Durham brewery taking on the big boys in national awards

Brewery in line for national award just 18 months after starting up

Sonnet 43's Michael Harker (Head Brewer) & Mark Hird (Owner)
Sonnet 43's Michael Harker (Head Brewer) & Mark Hird (Owner)

A North East microbrewery which has only been in operation for 18 months is in the running for a national award.

Sonnet 43 Brew House has been announced as a finalist in the Best Microbrewing Pub Company category of The Publican Awards, with the winner to be announced at a ceremony in London next month.

These national annual awards recognise achievement within the pub industry with 18 categories covering all aspects of running pub establishments, from small operations to very large pub companies.

It is an impressive achievement for the brewery, based at Coxhoe, County Durham, which has only been trading since late 2012.

In that time Sonnet 43 – named after the well-known verse by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who was born and raised at nearby Coxhoe Hall – have made serious progress.

Their beers have sold in more than 300 outlets across the North East and North Yorkshire and won Great Taste Awards and they have also opened three brewery taps, The Lambton Worm at Chester-le-Street, The White Lead at Hebburn and The Clarence Villa at Coxhoe.

All the pubs serve the Sonnet 43 beers, as well as a range of food.

The company isn’t slowing down this year, with plans for 2014 including expanding the brewing capacity and launching even more tap venues across the region.

Brewery owner Mark Hird said: “I’m thrilled to be a finalist for a national accolade of this kind.

“Sonnet 43 still being a relatively new business this in itself is an achievement.

“I also think it demonstrates that our format of great tasting, award winning craft ales with fresh, local food really works and has serious potential.”

He added: “We’re up against two other strong contenders.

“I think we’ve shown the judges that we’re passionate about great beer and what is really different about us so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

The criteria for Best Microbrewing Pub Company award is brewing less than 10,000 barrels a year with at least one quality, beer-focused pub.

Judging includes a paper application, mystery visits and an interview with a judging panel of industry experts.

Last year’s winner was Ossett Brewery, based in West Yorkshire, which runs over 20 pubs and producing around four times the amount of beer as Sonnet 43.

The winner of this year’s awards will be announced at the awards ceremony on March 25, hosted by Liverpudlian comic John Bishop, and Keith Lemon of Celebrity Juice fame.

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