Berwick festival puts the focus on brewing

Richard Simpson, vice-chairman of Simpsons Malt, with produce from some of the local artisan brewery exhibitors at the Berwick Food & Beer Festival.
Richard Simpson, vice-chairman of Simpsons Malt, with produce from some of the local artisan brewery exhibitors at the Berwick Food & Beer Festival.

Slow Food, the organisation behind Berwick Food & Beer Festival, has confirmed it is busy brewing up plans to showcase the region’s local ales.

With support from main festival sponsor, Simpsons Malt, there will be beer tasting, ciders, cocktails and entertainment throughout the event on September 3 and 4.

A special Meet the Brewers Evening will be the perfect start to the weekend.

Situated in the beer marquee on Berwick’s Parade Green, visitors will enjoy ales from local brewers and an opportunity to talk to the people who crafted them.

Local singer-songwriter Electric Penelope will entertain with her own unique brew of jazz, soul and pop often inspired by the Northumberland landscape. Having received airplay for her debut album on BBC Introducing and supported artists including Geno Washington, her music is the perfect backdrop for a relaxing pint on the Friday evening.

The emphasis on meeting the people behind the beers is a new departure for 2016.

Joint festival director, Maurice McNeely said: “The fact that we will have the beer producers themselves on site presenting their own products to the public, closely mirrors what we already have achieved with our food market. It’s very much in line with Slow Food principles supporting and showcasing local artisan brewers in a friendly, relaxed setting and giving people a true beer experience.”

The range of brewers taking part stretches across both sides of the Border and a common theme is the use of local ingredients, inspiration from the local landscape and a respect for brewing traditions combined with fresh thinking.

Back by popular demand is Bear Claw, Berwick’s very own nano-brewery, with its range of hand-crafted, unfiltered, unrefined ales brewed by Rikki Graham. Regular brews include Winding Spring, an American hopped beer; Curmudgeon, a traditional-style British bitter; and Wickety, a robust black beer.

From Scotland will be the multi-award-winning microbrewery Born in the Borders, based near Jedburgh. With a strong ‘plough to pint’ ethos, its ales, created from barley grown in neighbouring fields, include Foxy Blonde, Game Bird, Holy Cow, Dark Horse, Flower of Scotland and Gold Dust. An additional Wild Harvest project uses locally foraged ingredients to flavour a separate range.

Top Out, based just south of Edinburgh takes its inspiration from the nearby mountains. It has been brewing unconventional beers for discerning drinkers since 2013 combining influences from Germany, Belgium and America – countries known for their brewing – with Scottish traditions.

A growing range of core and seasonal beers includes pale ales, IPAs, wheat beer and smoked porter. Tempest Brewing Company has its roots in Kelso, via Canada and New Zealand, with brewers Gavin and Annika learning their skills along the way. Dedicated to quality ales with bold flavours, each beer tells a story from Long White Cloud, brewed for the first time in a garage in Christchurch, to Unforgiven, brewed to answer the question ‘what would a cowboy drink?’

These relatively established names will be joined by start up Stow Brewery who will bring along a range of craft beers.

From the North East will be Hetton Law Brewery, a microbrewery between the Cheviot and Kyloe hills, whose local spring water gives their hand-crafted beers distinctive character. Hetton Howler, inspired by the strong winds, is a bitter with rich malt overtones designed to blow drinkers away, while its Hare Raise golden beer is named in honour of local wildlife.

The Hadrian & Border Brewery, under the guidance of husband and wife team, Andy and Shona Burrows, brews at its present custom-made 35-barrel plant in Newburn. Its 10-strong brewing team has a reputation for its distinctive flavours, with leading brands including Tyneside Blonde and Farne Island.

Started in 2011, Acton Ales, from Ashington, may be one of south-east Northumberland’s newest breweries but its team is using over 18 year’s experience in real ales to create its beers.

Another relatively new face is Newcastle’s Almasty Brewing Co, where owner and brewer Mark McGarry is making it his mission to get as much flavour from his hops as possible, including the technically challenging sour beers.

Another new Northumberland microbrewery Credence Brewing, from Amble, will be on hand to deliver its beers’ brewed flavour, mouth-feel and drinkability. Credence Blonde features its Northumbrian malt as a base ingredient and its Credence Porter features 11 varieties of barley, rye and wheat, a true homage to malt!

Those who prefer a different tipple will also be well catered for with Thistly Cross Cider, Scotland’s award-winning farmhouse ciders, from farmer Ian Rennie and artist-turned-cidermaker Peter Stuart.

Produced in their Cider Shed in East Lothian, this successful collaboration’s popular traditional and fruit ciders are pressed from Scottish apples then fermented and matured for six months.

Also on hand will be the team from Berwick’s Pier Red, a unique venue combining fine art and fine drinking at its Friday evening cocktails with renowned mixologist Roy Harmeston. Pier Red will also supply a selection of wines and tipples for non-drinkers and drivers. Slow Food will provide a soft drinks stall.

Berwick, its name derived from the Old English for barley farm, has long been associated with brewing. With modern breweries of all sizes still using its malt, it’s particularly apt that Simpsons Malt is the main festival sponsor.

Summing up their involvement, vice-chairman Richard Simpson said: “As the Home of Good Malt, Simpsons Malt is proud of its heritage in Berwick-upon-Tweed and produces some of the finest malt in the world which comes from barley grown in nearby fields. Being part of a festival that celebrates such fantastic local brewers and quality produce gets our wholehearted backing.”

The Berwick Food and Beer Festival takes place at The Barracks in Berwick on September 3 and 4, from 10am to 5pm, with the beer marquee opening into the evenings. The Meet the Brewers Evening will be held from 7pm on Friday, September 2; £3 entry fee.

Held in Berwick’s historic Barracks, there will also be a producers’ market, street food area, demonstration kitchen, children’s activities and entertainment.

More information at www.berwickfoodandbeerfestival.co.uk