Our latest collaboration brewday saw us venture outside our native lands for the first time, and make the short cross-border trip to Newcastle*. The Tyne Bank brewery began life in May 2011, located on an industrial estate in Ouseburn, a short stroll along the glittering riverbank from the city centre. We’ve had an affinity with Tyne Bank pretty much since they opened, following an enjoyable visit there during one of the much-missed twissups, almost exactly two years ago to the day. With that in mind, it seemed fitting that we returned there to help out with the brewing of their annual Christmas beer.
*It was considerably longer on the way back – thanks, Network Rail…
Every year, owner Julia Austin puts up a two Christmas-themed suggestions on their website, and Tyne Bank fans decide what head brewer Mark McGarry and the rest of the brewteam produce. For 2013, the choices were a cranberry pale ale, or a festively-spiced Black IPA. Both sounded intriguing, but by a near 2-1 margin, the latter option came out on top. So it was, our first job following the mashing in (which we missed, even having arrived at 9am), was to zest an entire box of clementines and limes (plus, on occasion, my fingertips). I’ve never smelled a pint of orange/lime zest before; I can only describe it as sinus-clearing.
So, the question was, how do you make a black IPA festive? Would you even want to? Well, it’s an interesting idea, balancing west-cost USA hops with Christmas-spice. The bridge connecting the two groups of flavours is right here – spruce tips. Paul and Tyne Bank apprentice brewer Sean snipped a bin-liner full of spruce branches, ‘foraged’ from Sean’s ‘garden’ that morning. It might not look like much, but made into (effectively) a giant herbal tea bag, steeped in the underback with a load of dry-hops, Mark felt it would impart a decent amount of sweet spruciness to the brew.
Being an IPA-base, the beer had to be hoppy, and Mark adds the first of several additions of Cascade, Chinook and Amarillo (in that order). Whilst we were there, it came to light that Mark had handed in his notice and was going to be opening up his own brewery within the next few months. That’s great news for him – he’s got some serious talent – and the (as yet) un-named brewery should be up and running in Newcastle by the end of March. It’s all very amicable, though, and Julia has started to look for Mark’s replacement whilst he’s producing beer well into next year – ensuring as seamless a transition as possible.
After the hops, some classic festive spices went in – small heroin-esque bags of cinnamon and ginger, a procession of small bags of cloves, and then the pint of mixed zest. At this point, the smell roiling up from the copper was incredible – something akin to a hopped-up custard tart (even without nutmeg). Other than that, it was time to fulfil the age-old “blogger’s choice” and clean out the mash tun, which on an 18bbl brew took a fair bit of effort; rewarded soon after by a taste of Tyne Bank Southern Star from the CT (and, of course, a case-load of zest-free oranges to eat up).
The final thing to do as the beer transferred was to dunk the spruce/Amarillo tea bag in the underback, and keep it submerged to get the flavours though. This was done via the high-tech solution of leaning on an oar, prodding the submerged bag every now and again. After that, and final checks and cleaning, it was time to head to the Free Trade Inn, mere minutes away from the brewery. Thanks to Julia, Mark and the team for hosting us for the day; you can get your hands on Tyne Bank’s Festive Black IPA in a few weeks, look out for it on cask in the North East and the Edinburgh area (including one potentially very special cask). Our next collab brewday should be announced soon, check back later for details!