Getting to know BREW: Full Circle Brew Co
Updated: Aug 24, 2020
Think of Newcastle and what’s the first thing that pops into your head? The River Tyne, Alan Shearer, Byker Grove (or if you’re under 35 years old, possibly Geordie Shore)? Well, for me it's always been Newcastle Brown Ale…well, that is until now.
So, what’s changed? Well, Newcastle Brown Ale was once synonymous with the city, brewing at the Tyne Brewery until 2005, when it moved to Federation Brewery in Gateshead, and then to John Smith's Brewery in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire in 2007. Astonishingly, Tadcaster is over 91 miles away from Newcastle. So, can we call it Newcastle Brown Ale anymore*?
Newcastle needed to identify with a new brewery, one that is local and reflects the values of the city. Full Circle Brew Co is the new brewery in town and from what I have tasted, they have what it takes to become a very successful!
Full Circle Brew Co was established in 2019 by owner Ben Cleary and is located at site of a former pottery factory at Hoult’s Yard in Newcastle. They have brewed three core beers; Looper (IPA), Repeater (Session IPA) and Hoop (Pale Ale), plus a range of seasonal/collaboration beers.
Like many micro-breweries, they have an adjoining taproom for anyone wishing to try some beers on site, fill up their growlers to take away or buy some branded merchandise.
“Proud to be brewed in the great city of Newcastle, where bridges are plenty, hills are steep, and the people are friendly.” (Full Circle Brew Co.)
We caught up with Graeme Dickson, from Full Circle Brew Co, to chat about topics ranging from how important they think collaborations with other breweries are, to beers that didn’t turn out how they expected them to.
How is your beer connected to the local area?
Our core range labels have been designed to showcase where we are from through geometric graphics of various landmarks, history, landscapes etc. Looper IPA depicts the Newcastle Quayside, Hoop APA represents Newcastle's shipbuilding history, and Repeater Session IPA pays homage to where we were founded in Durham County.
What do you think is unique about your beer and your brewery?
Our brewery/taproom is housed in Hoults Yard, one of the most famous pottery factories that existed in the world. We've moved into a split-level warehouse that was used to fix railcars. With this split-level warehouse, we've been able to give taproom goers a glass-fronted view of the brewery from a higher perspective than most breweries.
Are there any beer styles you are looking at tackling in the future that you haven’t done already?
Our aim is to try everything we can, but we are especially excited about the potential plans for starting a barrel-aged series in the future.
How important do you think collaborations are with other breweries?
It's what makes this industry so amazing! Nowhere else would you find two competitors working together and helping each other out to succeed. We were very fortunate that we teamed up with many local breweries in the beginning who through our collaborations helped to get the Full Circle brand out in the Newcastle area before we opened. It has been a great way to meet people in the industry, learn new techniques, and spread brand awareness to areas that may not yet be aware of what you do. We're always up for a collab and hope to get involved in more throughout different areas in the UK and Europe.
What efforts do you make to be environmentally friendly?
We are looking at ways to be environmentally friendly where possible. Our spent grain is donated to a local farm for cattle feed, our outdoor glasses are biodegradable.
What have been your biggest challenges? (Pre covid-19 and during the outbreak?)
We only opened at the end of November 2019, and with our first beers off our brew kit launched the day lockdown went into effect we really had no idea what to do. With our first wholesale orders cancelled, and the ability to attend festivals and get our product into pubs erased, our biggest challenge was trying to get our product and name out to people. Luckily, despite this, support from our local community was amazing throughout lockdown, and we were able to keep things ticking, and 90% of staff fully employed throughout lockdown.
One of the biggest challenges has actually been post-lockdown with bars reopening, and the shift in demand from can to keg. 90% of our beers were canned before lockdown ended, and despite being rated very highly, much of it has become difficult to shift with the change in demand. On the other hand, our keg has been flying out which has been great. Finding balance in packaging is something we are continually trying to finetune.
What has been your favourite beer you have produced?
We're really happy with each beer we've produced, and if you ask our team, you'll get a number of different answers to their favourite Full Circle Beer. Seeing the evolution of Looper has been really enjoyable - with each brew, we've made small tweaks which have made Looper taste better each time.
They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but how important do you think branding/package design is for your beers?
Extremely important! We worked with O Street studio to help design our branding for our core beers and we couldn't be happier. It's a fine balance of creating something that looks great, stands out from the rest, while still being recognisable as your brand to the customer.
Have you produced a beer that didn’t turn out how you wanted it to - either better or worse?
Our Tango Sierra Eight, Neapolitan Ice Cream Stout came out with a bit more mint than initially anticipated. It was still received very positively, but I think we would have liked the chocolate and strawberry flavours to resonate a little more.
Do you feel that non-alcoholic beers have an important part to play in the craft beer industry?
There's definitely a demand for it, and all credit to breweries that are producing some great non-alcoholic beers. The consistency and overall taste have definitely improved.
Will the UK leaving the EU cause you to have any production issues?
We have our guesses as to what might happen but really can't say anything concretely. We think that the industry is too big and, that beer will continue to be produced to the same standard though.
What’s next for you over the next 12 months?
Continue to grow our presence and working towards having a reputation within the UK of that of the best breweries out there right now. We'd love to be able to attend various events should that be allowed to happen again. We've also been looking into export markets, and being able to consistently ship into a good part of mainland Europe would be fantastic.
Do you feel that craft beer producers need to spend more money on traditional advertising to get a bigger share of the market or can this be done elsewhere?
This might be unobtainable for the vast majorities of craft breweries with the margins craft breweries are already battling with. Perhaps a collective UK wide advertisement regarding craft beer, in general, would have more of a chance at increasing the industry rather than a single brewery.
From the Author
A massive thanks to Full Circle Brew Co. for agreeing to be interviewed during what is a very busy time for them.
Please do try their beer, it is exceptional and you will be helping out a new, independent craft beer brewer at a time where they definitely need all they help and custom they can get. You won't be disappointed.
About Full Circle Brew Co.
Address: 167 Walker Road, Hoults Yard, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE6 2HL
Online delivery: Yes
Rating on Untapped: 3.91 / 5
The guys from Full Circle Brew Co have kindly given my readers 15% off their next order when you spend £40, which is very easy to do with the selection of beers they have.
Add BREWDIDTHAT15 at checkout to get your discount.
Note: *Obviously there are multiple occurrences where a beer is produced somewhere different from its origin, but maintains the branding and manages to maintain quality and taste.