Blackfriars’ Parlour Bar serves first Beer on Wood in 50 years

Thu 25th May

The first wood-conditioned beer on tap to be available in Newcastle for around 50 years is now being served at Blackfriars’ new Parlour Bar on Friars Street.

With help from the Society for the Preservation of Beer on Wood (SPBW) and Wylam Brewery, Blackfriars has just taken delivery of two brand new six and half gallon oak casks, which have been filled just up the road at the brewery’s Palace of Arts brewery in Exhibition Park in Newcastle.

According to the SPBW, wood casks have been the traditional method for conditioning and storing of beers, but for many decades took a back seat to metal and plastic. Today there is a big interest in wooden casks as a container for beer, with an upsurge that has led to many UK brewers sending beer to publicans in wooden barrels and, as a result, saving the ancient craft of the cooper, and the cask.

The first two beers to be launched at Blackfriars are Wylam Brewery’s Red Kite, a rich and malty ruby ale, and Galatia, an extra light session pale with a heavy dose of new world hops. Both ales, it is suggested, benefit from a week or two in wood before being dispensed directly from the cask in their natural state, without any overtly gassy CO2. They will be sold in traditional 2/3 pint schooners for £3.20. 

Andy Hook, owner of Blackfriars Restaurant, who opened the Parlour Bar in April 2017, said: “Serving craft beer straight from a wooden barrel is about as traditional as you can get. It harks back to when Blackfriars was first established in the 13th century, when ale would have been made on site and provided to the friars, who would have consumed up to two gallons a day. As such, it’s been an aspiration of mine to offer beer on wood for a decade now.”

Blackfriars Parlour Bar is steeped in history, having originally served as a Parlour for the Black Friars of Newcastle, making it the oldest pub in Newcastle. The building dates back to 1239, when it was built to serve as a heated waiting room for visitors to the friary. The space, like several areas of Blackfriars, eventually fell into disrepair.
The Parlour, located next to the restaurant, has now been refurbished by traditional craftsmen, who have carefully chosen timber, furniture, lighting and fabrics in-keeping with the rich history of Blackfriars. Guests can relax in leather armchairs and drink before or after their meal by candlelight, or order tea, coffee and a range of bar snacks throughout the day whilst enjoying the historic surroundings.

Matt Boyle, director at Wylam Brewery said: “It's a real pleasure to see Wylam ales being served off the wood. It really showcases our Heritage beers in their most pure form, directly off the wood and from wooden casks, which is a very rare occurrence indeed. This exclusive addition to Blackfriars complements an already quality-focused food and drink offering. It gives customers the chance to experience something really different and authentic.”

Rob Shatlock, National Vice Chairman and Chairman of the North East Branch of the Society for the Preservation of Beer on Wood (SPBW) said: "I was delighted to hear from Andy about his project, and I'm currently working on an in-cask cooling system for the casks which are kept on display behind the bar. It makes a great spectacle for the customers and it’s great that we can get such top quality beer from the wood. This is the first bar in Newcastle to have beer from the wood on permanently, and we at the SPBW wish Andy all the best with his project."
The Parlour Bar is open from 11am – midnight from Monday – Saturday, and 11am – 4pm on Sunday serving coffees, teas, bar snacks, beer, wine and cocktails. 
Blackfriars dates back to 1239 and is one of the oldest restaurants in the UK. The restaurant has also just been given a facelift after a huge refurbishment, whilst a bigger Cookery Workshop and a new Tasting Room have been opened on the first floor of the building. Blackfriars received the Taste of England accolade at the North East Tourism Awards and was voted Best North East Restaurant in the Licensed Trade Awards. It also has an ornate 50-seat Banquet Hall which was built to entertain guests and nobles to Newcastle, and it was the celebrated venue used by King Edward III to receive royal Scot, Edward Balliol, in 1334. 
The team at Blackfriars also opened Hinnies Restaurant in Whitley Bay in February 2016, and most recently Dobson and Parnell in December 2016, which offers refined British and European food on Newcastle’s Quayside.
(pictured - left ro right - Matt Boyle and Ben Wilkinson from Wylam Brewery)