Legendary Vaux brewing name set for Sunderland return

Legendary Sunderland brewing name Vaux is set to be revived nearly two decades after the original business closed.

By Gavin Ledwith, Digital Specialist
Tuesday, 12 February, 2019, 10:52

Around 700 jobs were lost when the city centre's landmark Vaux Breweries shut in July 1999 in controversial circumstances.

Now a new company named Vaux Brewery has been formed with its first beers provisionally scheduled to appear as early as Easter.

From left to right, Vaux Brewery team Ross Palmer, Matthew Jackson, Michael Thompson and Steven Smith.

The business, founded by four Sunderland friends, is also looking for premises within the city for a micro brewery and adjoining tap room bar.

Managing director Steven Smith, 37, said: "There is still a certain amount of mourning at the loss of the brewery and our mission is to help to heal that wound by ensuring that Vaux beer is made in the heart of Sunderland once again."

Mr Smith, who is a solicitor, is backed up by finance director Michael Thompson, 37, who has worked in commercial finance for banks.

Matthew Jackson, 36, a communications manager, and Ross Palmer, 36, a creative designer, join them in part-time communications and branding roles respectively.

Flashback to the distinctive Vaux signs disappearing from the city's skyline in 1999.

The friends, who all attended the city's St Aidan's Catholic Academy, have been working with Sunderland brewing expert Brewlab to develop four original beers.

Taster sessions for invited members of the public are likely to be confirmed shortly with the company hopeful that the first keg and cask beers will be ready for distribution in April.

Mr Smith added: "Everyone involved in this project is Sunderland born and bred and, as such, we all have an emotional connection to the brand, as have most people in the area.

"Despite it being 20 years since the closure of the brewery, the brand is as strong as it ever was and is still close to people's hearts.

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"The fact Vaux sponsored Sunderland AFC for so many years has certainly helped develop this affection for the brand that people have."

While the original Vaux Breweries folded in 1999 - after city investors urged its parent company to concentrate on its pubs and hotels portfolio - the rights to the brand's famous tipples such as Double Maxim and Samson were purchased by the Maxim Brewery, now based at Rainton Bridge, which has no connection to the new Vaux Brewery.

Mr Smith said: "While there are one or two historic Vaux beers that we are planning to resurrect, we are very much focused on the taking the brand forward and making beer for the modern beer drinker.

"Our focus is 100 per cent on making the best beer we can rather than on being faithful to old Vaux recipes.

"Vaux Breweries had a history of innovation in respect to beer. For example, Vaux was the first UK brewery to brew a wheat beer.

"Therefore we see Vaux as a brand with innovation at its heart and it's that spirit that we are aiming to honour in the coming chapters of its history."

The first beers, as yet unnamed, will be two Indian Pale Ales, a German-style lager and a bitter.

Mr Smith, who praised Brewlab for its support, said: "Our goal is to build a purpose-built brewery in Sunderland.

"However, we are initially going to be brewing our beers at selected local breweries as that way we can focus on the quality of the beer and can scale up quickly as demand increases."