Ales mark huge contribution to North industrial heritage

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Newly-formed Firebrick Brewery is commemorating the contribution Sir Joseph Cowen made to Tyneside

Alistair Lawrence, owner of Firebrick Brewery

Alistair Lawrence, owner of Firebrick Brewery

A new brewery is celebrating a father and son who left a major mark on Tyneside.

Between them, Victorian MPs Sir Joseph Cowen and Joseph Cowen Jnr founded the Chronicle, rerouted the Tyne, secretly supported revolutionaries around Europe, fought to abolish slavery and campaigned for men and women to have the vote – all while running the family brickworks at Blaydon, Gateshead.

And now the newly-formed Firebrick Brewery is commemorating their contribution, and the industrial heritage of the area, with a series of ales.

The brainchild of former sports centre manager Alistair Lawrence, Blaydon Brick – the nickname of the younger Joseph, the Chronicle’s 36th greatest ever Geordie – is one of the first two beers from his new Firebrick Brewery, based at the town’s Gateshead Council-run business centre on Cowen Road.

Founded after Alistair was made redundant from his job as a facilities manager at Northumbria University, the firm began rolling out real ales from its 2.5-barrel plant last month.

“We’ve not made a big song and dance because we are a small microbrewery and didn’t want to be inundated with people who are then disappointed that we can’t meet their demand,” said Whickham lad Alistair, who now lives in Crawcrook. “We’ve been selling out, pretty much everywhere the beer has gone.”

So far the 3.8% ABV bitter, and 3.9% mild (Coalface), have made their way to the Bisley and Black Bull at Blaydon, The Boathouse and Black Bull at Wylam, the Feathers at Hedley-on-the-Hill, the Fox and Hounds at Coalburns, and a number of Sir John Fitzgerald’s pubs including the Crown Posada and Bacchus in Newcastle, and The Green in Wardley.

But Alistair is not resting on his laurels and will next week launch a third ale, 4.5% best bitter Elder Statesman, named after Sir Joseph Cowen, the Blaydon Brick’s father who was knighted for services to the Tyne Improvement Commission – a group that between 1850 and 1870 changed the course of the river near Newburn.


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