Twice the Flavour
Hadrian’s Wall country has a rich history in brewing beer going back to Roman times. Twice Brewed is keeping that craft tradition alive and kicking today
Q&A with Red Kellie, head brewer at Twice Brewed
What’s your background?
I’ve got a background in sustainability and community development, having done my degree in Environmental Protection at Newcastle University. I then enjoyed 10 years working in the voluntary sector helping new charities to set up and access grant funding. I returned to work at Newcastle University in 2010, supporting student volunteers and establishing a range of sustainability projects. The last of these was Stu Brew, a sustainable microbrewery enterprise run by and for students, where myself and a colleague supported student volunteers to manage the business whilst teaching the team to brew great beers. Sustainability is also very much at the heart of our brewing at Twice Brewed. We’ve got our own water supply on site and manage our waste water very carefully – we employ a reed bed system and minimise environmental impact of the brewery. All of our waste grain goes to feed cattle raised along Hadrian’s Wall, and then the beef is used in our restaurant here at the Inn.
Why brewing and (now) craft brewing?
I had been home-brewing beer and country wines for around 8 years before starting up Stu Brew, and over that time I developed an intense interest and passion in the brewing and fermentation process. I then did some training with Brewlab in Sunderland which was excellent, and it really sealed the deal that this is what I wanted to do full time. I love playing with flavours and trying new ways to get the best out of the ingredients to hand. It’s amazing that four base ingredients; hops, malt, water and yeast can provide you with such a massively varied range of products; and that’s before you’ve even begun playing with additional natural flavours or fruits.
What’s the definition of a craft beer and how does Twice Brewed compare to other craft breweries (size, production, ownership etc etc)?
People have widely varying opinions of what ‘craft’ beer means. To me, beers that have been truly ‘crafted’ are the beers that I want to try and enjoy – from small, independent breweries, who are fiercely proud of every batch of beer they produce. At Twice Brewed, we are brewing on a 5bbl kit, which means we produce around only 800 litres per batch. We were founded in June 2017, and currently brew between 1,600 and 2,400 litres of beer per week. Consistency of product and the highest quality of ingredients is our complete focus.
What’s the history of brewing in the (local) Northumberland area?
There is a rich heritage of brewing in the area, from the many local small-scale brewhouses which were an integral part of the local inns, to the mobile brewers who were responsible for providing beer to the Roman Legions as they marched from place to place. In the case of the Roman elite, their familiar preference may have been for wine, but beer took prevalence as an everyday beverage because it was easier and more cost-effective to transport the ingredients to follow the soldiers wherever they went. A brewer was typically assigned to travel with each contingent to brew fresh beer and keep the troops well supplied. There are very early written records in the tablets unearthed at Vindolanda Roman fort (a stone’s throw from the brewhouse) of heartfelt requests from the quartermaster to his superiors for more beer to be made available for his thirsty troops!
Does Twice Brewed try and reflect this history, and if so how? What makes Twice Brewed special?
With a name like Twice Brewed, it was destiny for a brewhouse to be re-established at the inn. Legend has it that soldiers arriving to fight in the Battle of Hexham in 1464 complained that the beer given to them was too weak and it was sent to Twice Brewed to be brewed again – resulting in a stronger, heartier tipple to ready them for battle!
With the Inn on the Pennine Way route and with guests able to view the working brewhouse what’s been the reaction to the brewery and the ales?
The reaction so far has been really positive to both the brewery and the beers. The brewhouse itself is spacious and airy, with views straight over to Steel Rigg, which is one of the most dramatic stretches of Hadrian’s Wall. It’s certainly an inspiring landscape to work and brew in. Cask ales are sold to around 25 pubs and restaurants across the area and feedback so far which is fantastic. Our cask ale range began with four core beers – Sycamore Gap pale ale, Ale Caesar American Amber, Twice Brewed Best Bitter and Vindolanda IPA. I’ve also more recently added Steel Rigg which is an 8-malt porter, a wheat beer and a session tropical pale ale.
The brewery is open for tours and we’ve got a tap room for functions and tasting events. The summer is going to be a really busy and exciting time for us. We’ve also been really pleased with the way bottle sales have taken off. Gift packs are proving very popular with visitors to the area, and with our four core beers in bottle so far and more planned.
What other craft beers do you admire and why?
I love Kernel beers, especially their Imperial India Porter. I also really rate Bad Kitty – a vanilla robust porter by Brass Castle. It’s so rounded, and the vanilla is definitely present but doesn’t overload the complex malt flavours. I generally go for darker beers, which is why I especially enjoy brewing Twice Brewed’s Steel Rigg.
The number of craft brewing has grown in recent years; why is this? How saturated is the market and how do individual breweries stand out from the crowd?
The craft beer market has exploded over the last eight years or so, but the demand for locally brewed, artisan beers is sustained and is still increasing as far as we can see in the North of England. There are certainly many more small producers out there now than there were a few years ago, with an ever-expanded range of both traditional and experimental beers; but a younger generation of inquisitive drinkers continue to fuel expansion within the industry. For us as small brewers, it’s a really exciting time, as breweries collaborate and work together to develop new beers and bring new styles of beer to the market. From our experience in Hadrian’s Wall country, both local drinkers and visitors to the area enjoy the fact that our beers are both locally and lovingly produced – and that they can come and see the brewing process for themselves first-hand over a pint.
How sustainable/ organic/ eco-friendly is the industry and how is it aiming to get better?
The brewing industry has been pretty notorious historically for its environment impact. Brewing uses lots of water, lots of energy and has the potential to use lots of harmful cleaning chemicals. There is no getting away from the fact that brewing requires all vessels and equipment to be both scrupulously clean and sanitised, but there are ways of reducing the negative impacts. There are certainly moves across the industry to remedy this by reducing chemical usage and treating and disposing of waste responsibly across the board from ingredient production to packaging.
What’s next for Twice Brewed?
Exciting times ahead, as we are about to install a fourth fermentation vessel and add a conditioning tank to our brewhouse. We’re already working at capacity in our three fermenters, so this will enable a much needed boost in production. I’ll be designing a range of special beers for cask production over the Spring and Summer, and we’ll be launching a range of tours and tasting events.
Enquires: Twice Brewed, Bardon Mill, Hexham, Northumberland NE47 7AN / 01434 344534 / www.twicebrewedinn.co.uk/