Newcastle – Go With The Flow

(Alan Hull. Where art thou?)

It’s been a long time since I last visited Newcastle. Vague recollections of training courses at the TUC spring to mind, but that’s at least 10 years ago. And times have changed.

Certainly, Newcastle has changed.

The genesis of this weekend was in the immediate aftermath of a weekend last year in York. The four who went wondered out loud “where next?”

Accommodation was booked a day later. 6 months in advance. In August. And once the four of us booked, others jumped in. This was a team outing.

Newcastle has that kind of pull.

Viewing from afar, the beer scene in Newcastle looked great. Almasty, Anarchy, Box Social, Northern Alchemy, Wylam to name just a few. Drooling was the order of the day. Even 6 months in advance.

Plans were made. Maps created.

I like a good plan.

I also like to swim against the tide. It is almost instinctive to set myself against prevailing orthodoxy and shun the popular, the lauded and head elsewhere. But swimming against that tide can be tiring.

So. Trusting the experts (ie : local drinkers and local social media contacts), I let myself – generally speaking – go with the flow.

Another great (collective) decision, was to avoid the herding of cats. This was a group of 10 travelling up, each with their own priorities. So each have their own story, their own memories.

These are mine. And I won’t be forgetting them in a hurry……

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Walking from the station to our Quayside base, I’d forgotten one of the general characteristics of river cities. Slopes.

Fortunately, pit stop #1 was a mere 50 yards (uphill) from the hotel.

The Bridge Tavern (Akenside Hill)

Handy. And welcome.

If this was a taste of things to come, we were in for a good weekend.

Exposed brick, wood, open plan yet nicely subdivided. This works.

A Brewpub. Associated to Wylam in that respect. It was a good start to see mostly local breweries on the taps – me being a firm “When in Rome” kinda fella – and our initial group split between different locals.

The Cascade by Wylam was delicious. As was the Northern Alchemy sour. Winning.

The pub self identifies as a gastro pub. If that kind of thing deters you ordinarily, don’t let it. This is a belting spot, located directly between the Newcastle side stanchions of the Tyne Bridge.

I just wish I’d tried the food (as others also wished – the next morning!)

That thing about slopes. It means you don’t want to walk too far.

Good job that an icon was close by.

Crown Posada (Side)

And the only pub I’d previously visited. To me, I wouldn’t care if the beer was rubbish. Because architecturally, this place is simply stunning.

Fortunately the Bad Co Milk Stout was lovely rich, roasty and creamy.

But this is about the pub.

To not go here would have been tantamount to criminality.

Narrow, single roomed with seating areas either end of a magnificent very long bar that’s almost half the length of the pub.

I should have taken more pics.

Busy, intimate with friendly and witty bar staff. We’d have stayed longer – and we DID return on Saturday with a different group – but we had friends to meet elsewhere.

?

The Box Social (Forth Street)

From the old to the new. And just my kind of spot.

A Micro Pub. And true to the designation, it is indeed wee. But fits quite a lot into that small space with a mezzanine above the bar almost doubling the floor space.

Being effectively the taproom for the eponymous brewery, the accent on their own beers was welcome, but there was plenty of variety from elsewhere with 10 keg and 4 cask lines.

“When in Rome….” dictated a Box Social beer and the “New Trumpet Joe?” Micro IPA was a spot hitter. Refreshing and tasty.

With plenty to go at, I’d have loved to spend more time here, but the lovely Mr Jones from that there Brighton had tipped me off about another special little space.

So myself, TLO and Chris formed the first “splinter group” of the trip.

A bit too far to walk. (My Uber app took some stick this weekend….) But I wouldn’t have missed this place for all the beer in Newcastle….

Coppers of Gosforth (Brunton Park, Gosforth)

From the outside (and even from the inside!) this looks like a supermarket. That’s because it is precisely that. A supermarket.

But….. What’s that? There. Down that corridor?

It felt like a beery version of Hansel & Gretel….. Ah…. More liquid breadcrumbs….

Trust me, happiness this way lies….

6 or 7 taps. Local and otherwise. Impressed. But something was missing.

