[AD - Gifted] This was a gifted experience in exchange for a blog post.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but I can’t believe I have never visited Albion Brewery Bar until now.
And now I have plenty of reason to go back with friends over a drink, Sunday lunch or a cheeky pint whilst shopping.
Whether you have lived in Northampton for years, or whether you’re new to the area or are planning on visiting, The Albion Brewery bar needs to be your next pub visit, but it’s definitely not your usual ‘drinkers pub’ - it’s full of charisma, family-friendly charm and atmosphere that makes you feel like a proper Northamption - even if you’re not originally from here.
The Albion Brewery is located on Kingswell Street, just before you head up Bridge Street in Northampton and it is the home of Phipps NBC ales and gins.
Those who are familiar with their products, including their famous IPA and Rhubarb Gin, to name a few, you may not know the fascinating history that goes behind the products and the brewery itself. It's a great chance, not only to drink your favourite local alcohol but to actually appreciate the work that went behind the creation of them.
Upon walking in, it’s not like any other brewery I’ve been to - in fact, it’s rather unusual upon the first impression. With its many pieces of decor and artefacts spread around the bar, the brewery and hanging on the walls, even though it’s all odd bits and bobs, it somehow all works together and it perfectly captures the essence and vibe that the Albion Brewery has to offer - a family friendly brewery that has a warm, welcoming environment.
We happily went ahead and purchased our first pint before we were due in for the tour - Josh went for a Gold Star Pale Ale, which is one of his favourites, whilst I went for the Phipps Kinky Boots pint (obviously, because you can't take the Musical Theatre out of the girl!) We were very content just having a chat and enjoying our drinks amongst the lively atmosphere whilst we waited to be greeted by Steve.
Steve took over as Manager at the Albion Brewery late last year and he’s certainly shaken up things here, all for the better, of course! Through their food, drink, weekly events and their brewery tour, he hopes to bring more people from Northampton and beyond to come and check out the oldest newest brewery in the UK.
We were kindly invited to do the brewery tour and this is what we got up to:
The Albion Brewery offers a unique brewery tour experience that takes you “behind the scenes”. This is so you could see where the magic happens, from the actual brewery itself to all the hidden underground tunnels, what equipment is used and even some sneak peeks to some new potential business investments…
We started with a taster ale, the Phipps IPA: very crisp, but subtle and tasty. We were then taken behind the bar, to discover the grand copper's standing proudly, where we were shown to some seats where we had our first introduction to the brewery.
If you're drinking in the bar, you can also see the coppers and a preview of the brewery through the tall, glass french windows, which separates the brewery and the bar. Plus, from the brewery side, you have an incredible view of the stainless glass painted windows which include paintings of the NBC crest.
Did you know, the beginnings of the brewery actually began back in 1801 in Towcester and it only moved to Northampton in 1817? It was under management by the Phipps family for over 150 years and at the time, they were the regional giants of British brewing.
The story behind the rise and fall of Phipps, of the research and negotiation that went behind Phipps NBC beer back in 2008, along with the story of Sir Pickering Phipps all ties in together and comes full circle to how and why The Albion Brewery still stands and is as successful today.
You really find an appreciation for the history behind the brewery and you have to be there to listen and learn with Steve, who you could tell was knowledgeable and passionate about the subject.
As we went around the brewery, we discovered many layers to it - from the hidden underground cellars that contained the many, many, MANY canisters of ale and old pieces of vintage decor, signage and even a cut out of the Phipps founder himself!
Along with a tour, we also great banter from Steve himself who made the experience enjoyable and interesting.
We also found some pieces that really represented Northampton, such as old banners from previous Northampton County Beer Festivals and the old Northampton Chronicle signage that stood on the old building.
Not only did we enjoy tasting the ale's and listening to the history of the brewery itself, but it felt like we took a trip back in time to the golden of ages of Northampton.
The next part of the tour was looking inside the gin room; where all the wonderful Phipps NBC gins are made.
This was, personally for me, a highlight, as I am a huge fan of the Phipps NBC gins and I was really looking forward to seeing exactly how they are made.
We were taken into a small room, featuring a wonderful display of gin's, along with many different mini gin canisters and coppers which we were due to learn how they came into the gin making process.
As most people know, Gin is made out of Juniper berries, but the Phipps NBC gin is also made from all natural ingredients i.e. their Rhubarb gin is made out of real Rhubarb extracts, with no added colourings or artificial flavours.
Finally, it is added with Northamptonshire water, which is mixed and charged in an Alembic pot using Laboratory Glass distillation techniques to create the finishing product - so you can guarantee that you are drinking the best of the best.
We also got a sample of the Phipps NBC Kingswell Gin, which is their classic London Style Dry Gin, which has citrus essence which is ideal to drink neat or with Fever Tree Tonic.
We were taught by Steve how to drink and taste gin properly from a shot glass and he mentioned upon the first sip, we would get the sharp sting from the gin, but afterwards, the flavours would come out - he was right and because of that, I now know how to taste gin correctly going forward.
Overall, the tour experience was not too long, not too short, but I felt informed and inspired being able to walk away with a bit more knowledge and appreciation for a Northamptonshire brand and story.
Steve timed things perfectly and because we were such a small group (Steve plus 4 of us) it didn't feel too over-crowded. After the brewery tour, we were well up for something to eat and a good thing too, because we were in the perfect place...
We were kindly gifted lunch after our brewery tour and I have to say, it was well needed after all the drinking! Regardless of whether you go to the brewery tour or not, you need to experience the authentic and wholesome food the Albion Brewery offer at least once.
A lot of the time, you find food in restaurants to be very extravagant and “put-together”. What I love about the food served at the Albion Brewery is that it felt like proper homemade food that you would get at home - no fuss, but just good, tasty pub grub - and I love that for a change!
The Albion Brewery offer a variety of food options, from main meals, to bar snacks - so there is something for everyone. I decided to be naughty and go for the Albion Brewery Burger with chips and Friars Farm Chutney whilst Josh went for a classic Ham, Egg and Chips.
Upon appearance, the food hasn’t got the most aesthetically pleasing appearance, but don’t be fooled - you still have all the best flavours, locally sourced ingredients and love that goes into making a brilliant dish. My Burger was so juicy and meaty, with the addition of the chutney inside the bun, which gave the meatiness of the burger a sharp sweetness to the whole thing.
Josh didn’t have much to say about his Ham, Egg and Chips other than: “Oh wow this is bloody good”. In Josh’s language, that means he enjoyed it!
I am a huge fan of local places who use locally sourced ingredients and Steve was kind enough to share where each part of our dishes came from in the local area. He truly cares about the experience he offers people and what food and drink he presents, which is so nice to see someone who is passionate about their business.
I also had some awesome Phipps Opal Gin to complement my meal, which was a blue colour at first, but when you poured tonic in, it turned purple! I had lots of fun over that!
Overall, The Albion Brewery was the most unusual, but most unique experience I’ve had in a brewery in Northamptonshire. Nothing can deny that the Albion Brewery is on the up since Steve took over and I can’t wait to see what else they have in store in the future.
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