A host of Northern angels
It's the little-known festival bringing together the biggest names in north-east brewing. Welcome to NEBS.
Saturday 26 August 2023
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Angels of the North
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Hosted on-site at Cameron’s Brewery in Hartlepool, the North-East Brewing Showcase (NEBS) manages to be charmingly small and personal, while also including some of the UK’s most exciting and respected breweries, wheeling out their absolute best efforts. It’s reflective of how collegiate the brewing scene is in this part of the world, and provides a wonderful respite for those of us who are a bit done with the mega-festivals that now tend to dominate the beer calendar.
The line-up certainly speaks for itself, with the likes of Alpha Delta, Northern Monk, Full Circle, Brew York and Vaux all slapping their logos on the banner. But it also speaks to the esteem in which its host is held; established five years ago within Cameron’s, Tooth & Claw Brewing has successfully plotted a course out from under the apron of its mother brewery. I first came across its beers while hosting an event at a Head of Steam pub in Leeds, and (expecting little from what I misunderstood to be a ‘house brand’) was blown away by the big, fresh character.
Libby Soley, head of sales and marketing at Tooth and Claw, credits head brewer Ryan Shore with the festival’s stellar line-up. “He's got a lot of good connections with breweries all around the north, which is so important, especially here. I think being in the north-east, in Hartlepool, we can sometimes feel a little bit isolated. So that makes people even more keen to get involved, and I think this year was the best line-up we’ve ever had.
“It’s great fun, but also great for getting our name out there a bit more. We've had our fifth birthday this year, so we’ve also done some great collabs, which have definitely helped, then we’re working with Beer52 on its North East box… So we’re gaining so much from the momentum and exposure, and it’s great to see that people actively want to be associated more with NEBS as an event.”
The event itself is largely outdoors, enclosed by brewery stalls around the outside, along with food vendors, a DJ and lawn games. The vibe is charmingly lo-fi, with seats made from kegs, and tables made from old cable drums.
“We obviously love families coming along, and there are kids there usually until around 6 or 7pm. It's quite diverse in terms of male and female, and different age ranges as well. There’s obviously a good contingent of what you’d call beer geeks there, but also a lot who just turn up casually and pay on the door. I left about 5pm this year, but Ryan was saying a couple of rugby teams showed up later. So yes, it’s quite diverse!”
This kind of open, egalitarian spirit feels very in-keeping with Tooth & Claw itself, whose ethos has always been welcoming of good ideas, wherever they come from.
Libby explains: “Tooth and Claw is run as a separate brewery from Cameron’s, but it’s a collective of Cameron’s employees. It's open to anyone interested in brewing; you can be working on the kegging line, or forklift truck drive, or anyone. If you’ve got a beer you’re passionate about brewing, and you’re willing to put a bit of work into making it happen, everyone will work together to bring the best ideas to reality. I think that’s been a big part of our success.”
A taste of the festival
James Caley, beer buyer at Beer52 discusses the NEBS collaboration beer in this month’s box, and what it meant to work with so many great Northern breweries.
“There is something really special about the brewing scene in the North of England, and I think the North East in particular sometimes gets a bit neglected,” he says. “We absolutely love NEBS; it’s still relatively new on the festival circuit, but you can see these fantastic breweries from the region really getting behind it. Especially since we were already working with a number of these breweries – including Tooth & Claw – on beers for our Angels of The North box, we really wanted to help celebrate the festival too, and how better to do that than with a collaboration beer?”
Carlos de la Barra, Beer52’s head brewer and winemaker, adds: “For an outdoor summer festival, we wanted to brew something refreshing but full of character, so went for a dry-hopped farmhouse ale. We used a very expressive yeast and some complementary hops, steering it from floral to fruity with a subtly spicy undertone. It has a modern hop profile and a beautiful deep golden colour with a clear appearance and characteristically high carbonation. We all think people will really enjoy it.”
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