Mike mentioned a fridge door leading to beer Narnia. But….

Ah… What’s that?

And there we were. Hop Secret. The “not so secret” outside bar at the rear of the shop. With a little closed off warm room for the less hardy.

This place is ace.

You have to go to understand. In a manner of speaking…

Ever had that moment when something just GRABS you? You can’t explain it, it just does? Well. That. That’s how Coppers got me.

We met Charlie here. The other reason we jumped that Uber. We chatted beer and other stuff, he introduced me to that LOVELY Scotch Egg / cheese platter. He’s a lovely fella (even TLO said so – she’s hard to please!) and it was so nice to meet up.

Hopefully he’ll pop South at the end of October….

I had my first beer from local brewery Two by Two (it was lovely) and I caught a #ISBF5 Beer that I’d missed! Northern Alchemy Cola Sour. Oh my that was good!

Even on a chilly Newcastle evening, I could have stayed all night. But… We had friends to go back and see. So, saying farewell to Charlie (and grabbing a fistful of Northern Alchemy bottles) it was Uber time – having checked where the Manc hordes had relocated…

The Mean Eyed Cat (St Thomas St)

“6 cask, 8 keg, a load of bottles and the furniture doesn’t match….”

You simply HAVE to adore a place that doesn’t take itself too seriously!

“Expert Level Photobombing”

A big square room. With rackety furniture. And a whole shit load of charm. It was here that I really started to fall for this city.

Beer was ace, people were chatty. It’s a proper nice place (enjoyed it so much that we came back on the Saturday (well, some of us did)

Wylam “Hickey The Rake”, Out There “Mojito Sour” and (the coupe de grace) Kernel “Export Stout”.

I retired hurt. But what a way to go.

Well, we went to The Town Mouse. But I’ll save that for the next day. A tasty North Riding“Mini Citra”.

Hold that North Riding thought……

Some of us made it for breakfast in the morning. Some stayed out until two.

It was a marathon, not a sprint.


Newcastle revealing it’s charms in daylight (OK. Gateshead. But…..)

This was the morning of the great divide, with several (most of the group) heading towards Exhibition Park. And Wylam Brewery. Criticise ME all you like, but I had friends to meet.

And a surprise.

At…

The Free Trade Inn (St Lawrence Road, Ouseburn)

A gentle 15 minute stroll, as lazy as the gently flowing Tyne was just reviving enough to make a beer seem attractive at 11.30am.

In what is arguably Newcastle’s most vaunted pub.

That view though……

The location is killer. And an excellent beer list to go at too. The Almasty “Echelon” was the “house beer” and did a right number on me. It lifted me up and renamed me Lazarus.

Now I’m not prone to much in the way of fanboydom, but I did get a surprise when Karen & Stuart walked in with Malcolm and Niamh. Stuart sporting his usual levels of sartorial bombast….

He IS delusional you know!

This was where the day was just allowed to flow its own way. Chatting. Fun. Being with friends.

A few beers were had here and I tried to “place” The Free Trade and struggled. It reminded me of pubs from my youth. Except this looked untouched. Preserved. Not messed about. And that’s truly a good thing.

Just to sit, looking through that enormous window, enjoying exceptional beer. It’s a pleasure worth paying for.

I jealously eyed up Malcolm’s samosa….

Then – on Stu’s suggestion – we walked back up the Tyne and crossed over The Millennium Bridge. And sat under The Tyne Bridge

By The River Brew Co

Never have shipping containers been so imaginatively recycled!

Quite a sight.

Just. Yeah. I don’t know how. But it’s bloody good.

Tried 2 of the beers made in the venue (overseen by Wylam apparently) – well, like I said, “when in Rome….”

The Heedhunter Pale may well have been my favourite beer of the weekend. But then, I’m a Centennial fiend. And the aroma was like snorting lemon sherbet. Just…..

It was exceptional. The Brown Ale “Broon” was a bit tasty too.

Inside, the place was open, modern and light and I just forgot the construction. A real surprise. I’m a bit of a traditionalist with pubs and bars. But I just “got” this. It was certainly a beautiful day to sit on the bank of the North’s greatest river, looking up at the Tyne Bridge, eat great pizza (Courtesy of Scream for Pizza) and just relax.

