the freemen of the city are entitled to keep their cattle (I kid you not).  These are often referred to as the cities lungs as they provide the perfect antidote to the man-made emissions on the roads.  The moor area in Newcastle is split into two areas (the Town moor and Nuns moor) by the central motorway, but the total size is larger than Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath put together at 1,000 acres.

IMG_3203.JPGTucked into the corner of the moor is an area called Exhibition Park.  The park was developed for the 1929 North East Coast Exhibition. However after many years of steady decline, it has recently undergone a major £3.2m restoration project.  The park includes a central lake, a Victorian bandstand, tennis courts, a basketball court, children’s playgrounds, two bowling greens and, right next to the Palace of Arts, is the home of The Tyneside Society of Model and Experimental Engineers (TSMEE), who operate a miniature steam railway.

The North East Coast Exhibition was the brainchild of Sir Arthur William Lambert (great name!).  Born in 1876, he attended the city’s Royal Grammar School, becoming a local councillor in the city in 1910.  He went on to serve with the Northumberland Fusiliers during the First World War and in 1919 he was awarded the Military Cross for his services.  Away from his military services, he was a director at Townsend & Co, which was a company set up by his grandmother which specialised in china and glass.  They were suppliers of decorative plates depicting images from the North East Coast Exhibition, created by the now very collectible Mailing Company.  One such design included a picture of Sir Arthur Lambert himself.  He was Lord Mayor of Newcastle on two occasions, the second of which covered the time that the North East Coast Exhibition ran.  He was knighted in 1930 for his work with the exhibition.

IMG_3183.JPGThe aim of the North East Coast Exhibition was to showcase the strength of north east industry, in particular the regions engineering abilities and to promote the skilled workforce, thus attracting other employers to the area, whilst also generating further orders for the already established businesses in the region.  This was a time of impending recession and the leaders in the city wanted to do all they could to lessen the impact of the recession on the region.

This was a massive event which ran from 14 May 1929 and closed with a huge firework display on 26 October 1929.  In that time the exhibition attracted 4,373,138 people and still remains the largest event ever held in the city.  Several buildings within the park were built to house the exhibitions themselves, the Palace of Arts being the only one which remains.  My memories of the building are of it being the Military Vehicle Museum.  My visits were only when I was very young, but distinctly remember my Uncle taking me along to see all the various tanks and troop carriers on display.  But that was many many years ago and my memory of the building itself are very vague.

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In 1929 there was a large wide highly decorated bridge which spanned the lake outside giving pedestrians a direct route to its front steps.  With that bridge no longer there, the building does sit quite nicely on the edge of a lake, which having been cleaned up is now home to Swans and other wildlife.  All the other buildings were built of sheet asbestos.  The Palace of Engineering showcased classic north east industries, such as ship building, mining and railway engineering.  The Palace of Industries, included exhibits on tin can manufacturing, printing presses and carpet weaving. In addition there was an Artisan’s pavilion, a women’s pavilion, a pavilion for the Empire Marketing Board, an amusement park, an African village, a huge chicken incubator (which housed enough chickens to lay 800 eggs a day) and a Festival Hall which could accommodate nearly 1,500 people and an open air stadium which could accommodate up to 20,000 people.  This was an event with an average daily attendance of 30,000.  The final day was attended by some 120,000 people. 

The Palace of Arts was built to house works loaned to the exhibition from a great many Lords, Dukes and other renowned art collectors at the time.  It is now a Grade 2 listed building and actually the glorious nature of the building is incorporated into the description on the National Heritage list for England, here’s what they have to say about it:

IMG_3249“Steel framed with concrete cladding. Single storey. 15 bays by 19 bays. The main façade has a projecting central portico with 10 base-less and capital-less square fluted columns, raised on a 7 step base, with a 3 step flat parapet which continues around the whole building. Either side are 3 bay blind wings with 3 blind windows each. The building is surmounted by a central octagonal cupola, topped by a shallow octagonal dome. The side facades are articulated with 20 base-less and capital-less fluted pilasters. Interior has a central domed space and linking galleries all round, divided by wooden panelled walls with Art Deco style doorways between.”

Granted some of the wording is very much functional descriptors of the buildings features, but step back from all the individual features and they all come together as a whole to make for an incredibly fascinating building.  It’s far from delicate, it’s one of the first buildings in the UK to be built from reinforced concrete, but then why should it be delicate.  It was built to house an exhibition which was a show of strength for the region, the building was intended to be impressive in stature and its contents all the more so.  However, the star of the show is the central octagonal cupola, which is a stunning space which will be the main events hall, with a stage at one end, bars at the other and decorated with Wylam’s own barrel aging project on display for all to see, just incase you forget for a minute that you are infact in a brewery.  Its architectural features like this which make the use of such buildings so desirable.  Wylam could have quite easily moved to a purpose built building somewhere, which would probably be effectively a large warehouse, so it’s incredibly refreshing to see a brewery adapting an underused building to bring another offering to enhance the Newcastle beer scene.

