The closure of the Sunderland based Vaux brewery in 1999 was a sad day for the North East. True, other breweries had closed down in the region, but this was a regionally based company being torn apart by its shareholders.
It also deprived the region of some fantastic beers.
Honey beer Waggledance was the first to resurface – taken on by the London-based Youngs brewery, and added to its spring seasonal ale on the handpump (coincidentally – or not – joining neighbouring Fullers’ Honey Dew) and as a bottled beer.
The second to return was Double Maxim – relaunched by former Vaux management, under by the The Double Maxim Beer Company. Waggledance may have moved to London, but the bottled Double Maxim stayed slightly closer to home – abliet still not in the north east – being brewed for its new owners at the Robinsons Brewery in Stockport.
The last bottle of Double Maxim I drunk was the original Vaux batch, back in 1999. It was the last bottle of the stuff left in the Durham Light Infantryman pub, in Gilesgate, Durham.
Over the course of the night, the old Vaux stock was slowly reducing until, in the fridge at least, there were just a few bottles of lager and one solitary bottle of Double Maxim left. The landlady flogged them off to us cheap, and the bottle left Durham unopened, sitting in my parents garage for a few months until I finally decided to drink the last of my old regular tipple.
Although the new Double Maxim has been around a while, it doesn’t seem to have made it to London yet, and so it took a trip to Manchester this Christmas before I could finally taste it.
The new packaging looks far smarter than the old Vaux bottle, but wonderfully, the descriptive text on the back of the bottle, has been taken from the old Vaux label! (Interestingly, when Youngs relaunched Waggledance, about the only thing to change on the packaging was the substitution of the Youngs logo for the Vaux one).
And the beer tastes just as good as it ever did. It has been over four years since I tasted it, but it did taste familiar.
There’s something about Double Maxim as a brown ale. It still has its pleasing aroma and an aftertaste that lingers on the back of your throat – in a good way.
Hopefully it won’t be another four years before I get to try it again – with any luck it will make its way to the other end of the country.
The Double Maxim Beer Company are also Apparently considering bringing back some of Vaux’s other beers – including those of Vaux’s Sheffield based Wards Brewery. Whether they will bring back the wonderfully named Vaux brew, Hows Your Father, complete with its cartoon seaside picture-postcard label, is debatable, but here’s hoping!