THEIR brewery might be young, as are they, but the two Phils have plans and know where they want to go.
VIP Brewery, a five-barrel plant sitting in the attractive countryside around Alnwick, Northumberland, has only been operational since May. One of the North East’s newest breweries, it has set out its stall with the usual range – a light, easy-drinker, a best bitter and a copper-coloured ruby ale (made with ginger).
But the ambitions of Phil Bell, 22, and Phil Steel, 25, both living in Longframlington, are not conservative. Even before opening, they were thinking about expansion to a 10-barrel plant, and spent a long time choosing VIP Brewery’s location on the Hawkhill Industrial Estate between Lesbury and Alnwick so that they’d have room to do so.
Bringing brewing back to Alnwick, there’s even talk of a cafe one day, and the smaller vessels being showcased as a destination brewery in same way that has brought success to Morpeth’s Anarchy Brew Co.
And the pair have started early with a nice idea for extra business: they began their mobile bar venture in June, and will turn up for free and supply the beers of your choosing. There are a few companies offering the service, but it seems a nice way for breweries to target their products at events otherwise dominated by bottles or mass-produced keg.
It’s interesting to see the approach to branding VIP has taken. With the Phils running the Village Inn in Longframlington and creating an “olde worlde” feel to the brewery, VIP’s beers have followed suit. Names all start with “Village” and the pump clips are designed like scrolls. This might seem like anathema to some breweries that want to disassociate themselves from the stuffy roots of ale, but context is important. A slick design and forward-looking names and beers caters for zealous young converts to the church of ale, but there is still a large market in the hinterland of the cutting edge. And, after all, who knows better what local drinkers want than a pub manager and his assistant?
While I can’t reconcile myself with the beer name Village Bike (not out of a sense of prudishness but because it is an image ale has largely and thankfully moved away from), a traditional brewery based in a beautiful rural setting is hard to argue against.
“That’s what we’re all about,” says Phil. “Our premises are an old turkey farm and it’s beautiful. Our pump clips are olde worlde because we’re from a village pub. We’re keeping it local but not too local that we can’t expand.”
A LOCAL beer has been brewed to mark a local hero.
Playwrights Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood turned their attention to Grace Darling with their play Amazing Grace.
To mark the occasion, Jarrow Brewery has produced a beer of the same name, which they say is a “4.6% pale golden premier real ale with orangey and passion fruit flavours and subtle hop aroma”.
It’s the fourth time the writers have had beer brewed to mark their plays. Jarrow Brewery marked Maggie’s End, Maxim Brewery produced Lipton Ale for Alf Ramsey Knew My Grandfather and Geltsdale in Cumbria brewed Drizzlewort for It’s Grim Up North.