St Andrew’s Brewery

Home of Big John Anderson

August 28th

It’s been a funny old year when it comes to brewing meetings. I sit with my trusty old typewriter in front of me at home and it’s the middle of October. To confuse matters even more, I am now writing the September meeting’s goings on. The meeting took place in August – the 28th to be

Big John serves the first pint of the night

Big John serves the first pint of the night

exact. Like I said, a funny old year.

Straight away, John Winterburn, our Glorious Leader again relates the story of the Peregrin falcon he saw a couple of months ago. Then he reckoned any yeast in phials were rubbish. I have to agree with him as no one in the group seemed to have had any success with them.

The reason why we’re all gathered – beer. On offer is Paula’s Passion (4%); Accrington Light (4.7%); and Ould Reekie (4.6%). I can’t reveal the recipes as they are brewed commercially by Big John, under the banner of The Crafty Pint Brewery for his pub. I think Paula’s Passion won the day, Paula being John’s barmaid, Accrington because she and partner support Accrington Stanley, and the Reekie being a favourite of John’s. Yes, you read it correctly, Accrington Stanley.

“Question,” asks Big John. “How many micro breweries are there in the North East?” We all have a guess but nowhere near. “Over 60!” Amazing.

Our Glorious Leader had his hip operation and so far it is successful. What it will be like after he’s had a few bevvies is another matter: but no alcohol because of the tablets is order of the day.

It was the year of Concorde’s first commercial flight; Harold Wilson resigned as Prime Minister; Big Ben stuartstopped running for nine months; Chairman Mao Zedong, of China fame, died; ABBA had three number one hits: Mama Mia, Fernando and Dancing Queen. It was also the year when Stuart Armstrong saved someone from drowning. It was 1976. Yes, indeed, our very own Stuart stepped up, with no consideration for his own safety, he dived in the sea and became a hero – a legend. His face was in the paper but being forty years ago he was unrecognisable, what with hair and a youthful aire.

The usual utensils were discussed, hydrometers, thermostats, etc. Then came the matter of the group trip. 28th August and we haven’t had it yet. It was decided months previously that we were going to have a pub crawl round Newcastle. Just a question of when. Why go to Newcastle? Why not go to Stockton? Because we decided to go … oh never mind. We will have a pub crawl round Stockton. When? End of September, early October. I remind you, dear, if not perplexed, reader, it is the middle of October. And No! We haven’t had the trip yet. “I tell you it won’t happen,” to quote Big John early in the year. He’s right again, damn it.


Mithril Ales

Home of Pete Fenwick’s Brewery

6th August

We don’t see much of Pete at meetings these days but give him his due, he still has a night playing host like the rest of us do. I say night, I really mean afternoon for this particular meeting. And what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon drinking free beer at a brewUntitledery. That’s exactly what a few of the lads did. The brewery in question was Mithril Ales in Aldborough St John, winner of many accolades. Today, the Mayor of Richmond, personal friend of Pete’s, was there to present Pete with yet another certificate to put on his wall. He’ll need an extension if he carries on like this.

Every year since he has been brewing professionally Pete has had an open day where the tasting of beers and eating sausages made from his beers are the order of the day. And what a beautiful day it was, sunny and hot – just the weather for a cool pint. On offer were seven beers, namely: White Rose Blonde (3.7%); Brazilian Gold (3.7%); Mithfest (3.9%); Welly Wanging (4.0%); Grace Collective (4.0%); Feast (4.1%); Dark & Dangerous (7.7%). Names usually correspond to some event or other.

My guess is: White Rose for Yorkshire; Mithfest speaks for itself; Welly Wanging, something they do in Yorkshire on cold winter nights; I don’t know who Grace is unless it’s the cricketer; Feast, it could be a typo for yeast, I’ll let you decide. Brazilian because Pete has just had his pubes trimmed (?); and Dark & Dangerous – the reason why we love beer. I even took one home for She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Round our table was Our Glorious Leader, John  – go to the ends of the world for a free beer – Winterburn; Rob – might be small but is a big drinker, given the chance (but not in a high glass) – Brunton; Big John Anderson arrived with family in tow, as does our new boy Mark Hutchinson with his own entourage of friends. Oh, and me.

