Tag Archives: Wylam Brewery

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.


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.


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.


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.

My Craft Beer Calling review

Sat drinking Anarchy Sublime Chaos and it got me thinking…..

Last weekend saw the first holding of Craft Beer Calling.  The event was set up very much like the Boiler Shop Steamer event and as such there was good live music on and a great array of street food to keep the happy punters very happy indeed!  The location was in the Boiler Shop which is an old warehouse on Sussex Street behind the central station and this building represents a very important step forward in the industrial revolution as it was the location where Robert Stephenson built his rocket in 1829 which changed the transport world as they knew it, with rapid expansion of the rail networks following its success. 

I don’t want to make obvious links here but I do think the first holding of this event will probably kick the Craft Beer revolution on further in the North East as there is already a healthy appetite for craft beer but I think it’ll grow all the more as people go to these events as an entry to their Craft Beer voyage of discovery.

I poured over the beer list ahead of the event and selected many beers that I wanted to try over the course of the weekend.  As it turned out there were probably 35-40 beers available at any one time so you had to keep a close eye out for any particular beers that you were hoping for.  One beer that I had read abit about before hand was the keg of xeRRex that Yeastie Boys were sending over.  The brewers themselves will readily admit that this is a beer you’ll either love of loathe.  It’s a big 10% smoky monster of a beer, most of the group I was with couldnt get past the smoky yeast aroma.  This was a beer with bags of flavour and character, delicious.  But beers like that leave you with a dilemma of how do you follow it, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me! 

Its special beers like this which the festival needs.  Initially the organisers will easily attract a crowd of beer drinkers in Newcastle, but attracting the more discerning drinkers from outside the region would be very useful for the city’s tourist industry.  The more unusual beers will put a beer festival on the map.  These weren’t your usual CAMRA festival beers, which is by no way a criticism but this festival had to be a significantly different event to the CAMRA Newcastle Beer Festival.  I suspect the timing was chosen to keep it as far from the CAMRA event as possible for that reason.  It worked, this was an entirely different experience with a very different atmosphere and a very different structure.

The Boiler Shop is a great space, could probably do with a couple more toilets for busier times and the bar did get very busy at times but that apart it worked very well.  There was a very cool tucked away Gin Bar and a brilliant space upstairs where they held the meet the brewer sessions.  There was real beer and food theme too though. The food vendors were all top quality outlets, no cheap burgers here!  That was all brought together by the Beer and Food matching talk that the lovely Melissa Cole gave where she paired beers with the delicious food offerings from Tony Renwick of The Bridge Tavern.  Food pairings were all excellent, and the depth of knowledge from Melissa added real expertise to the talk.  I did feel alittle disgruntled when some at the back of the room were talking throughout the event but I didn’t let it spoil it.  I guess you put people with drink you inevitably get events being abit rough around the edges like that.  Melissa and Tony didn’t seem to mind though.

So anyway, back to the beers.  I wont bore you with a run through every beer I had but there’s a few I want to mention.

Camden’s collaboration with Beavertown, One Hell of a Beaver, was one stand out beer.  It had all the hoppy notes of Beavertown’s Gamma Ray but with the crisp fresh texture of Camden’s Hells lager.  It almost felt like you took a sip of Gamma Ray but swallowed a sip of Hells.  Brilliant beer!  Make more please!

Also worth mentioning was Lagunitas American double IPA Hop Stoopid, which was hops piled on hops piled on hops.  Tremendous!  Also loved Mikkeller/Siren Daydream which is a white stout brewed with coffee, cocoa and vanilla and it had a real boozy warm flavour to warm the cockles.

The regions beers were very well represented, I saw Panda Frog Dart Frog 48 sell out in double quick time (too quick for me to get to try it!), Wylam had their Jakehead in Embryo form (racked direct from FV which was delicious), Tyne Bank’s Heavenly Porter was smooth and rich in bourbon flavours, but the star of the show for me was Anarchy’s keg of 15 month aged national gold award winning Sublime Chaos.  This is a breakfast stout infused with Ethiopian coffee bean from of “natural” type, which means they are dried out on sun terraces!  I love this beer anyway but the aging just saw it mature to a bigger smoother more rounded individual.  The chocolate flavours were more pronounced than normal and the bitterness of the coffee notes kept it perfectly balanced.

Naturally, there were some beers that I missed out on but that just makes me keen to go back again next year.  If the organisers could move it to a different month to Indyman that’d be very much appreciated!  Just to keep the missus happy.

Some minor points to note, I thought it would have been useful to have the cask offerings displayed on the barrels behind the bar at a higher level so you could see what was on when the bar was busy. And it did get busy, the bar area was often packed but we’re British we’re used to queuing.  I thought the bingo card beer tokens seemed abit naff but worked none the less. I think given that they’re my only criticisms I have to say it was a good event.  There was certainly plenty people there enjoying it! 

To my mind this festival was a big deal for Newcastle and the North East.  As I’ve said before the region deserves it to celebrate the great craft beers that we are producing (I say we, I’m mainly consuming them but you know what I mean).   So in that respect I think it put down a good marker for future years. I’d like to see it grow and expand although I’m not sure you’d want more people there or more beers so perhaps attracting different breweries to the event would take it forward.  I’ll leave that for the organisers to sort out though, cos they did a cracking job this year!  Well done!