The Indie Series – Block & Bottle

If you’ve eaten in one of Newcastle’s independent cafes or restaurants recently, chances are you’ve been sampling delicacies from Block & Bottle – the North East’s very own artisan butcher and craft beer shop. Opened for business in 2017, the retailer is fast becoming the go-to-place for locally sourced produce. Richard Dawson caught up with Katie, Steven and Joel to discuss the impact they’ve had on the North East food scene

Katie kicked-off the chat, explaining how her and husband Steven moved up from London to start their meat and beer enterprise.

“Steven’s from Durham and I’m from Jesmond so we thought we’d come home and set up a business here. You get a lot more for your money and what you do stands out a lot more.”

In an industry dominated by the big supermarket chains, we asked how Block & Bottle stand out. Katie tells us, “We’re here for people who want good quality products that they can trace back to the farm.”

They don’t seem worried about the supermarkets as they believe in their product and trust that their customers can tell the difference.

“On the meat side of things, the quality is much better, we’re much more innovative, we make everything ourselves and we can guarantee where it comes from,” Katie explains.

Given the growing environmental concerns over food production, we also asked how important it is for Block & Bottle to source their produce in an ethical and sustainable way.

Katie said, “It’s our whole business. We feel it’s very important that the animals are treated fairly.”

“Everyone should recognise what they’re eating. It’s fine to eat meat but make sure you know where it’s coming from.”

In their business, these kinds of concerns are clearly considered.

“Everything we do is free range and as local as possible without compromising on quality or animal husbandry. All of our poultry is from one farm. The majority of our beef is from Durham and North Yorkshire.”

If you’re looking for a steak or a link of sausage, which you can trace right back to the source, Block & Bottle has you covered. Katie adds, “People are always going to eat meat, but they are wanting to become more aware of where it comes from and that can only be a good thing.”

Block & Bottle is the UK’s first dedicated free-range butcher and craft beer shop. Keen to learn more, we asked the team to explain why they think these two products work so well together.

Katie, Steven and Joel were in agreement that artisan meat and craft beer are a match made in heaven, but it has also had commercial success.

Katie tells us, “We get a lot of people coming in for one side of the business who’ve become interested in the other side too. They might come in for some meat, but often end up trying a few beers.”

This works because the team are always on hand to give advice to customers.

“People have come to trust what we’re doing and that’s really important to us.”

Block & Bottle supply a surprising number of the region’s leading independent cafes and restaurants, putting further substance to the idea that the independents really do support one another.

“We started off doing a few cafes like Arch Sixteen, Pink Lane Coffee and Laneway & Co”, Katie explains.

Now, they are supplying Trakol at By The River Brew Co. – who were recently given a stellar review in the Guardian, Harissa in Jesmond – who won most sustainable food project at the Observer Food Monthly Awards, and other retailers such as Lean Cuisine – who run a healthy food truck in Team Valley.

Katie says, “We love working with other independents. I go on my delivery run and I get to see all the nicest people in Newcastle and Gateshead.”

They’ve also just won an Observer Food Monthly Award, and this month were announced best new butchery business at the prestigious butcher’s shop of the year awards. Katie highlights that it’s just amazing to be recognised.

With a dedicated charcuteries business Meat Salt Smoke, and many other collaborations already in the works, we may only be seeing the beginning of what the Block & Bottle team can bring to the North East, and we certainly wish them every success in the future.

Block & Bottle

Words: Richard Dawson