VISITORS to the House of Commons can get a special taste of Wearside next month.
Double Maxim will go on sale to drinkers in the Commons’ invitation-only Strangers’ Bar, where MPs entertain their guests, in the week starting Monday, October 22.
The prestigious invitation came courtesy of MP Bridget Phillipson, whose Houghton and Sunderland South constituency covers the Rainton Bridge Industrial Estate where the Maxim Brewery is based.
Maxim was set up in 2000 by ex-employees of Sunderland’s Vaux and Sheffield’s Ward’s breweries to continue brewing their best-loved brands.
The firm moved into its Rainton Bridge home more than five years ago and now brews a range of ales including Samson, Double Maxim, Wards, Lambton’s and Maximus.
“I invited Bridget to come and have a look around the brewery and it followed on from there,” said Maxim managing director Mark Anderson.
Bridget explained the Strangers’ Bar regularly hosted guest ales from all over the country.
“They have three or four ales on in the Strangers’ Bar all the time,” she said. “There is always a range of different ones because MPs want to showcase their local beers and support their local breweries.
“Basically, I sent a suggestion in and spoke to the parliamentary staff who run the bar, who came back straight away and agreed to host Double Maxim for a week.”
But as Mark confirmed, getting a place for Double Maxim behind the bar was not the end of the story – the brewery has had to produce a special, slightly weaker version of its flagship ale in order to comply with the House of Commons’ rules.
“I was speaking to the bar manager when he asked me how strong Double Maxim was,” said Mark.
“I explained it was 4.7 per cent and he said that was a little bit strong. They don’t want MPs falling asleep, so we have reduced the strength of the brew we are sending down.”
Producing a weaker version of Double Maxim actually sees the former Vaux brew coming full circle, as Mark explained.
“It is a case of history repeating itself,” he said.
“The original Maxim beer was reduced in strength because landlords were complaining about their customers falling asleep. It was later strengthened again to 4.7 per cent and branded as Double Maxim.”
The lower strength is not the only element of Double Maxim’s history to return for its House of Commons guest slot. Drinkers will be presented with a visual reminder of how the beer got is name in the first place.
“We have put the Maxim gun back on the pump clip to remind everyone that Double Maxim was originally brewed to celebrate the return of Major Ernest Vaux’s Maxim gun detachment from the Boer War,” said Mark.
Ms Phillipson said she was confident Double Maxim would prove a hit – though she admits she won’t be sampling it herself.
“I am not an ale drinker, but I am sure that Double Maxim is going to travel well,” she said.
“I am delighted that MPs from across the country are going to get the opportunity to sample an ale from a Wearside brewery.”