It seems an age ago since we ran the inaugural World Cup of British Breweries on Twitter. Since then we have sampled some of the best beers from the breweries involved and one of the most avid followers of the competition was Newcastle’s Box Social who we visited last earlier in the year. I spoke to Cal whilst there to get the full lowdown on their plans for the year and their opinions on beer and the Newcastle scene in general. Enjoy!
Whilst at their city centre taproom I had three of their own brewed beers; on the whole I was extremely impressed with the flavours of all three and on the back of them will definitely be visiting again. Kicking off with one of Box Social’s core range, Gentleman’s Nectar (4.2% Pale Ale) I fell in love quickly with their brewing process and flavours. The hoppy taste was light and overall there was a lovely bitter sweetness that continued through the full drink.
Box Social is a brewery that takes great pride in its seasonal as well as its core range – it was only fitting then that the other two beers on my list to try were the Gelato Pale (4.7% Pale Ale) and I Am Hollywood (4.5% Sour). Both excellent beers in their own right, these two were the stars of the show so far in 2019 for me. The Gelato Pale was beautiful with apricot flavours the dominant taste; it was so smooth and so refreshing for a thick pale ale. I could imagine being in Milan sat on the canals drinking this in one hand and a good ice cream in the other.
Cleverly, Cal explained that the large majority of the beers in the brewery are names after song lyrics, mostly from rock bands from around the world. I assume then that I Am Hollywood stems from the “He Is Legend” debut record and like the album, the beer was just superb. The beer was a blood orange sour but unlike many fruit based sour beers, this had a real sweetness to it that complemented the body of the beer. All in all, three delicious beers that I’ll be drinking again in the hopefully near future.
The Newcastle beer scene seems to be thriving right now – how does it feel to be a brewery in Newcastle right now?
You’re spot on, the beer scene is booming right now in Newcastle. There’s so many good pubs, bars and breweries people are spoiled for choice now compared to even five or six years ago. Being a Newcastle based brewery means we get to be a part of all of that. We’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the best breweries in the North East over the past twelve months and we hope we’ll keeping working with them in 2019!
I think the beer scene only gets better each year in the North East. From five years ago when we first started test brewing beers in a garage to now, the range of beers out there is only getting better. This is great for us though as the North East, and Newcastle Breweries in particular are becoming known for their quality beer.
Of all your beers – which are your top two and why?
Oooh that’s a tough one. For me I loved our Brut IPA but I know that’s not the most popular style. Ours was just so crisp and dry it really impressed me. I’m also a huge fan of our Hybrid Theory Oat Pale Ale. It’s sometimes hard to find a session beer that packs bags of flavour, and that’s what we wanted to do with Hybrid Theory. Plus the oats give it such a creamy texture, that pairs well with the hops we used.
Core range wise, my favourite is A Certain Shade of Green. A straight IPA with lots of hop character, it has so much Citra and that really comes through on the taste. In terms of “top”? Our Barrel Aged Imperial Campfire Porter went down really well, the whisky edition and the bourbon. If we could have we would have made twice as much as we did, but we just didn’t have the space. And as we hand wax-dipped and stamped each bottle it was probably a good thing we didn’t have too much!
You pride yourselves on your core range, but are keen brewers of seasonal beers. What was your favourite small batch you brewed last year?
One of my favourite underrated seasonals last year was Lightning Slug. Our Grilled Pineapple DIPA, that we brewed for launch at Indy Man Beer Con. It had such an interesting balance of savoury, sweet and bitterness.
My favourite would have to be Campfire Porter. It’s one of those seasonals that we remake each year and a lot of people’s go to beer when they think of us. It’s almost worked it’s way into the core range off of it’s own back.
What flavours and styles can we expect from Box Social in 2019?
I think this year, we’re going to be experimenting a lot with our seasonals. We like to focus on making new beers, but making sure they’re the best we can make as well. We’ve mapped out a few seasonals already, as well as some great collaborations with some amazing breweries. Our core beers will always keep being refined, as we try to keep improving the recipes, making sure they never fall behind.
Is there a plan for expansion with Box Social or will you be sticking to your six barrel brewery for the time being?
We’re currently in the process of moving into our new site (just down the road really) which will have a fifteen barrel kit. We’re hoping this will allow us to make even more great beer this year, but still be able to make enough of our core range to keep people happy. Should everything go according to plan we should have our first test brews done by the end of January, with full brews going by mid-February.
Tell us an interesting fact about Box Social.
Oh we’ve got loads. But one of my favourites is that most of the names for our beers come from music. Ross is so keen on his music, that most of the names end up coming from lyrics we really like. Some really obscure lyrics end up as beer names. It’s this love of music that led us to working with the Tygers of Pan Tang as Ross and Steve both loved their music.
I think it’s interesting that we started out in a garage making beer for ourselves five years ago and now we’re moving into a fifteen barrel kit!
For those that haven’t tried your beer – what would you say makes it so special?
We always try to make sure whatever style of beer we make, it’s the best beer that we can make. We know not every beer we make will be to everyone’s taste, but as long as we’re happy with the quality of the beer, we know we’ve done a good job. I think that’s important to maintain. It has our name on it after all and we’d rather make a good beer than a popular beer. Although if we can do both, then brill.
You can find The Box Social Taproom at Arch 11, Forth Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 3NZ – get yourselves there as soon as possible, you won’t regret it!
The Beers Ranked
1. Gelato Pale – Pale Ale – 4.7%
2. I Am Hollywood – Sour – 4.5%
3. Gentleman’s Nectar – Pale Ale – 4.2%
Taproom Address: Arch 11, Forth Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 3NZ
Phone: 0191 340 4394
You can find and follow the Taproom on Twitter here.