Beer Of The Month: Brew Star’s ‘Anarchy’
By Mark Kelly on July 13, 2012 in Food
Drinking craft ale, as most of us know, has recently gone all trendy and hip – like pretending to enjoy jazz and anonymously abusing sports stars on twitter. This surge in popularity has spawned something of a renaissance of choice for all lovers and partakers of the liquid bread.
Gone are the days of holding your nose, closing your eyes and making do with an insipid, mass-produced, limp-wristed tube of lager. With nearly 900 breweries and counting, the UK has finally started taking note of its American counterparts. Ditching the discount slabs of Carling and embracing the noble, native grain – just as we did with the flimsy, feckless grape back when suddenly liking wine became a thing.
The upshot of all this is that when the sweet, amiable and trusting folk at KYEO.tv asked what I’d like to write about this summer, it meant I could say “beer” and not a single eyebrow was raised. “Of course Mark,” they said. “Beer. Very hot right now. Off you pop me lad”. (Do I actually talk like that? I sound like a suppressed village dandy. AC).
I’d be hard pressed to find a nicer spot to kick things off than the Brew Star Brewery just outside the sleepy spot of Tranwell Woods near Morpeth. Tucked deeply into picturesque premises at Whitehouse Farm, the husband and wife team of Simon and Dawn Miles are working away at crafting exciting new brews inspired by their travels in the USA and Europe.
Founded in February 2012, the Brew Star label has already found its way into The Cumberland Arms, The Head of Steam and The Free Trade Inn as well as many other Newcastle drinking hotspots. And ambitions are high for the fledgling brewery, which has already found a good market for it’s trusty session ales “Blonde Star” and “Sinistar”.
“We wanted to create something modern and different,” said Dawn when asked of their mission statement. “There are dozens of brewers out there with pictures of steam trains and dogs on their pump clips. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
“But we said from the start that it was important to differentiate and show that real ales aren’t just for old men. We try to pitch what we do to 25 – 35 year old people who want something more exciting.”
“Back when I was a young lass it just wasn’t the done thing to order a half pint of ale as a lady. You just asked for lager and it all tasted the same… bland! We want to help change that,” she added.
Bland is not a word that could be used to describe the Brew Star products. “Blonde Star” is light and refreshing but has a huge flavour that was created to try and convert the die-hard lager drinkers. It certainly packs a punch – doughy aromas, caramel notes and a smooth bitter finish. Whereas “Sinistar”, with its huge toffee and malty hits, is even more full bodied without being heavy. You almost don’t realise you’re drinking a dark ale.
As master brewer Simon takes me through the process – from insistence on using the finest malted barley right up to proper storage and conditioning – it’s clear that session ales are just the beginning of his plans. His experimental attitude has already led to some exciting new flavours – Ginger and Fig Porter being the most recent creation. But as he gives me the tour he shows me the latest project – a promising chocolate and oatmeal stout.
“We always focus on using the best possible ingredients,” says Simon. “The barley we use is always sourced as close as possible to the maltings so it doesn’t have to travel far. We don’t see any point using anything other than the best or it’s just false economy,” he explains.
“Anarchy” lager, launched in early June, is already causing a stir. Going against the trend in many respects, (lets face it – a lot of modern beers – IPAs in particular – just lazily hurl hops at their brew for big aroma) Anarchy sticks to the Brew Star model of balance – delivering stony fruits and subtle, refined hops in perfect tandem. At 7%, I thought it wise to head home before tasting. But good things come to those who drive at 95mph down the A1 and “Anarchy” did not disappoint in the slightest.
Thankfully, if you decide to pay the brewery’s homely feeling bar a visit, you don’t necessarily need a designated driver. Simon and Dawn organise mini buses to and from the premises with a local taxi firm. So you can enjoy their gorgeous views, beautiful sun terrace and freshly made beer at your own pace.
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