Resurgence of Northampton brewery sees hearty soul food back on the menu
According to TripAdvisor, Phipps Albion Brewery is one of Northampton's top 10 visitor attractions but are you guilty for walking by it without giving it a second glance? I was, until today.
Phipps NBC has come full circle in its one-hundred-year on-and-off history in Kingswell Street.
As well as its previous use as a brewery, a century ago in 1919, it was used as a jam and preserve factory under the James brothers who sold Christmas puddings and groceries too.
The original Phipps brewery in Northampton closed in 1974 and the firm’s famous India Pale Ale (IPA) disappeared from the county’s bars.
But the company was revived in 2008 and a £1 million revamp saw the brewery make a comeback following a 39-year absence.
The venue, which fully re-opened in 2015, houses a bar with rotating house and guest ales, which customers can watch being made.
Behind the brewery is a gin distillery too where their six gins - including its colour-changing Opal brand - is made.
There's a big focus on Northamptonshire-made products here. Since Steve Reid joined Phipps Albion Brewery as bar manager the pub has started selling his homemade Friar's Farm chutneys on site.
"What we are aiming to do here is talk about the history," Steve said. "People have probably driven past it hundreds of times and don't realise we are here.
"If you want to learn about the history of Northampton brewing this is the key place to be honest because there's nowhere else like it.
"You would not be able to sit in the same building where the same beer was brewed about 100 years ago."
No-fuss food is back on the menu at Phipps for those wanting a taste of their childhood with local culinary-enthusiast Tracy Farrell cooking her families age-old recipes, from liver and bacon to faggots for £5.99 a plate.
"There's restaurants in Northampton for fine dining but to me, there's a lot of people that don't want that."
Bar manager Steve Reid wants to introduce more families and students into the pub too.
"The perception is that ale is an old mans drink. In fact, it's much more than that. More young people are trying ales instead of lager or other drinks, there's an upturn in ale sales.
"You don't have to come in for an ale, if you want to come in for a coffee. It's like a sitting museum.
"People should support local businesses as it's good for the economy and the bar is a nostalgic and relaxing place."
The Kingswell Street brewery was built in the 1880s and was last used as a leather tannery.
"People still walk past and don't know it's here - even the traffic wardens," added Steve.
"We are attempting to highlight what's good about the town and this is one of the oldest places in it."
In the basement of the Kingswell Street building is The King’s Well, which was once used to provide water for Northampton Castle – formerly on the site of the current railway station – but was last used in 1966 to make beer.
As well as the well, the building’s basement also contains a large tunnel which was sealed up until the 1980s, now equipped with its own skeleton.
At that time, the tunnel also stretched out to another part of the building, which has since been demolished to make way for Asper's Casino.