Mind you, we were perfectly placed to collar the ladies bearing the hot dogs, the sausage of which contained Pete’s beers as per: Pork & Black Pudding with ‘A66’; Welsh Dragon (pork, leek, coriander and ginger)with ‘Snakes Alive’;  Cumberland with ‘180’. All equally nice, and most welcome.

It wasn’t a meeting in the usual manner, ie., no talk of hydrometers, thermometers or even yeast. We did, however get round to talking about a certain someone (OGL) who was waiting for a hip operation, the agony of walking, sitting, lying, standing – so it always hurts? He wouldn’t wish the pain on anyone. By now, of course, it is obvious that our John won’t be hosting the biggest barbecue since Rome burnt! His 70th birthday will probably pass unnoticed by all, including his friends & family. There was a brief discussion about my beautiful car, gleaming in the sunshine. The colour? Tiger Eye.

Get to know Pete and, who knows, next year we might see you there. Thanks again to Pete for his generosity in providing such delights.



Old Hartlepool Brewery

Head Brewer: Stuart Armstrong

29th May 2016

It is July as I write this missive of the account of the Brewing Group’s May meeting. What, I ask, can I make of my notes as the memory doesn’t help at all. On saying this, there is one topic which started the evening off before we got to Stuart’s bar in Hartlepool. A tale we heard each time someone else got in the car, our transport for the evening, and we ended up with five of us. The Peregrine Falcon that attacked and killed a falconpigeon right before Our Glorious Leader eyes. Apparently, as everyone knows but few would interrupt him, this master of the skies tucks in its wings and reaches speed of up to 200 miles per hour (1,100m Km a decimal week), dives down and the pigeon is nothing but dinner. Right in front of John Winterburn’s eyes. What a moment to savour. Hang on, there’s more. The very next night the same bird did it again but with a different pigeon, obviously. Right in front of his eyes. He couldn’t believe it. As Big John pointed out, if not somewhat  sarcastically, “Everyone will want to live where you live.”

“I have lots  to tell you all about sparging tonight,” says OGL. There are three kinds of sparging – sparging is when very hot water is sprinkled over the mash once the liquor from the mash is drained – Batch and Fly are two of them but the third is on my notes and that bit got wet so I can’t read it and the memory refuses to help. We all sparge in a different way usually with the same results of washing out any remaining sugars.

At this point of the evening That Sean, the Maverick brewer, dishes out wedding invitations for the night do of his impending marriage to the lady who wishes to become Mrs Sean even though they’ve been hooked up together for the last fifteen years. Apparently it shows some sort of committment – it’s a woman thing.

Brewing can be a very precise hobby. There are many things that can go wrong with a brew. In particular, phenols. A conversation ensued. Beer phenols issued from malt and hop can contribute directly to several characteristics of beer, mainly flavor, astringency, haze, body, and fullness. Some phenolic structures can also impart very interesting health properties. Yet phenolic structures also evolve through storage. Low-molecular-weight phenols like 4-vinylsyringol can impart off-flavors in aged beer, while oxidized flavonoids strongly influence astringency, haze, and color. The instability of stilbenes, prenylchalcones, and derived flavanones could also modify their health potential. So there you go.

Stuart, being neighbourly and an eye for a quick buck, has taken on the work of supplying and fitting wrought iron fencing for the street where he lives. And to that end he has cast iron posts in his bar awaiting other bits to stick (clag) on.

It wouldn’t be a group meeting without beer and to that end our host has two beers on offer. The first is a golden ale which he has cleverly called, Golden Ale, and is made up of Pale and Munich malts and Flaked Maize; three hops for bittering, Amarillo, Kohatu and Styrian Goldings, and Citra and Goldings for aroma. It kicks in at 4.5 abv. A very pleasant ale for the warmer weather.

Next up was the second beer, Disaster Dark. I can tell you right now, it was a disaster. Never a worse disaster that befell a group of men trying to have some kind of life on this planet whilst holding a beer glass. The recipe given to us and the same recipe I shall not share with you was nothing like the beer set before us. There is no way on God’s good earth do they marry up. This Disaster Dark was one of the best beers I have ever tasted anywhere, ever. Stuart has committed a mortal sin. He doesn’t know how he made it. Was his mind on building these fences rather than brewing? This beer can never be made again. He should be kicked out of the group and made to live like a pauper and his name never to be uttered on anyone’s breathe. But he won’t.

