In the centre of Bishop Auckland, County Durham, tucked away in a light industrial unit, close to the back entrance to arguably the town’s best ever pub (the Tut ‘N’ Shive; sadly now a Ladbrokes) and the hidden gem that was Christian’s Bar (again, no longer a hostelry), sits the Black Paw Brewery.
Five years old and taking its name from the initials of founder, brewer and genial tour guide, Phil Whitfield, Black Paw supplies cask and bottled beer to a wide range of outlets, from the nearby Auckland Castle to local delis and even the Michelin-starred Raby Hunt restaurant.
Even if you’ve stumbled upon the beer range, you’d be hard pushed to pinpoint where the magic happens, so the opportunity to go along to a rare charity brewery tour was too good to miss, especially as it involved the obligatory tasting session.
“Tour” is probably a very grand word for such a small operation; more a “meet the brewer” or “get to know us” event was had, and Phil is planning more as the year draws on and the town gets busier with the advent of the Kynren festival in the summer.
Black Paw’s offerings include Paw’s Gold (4.0%), a fruity, hoppy light ale that leaves a bitter finish; a very enjoyable Dublin Craft Beer bronze medal-winning porter, Dark Seam (5%); the very smooth, dark ruby Archbishop’s Ale (4.1%); and my personal highlight, a 5% IPA, crafted with Challenger and Cascade (my personal favourite) hops.
Quality-wise, you’d be hard to knock what’s on offer, and there are more than just these few available.
Inside the brewery, there’s a small bar open on occasion, complete with a range of quality sausage in bun offerings, including the Black Paw Special, made locally with Dark Seam. Keep an eye on the website for opening dates and times.
Black Paw Brewery held its open day in aid of the Butterwick Hospice.
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I’m 44, I don’t (always) have a beard (partly because when I try it is patchy, has gaps, with ginger and grey bits) and don’t take a clipboard to the pub. So, I’m not the stereotypical real ale fan of old, in the style that I was always told to look out for...read more