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I also find it incredibly appropriate that in 1929 this building was used to attract visitors from all over the country to come and see what great things were going on in the North East.  Roll the clock forward to 2016 and once again, this building could become a real symbol of the booming beer scene here in Newcastle.

Wylam themselves have moved quickly to make the building more than just a home for the brewery & more than just another taproom.  There is a very active number of events planned.  There are already several musical performances lined up, but for me most significant are the Brewers markets.  The first such event taking place on 10th/11th June will feature North East breweries Allendale Brewery, Almasty Brewing Co, Box Social Brewery, Cameron’s Brewery, Three Kings and special guests from out of the region, Northern Monk.  Now to me that is a pretty impressive line-up of top quality breweries from the region.  It’s great to see that Wylam aren’t simply all about themselves, they’re really driving a collective community with events like that.  They have the fantastic platform and for them to share it with other North East breweries is incredibly forward thinking.  Let’s face it, one brewery alone may draw a large volume of people to visit the city.  However, a fully developed and exciting beer culture across the city will make it far easier for every aspect of the beer community on Tyneside to flourish.  A rising tide lifts all boats as the saying goes.

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Currently in the planning/development stage are taprooms for Northern Alchemy and Tyne Bank Brewery which will soon become reality and further enhance the offerings on Tyneside.  The beer scene here is really going to take off in 2016 and I can’t wait to see where it ends up.  One things for certain, by the end of the year we’ll be placed firmly on the craft beer map.

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Beavertown at the Bottle Shop

So, “Competition time!” was the headline.

I was sat scrolling through Facebook with Dionne the other night when I spotted a post by ‘Cheers’ magazine (the excellent magazine covering events and happenings in the local beer community, well worth a read and you can usually pick it up for free in many of the better pubs in the city). They were running a competition to win 2 tickets for the 7 course Beavertown dinner at the Bottle Shop Newcastle. All you had to do was email the name of the brewery who featured on the front cover of this month’s magazine. Naturally I already knew the answer, but for those that didn’t (and there’s a handy hint here), Cheers always have the front cover of the latest magazine as their profile picture…. So I quickly emailed them with my answer: Tyne Bank Brewery and crossed my fingers. Dionne spotted what I was doing and wanted to have a go herself, so I told her what she had to do and she sent a similar email. Lo and behold, less than 24 hrs later Dionne rang me to tell me that she’d won and luckily enough she wanted me to go with her! Hurrah!

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So baby sitter eventually arranged we set off for the Bottle Shop keen to get stuck into the menu dishes. Dionne and I have always shared a love of good food. We could really bore folk around us with our discussions of each and every element of any interesting dishes we are having. So it was brilliant for us both to be able to go along (yes and bore those around us with our thoughts on the food and the beer…), but actually in a scenario like this, where the tables are laid out in long rows with benches either side it almost encourages people to talk to each other. Some folk hate that but personally I love it. Always good to meet new people especially when the topic of conversation is good food and good beer!

Dionne asked me, as we were in the taxi to the venue, how much Beavertown would be involved. I said that I suspected the Bottle Shop would simply have a load of Beavertown beers on, but no one from the brewery itself would be involved. How wrong I was. There were two representatives from Beavertown present, one from the marketing/sales side of things, the other was one of the brewing team. Both got in the talking and introducing the beers and gave us a run down of the breweries history etc, very informative, very passionate about what they do, was great to see. And at the end they stuck around to talk to us all and thank us for coming along, it was an absolute pleasure!

So here’s the low down on the 7 courses and their accompanying beers.

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1st Course: Honey glazed chicken wings, ham hock Terrine, mango & watercress – Gamma Ray 5.4%
Beautiful start to the dinner, and by this point I was famished…. The dish was hearty and incredibly flavoursome. Chicken was at its best, juicy and tender meat with bones removed, that lovely honey glazed edges where the flavour intensifies. Ham hock terrine was thick and packed with salty ham flavours which the Gamma Ray cut through beautifully. The mango obviously complimented the juicy flavours in the Amarillo hops of the beer. Gamma is a stella pale ale and this dish worked a treat with it.

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2nd Course: Soused mackerel, poached pear, celery root, gooseberry, gem and walnut – Pearvert Phantom 4.8%
Another triumph. The Pear Phantom is a sour beer taken to the comfortable edges of sour, so refreshingly accessible. The Pear was a pronounced flavour in the beer but with the gooseberry it zinged at your tastebuds and felt crisp. The mackerel was rich and oily, but with the complimenting fruit the overall effect was cleansing. The walnut provided a meaty quality to the dish, rounding the flavour combos off perfectly.