Back over the river though.

And a revisit to a few places from the previous night – cue pics….

Scary….

The Town Mouse (St Mary’s Place)

I DO like a subterranean micro pub. Apparently.

We came in on the Friday evening. And even after several beers, could still taste how exceptionally good the North Riding Mini Citra was. That’s good cellar work.

Stuart let slip (once we’d crossed the bridge), that Mocha Porter was on here. And the catnip called…

The pub was busy. It was their Second Birthday weekend. It’s cosy, warm and open with a kind of two – roomed feel.

Intimate. My kinda place.

I’ll be back.

Retreating via Lady Greys and The Bridge Tavern again (excellence never gets boring), bed called.

The fog descended the next morning like visual poetry.

I’ve always been a “Lady Eleanor” man myself though….

Gluttons for punishment, we “strolled” through the hordes crowding the Quayside market.

Slowly. Bodies pummelled by local beer, it felt like Napoleon’s Retreat From Moscow.

I know. I know. But….

Back to The Free Trade. Northern Alchemy “Small IPA“. Delicious.

All good things come to an end however….

Just two things left to do.

That i “Sublime Chaos” lived up to the first two syllables! (TLO loved the Smash…)

And, back “home”

The idea to go to The Marble Arch for Sunday lunch really WAS my daughter’s.

Honest. (And I didn’t have a delicious Petite or Lagonda. šŸ¤ž)

So. Newcastle. How do you sum it up?

I wish it was nearer for a start! There’ll be more beers from round here at #ISBF6 for sure.

It’s just a beautiful city. A city of bridges. A city with some simply ace people (had a great yak in The Mean Eyed Cat on the Saturday night!)

It’s a great beer city. With lots of great places to drink that beer. I get the feeling that I merely scratched the surface.

Like I said, the others will have their own stories to tell. But mine tells me one thing for certain.

We’ll be back.

A One Pub Afternoon – Trackside, Bury.

I know I’ve recently written about Trackside – you can read that here – but this increasingly impressive pub bears greater (and closer) scrutiny. And bears it well.

Some time ago, our little group – based on some tantalising beer list tweetage – had resolved to get to Bury to have a closer look. To see if the talk was walked. This assembly is never simple, especially when you’re pulling people together from South Yorkshire, Cheshire, East Lancashire etc to a pub nearly 10 miles north of Manchester.

But – sickness and incapacity aside – we made it. Including some who’d never been before.

As well as being a “bit” of a beer nerd, I’m also a British history nerd too, from pre-Roman to Stuarts, my fascination is boundless.

I say this, not to embarrass myself (that is rather difficult) but to emphasise the point that, the first time I entered Trackside, it reminded me of my idea of an elaborate Saxon Longhouse. Long, (relatively) narrow, vaulted ceiling, thronged with people.

The only things missing were a mid-room firepit, a smoke hole in the roof and a few sheltering cows and goats.

For a while, the beer range had gotten a bit stale, unexciting. Quite…… Boring. I hadn’t been for years. Then Ben from Rivington Brewing messaged me to say I should REALLY take a look.

The reasoning is clear

And that was just PART of the cask range – it omitted the 11.5% abv Rammy Craft Imperial Mancunian Stout. More about that later…

And as for the keg, a Track TIPA, Rivington American Barleywine, do I need to go on?

Don’t get me wrong, Bury doesn’t seem blessed with great beer – Tyson may tell me different – but that didn’t seem to matter. With good company, this was a destination in itself.

Rammy Craft “Titch”. Track “Simcoe”. North Riding / Magic Rock “Stu’s Company”, Rivington “Days of Candy”, Rivington / Beatnikz “Vermont California”, Cwrw Ial “Tan Halen”. The Track TIPA, Rammy Craft Imperial Mancunian Stout.

All tried. All exceptional. I blended the TIPA / Mancunian Imperial Stout. It was ludicrous. It was delicious. Stupid. But delicious.

The pub is a way station for another thing. The volunteer run East Lancashire Railway. Steam pulls. In more ways than…..