Stuart, now almost forgiven for the last paragraph is something of a Swallows and Amazons kind of guy. Out on the north sea most Wednesdays and Sundays, this wayfarer produces a tilley lamp owned by a guy who is now dead but enjoyed the ways of boats and stuff. This particular lamp is fuelled by kerosene and is now one of Stuart’s artifacts. In old age this sailor will have plenty to tell his grandchildren.

Congratulations to That Sean who has been promoted.

My notes make no sense from here on in so I shall close. Watch out for falcons.

Happy drinking,


“Disaster Dark – the reason why we brew.”



Head Brewer: John Winterburn

17th April 2016

He rushes about the old homestead like a man on a mission, running the family home, cooking, cleaning, child minding and still has time for some brewing. An expert in all fields is Our Glorious Leader (OGL) John Winterburn. He is organised and runs his ship in a well-oiled manner. One avenue where he fails though, is the naming of his beers. Everything is catalogued in his well-thumbed diary but I have had so many different beers all under the name of ’19’.

Tonight is no exception. The names on the pump clips really are superfluous so we will call the beers on offer 4, 3 and 2 for the benefit of the confused. Number 4, red beer made from Pale Malt, Wheat Malt and Chocolate Malt, and Challenger hops, was a break from tradition for OGL. Not pale but red – clear, good mouthfeel but little aftertaste. Number 3, made from Pale Malt and Flaked Maize with Atlas hops for bittering and Hallertauer Hersbrucker for aroma. A light beer one could drink all evening. Number 2, Pale and Light Crystal Malts, and Torrefied Wheat with First Gold as the preferred hop for this light, interesting ale. All beers are around the 4% abv mark and the yeast used is the old favourite Safale 04

corned beef pieThen came the pièce de résistance – Our Glorious Leader’s legendary corned beef pie; a pie that makes you proud to be British. A celebration of the coming together of corned beef, onions, potatoes and a pastry case. Greedy sod Rob, took the last piece – hope it chokes him.

Did I mention that throughout our meeting the television, at its intrusive best, has been on? Silence reigns supreme, especially now that that God-awful programme Antiques Roadshow is on. And it’s on for an hour! An hour I will never get back.

A brewer of a few years is Mark, whom we welcome to our membership. And then it started. Our Glorious Leader, who it has to be said, must have been related in some way to the Spanish Inquisition, the bloke off Mastermind and Jeremy Paxman for he started with the questions. “What yeast do you use? What kind of boiler have you got? How often do you brew?” and so it went on. I felt sorry for the newcomer. “And do you know all about hops …”

From hops we turn to hips – false ones. Hip operation expert, Big John, lays out the facts as he has had one. The shock horror on OGL’s face! He is waiting to have one but didn’t realise that he would be out of commission for a few weeks. He thought he would have the operation and everything would be back to normal within a couple of days. Knowing him he will be back in the saddle as early as possible and do untold damage. I refer to the opening paragraph in this missive.

On a brighter note, OGL is looking forward, nay! Excited (and can’t wait) to seeing Mark’s equipment and in September – the barbecue to celebrate his seventieth birthday. I guarantee he will mention them every time I see him until they happen.

That Sean, feeling unwell, didn’t make it tonight. Neither could three others. As the years go on, the bigger we become as individuals, saying goodbye to diets as we do. The Shed, bless her heart, does her best to encompass us but it is a tight squeeze, even for six of us. Corned beef pie just a memory; glasses drained; conversations over. It is time for us all to depart and go our separate ways …

Happy drinking



The Merrington Brewery

Head Brewer: Sean Mellor

19th March 2016

“I’ve loads to tell you tonight,” says Our Glorious Leader, John Winterburn. Tell me a night when he hasn’t. We are on our way to That Sean’s at Kirk Merrington. Driving tonight is Big John, OGL beside him in the passenger seat, and Rob and I in the back. “I’ll wait until we get to Sean’s, because I have loads to tell you.” I say to Rob that I bet he can’t get to Sean’s without telling us at least one of these things. “You are all invited to my party.” Told you he couldn’t contain himself.

“We’re having a massive barbecue; there’ll be everything you can imagine – sausages, chops …” It will be his 70th birthday in September and he’s getting excited already. He’ll have blown a gasket come the day.

