Spirited revival for rum firm

Spirit Of Northumberland - Christopher Walwyn-James, Ian Linsley and David Ainsley.
Spirit Of Northumberland - Christopher Walwyn-James, Ian Linsley and David Ainsley.

BEER fans are in for a brewing bonanza after a local businessman managed to find a pair of ’ale and hearty blokes to back his venture – thanks to an article in the Northumberland Gazette.

Ian Linsley, who resurrected Alnwick IPA and the famous Alnwick Rum from the history books, is now forging ahead with the help of new business partners Chris Walwyn-James and David Ainsley, from Embleton.

Together, they have set up a new operating company, Spirit of Northumberland, to encompass Ian’s core firms, Alnwick Brewery Company Ltd and Alnwick Rum Company Ltd, as well as setting up a holding company, Harry Hotspur Holdings, that will manage the traditional recipes, trademarks and intellectual property of the business.

And their plans now include rolling out a number of new bespoke beers, as well as an original recipe Alnwick Rum, to a potentially global market.

But there are even bigger things in the pipeline, with a desire to build a brewhouse in Alnwick – something which has not existed since the former Alnwick Brewery closed in 1986.

It all started when the Gazette ran an appeal for publicans and hoteliers to get behind Ian’s bid to bring Alnwick IPA back in cask form last August.

But Ian said: “Trade was becoming very difficult last year due to the recession and I was losing the ear of the bank, who turned me down for a loan.

“I couldn’t move forward, I was basically standing still, which is when I contacted the Gazette.

“After the article appeared, I was contacted the following day by David, who wanted to talk about my plans for Alnwick IPA. I immediately warmed to him because he had a similar passion for Northumberland and its produce, as well as a tremendous record of business savvy.

“He then introduced me to Chris, who also happened to have massive experience in business, and I knew straight away that there was an opportunity to take not just a step forward, but a giant leap.”

The trio has since been in discussions with suppliers and breweries to expand radically their beer production to include a Scotch ale, tentatively named Hotspur, based on the export beer originally made in Alnwick.

And thanks to records passed down to Ian, there are 10 alternative recipes for Alnwick Rum, including a white version and the original blend from 1912.

David, who spent 40 years as a chartered surveyor, said: “As well as new products, we’re also looking for premises to turn into an operational base.

“We’re seeking to widen the product range, both beers and rum, based in the local area.

“Alnwick’s fantastic history is very much working in our favour and the thing that really excites me is that we’re moving back to draft beers rather than bottled.”

Chris, who was chief financial officer of a major insurance company and responsible for its global expansion, added: “It’s a superb opportunity to release new products to the market and hopefully they will enjoy the same support and recognition that Alnwick IPA and Alnwick Rum currently have.

“Because there is no longer a brewery in Alnwick, we also hope to establish a high-quality brewhouse in Alnwick, which will provide great food and where people drink what is brewed on the premises.

“We’re very excited to be involved with such a great brand.”

Ian added: “I’ve gone from the depths of despair to total optimism and it is down to the Gazette that this has all happened. Without that article last August, I would never have met David or Chris.

“We’re now determined to help Alnwick and Northumberland and put it back on the brewing map.”

Alnwick IPA was first brewed at the former Alnwick Brewery in the 1850s and continued to be produced for around 100 years. It was relaunched in bottles in June 2007 by the Duchess of Northumberland, and is currently brewed at the Daleside Brewery in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.