Brewing up liquid gold

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PROUD brewer and landlord Stuart Neilson couldn’t stop boasting “I made that” on Wednesday night.

Every time he said it, he was pointing at someone drinking one of his home-brewed ales, which were making their first appearance at the North Riding brew-pub.

The occasion was the launch of Scarborough’s first micro-brewery since the Highlander ceased production in 1994.

It was officially opened by Mike Webdale, who chairs the Scarborough branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, and who was effusive in his praise for the town’s new brew.

“It’s brilliant, excellent,” he enthused. “To get your first two beers ready for sale commercially takes a lot of expertise. There’s not many brewers that can do it straight away like this. For someone to do it from scratch deserves an awful lot of credit.”

To be fair, Stuart has had some practice.

To celebrate his daughter Chloe’s first birthday, in 2003, he visited the Boat brewery near Castleford and made a 4.5% stout.

He named it One Not Out, referring to both Chloe and the pub he and his wife Karen were running at the time, the Cricketers, a few hundred yards further up North Marine Road. “That’s when I got the bug,” he said.

Since then, Stuart has brewed between 10 and 15 times at the Yorkshire Dales Brewery in Askrigg.

It was only a matter of time before Stuart adapted the North Riding’s extensive cellars to create the town’s first brew-pub in many years.

He has brewed two pale ales so far. Riding First (4.4%) is at a beer festival at Ilkley Round Table this weekend. The second is Riding, or RPA (3.8%). A third, which will be called Peasholm (4.3%), is now fermenting and will be showcased at Bradford Camra’s beer festival on 24-26 February.

Among the many punters enjoying the new tipples at Wednesday’s launch was brewster Sue Simpson, who travelled to Scarborough with husband Keith from the Brown Cow brewery near Selby, which they run.

The couple met Stuart at beer festivals and he became a customer.

“For his first couple of brews, he’s done an excellent job,” Sue said. “They are very hoppy so they will suit the hopheads!

“A lot of brewers shy away from a strong taste like this but Stuart hasn’t. We weren’t surprised at the taste as we know Stuart and his palate.”

Also checking out the new competition was Tony O’Roorke-Kilburn of Wold Top brewery near Hunmanby.

“We supplied Stuart when we started and he was at the Cricketers,” said Tony, who described the new ale as “very hoppy” and “an acquired taste”.

The taste was rapidly acquired by dozens of punters on Wednesday, as the first few barrels quickly ran out and a buffet on the pool table vanished within half an hour.

Stuart said: “It’s great having a community pub.” He thanked his staff, helpers, customers and Camra, which made the North Riding its town pub of the year in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

He added: “I would also like to thank the local suppliers and businesses that made it possible to achieve our dream – IK Welding, Concept Engineering, Sean Costigan, Custom Call Electrics, W Lawrence and Sons plumbers and our regular Alec Simmons who has supplied the artwork for the pump clips.”

l Scarborough’s halcyon days for brewing were in the second half of the 19th century, when the town had about six independent breweries and several pubs which brewed beer on their premises.

Scarborough and Whitby Breweries made their final brew in February 1954, after nearly a century of brewing on the site of the Balmoral Centre and the NCP multi-storey carpark.