If you are a regular reader of our blog then you will know that over the last few weeks we have been interviewing some of the fantastic breweries that are based in the north east. Those that have come already include Saints Row Brewing in Stockton and Rigg and Furrow in Northumberland, you can find all of our brewery articles here.
Today’s interview is with Sam Kellie of new Northumberland based brewery First and Last Brewery.
Give us a little history on the brewery, How did you first get into beer brewing?
As with most brewers it all started for me home brewing years ago with a friend. I always wanted to make quality beer because we like to drink quality beer! We quickly moved to all grain after a few one-dimensional brews using the all in one kits. We bought a few 100L stock pots, made a few adjustments, converted a catering fridge into a temperature controlled fermenting unit and enjoyed years of brewing a variety of different styles of beer; stout, IPAs, Pale Ale, Saison, Kolsch, Porter, whatever.
When your brewing small quantities you can afford to take risks and spend time playing with mash & fermentation temperatures, malt bills, hops and adjuncts. It’s like a science experiment you can drink afterwards!
Red, my partner, has set up and run two breweries in the North East over the last 4 years so obviously she brings loads of experience to our joint venture.
We’d been mulling over the idea of ‘going pro’ for years. We established The First & Last Brewery just over a year ago (Summer 2016) so we’re pretty new on the scene. For the last year we’ve been cuckoo brewing using a brewery in Newcastle whilst getting everything in place to install our own 5-barrel brewery in Elsdon, Northumberland.
How would you describe your beers? Are you influenced by a particular style of beer or brewery?
We’ve got 4 beers on the go at the moment, a hoppy pale, English pale, a best bitter and a stout, there’s plenty more different styles in the pipeline but I firmly believe in walking before you can run. When you’re brewing as a business you have to refocus and remind yourself that your brewing for the market.
We’re based in the middle of Northumberland and that’s where we sell most of our beer, we brew a mean cardamon stout but there’s not a market for that out here and we need to be mindful of that. Quality and consistency is really important to us, as it should be for any brewery.
I wouldn’t say we’re influenced by a particular style of beer or brewery. We brew because we love brewing and focusing on one style or trying to mimic a particular brewery just isn’t going to float our boat.
What has been your biggest challenge and biggest accomplishment since you opened?
I think our biggest challenge remains simultaneously keeping on top of brewing and sales whilst over-seeing the building work and installation of our new brewery. The biggest accomplishment? Probably that Red and I are still speaking and enjoying the adventure together!
Quality and consistency is really important to us, as it should be for any brewery. – Sam Kellie, First and Last Brewery.
What is next for the brewery?
We’ve got loads of things up our sleeve, enough to keep us busy for the next 5 years at least….at the moment it’s all about getting the new brewery installed and running smoothly. There’s a collab brew with The Bridge Tavern on the cards for the next few months, some more beers on the way, bottles in the new year and, well like I say we have a few things up our sleeve that we want to leave up there for the time being!
We’re currently raising a few pigs on our spent grains, so one thing we’re especially looking forward to spit-roasting one, and cracking a few beers to celebrate the installation of our new kit.
How do you see the beer scene changing in the North East and the UK as a whole in the coming years?
I see it going from strength to strength, more breweries, more choice for beer drinkers. It’s an exciting time regionally and nationally. Yes, that means more competition but that’s good thing, that drives quality and innovation.
Where can consumers currently find your beer? Where do you expect/hope them to find your beer a year from now?
You can currently find F&L beers in pubs across Northumberland, occasionally in Newcastle. In a year from now you’ll find them in even more pubs and bottle shops across the North East. I believe in slow and sustainable growth, over stretch yourself and the quality of the beer takes a hit.
Other than your own what is your favourite beer and brewery right now?
Favourite beer? Get out of here, I can’t do that! I’m really enjoying Belgian beers & Saisons at the moment, I like the funky yeast flavours but as we get further into Autumn and Winter I tend to go for more porters and stouts.
We both really enjoyed ‘Bad Kitty’ by Brass Castle Brewery when we were down at the York beer festival last month. I like to drink local and always keen to try something new. Red’s a big fan of Cromarty’s ten-malt porter.
Wylam and Allendale have some cracking beers. Managed to get my hands on a bottle of Allendale’s Barrel Aged Export Stout earlier in the year which was divine and I always enjoy Wylam’s Jakehead. I’ve been blown away by every beer I’ve tried from Almasty (and their branding is great) and I love what Northern Alchemy are doing.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article and we would like to thank Sam from First and Last Brewery for taking the time out to answer our questions.
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If you would like to learn more about First and Last Brewery you can visit their website, Facebook page or Twitter profile. You can also find out more and leave a review on their LoveNE directory page.