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5th April 2024

The Fellowship of Beer Reaches Subscription Milestone a Month Ahead of Target

The unique craft beer subscription from Steam Machine Brewing Company has passed its target of 100 subscribers and is now opening up to the next 100 beer fans.

A community-led subscription box, where users are heavily involved in the creation process, has just opened up places for another 100 members. New subscribers can join The Fellowship of Beer, and get involved with a super-active online community, discussing all things beer, suggesting beer styles, voting on bespoke ingredients, barrels for beers to age away in, and names and label design.

The Fellowship of Beer is an extension of Steam Machine Brewing Company’s mission to showcase just how vastly different every pint of beer can be. Founded in 2015 by husband and wife Nick & Gulen Smith, this North East brewery has always been focused on direct relationships with consumers rather than following race-to-the-bottom mass supply and supermarket deals. Their idea of craft concentrates on the ultra-artisan side of the market, with draught-led quaffing pints fresh from tanks, and distinctive strong beers, often featuring foraged ingredients, lovingly aged away in extra special barrels for months and years, each one a limited edition release. Involving their already adoring fans – and the local response has made up 50% of the original subscribers – as well as opening up to a national audience has been a natural evolution of their consumer-led style.

Anyone who follows Steam Machine on social media, or has been on a brewery tour, will be used to seeing Nick Smith, co-founder and head brewer, and listening to his passion for the creative brewing process. Nick acts as the beer guide for The Fellowship, steering the creativity, providing options, listening and answering community questions so that the subscription box offerings are truly special in a beer world that can often be a little bit samey.

The community is aimed at anyone who loves beer, especially those who want to explore how diverse beer can be, and who want to try different beers that no one else will get a chance to. Members can be as active as they like, visiting the brewery, suggesting and voting on recipes, joining communal foraging trips for ingredients, and meet-ups for beer, or they can just sit back, relax, and receive an incredible box of 12 beers every other month.

Subscribers are polled regularly, featuring their ideas and discussions from the private Facebook group, and then the brew team at Steam Machine leaps into action. An example of how this works is the ‘Brzozowy’ Birch-Smoked Grodziskie, an almost extinct Polish low-abv beer. This unique beer came about from members discussing amongst themselves experiences of smoked beers from UK and international breweries. A member asked if Nick had ever smoked his own malt, so a poll followed, offering the chance for the Fellowship to have their own smoked beer. A vote was made to decide on the style, from various types of smoked beer, and then to take it one step further, the wood type was chosen to be used to smoke the malt. The full process was documented on The Fellowship of Beer’s YouTube Channel, from creating the smoker to cracking open the first bottle of this wonderful smoky and champagne-like 3.4% beer.

Nick comments – “Building The Fellowship of Beer community has been about taking beer far beyond being just a transactional arrangement. I think people know I love what I do, especially being creative. Offering members the chance to be involved in every part of the creative process has been so rewarding, and I love the ideas that are being suggested left, right, and centre. Our tagline is ‘Why Should Brewers Have All The Fun’, and sharing that fun with everyone is truly exhilarating!”

“Most beer subscription boxes have followed one of two paths: the first offering short-life budget beers, along with a couple of tasty brews to keep you interested, the second often direct from modern breweries like us, where you receive a similar monthly line-up of what’s currently available in their webshop. Ours works differently. We are involving our members in every stage of the creative process, engaging with them on a private forum, and making sure that everyone is having fun with the project!”, Nick continues.

What’s in the first box?

The first full box has been extremely well received and features a truly eclectic mix of premium 375ml bottles and 440ml cans (as well as a few surprises!), created with the community input from Fellowship members:

  • Brzozowy (3.4%) Birch-Smoked Grodziskie
  • Subtle Eclipse (3.4%) Heritage Mild – based on Victorian recipes
  • Steam Machine – Resolution (4.1%) Bavarian-Style Pils
  • Steam Machine – Middle Earth Maoris (6.8%) Bright NZ IPA
  • Drunken Kiwi (8.4%) NZ DIPA – users voted on the hops
  • Rioja Barrel-Aged Elderberry Stock Ale (7.5%)
  • Steam Machine – Barrel-Aged Saison Riesling Reprise (6.0%)
  • Steam Machine – Tipsy In Tennessee (11.0%) Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
  • Red Grape Rioja Barrel-Aged Saison (6.0%)
  • Up The Kriek (6.4%) Lambic style wild cherry beer
  • Moonlight Fields (11.0%) Black Barley Wine
  • Speyside (11.0%) Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout

Members have also voted on the creation of some fantastic imperial strength beers that don’t get as much love in the UK, including a Quadrupel, Golden Tripel, and a Doppelbock. They’ll receive the ‘base’ beers in their next box, but they have already made some amazing votes for each beer to be aged away in some incredible barrels for later in the year.

Members are constantly suggesting and voting on innovative beers for the future. The idea of a spruce tips beer was recently suggested, gained traction during the voting period, and so Nick is eagerly planning a local foraging and beer picnic for local members. Also on the cards is a collaboration with Charles Faram – the UK’s leading grower and supplier of hops – for a British hopped beer, where members will get the chance to visit Steam Machine and be guided through new and lesser-known hop varieties. Nick is keen to take these ‘extra-curricular activities’ nationally, with members suggesting a foraging trip to the south in search of wild samphire for a gose, and hopefully field trips to producers such as Crisp Maltings.

Whilst many beer businesses are centred on unfettered growth, Steam Machine Brewing Company is coming up to a decade in age. Nick is adamant that The Fellowship of Beer will be exclusive to 450 members only, which is pretty much how many bottles he can get from a barrel-aged beer, taking into account extra ingredients like apricots in a white wine barrel-aged tripel, or blackberries in a rioja barrel-aged barley wine. After that, it’ll be a waiting list and a game of dead man’s shoes to enjoy this utterly unique vision of craft beer.

Sean Mckeown, Fellowship subscriber and Belper Beer Club Podcaster says – “This is one of the most exciting things I’ve heard in the world of craft beer. For me, it seems like Steam

Machine is the one brewery that could do this, and I can’t think of a safer pair of hands than

Nick’s, that we would entrust on a project like this.”

The Fellowship of Beer has now opened its subscription boxes up to a further 100 people – for more information, please visit

Notes to Editors

About The Fellowship of Beer

The Fellowship of Beer is a unique craft beer subscription box, where users are involved with the creation process. The project is headed by Nick Smith, co-founder and head brewer of Steam Machine Brewing Company. Nick combines his love of diverse beer styles, historic brewing techniques, barrel ageing, and foraging to guide the Fellowship to ensure that every box is incredibly different.

Steam Machine Brewing Company was founded in 2015 in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, by husband and wife team, Nick and Gulen Smith, right at the start of the craft beer boom. It has grown organically into a popular beer destination, community hub and live music venue, famous for its love of eclectic beer styles. Nick is a North East native, previously living the life of a chemistry teacher, whilst Gulen is from the far east of Turkey, and after a life of being a sports centre manager and fitness instructor in Istanbul, she travelled the world with Nick, before being convinced to move to County Durham and start Steam Machine.

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Contact Info

For further information, interviews or beer samples, please contact Nick Smith: