The Indie Series – By the River Brew Co.

Breathing new life into forgotten parts of the city, Richard Dawson talks to Dave Stone and Rob Cameron

The transformation of Gateshead Quayside began in 2002 when a disused flour mill was converted into BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. Since then, the south bank of the River Tyne has welcomed other key developments. Sage Gateshead opened in 2004, and then this summer, the multi award-winning leisure developers behind Wylam Brewery, The Bridge Tavern and The Town Wall added their own signature to the Gateshead Quays; By The River Brew Co.Richard Dawson caught up withDave Stone and Rob Cameron to talk about their latest and perhaps most ambitious venture.

Nestled under the Tyne Bridge, By The River Brew Co. is a creative container community comprising of a craft beer micro brewery and tap room, a charcoal kitchen Trakol, the Backyard Bike Shop, a working bike shop with attached café/brunches by day and cocktails by night, and HWKRMRKT – the street-food market bringing together some of the best independent traders in the North East food scene together under one roof, including Dabbawal, Kaltur and Lola Jeans.

Rob Cameron and Dave Stone took on the quayside development after previous plans for a quayside garden village were withdrawn. As such, they faced difficult time constraints getting the container village ready in time for the Great Exhibition of the North– the event that showcased some of the great things the region has to offer this summer. Given these challenges, we wanted to know why the Wylam developers chose the Hillside Quay plot under the Tyne Bridge.

It’s world class isn’t it this location? We’ve travelled extensively around the world and you’d struggle to find anywhere as amazing as sitting here on this side of the river in Gateshead looking back at the city.

Until you’ve been and visited you won’t know, but the perspective looking out from By The River Brew Co. is a one-off with panoramic views of Newcastle Quayside, the perfect backdrop to enjoy the fantastic dining and drinking experience on offer.

The materials used for the site, a combination of corrugated steel and distressed shipping containers, are also unique in that they create a space which simultaneously blends in with the industrial landscape whilst maintaining a modern aesthetic.

As Rob puts it, By The River Brew Co. has an ‘industrial feel with a clean look.’

“There’s less and less old school industry, [and] that heritage is hugely important. Much like the city itself, the site has that industrial feel but it has moved on to what the region is these days, which is more creative, more hospitality,” Dave explains.

Rob and Dave are building a reputation for bringing this kind of project to life, so we asked what draws them to these disused or neglected sites? The Palace of Arts, now Wylam Brewery, for example had been in disrepair for decades, abandoned by previous investors.

“Every project you’ve named, people had written off,” Rob muses.

But for the duo there is a real pleasure in breathing new life into something.

“We are not buying successful businesses, we are creating them. We know how to do bars and cafes, but part of the attraction is in doing something that’s a little bit different and a little bit more progressive rather than just replicating the same old formula,” Rob continues.

A big part of their approach is about creating a strong sense of community and bringing small businesses and independent retailers together.

“What the hawker market does, is bring together a community of businesses [that benefit from] the power of our marketing for the whole scheme.”

The thinking behind HWKRMRKT is that it gives a place to call home for retailers, and also helps generate new opportunities for other up and coming independents.

“If the independents don’t support each other, then they’ll always play second fiddle,” Dave adds.

By The River Brew Co. is all about offering a bit of quality to its customers.

“We’re not figures forward, we’re not into squeezing the biggest gross profit, we’re wanting to put on the best offer.”

Their business ethos is to give people a different kind of experience.

Dave continues, “I think its proven in the kind of jump off from high street brands because people’s palates are becoming a bit more sophisticated and they’re not just wanting what’s advertised on TV, they’re wanting to go and find different offers.”

The recent explosion and success of local independents serving things like craft beer, locally sourced food or single origin coffee certainly reinforces Dave’s thinking.

And what do the developers think about the revival of Gateshead Quayside…

Dave says, “If you came down to the quayside during its first resurgence, it was a very different place and now what you’ve got is a real nestle of great independent offerings that are joined up by the fact that they serve quality.”

And about the part they have played? “There have been queues on the Swing Bridge for the first time in history.” Well said.

Rob adds, “On our 200 metre stretch here, we’ve created a bit of a community and if that encourages other people to do similar things, then that’s a good thing.”

“We do what we do because we have passion for it.”

We wrapped up our chat with the pair behind By The River Brew Co. by asking if they had any plans beyond their tenancy at Hillside Quays; a site which Rob claims ‘is fast becoming a new post code.’

“Not currently, we’re still in the first few months. All we’re sure of at the minute is that we’re here for four years and we’ll take it from there.”

Given their growing reputation for bringing quality and distinct offerings to the North East, we can’t wait to see what’s next for Rob, Dave and all those behind the scenes in the team.

By the River Brew Co.

Words: Richard Dawson