Travel the circle line

A new brewing site – plus – is about to open in Newcastle. Alastair Gilmour looks it square in the eye

It’s sitting silent as we write this, but by mid November, an enormous warehouse in Newcastle will be humming with brewing activity, ringing with filling machines, and bouncing with enthusiasm. Following a two-year search for premises that had to match his ambition, Ben Cleary has ensured that Full Circle Brew Co is about to happen at Hoults Yard in the east of the city.

It’s not enough to invest in solely a brewhouse these days if you want to build something that will be attractive enough for people will come; you have to incorporate features such as a public taproom, a corporate area, events space, kitchen, live music stage, outdoor areas and retail premises.

You need to conduct educational tours and host promotions, while beer-wise the attractions of collaborations with like-minded companies and contract brewing for others are too good to miss. The opportunities are endless.

“We’re ramping up for the beginning of October when the construction contractors move in,” says Ben, who already owns The Pip Stop, a highly successful beer wine and spirits outlet at Maiden Law, County Durham. The business is a satellite of the Lanchester Group owned by his parents Tony and Veronica Cleary.

“It’s pretty much full-on now. The brew kit is well on its way and we’ve even got Christmas parties booked in. It’ll be one of a kind in Newcastle; a 30-hectolitre brewery, a four-vessel, semi-automated brewhouse with eight fermentation vessels and two double-sized vessels. There’s space left for up to another six for when we can fit them in.

“A new canning line is on its way from China – it’s on the water now – which is capable of filling 100 cans a minute.”

Ben has recruited award-winning home-brewer Alex Redpath as head brewer. The pair have known each other for years and have produced several well constructed beers in their experimental unit at Lanchester. Two further brewers are champing at the bit which should take the starting line-up to 15 employees.

“We’ve been brewing on our small kit so we know what we’re working with,” says Ben. “We’ll start with a Session Pale Ale, an American Pale and an IPA before starting on seasonals and specials. Then we can collaborate with others brewers and also contract brew for other people. We hope to have seven or eight beers available for when we open.

“I take pride in keeping beer just at the right temperature. It’s got to be better than good – it’s got to be excellent. Scream For Pizza are coming in for a year with their Neapolitan-style pizzas and The Pip Stop is also moving in.

“Full Circle Brew Co is a great venue with great beer and it’ll be great. Collective Design have come back with some amazing design work. Our policy is simple; we don’t do things by halves.

“Hoults Yard is within easy reach of the city centre and there’s a real buzz about the place. There are a growing number of great breweries in and around the Byker/Walker/Ouseburn area making it a bit of a beer lovers’ hub and we’re looking to create something special which captures the hearts, minds and – most importantly – the taste buds of the local community.”

With his parents having built up a wine supply, bottling, packaging and quality gifts operation over the last 40 years, and as his grandparents were owners of pubs, Ben Cleary feels brewing is a really neat fit. It’s come Full Circle, you might say.