New beer toasts former Sunderland football star

Peter Jackson, left, with Lee Howey.
Peter Jackson, left, with Lee Howey.

First there were the memoirs of his football career - now there's even a beer to toast him.

Former Sunderland footballer Lee Howey’s new book about his career has prompted a pale ale courtesy of a brewery owned by an exiled Black Cats fan.

Lee Howey enjoys a pint of the beer named in honour of him.

Lee Howey enjoys a pint of the beer named in honour of him.

Lee even travelled to Southwark Brewing Company, in London, to taste MVD Ale at a talk-in with Sunderland supporters based in the capital.

MVD Ale is a play on the initials of the former striker and defender’s memoirs, Massively Violent & Decidedly Average, which were released earlier this year.

Sunderland-born Lee, who was mainly brought up in Thorney Close and now lives near Seaham, said: “It is a massive tribute and one I really appreciate.

“It has a lovely citrus-like taste and I had a great time tasting a few with Sunderland fans living down in London while talking about the book and the club.”

MVD Ale is adapted from an existing beer made by Southwark Brewing Company.

Owner Peter Jackson, 58, is a friend of Sunderland author and Echo columnist Tony Gillan, who assisted Lee with the book.

Mr Jackson said: “Tony is the link and the pair popped in the night before they met the publishers to finalise the deal for the book.

“When I heard it was going ahead I was so pleased and thought it would be a good idea to make a beer for him.

“While I did not know him before, I had seen him out in Sunderland back in 1996 when he led all the chanting outside Chaplins pub when the players went out in Sunderland to celebrate promotion.

“That was in the days when players mingled with fans. He’s a great guy and we had a great night with the fans here.”

While only a small supply of MVD Ale was produced, Sunderland fans were also able to taste it at the brewery before making the trip to their side’s nearby Championship match at Millwall recently.

Lee, who turns 49 on Sunday and now works in financial services, will be signing copies of Massively Violent & Decidedly Average at the Stadium of Light’s club shop between noon-1pm on Monday, April 2, before Sunderland’s home game with Sheffield Wednesday.

So how did a Sunderland lad end up running his own brewery in a London railway arch?

Peter Jackson takes up the story himself: “I got to my 50s and thought if I’m ever going to run my own brewery then I best start doing it soon.”

Mr Jackson, now 58, a former Bede Grammar School pupil, decided to take the plunge in 2014.

He brought with him more than 30 years of experience in the brewing industry after starting out in the marketing department at Scottish and Newcastle Breweries.

While outsiders may envy the fringe benefits supposedly enjoyed by those working within the trade, the Sunderland season-ticket holder recalls: “As part of my job I had to look after clients at Newcastle United games every fortnight.”

Raised in Queen’s Crescent, near Cleveland Road, he left Sunderland in 1981 and eventually rose to become marketing director for Marston’s Brewery before starting his own business.

Having lived and worked near the capital during his career and, in his words, “drunk in many London Pubs”, he felt there was a gap in the market for the city to share in the rise of micro breweries taking place elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

The Southwark Brewing Company now employs eight people and currently produces nine craft and keg ales with names such as Bermondsey Best and Harvard American Pale Ale, in honour of Southwark-born John Harvard, the founder of America’s Harvard University, reflecting both its surroundings and local heroes.

Mention of “local heroes” brings us neatly back to Lee Howey, whose book chronicles his rise from Sunday League football to the Premier League in less than four years during the 1990s.

Mr Jackson, not adverse to pulling pints behind the brewery bar when it opens to the public on Fridays and Saturdays, concludes: “It is a shame we do not have more local lads like him playing for us with the passion he had.

“Maybe we wouldn’t be in the situation we are now.”