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3rd Course: King scallop, blood orange cured collar bacon, kale, lemon thyme jus – St Clements Phantom 4.8%
Kale’s a funny thing, I imagine there are those who hate it, but in this context it was delicious. For me kale is that smooth texture that set the back drop for the delicious buttery scallop and that awesome cured bacon. The bacon was full of flavour but not salty in the slightest. Again, the phantom was there to cut through the buttery scallop flavour and the oranges and lemons worked a treat with the cured bacon.

 

 

image4th Course: Soy braised featherblade of beef, sirloin steak, stout onions, truffle mash, asparagus, baby carrots – Mr Hyde 13.7%
Before we even got the tickets for the evening, this was the dish I was most looking forward to. I’m a huge fan of imperial stouts and a huge fan of beef. Now as it was explained to us, they brewed a fairly pale malt wort and then mixed it with a dark sweet wort brewed separately in the original 600l kit from Dukes (which is now their pilot kit). The result was an incredibly high gravity wort that the yeast was applied to. I bet those enzymes thought all their Christmases had come at once! Clearly at 13.7% this is a big ferment for a beer, but the thick texture and the sweetness come from a high level of unfermented sugars that are left in the resulting beer. Delicious! But Usually such a bold sweet beer would be paired with a desert, some kind of chocolate or coffee flavoured affair. But here they went to build up the flavours of the dish. The sirloin married beautifully with the stout onions, which I would guess were sautéed. The featherblade of beef was just delicious though, rich and bold and never overpowered by the stout. It was an absolute delight, every inch the match I was hoping for.

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5th Course: Palate cleanser – Negroni cocktail with a Bloody Ell mixer
After supping such a big beer, we were given this course as a palate cleanser, to reset our tastebuds back from the bold. The Negroni cocktail is very dry, very boozy, in contrast Bloody Ell is crisp light and refreshing but with the straw right to the bottom of the glass you effectively got the cocktail first and the Bloody Ell to wash it down, exactly as the compare told us.

 

 

6th Course: Twice baked cheshire cheese soufflé, pecan and radish salad, sesame seeds – 8 Ball 6.2%
8 Ball is a firm favourite of mine. Just in so much that its always been a very different style of IPA from what was the norm when I first had it. There’s a spicy edge to it from the rye which means its not so reliant on simply juicy hops, but that spicy edge is married to southern hemisphere hops which compliment it perfectly. So that spicy edge worked really well with the not overly strong cheese in the soufflé.

image7th Course: Dark chocolate & porter fondant, peanut and banana chip granola, banana ice cream – Smog rocket 5.4%
The fondant deserts here were set in a sea of dark chocolate sauce which was awesome. Very rich and actually that worked best with the accompanying beer. Smog rocket has always had a sticky edge in my mind and it felt like drinking treacle in beer form alongside this dish. The fondant pudding was rich but light, the ice cream was incredibly creamy but the peanut and banana granola just provided a lovely crunch to the occasion.

 

This was the first time I’ve eaten at The Bottle Shop but I was genuinely taken aback by the quality of the food served. This isn’t just fancy pub grub, its carefully thought out cuisine with talent and flair well beyond what you’d expect. The Bottle Shop is always worth a look. They get some of the country’s best beers in and have a regularly changing line up. For me it feels alittle bit out the way tucked away in a very nice square at the far end of town to where I work, hence why I rarely get over there. However, evenings like this will always be a draw for me now. This was absolutely brilliant.

Dionne is still very much discovering beer and I think this was great for her to try new styles. She loves sour beers so the two phantoms were just about perfect beers in her mind. But what I was interested to see was what she made of the 13.7% scotch aged imperial stout, a very different kettle of fish! However, she loved it. The match to the food helped a lot but I think she will develop more a more of an interest in a broader range of beers. So much so she’s now considering joining me at Indyman this year which would be brilliant!

For me the star of the show was that Mr Hyde scotch aged imperial stout, in its own right it’s a tremendous quality beer. Texture is pure luxury, flavours are smoothly melted together and it just oozes class. Similarly the dish it was served with had tremendous depth to the flavours, rich and delightful. It was an utterly delicious pairing.

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Beavertown are a great brewery, one I always keep an eye out for. So I was keen to speak to the brewer and ask more about the Tempest project, their barrel aging program. He gave me a few different ideas of whats to come in the near future and I have to say I’m very excited by what I heard. I suspect these will become highly sought after beers in 2016. But you’ll all have to form an orderly cue behind me!

The Bottle Shop seem to regularly organise these dinners with different breweries, so if you’re undecided about going let me tell you, you simply must go.

Many thanks to Cheers magazine for the tickets. We couldn’t have enjoyed it more!