War hero honoured with launch of beer

Norman Brown, centre, and nephews Stephen and Ian Goicoechea sample a new beer brewed to celebrate the bravery of Norman's brother Thomas.
Norman Brown, centre, and nephews Stephen and Ian Goicoechea sample a new beer brewed to celebrate the bravery of Norman's brother Thomas.

Drinkers will be able to say ‘cheers’ to Thomas Brown after the war hero was honoured with a beer bearing his name.

Catering assistant Thomas, from North Shields, helped shorten the Second World War when, in 1942, he bravely rescued Engima codes from a sinking submarine which were then used to decode German messages.

To celebrate 75 years since his courageous feat, The Exchange, on Howard Street in North Shields, have launched the Thomas Brown Golden Bitter.

The hero’s younger brother Norman, 89, was invited to the popular arts venue, to sample the new ale, along with two of Thomas’s surviving nephews, Stephen and Ian Goicoechea.

Norman said: “I’m pleased as punch this beer has been created in honour of my older brother Tommy. You know you have made it when you have a beer named after you!

“Tommy used to really enjoy his ale, particularly Newcastle Exhibition bitter, and I know he would’ve loved this beer. It’s very light and really tasty. It’s a fitting tribute to him.”

Thomas was the only one of three crewmen from HMS Petard who boarded the submarine to survive and was given the George Medal for his bravery.

In 2002 a Thomas Brown room and memorial window were installed at The Exchange to honour Thomas, who tragically died in a house fire aged just 19 in 1945. Last year an exhibition about him was opened.

The latest memorial to Thomas, the ale was created by the popular Three Kings brewery, based in North Shields, after discussions between owner Ewan McCann and Exchange bar manager Rob Shacklock.

Rob said: “Three Kings produce a lot of house ales for bars in the area, and I thought it would be a great idea for us to have our own. Then it was a case of giving it a name.”

He added: “We had a few names floating about and then one day I was standing at the bar and looked across at the Thomas Brown memorial window, and it just clicked.

“He is a real local hero and part of the fabric of this town and this building. There is nobody better to name it after.”

Ewan added: “We are very proud our beer has Thomas’s name on it, we hope we have done him and his family proud.

“Nine out of ten pints are between 3.8% and 4.2% and are a golden session ale, so we decided to stick with this as a guideline.

“The Thomas Brown Golden Bitter is 3.8% and gives a grapefruit and tropical fruit aroma, and is certainly very tasty.

“We are the closest brewery to The Exchange so it is great to have one of our beers at such a fantastic venue that is right on our doorstep.”

The Exchange building, which until 2015 was a restaurant, was reopened in 2016 and relaunched as a cultural arts venue with charitable status.

It has since played host to hundreds of musicians, theatre productions, art exhibitions and charity events to name but a few.

For more information on The Exchange, including forthcoming acts and volunteering opportunities, head to http://www.attheexchange.info or check them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/attheexchange.