Newcastle-based Wylam Brewery will release a limited edition series of collaboration beers that will celebrate the North of England’s thriving brewing industry. The project, which they’re calling “The Northern Powerhouse Brew Series,” will feature eight limited-edition beers, sold together as a single case launching on June 22. Collaborating breweries include Black Lodge, Box Social, Buxton, Cloudwater, Hawkshead, Magic Rock, Northern Monk, and Thornbridge.
The project is inspired by The Great Exhibition of the North, a three-month-long celebration of Northern English art, innovation, industry, and culture centred around the cities of Newcastle and Gateshead. There will be only be 6,600 cases of the beer made available, with each of the eight 440ml cans inside, each featuring unique artwork depicting each brewery’s hometown. The release will coincide with the launch of The Great Exhibition of the North, which also launches on June 22.
WHY IT MATTERS
There has long been considered to be something of a divide between Northern and Southern English culture. This is also true of the brewing industry, with common goals and ideals shared by the North's brewers. The Great Exhibition of the North has been celebrating Northern English culture since 1929. Somewhat poignantly, Newcastle’s Palace of Arts—the home of Wylam’s brewery and taproom—is the last remaining building from the original 1929 exhibition.
“I wonder what attendees of the exhibition in 1929 would have thought if they had been whisked forward in time to find us mashing in and canning beers together as a celebration of Northern Industry,” Wylam director Dave Stone tells GBH. “It’s a real honor to host these exceptional breweries here at the Palace of Arts and to be involved in a brew project that celebrates the history of the brewing industry in the region.”
According to the British Beer and Pub Association, the UK is now home to more than 2,000 breweries. That number has increased by 64% over the past five years, and despite its relative size, it’s still home to the second-highest number of breweries per country after the U.S., which has around 6,000.
Standing out in a busy UK marketplace is becoming increasingly difficult for these beer makers. Consumer and industry focus is often drawn toward major cities, such as London or Manchester. And with the majority of British pubs being tied to a specific company or brewery, it can be challenging to make significant inroads into the busy market. With this project, Wylam not only has the opportunity to highlight itself and its home city, but also shares the spoils with a whole host of small businesses that call the North of England home.
“We were very happy when Dave [Stone] approached us to be involved with the Northern Powerhouse project,” Magic Rock Director Richard Burhouse tells GBH. “Although much of the manufacturing industry has gone from Northern towns and cities, breweries are flourishing again. This project is a great way of celebrating the North’s industrial individuality and the role Brewing still plays in bringing people together at the heart of those communities.”
Wylam isn’t the only brewery to invest in a multi-brewery collaboration project with the aim of boosting the relevance of all involved parties (along with the profile of Northern English brewing in general). Last year, London’s Fuller’s Brewery launched the Fuller’s and Friends project, in which the 170-year-old beer maker collaborated with Fourpure, Moor, and Cloudwater on a series of beers that saw a national release.
The collab has become a symbol of camaraderie in the modern brewing era—there’s rarely a week goes by without a spate of new releases created by two or more businesses. It gives breweries the chance to learn from each other, as well as develop industry friendships that can prove increasingly valuable as the market becomes more competitive. Series like Wylam’s Northern Powerhouse and Fullers & Friends are perhaps evidence of the humble collaboration maturing into its next form—becoming an increasingly powerful marketing tool in the modern brewery’s arsenal.
For Wylam and friends though, this is also a golden opportunity to celebrate the North’s rich brewing heritage. It's this part of the world that birthed breweries such as JW Lees and Theakston's, a pair of breweries with almost 400 combined years of beer history between them. In the modern era, it's home to some of the most exciting new breweries in the UK, including those involved in this project.
“It’s exciting to think that these little parcels of Northern craftsmanship will be making their way around the world celebrating the unity of industry in the region,” Wylam’s Stone tells GBH “The breweries involved are extremely passionate about the heritage of the towns and cities they operate in, and this project is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the history of industry in each place.”