We have to wait in the car park of the Eden Arms for Stuart, who is coming from Hartlepool. This is a plan born out of his last experience at Sean’s. It took him three hours to get from Kirk Merrington back to Hartlepool, a distance of 21miles; he got hopelessly lost. You could have flown to North Africa quicker. Stuart’s missus pulls up in the car park and deposits her hubby; we are packed like sardines in the back and off we go to Sean’s.

It’s almost 7 o’clock when we arrive at the big man’s abode. Probably thought we weren’t coming. We are ushered into the kitchen, coats off, sitting down and waiting for our first pint. Oh! And yes, in the short space between the greeting at the front door and the nibbles on the kitchen table, Our Glorious Leader repeats his invitation to the 70th bash. Now we all know.

First beer we try is an Oktoberfest Marzen and very fine it is too. Probably named after his impending doom, Sean has called this The Wedding March. He used Munich, Vienna and Crystal Malts with Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hops. It comes in at a whopping 5.8% abv., helped on by having no sparge. He lagered it for thirty odd days before sampling – now I call that willpower. A good beer to savour.

The second offering is a contradiction in terms. A black IPA, called, interestingly, Black IPA.  Everything but the kitchen sink has gone into this: Pale, Crystal and Chocolate Malts; Flaked and Torrefied Wheat; and Carafa I; Marynka and Citra hops in the boil (bitterness) and Aurora for aroma. I thought it a little musty but shouted down as the others enjoyed it.

If you thought the IPA has a lot of ingredients, listen to this. Pale, Black, Chocolate, Vienna, Munich and Crystal Malts combined with Roasted Barley and Flaked Wheat; Chinook hops and (can you believe it?) coffee, go to make That Sean’s Coffee Stout. Why, I ask, did he not use Amber Malt to get the coffee flavour. As stouts go, it was, again, a popular drink amongst the group.

Out of the three I preferred the Marzen, based on the old Bavarian lager of yesteryear. I like Sean’s attitude to brewing. He is not afraid to try other styles of beers. He shares a love for malts as well as hops. He’s the one, some will remember, who made the Rhubarb and Custard beer a couple of years back; he’s not one for sticking to one style of beer. You know the sort of thing I mean, pale ales tweaked with a little more, or less of the same ingredients week in, week out. Quite a Maverick.

The Chihuahua, the smallest breed of dog in the world; an innocuous dog that wouldn’t hurt a fly. A name it shares with a town and region in Mexico. Fully grown it only weighs 3kg, and to a height of 23cm. It is a lively, devoted dog and serial rapist. Oh yes! I kid you not. Big John had one of his two Jack Russells stolen this week and found paired with a female Mexican canine canoodler. The result could produce Jackahuahuas. Luckily, dog and owner are back together, none the worse for the violation of, what can only be described as, dog rape.

Wait! Our Glorious Leader has something to tell us. Hops. Never throw a load of aroma hops into the boiler straight after boiling. “You might think the taste would be prominent but there’s no taste at all. Big John, spending the whole evening watching the rugby, probably England and somewhere else, probably France, makes a bewildering look upon his face. Who does that? Sean, seeing the disinterest around the room suggests one should wait and add the hops when the liquor is cooled. Exactly!

Stuart pops up with a bargain he came across whilst in one of the Shields; North or South I can’t remember but I think it’s North. Three course fish & chip meal for £4.75 – a bargain indeed. OGL tells us he would love to live where Stuart lives (Hartlepool, over the road from the North Sea). “In fact every twitcher on this earth would want to live there.” Why? Because of the migratory birds. Spring would start with the Blue Red Start, followed by the Pallas Warbler  – knows his stuff  does Our Glorious Leader. “I’d have a camera on the roof.” No John, that could be misconstrued.

That doesn’t conclude the things OGL has to tell us. He is without phone, mobile and land; email, and probably pigeon as his computer had crashed. The year is young but I think he is onto his fourth computer all ready. The virus stops him from doing anything – can’t even log on! But he knows a guy who will fix it, cheaply. He swears he doesn’t visit any dubious websites, “just BBC for the news, that kind of thing.” Hands up those who believe him. I can’t count one.

It was a pleasure being at Sean’s. Good beer and a bloody good steak pie, potatoes and peas grown on his allotment. Nibbles were good as well. But it is time to go home and dropping Stuart on the way – where Mrs Stuart will be waiting to drive him home, a journey measured in minutes rather than hours.

