Taking a tour of the new 137 Gin Distillery at The Newbury
PUBLISHED: 15:20 10 July 2019
A first in Newbury’s history, the 137 Gin Distillery has opened at The Newbury on Bartholomew Street. We made a date with landlord Pete Lumber to have the tour
We love it when something unique comes to Berkshire. We visited The Newbury, a 19th century public house, which has been turned into a gastropub. And it has launched something very special: Newbury's first gin distillery.
Landlord Pete Lumber bought and renovated the pub in June 2012. "I've been in the pub game for 12 years now," he told me. "I drove past my local pub in Bristol, which was for sale, and my friend said: 'You should take that over.'
"I thought about it and decided: 'Why not?' I'd never pulled a pint before in my life but I'm a fast learner. After seven years, I bought this one too. I feel like Newbury is such an up-and-coming place. I knew what I wanted to create would sit well in the town."
An ambassador for the Great West Way, a 125-mile touring route from London to Bristol, Pete's vision entailed a modern gastropub that served simplistic, British food. A destination that would bring people into the area.
Downstairs is the restaurant and a spacious dog-friendly bar area with stitched Chesterfield seating and an open fire. There's a shelf packed to the brim with awards that The Newbury has won, a testament to Pete's exceptional achievements.
The roof terrace with its own bar is an alfresco gathering space, where guests can enjoy cocktails and pizza from the pizza oven in the sunshine. There's also a decadent and sophisticated cocktail bar with its own jukebox, available for private hire.
But probably the most exciting thing about The Newbury is that it has opened the first gin distillery in Newbury's history.
"Last year, I met a friend of mine who mentioned he had started making gin. It peaked my interest and I did a little research, then tried my hand
at making some. That was 19 months ago and my gin has really taken off," says Pete.
"I bottled my first gin in mid-December and I started selling to trade in January."
There are four blends: Lumber Bartholomew's Berkshire Dry ("after the county we live in," says Pete); Country Garden ("my wife's favourite, perfectly paired with elderflower tonic"); Traditional London Dry and Navy Strength.
And it's now being sold across the county. "West Berkshire Brewery is selling it, as is The Blackbird in Bagnor, Donnington Valley Hotel and Newbury Racecourse. I'm grateful they're supporting local businesses," says Pete. "If more people support independents, it helps the economy and the community."
And it's even gone global, as it's being sold in Dublin to London to California. "I've had some phenomenal feedback and I feel really proud," says Pete.
"We decided to turn the courtyard in The Newbury into a working distillery. And this is what we have created," he says, showing me around the room.
It's stunning, all copper and wood, with a rustic-chic feel.
"It's called the 137 Gin Distillery, after the number of the building we are on the street. The name Lumber Bartholomew is after mine and the street's name," says Pete. "The logo on the wall was designed by a graffiti artist in Bristol."
Throughout The Newbury you will see Pete's influences, from the paintings to the quirky decorations, but you can tell he's especially pleased with this room. "I'm really into interior design," he says. "I got the table from Steel Vintage in Bristol, the shelving is all handmade and the units are from France... it was a personal project for me. I named the copper still after Laima, my wife. The floorboards are from a disused firestation.
"This room now doubles up as a private dining room and our gin-tasting experiences are really taking off," adds Pete. "People can enjoy tasting, distilling and creating their very own bespoke gin blend here."
"Don't get me wrong, it's not all about the gin though," he adds.
"I love a pint and a cider too. We cater to everyone at The Newbury, and have an extensive wine list. We offer 29 wines by the glass.
"We also have quirky descriptions of our 300-400 spirits on our drinks menu, which encourages people to try something new."
And that's what The Newbury seems to be about; trying a new experience. Pete says: "Hopefully our new gin distillery is something Newbury can be proud of and it will bring more people into the town."
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