Himself and I are very much do-ers than hav-ers so birthdays for us are more about going to do something or experience something than about a physical gift. When I received a Living Social email promoting tours of the Durham Brewery, I signed up on the spot; I was able to get a slightly cheaper price doing it this way but you can book places on the tour through the Durham Brewery website. We are both fans of real ales and enjoy visiting microbreweries but I didn’t think we’d had any of the offering from the Durham Brewery, in spite of having seen them in shops and pubs, so this tour would give us the chance to try some new beers if nothing else.
The Durham Brewery is located over several neighbouring units of a light industrial estate in Bowburn, a village to the south of Durham City. There is car-parking available but as you will be getting to taste some beer you may wish to come by public transport in which case you can catch a bus from Durham city centre which will put you off at the end of the road into the industrial estate; it’s a pleasant fifteen minute ride to Bowburn.
The building which houses reception and the office doubles as the shop and bar. If you just wanted a beer, you can just turn up during conventional office hours and order at the bar; in fact, there were several people there when we arrived for our tour, who had come just for a drink. Another customer was buying kegs and the only staff member we could see was attending to him. She did say hello and take our vouchers but then she asked us to wait while she attended to this customer; as this took quite a while it would really have been better for her to have poured drinks for us so we could have sat down instead of hanging around like a couple of spare parts.
Once a sizeable number of people had gathered for the tour (there were some latecomers and the staff seemed to have no idea of how many were expected) we were asked to all sit around the main table to hear a bit about the Durham Brewery and its origins. The Brewery is owned by Steve and Christine Gibbs. Steve has long been interested in brewing beer and was an enthusiastic home brewer when the couple were both made redundant from their jobs as music teachers; having been encouraged by friends who said he should try selling the beers he made, they invested a sizeable sum of money in commercial brewing equipment and opened the Durham Brewery. I was a little worried at first at how the tour might pan out because although they’ve been doing tours for a while, the beginning was very haphazard with seemingly no structure. Fortunately Christine spotted this and suggested to Steve that rather than us all listen to him talk about how difficult it is to run a business, we should taste some beer.
Other brewery tours we’ve done included a couple of halves (at Stiegl Brauwelt in Salzburg we got three beers but that was in comparison quite expensive) but here we got three very small samples of beer. Before we tasted each beer bowls of hops and different malts were passed around so we could understand the effect that changing these ingredients has on the end result.