Happy drinking



Bali Hai Brewery
Head brewer: Rob Brunton
17th January 2016

First off, can I just say that Rob has changed his location but the brewery came with him. There is nothing, to the discerning eye, that might suggest that the new location houses Bali Hai Brewery. There are no plaques on the walls, no signs at all. Our diminutive host has decided to carry on the theme of signage even with his beers.

Four handpumps ready to yield the fruits of his labours BUT there are no pumpclips. There is nothing to tell the drinker what he is drinking, unless you count, “That one’s a pale one; that one is an amber; that one is …” He could not be arsed to give them names, save that he did write down, in his usual scrawl, and bad spelling, some of the recipes. That, dear reader, is the way of a lazy landlord.

Not to be phased out, this intrepid writer (me) went out of his way to fight off scribbles, crossings out and words that don’t exist to give you the contents of each offering. By the way, ebu is short for European Bitterness Units. That piece of information will come in handy when you read the next paragraph. In fact, if you have any questions about brewing go to our ‘contact us’ page and ask away!

The Pale One (3.6% abv 30 ebu) consisted of Pale and Crystal Malts and Flaked Barley with Challenger hops for both the bitterness and the aroma. Not brilliantly clear but one you’d want to go back for.

The Amber One (3.7% abv 28 ebu) contained Pale, Crystal and Chocolate malts and Torrefied Wheat. The bittering hops were Challenger, and he used Perle for the aroma. A true Amber ale, to my mind, should include a certain percentage of Amber Malt. Not a bad beer, despite the omission.

The Brown One (4.6% abv 25 ebu), according to Rob, contained Pale, Crystal and Chocolate Malts, and Flaked Barley. Hops used – Apollo for bitterness and Pilgrim for aroma. An interesting beer, but not one of Rob’s. This is a blend of Mithril Ales from Pete’s brewery. Rob quite willing to pass it off as one of his own but we can tell. I assume that the ingredients are somwhere near the mark but I could be wrong.

The One at the End (4.2% abv 40 ebu) turned out to be a stout. Pale, Chocolate and Black Malts; Roast and Flaked Barley with Torrefied Wheat for head retention. Challenger Hops in their droves to attain the 40 bitterness units. A bit too bitter for me but I am not really a stout lover, unless it’s an oatmeal stout, now you’re talking.

A bone of contention, for me, is using the yeast drawn from a dark, strong beer and using it in a pale beer. Yeast from his stout, Rob put it to work in a pale ale but that is what Rob did. Surely there would be some taste tainting the lighter ale. Our Glorious Leader must have some comment about that as his ear prick when the word ‘yeast’ is spoken.

Dry hopping was a subject of conjecture this evening. Dry hopping is carried out after the boil has finished, and there a few ways this can be done. One would be to put the hops in a bag and put this into the liquor but doesn’t that restrict the free movement and thus not acheiving the exact amount of hoppiness required? Another way would be, quite obviously, to add the hops loose. Whichever way it is done, you end up with a hoppier beer.

Fish and chips are served, cooked in the oven. First time we’ve had that.

Forgive my manners. I haven’t introduced you to tonight’s assembled members. There’s me, Rob, Sean, John Winterburn (our glorious leader), and Richard. Yes, only five of us as t’others had other things on. Richard brandished his mobile to show us the tractor driving skills of his son. His son is keen to learn about farming and intends to go to university in a few years time. Now, I’m not a farmer and don’t know farmings ways but, and I could be wrong here, a tractor has four wheels upon which it stands. Yes you’ve guessed it, this was on two. Could have been a nasty accident but lessons were learnt. Nuff said.

At the begining of this missive I mentioned moving home. Sean was given the tour of the bungalow as is everyone who goes there. Our Rob has a very nice, compact abode. He hasn’t got round to making a bar or deciding where it is going to go. I have seen handpumps screwed to the computer table, I kid you not; the kitchen worktop; and in his conservatory – not a place to have it when the summer comes. He’s thought of having it in the small shed and the big shed.

Here is where I leave you but before I go I have a Robism. Some readers may remember the famous Torfed wet – Torrefied Wheat to the rest of the world. But do you know what Termalic is? The answer can be found on this website ‘AFTER HOURS’

Happy drinking,