IT’S a familiar love story: boy meets beer, boy falls in love with beer, boy and beer kept apart by other job, boy leaves other job and, in the final climactic happy ending, boy gets together with beer by opening his own brewery.
Often, though, it’s a timid affair to begin with – a threesome of a best bitter, an unadventurous IPA and some form of ruby beer forming the brewery’s early stable of offerings while it beds down and tests the market. Later, to keep the relationship fresh, perhaps a fleeting dalliance with a porter or stout.
But Ewan McCann has clearly been smitten from the start. Since falling in love by opening Three Kings Brewery in North Shields in June, he has produced 14 different beers – and counting.
Brewing two days a week on his two-and-a-half barrel plant, Ewan spends the third week of every month on a new brew, from IPAs to porters to pale ales to bitters. It’s an incredible offering (and distinctive, too – try the Obsidian Rare dark ale or Bacchus Ivy-Bush Owl – two of my favourites) for such a young brewery, and offers a very different approach to the ones we’re used to.
It’s arguably a more natural approach to beer-making: while consistency is seen as the gold standard for brewers, and cautiously testing the market one brew at a time the accepted method, the number of variables when brewing lends itself more easily to a huge series of one-off beers on a theme – and helps them to be collectors’ items, too.
From the combination of malts used, the variety and quantity of hops, adjuncts used, conditioning, types of yeast, even tiny changes in the temperature of the mash – all can change the resulting flavour.
It seems a shame not to try them all out, an opinion that seems to be shared most notably by The Kernel Brewery in London, which famously produces a large numbers of brews, some of which they will never return to. But Ewan was following his own path when he set up Three Kings.
“When I set up I had a lot of recipes I wanted to try,” he says, “and I’ve still got a few I haven’t done yet.
“I wanted to try out as many recipes as I could to see what went down well.
“The problem I’ve got is they’ve all gone down well!”
What a lovely problem to have. This passionate love affair is clearly going to turn into a long-term relationship.
:: WHITLEY Bay Beer Festival is on, with 50 ales and 20 ciders and perries.
It started yesterday and is on today and Saturday from 12 to 10.30pm. It’s at Whitley Bay Football Club and costs £10. Price includes a glass, programme, pen and three beer tokens.
:: Love cider? Get down to the Free Trade Inn for their Welsh Cider Showcase.
It runs until Sunday and features 11 Welsh ciders from eight different producers, including some "rarely seen treats".
The line-up includes Blaegawney’s Dry and Perry, Two Trees Perry and Welsh Warrior from Gwynt Y Ddraig, Old Monty’s Dry, and offerings from Raglan, Skyborry, Troggi, Ty Bryn and Welsh Mountain.
The Free Trade is also holding a "Smoke and Fire" two-day event ahead of Bonfire Night. On November 4-5 they’ll be getting "hot and smoky", so expect rauchbiers (smoked beers) and chilli beers, as well as ginger ciders and peaty whiskies. The incredible line-up is enough to make you drool – it includes Allendale six-month-aged Chilli Milk Chocolate Stout; Tyne Bank Dark Dog Oak Smoked Brown Ale, and Redwillow Smokeless.