Sunderland's Vaux brewery teams up with leading expert for guest beer toasting the past
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The brewery in Monk Street, Roker, has teamed up with Alan Thomson from Old Chimneys Brewery to create 1899 Imperial, a traditional stout which will be available at the brewery’s taproom bar.
Master brewer Alan is well respected in the industry and is particularly well known for his Good King Henry Special Reserve, which was the highest rated English beer on ratebeer.com for eight years.
The brewer has 40 years’ experience in the industry and although he’s now based in Suffolk his passion for his craft was sparked at the old Vaux Brewery in the city centre where he worked for four years during the late 1970s.
He has many fond memories of the famous brewery, including showing Basil Brush around during his time as the Empire panto star, so this has been a particularly special collaboration for him.
Alan, who’s worked with breweries across the country, said: “What’s interesting about the beer industry is how friendly brewers are, and that hasn’t changed in 40 years. There’s still that sense of camaraderie, despite the fact you’re competitors.”
Speaking about how the collaboration came about, he said: “I contacted Vaux about doing the collaboration because I wanted to work with a brewery in Sunderland – it’s great to see the name living on. I’m really looking forward to having a look around the city during my time here.”
1899 Imperial is based on an old Victorian recipe, which has been modified for the Vaux brew team.
Vaux head brewer Les Stoker said it’s been fantastic to work with such an expert as Alan.
While Vaux specialises in contemporary beers, working on guest beers allows them to experiment with more traditional flavours.
"We were keen to get an imperial stout in the taproom and we’re a big fan of Alan’s work,” explained Les.
Brewing takes place over two days to create 1,600 litres of 1899 Imperial, equivalent to around 2,500 pints. However, it won’t be available for around another two months as the liquid is given time to ferment and condition to create a big beer, with a heavy sweet and strong flavour.
Les and the team brew around two to four times a week at the microbrewery, with their core range including lines such as Alter Ego, Black Wave and a Hazy Shade of Citra.
Speaking about the rebirth of the historic brand, Les said: “It’s going really well. Vaux is a name that means a lot to people and we can’t brew enough beer, it’s very popular.”
A brand synonymous with the city, Vaux was a major employer in Sunderland for almost 200 years until, in an emotional closure, it shut its doors in July 1999.
While its old brews such as Double Maxim are still made today at Maxim Brewery in Rainton Bridge, the name Vaux was bought by the new Vaux Brewery who specialise in more contemporary brews, which are sold in shops around the city, as well as direct from the cold store at the brewery’s taproom.
The revival of the brand has proved a hit and next year it will be expanded to include a new craft ale beach bar which is set to transform the old shelter on Marine Walk, Roker.