'Vaux as a brand just ran through our veins' - George Clarke invests in future of Sunderland brewery

TV presenter and acclaimed architect, George Clarke has invested in Sunderland’s Vaux Brewery following the rebirth of the iconic brand.
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Vaux was re-established in 2019 with co-founders Steven Smith and Michael Thompson revealing last year that Monk Street, off Roker Avenue, would become the home of their first brewery.

Clarke’s backing of the brewery comes at the start of a new era for a name etched with a rich history, as Steven and Michael prepare to open up the city’s first taproom.

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The Amazing Spaces presenter, whose first legal pint was a Vaux beer, first became aware of the rebirth while working with the council on the regeneration of the old Vaux site.

George Clarke with Vaux Brewery co-founders Michael Thompson and Steven Smith.George Clarke with Vaux Brewery co-founders Michael Thompson and Steven Smith.
George Clarke with Vaux Brewery co-founders Michael Thompson and Steven Smith.

Having reached out to the brewery, Clarke said: “We were chatting away and they asked if I want to be involved. I can’t brew beer, I haven’t got a clue, I can drink it but maybe I can help you guys out in promoting, what I think, is a bit of amazing Sunderland history.

"For the guys to be relaunching Vaux at a time where micro-brewery is very popular, craft beers are really popular. When they said do you want to be involved it took me about half a second to say yes."

Before its closure in 1999, the Vaux factory employed around 700 workers – a contrasting image to its new Monk Street home but Clarke says from ‘small seeds grow amazing trees’.

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Clarke added: "I went to my first Sunderland football match in 1985 and Vaux became the shirt sponsor in 1986. Vaux was a huge part of my life from that year.

George Clarke at the Vaux Brewery, Sunderland.George Clarke at the Vaux Brewery, Sunderland.
George Clarke at the Vaux Brewery, Sunderland.

"For nearly 200 years it was a major employer in Sunderland in the heart of the city by the river Wear just a few minutes walk from where my grandparents were born and raised. Vaux as a brand just ran through our veins.

“I like the fact that the guys have moved the brand forwards, while respecting the legacy, to create a modern brewery that the people of Sunderland can be proud of once again.”

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Co-founder Michael Thompson said: “George’s heart is still in Sunderland and he’s determined to help with the regeneration of the city and, like us, he wants to see Sunderland meet its potential and thrive.”

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It hasn’t been the easiest of journeys for the team who have had to find new ways of working during the pandemic.

"We have put a lot more beer in cans than we thought we would ever have to so early on,” said co-founder Steven Smith. “We would have focused more on the pubs with cask and keg but because there weren’t any pubs open we had to decide at the last minute that we needed to make some purchases and buy some equipment to fill cans. We had to do that a few days after the lockdown was announced.

“I say it was hard but we had a great reaction from independent bottle shops, micro pubs, places that are doing takeaways and our website directly all around the country.”

The new Monk Street taproom is set to open on May 31 and will serve up a selection of their current craft beers including A Hazy Shade of Citra pale ale and oatmeal stout Black Wave.

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