We were introduced to brother-in-law brewing duo Andy Aitchison and Carl Kennedy - Northern Alchemy - the day after IMBC last year.
Well, apparently we were introduced. You see, we were on the final leg of a twelve bar crawl with our pals Andrew Mitchell and Emma Wales at the time, who are also good friends of Andy and Carl. I seem to remember we held a reasonably coherent conversation with them, gently swaying pint in hand down at Font Bar. Looking back we were probably all quite refreshed after a solid day of sampling ales around town, so the conversation flowed very easily and (as I'm told) eventually turned to us paying them a visit for the blog.
Now these fellas love a collaboration. The inside of one of the cupboard doors in the brewery is given over to signatures of all those who have held a mash paddle in the name of brewing up beer with Northern Alchemy.
So our experience with them was to be no different. As we'd recently been up to Newcastle for the blog last year, we instead headed up this time for a brew day (and a few beers) in the heart of the Ouseburn Valley by The Cumberland Arms in Northern Alchemy's distinctive HQ:
Yep, their 200l kit is housed (very well housed in fact) inside a re-purposed shipping container at the side of the pub. It has to been seen to be believed. A brewery tour could be conducted in under a minute. It's a real testament to the way Andy and Carl work together, as with space at a premium inside there needs to be a rhythm and arrangement to the way the brew day flows.
Apart from today. With Andy holed up in bed with tonsilitis, Carl had to make do with two brewing numpties who regularly just got in the way.
The brew for the day was to be a Marmalade and Assam Tea IPA. We wanted to do something which took a bit of Manchester up to Newcastle, so when Andy and Carl asked us to come up with an idea for the brew, I started by looking at some sort of ingredient we could bring with us from our patch. I landed on Duerr's Marmalade (still made locally - since 1881 don't you know), which we could base an IPA on. Lack of brewing knowledge on my part of course meant that we couldn't actually use the marmalade itself - too much refined sugar you see - but ahead of the brew day Andy set to work on a deconstructed version of the marmalade to reproduce the same characteristics (can't tell you what, that's a trade secret). To this basis, Andy suggested with a good toasty malt base and an infusion of tea, you'd end up with a breakfast in a bottle, so with some Assam tea from renowned Newcastle coffee and tea emporium Pumphreys we were set to go.
It was a superb brew day, and to see the kit in action was brilliant. What these two produce on what must be one of the smallest brewing set ups we've seen to date is nothing short of amazing.
We'll be having a small gathering on Sunday 19 April at Font Bar in Manchester, where Andy will be bringing a keg along so we can share the fruits of our labour. All proceeds raised on the sale of the beer will be going to our charity of choice, Forever Manchester. Watch this space for more details...
Now, over to half of Northern Alchemy, Carl, who in the dwindling light of the pub ably answered our questions over a pint of their superb Coffee and Orange Oatmeal Pale...