The line terminates at Rawtenstall. Where there is another ELR pub. The appropriately named “The Buffer Stops“. With Will (the Trackside custodian) likely to be involved with both, this shall be subjected to a summer visit. By steam.

The Railway Children Revisited.

James and Andy (Brewsmith & Rammy Craft) joined us for a beer. Both had beer in the bar. Both were exceptional. Again, we chatted. #ISBF5 may have come up in conversation (pretty much my life right now)

Stanley was after my lunch (Rag pudding). He got none. Just too delicious. He tried to cute me into submission, but not even a Canine Legend / Supermodel gets my grub. Oh no.

The image of failure.

It goes without saying that we stayed a few hours. The right pub, with good company, does that to you. The exceptional beer list meant that we neither needed nor wanted to move. Sunshine faded into evening before we made our “excuses”

It was an excellent afternoon. In a hugely impressive pub.

You’d be mad not to. Honestly.

Back soon. Jx

N. B.

1. This is not “paid for”. This pub is simply too good to miss

2. Thanks to Barbara for being completely unaware that I shamelessly stole some pictures.

3. Thanks to Steve, Jock, Barbara, Jen, Linda, Stanley, James and the two Andy’s. Without whom I’d have gotten pleasantly drunk on my own. But WITH whom I had a lovely afternoon

Home Beers – June 2016 – Pt 1

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RampartBrass Castle Brewery (Malton) / Ossett Brewery (er…. Ossett) – 7% abv – IPA – 330ml can – Bottle (Heaton Moor)

This beer was the standout at Manchester Beer and Cider Festival this year for me, big and juicy. I was surprised to see it in cans though on a recent visit to Bottle. I had to have it.

Deep copper coloured, the light white headĀ  emitting a deep fruity aroma full of caramelised pineapple and bitter orange. Juices duly flowing, it was time for a mouthful……

Oh yes. No change. Just as magnificent in canned format as it was in cask.

Really full bodied with plenty of cakey chewy malt, this is soaked in sticky fruit! Orange marmalade, juicy pineapple, even a little hint of drunken raisins. Really juicy and packing a big fruity hoppy punch as an IPA this strength should.

Nice full bitterness in the finish of this leading to a full on piney resinous hit in the aftertaste.

It would have been easy for this beer to fall down compared to the superb cask at Manchester Central. But not a bit of it. This is just as superb in can. Lush.

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CannonballMagic Rock Brewing (Huddersfield) – 7.4% abv – IPA – 330ml (can) – Bottle (Heaton Moor)

A beer that I’ve had issues with. One where I’ve never understood some of the fluffing that has gone online about it, having tried it in both keg & bottle form.
The can – having seen it in the corner of my eye – was an impulse buy. A last chance if you will. It has been decent, but decent wasn’t what I was led to expect

Hazy gold from the get go. This light white head just sings an aria to hops. Fruity as hell on the nose like a mashed up cocktail. Kiwi, passion fruit, mango and a little grapefruit – for next a bit more citrus!

Ā Big and juicy. With all of the above jostling and tumbling for room on the taste buds. Slight sweetness to the chewy cheesecakey malt, but more than offset by the hopload. Juicy with a really lovely balancing bitterness – lacking in some so called IPAs.

That juiciness lasts from gun to tape and gives way at the last to a sticky resinous pine which piggybacks that bitter finish.

A joy. Right up there.

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Single Hop Pale Ale (Centennial)North Riding Brewery (East Ayton, Scarborough) – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Bottle (Heaton Moor)

Beautiful golden beer with a light white head and a hooter full of lemony citrus.

Yet again, Stuart Neilson nails it. First impressions are medium of body, with a nice biscuity malt base. Then the hops. Lots of hops.

Lemony sharp, with juicy mango and lots of it. Really fruity and juicy. That lemon is quite bracing but in no way detracts from the fact that this is one refreshing beer!

This is one lovely beer. Fruity, dry of finish and with moderate bitterness and a nice hoppy aftertaste. Levels of yum!

