The Durham Brewery launched in August 1994 at the Durham CAMRA Beer Festival where we were awarded beer of the festival with Celtic, an achievement that was to be repeated the following year.
Founders Christine and Steve Gibbs were full-time teachers at the time and the brewery was to become the sole employer when the teaching jobs closed after the first year.
Steve soon developed “The White Range” which properly launched the brewery into the wider world. The beers were explorations of many hop varieties over a pale malt base. The beers were an instant success and still form the basis of our portfolio.
The original 5 barrel plant was sold and a new 10 barrel plant was installed in new premises in 1999. We have increased staffing over the years and now we have six members. Steve explored all types of beers over the years and one of the most notable was a recreation for Mike Field of The West Riding Refreshment Rooms, Dewsbury, of Whitakers “Old Tom”. This evolved into Evensong which won Gold in the 2005 GBBF Real Ale in a Bottle competition.
Bottle-conditioned beers were started in 2000 with “Millennium City” in celebration of Durham’s two thousand years. This beer is now known as St Cuthbert. An adventurous bottle range is now available from the lightest 3.8% to the darkest 10%. Steve continues to experiment and has developed a hybrid keg beer with cask qualities. Using continental techniques and English cask methods our bright minicasks have all the convenience of keg with the flavour of cask.
A re-brand was effected in 2011. Logo, website and bottle labels were modernised. Subsequently innovations in brewing were developed. Diabolus is Temptation with Belgian brettanomyces. White Stout is a modern pale stout. Twitter and Facebook have been used as part of the new marketing campaign. The plant was extended with extra maturing capacity so that we can extend the minikeg range and increase experimentation. Amarelle with sour cherry juice is one example. Hefe Weisse with raspberry and mango is another.
In 2011 another business premise was aquired for the office and a hospitality area. A bar with full on-license enables drinkers to enjoy beer at source and we now hold brewery tours on Saturdays.
2013 sees modern dispense systems with keykeg, traditional keg and portable dispense of traditional live beer in a no-waste, no-infection environment. Beer innovation continued with a dark saison which was fermented with raspberry juice called Raspbeery Saison. The summer saw the introduction of hefe weizens with mango and raspberry.
2014 is our 20th Anniversary. A mezzanine has been constructed in the bar area so that the office can be moved out of the way and the bar/hospitality area occupies the complete downstairs. There is now more scope for brewery tours, hospitality events and drinking. A new beer has been made for the anniversary. Called 1994, this is a pale stout of 10% abv with pink peppercorns.
2015 saw a number of upgrades to the brewery machinery. The main chiller, which controls vessel temperature, had to be renewed because its gas was not environmentally friendly. We needed greater storage space and a warm conditioning room for the bottles so we installed a very nice mezzanine above the cold store (cellar). The cask washer died so we had to get a new one. We also installed a new server for the office.
2016. Having got lots of renewal out of the way, we should be in a position to make new artistic ventures. A brand new website is on the way with emphasis on the natural, wholesome nature of beer. A very characterful lager is maturing (lagering) and will be ready for the summer. Wooden hogsheads are arriving for maturing, Temptation, Finchale Abbaye and Diabolus.
2017. The new website is here. You are on it! Finchale Abbey won an award with the World Beer Awards. New markets are opening up with Berlin and Dornbirn. White Stout and Temptation feature in the Berlin Beer Week. We are making a plum saison that will feature at GBBF 2017. Bede’s Chalice won Gold with British Bottlers Institute for the 5th time. Black Bishop won a BBI Diploma. Diabolus won the GB award i The World Beer Awards for wood aged. We have a new automated bottling machine.
The New Bottling Machine
Member of SIBA
The oldest brewery in Durham, established 1994, and a pioneer of the light-hoppy style of bitters, we have consistently grown our portfolio of delicious beers. From light bitter to dark stout, wheat beer to Bavarian lagerbier we lead the way in quality and diversity. It would be true to say that we have a beer for everyone. Steve, our head brewer, ensures that all styles are made authentically, cutting no corners and constantly renewing plant and machinery for the highest quality.
Despite all our years, this family owned brewery is still small, preferring to concentrate on perfecting beers rather than manufacturing volume. Great care is taken to let the beer mature as it must. Cask-conditioning is as it says, not tank-conditioning, all bottles are bottle-conditioned – and never filtered, lagerbier can be allowed a full three months to mature naturally. The results speak volumes – we have local, national and international awards.
The great diversity of beer and services are provided by just seven people.