Newcastle Brown Ale is as synonymous with Newcastle as United, the Tyne Bridge and the Geordie humour.
Originally brewed and bottled in the city’s Tyne Brewery on Corporation Street, operations were moved across the big river to Gateshead’s Federation Brewery in 2005. The taste of the north east moved again in 2010, this time to the North Yorkshire town of Tadcaster. The switch meant almost a century of brewing Brown Ale on Tyneside had ended.
On Wearside, the Vaux Brewery was one of the biggest in the UK. With sister plant Ward’s in Sheffield, they were brewing 32m pints a year between them and making £25m profit each.
Now, the once mighty Vaux site sits desolate and demolished; an empty crater at the heart of Sunderland since closing in 1999. It seems then, that the region’s proud brewing heritage is dead.
That statement could not be further from the truth.
The Maxim Brewery opened in 2008 in Houghton-le-Spring, a small town not far from the ground zero of Vaux. The brainchild of former Vaux employees Mark Anderson, Doug Trotman and Jim Murray, the brewery cost around £240,000 to establish in equipment and installation.
Formed with the intention of bringing back a number of famous Vaux brands, the brewery has forged links to supply products to pub chains including Wetherspoon and has seen a spike in sales.
Newcastle has also seen the rebirth of the brewing industry with Wylam brewery recently investing almost £2m into the renovation of the Palace of Arts building in Exhibition Park. The move from Heddon to the palace means the brewery will increase its production by half.
The brewing industry has always had a large part to play in the region, attracting attention from the rest of the UK and indeed worldwide and it is as alive as it ever has been.
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