In the 85th anniversary year of Newcastle Brown Ale, The Journal speaks to former Newcastle Breweries chairman Gavin Reed. In the first instalment, Gavin discusses both his and Newcastle’s links to the beer – and a crisis that put the Newcastle Brewery into a panic
SAY ‘brown ale’ and, usually, a missing word springs to mind. Given there are several types of brown ale, let alone hundreds of styles and brands of beer jostling for drinkers’ attention, that’s quite an achievement for Newcastle’s eponymous drink.
It’s a phrase that has formed a blood-tie between the beer and the city; Newcastle the only name when people think of broon, and the distinctive bottles being a symbol of the North East.
“Where in the UK are you from?”
“Ah – like the beer!”
It’s an achievement in marketing, in longevity (some might say ‘survival’ in these straitened times for the industry), and expansion.
And a lot of that happened under the watch of Gavin Reed. The former chairman of Newcastle Breweries and vice-chairman of Scottish and Newcastle is keen to lay the success at the feet of his team, and also shies away from discussing the industry today, feeling he’s been out of touch since stepping down in 1994.
But he was in charge during some of the most interesting moments in Newcastle Brown Ale’s life, from takeovers, to cracking the US.
Earlier this week he was at his former company’s former offices, now a hotel, to loan some rare bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale to mark the beer’s 85th anniversary. The hotel is holding an exhibition as the Canadian bosses realised the significance to the city; a bottle commemorating Newcastle United’s promotion in 1992-3, for instance, shows they were right.