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Dane’IshCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 5.0% abv – Lager – 330ml – Heaton Hops (Heaton Chapel)
Lightly Hazy and golden, this unfined and unfiltered beer has a light foamy white head on it,Ā giving off a slightly fruity aroma with a little peppery spice making my nose wrinkle.
This is a small batch lager to convert the macro boys away from their bland fizzy shite.
Smoothly carbonated, the initial flavours are of forest fruits on a light crusty bread malt base with a light sweetness for those fruity hops to play with. This is a superbly balanced beer, light, spicy and refreshing but with a little spicy kick in the finish.
Finally. Someone has nailed a really good English lager. Nice slightly hoppy and peppery aftertaste too. Shane Swindells should take a bow. This is just as good in bottle as it is in Keg (regularly) at The Brink.
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US IPA (Citra, Summit, Equinox) – North Riding BreweryIPA – 5.5% abv – 500ml – Bottle (Heaton Moor)
Over the last 12 months – leaving aside The Independent Salford Beer Festival (shameless plug for fresh looking website!) – there are two things that I am really proud of. Thjose are finally nagging people enough to get beers from North Riding Brewery of Scarborough and Five Towns of Wakefield into Manchester area bars
Finally, you lot over THIS side of the hill have the chance to see if I’ve been talking utter bollocks about them. And I haven’t, have I?
I’ve had some grief from over in Yorkshire, but it has been worth it. I finally get to try two of my personal heroes beers in my own back yard – on cask, And I’m thrilled.
But what about THIS particular beer?

Oh yes. A proper beast is this. Big, deep golden beer with a lasting soft white head and an immensely fruity aroma full of orange, mango and a little peach.

Juicy, juicy, juicy. In Chris Hall’s parlance, a banger and no mistake. This is full of mango, with orange and peach and not a little gooseberry too in this wee devil. So, so, so juicy.

Big and bold and fruity this. The swallow is nicely bitter as any decent IPA should be. That bitterness being just short of bracing. Perfectly judged.

The finish is juicy and bitter with a big grassy resinous aftertaste. And it’s a joy to drink.

That boy Neilson can brew you know.

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Your BetrayalMarble Brewery (Manchester) – 5% abv – American Pilsner – 330ml – Epicurean (West Didsbury)
At the end of the brewday for Manchester Fold (with Lees & Cloudwater), myself and Connor found ourselves having a couple of beers when we saw a tweet from Marble. “New beer! Free half in 57 Thomas Street!”….
Well…….of course we did!
That was this beer, but in keg. Delicious on draught, now for the bottle….
This recent release from Marble pours a glittering gold with a light white head with an amazing tropical hop aroma. Kiwi, passion fruit, mango. All kinds of yum!
Having had this fresh in release day on Keg, I kind of knew what to expect. BOOM! ALL KINDS OF TROPICAL!
Fruit. So much fruit. Dancing a hula around my mouth. Mango, lychee, passion fruit and a touch of kiwi swaying their grass skirts around my mouth before being lassoed back in line by a bracing and abrupt resinous hop dryness.
If James Kemp and his team day this is a Pilsner, who am I to gainsay? It works. Brilliantly. I, personally, would call this an ultra Pale Ale. And it works on that turf too. You will get few Session IPAs that rock like this!
Dry and sticky resinous aftertaste, don’t ever leave me!
There you have them. 6 utter crackers. If you see them – or their hop variants (in the case of North Riding), do yourself a flavour. Buy them. And say it was my fault!
See you soon at MANCHESTER BEER WEEK!!!!
As I said above, about my pride at finally seeing North Riding & Five Towns in Manchester. When I heard a big Five Towns pale (7%) was on draught at The Smithfield, I was scared that I’d miss it. So an unscheduled trip was in order – even though Atilla’s family were over…….
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Oh I had to have two pints – minimum! Then, I noted there was a smooth operator by Hawkshead on keg. Tonka Imperial Porter. Now then, since the #CraftBeerHour that I hosted for ISBF last year, I have a rep for ludicrous Black & Tans.
So. BIG 7% Five Towns (“One At T’End”) meet BIG Tonka Imperial Porter.
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It was ******* STUNNING! I had a few. And it was neither big, nor clever.
But it was DAMN tasty!
Slainte!