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. ūü§ě)

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.

Bottled Beers – April 2015 – Pt 2

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I’m going to bookend this piece with 2 “thoughts” – for those who like my music related wafflings, they’ll be back soon enough.

Firstly, the CAMRA Bolton Beer Festival. I went last weekend and was chuffed to bits to see it substantially busier than the same time last year. I now appreciate far more the effort that goes into curating a beer festival. You need a team (as I also learned!) and this team selected some excellent beers. So much so, that this is the best small CAMRA festival I’ve been to. Well worth the visit next year. Congratulations to Graham, Pete, Linda, Jez and everyone else involved.

And now….to business…..

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Cheshire SetCheshire Brewhouse (Congleton) – 4.0%abv – Blonde Ale – 500ml – From the Brewery.

Luckily for me, a family outing took me close to Congleton last weekend. My reward, picking up some of Mr Swindells’ excellent beers – and nearly becoming a light lunch for a one year old terrier / guard dog of doom!

A slightly hazy light golden beer with a decent white tight foamy head and an aroma with lemon, orange and a hint of gooseberry.
Light initial sweetness yielding ground to a little tart lemon & lime and quite a sticky dry resinous touch in the aftertaste. Quite abrupt that! Bit of a surprise.

Further down the glass, a rather lovely marmalade flavour comes through which is right up my street!

This medium bodied beer works the trick. Nice and fruity, gently tart and hugely refreshing. A superb beer for a summer’s day relaxing outside in a nice beer garden.

If all 4% beers tasted something like this, I’d¬†have no complaints. Yum.

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(I REALLY need a new camera!)
Tractor Beer IITickety Brew (Tickety Few – Stalyvegas) – 3.4%abv – Pale Ale – 330ml – Epicurean (W Didsbury)
Oh my is this a lively beastie! Ultra Pale golden beer, abundant head and a huge aroma kicking or loads of lime citrus and gooseberry. Mouth wateringly aromatic.

Light bodied as you would expect from such a low abv beer. The carbonation lends it a fuller texture than I was expecting. The flavours are sharp citrus with some lime and lemon in there, making this really refreshing and it cut through my dulled taste buds.

The finish is short and dry with a little of that fruit and a spicy dryness imparted by that Belgian yeast that TB use

As it says on the label “super light” and very easy drinking. A Ronseal beer (which is a GOOD thing!)

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EllaMallinsons (Huddersfield) – 4%abv – Pale Ale – 500ml – Heaton Hops
Ahhhh….It feels like AGES since I’ve had a bottle of Mallinsons!
Pale gold, almost straw coloured, with a good lacy white head and an aroma that is like a lung full of tangerine and apricot vapours.

And those flavours are totally present in this light to medium bodied beer. WOW! This is a sharp and tart little number and no mustangs! (Or mistake. Depending on your predictive text!) Initial fruity sweetness and then BANG. A crackling bitterness mugs the fruitiness and stomps on it!

This is a massively refreshing and snappy beer. That fruitiness dries off swiftly leaving a residue of sticky pine coating the tongue. Just a brilliant Pale Ale. From the Queens of Huddersfield.

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Play Your Cards Rye’tBlack Jack Beers (Manchester) – 4.9% abv – Copper Rye Ale – 500ml – Bottle (Heaton Moor)
Not too sure about that copper bit. This is almost a red Ale with a nice white collar pushing out a dark fruity nose with more than a note of peppery spice in there.

Yup. Fruity. Burnt orange, lending a bitterness along with (strangely) a hint of strawberry? This is medium bodied and Oh. So. Dry. Rye & Dry. Seem to go together don’t they?

This gets the saliva glands going and almost immediately throws up a huge STOP sign. Nicely spicy from the Rye too. A big drying finish with a lingering splash of orange.

A superb beer. These Black Jack bottles just get better. (But if they can beat their own Deerhunter…… THAT would be an achievement!)
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IPAShindigger Brewing Co (Manchester) – 5.6%abv – IPA – 330ml – Heaton Hops
A new beer from Shindigger. A pleasingly gradual expansion of their range, this is a deep golden almost copper coloured beer with a decent white head and a deep and spicy orange marmalade aroma. Yum.

Medium bodied, the oranges almost ooze out of this into the mouth. So juicy. Good malt backbone with a light toffee flavour allowing the fruitiness to rise above. There is also a slightly fragrant quality that I can’t quite identify. This marmalade character lingers for some time, fading only slightly, allowing a medium bitterness in to play.

The whole package is wrapped up with a resinous bow, slightly sticky and a little peppery. This is another excellent beer. They are yet to miss a beat for me.

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Satanic MillsBeer Nouveau (Prestwich) – 6% abv – Stout – 330ml – Browtons (Ashton U Lyne)
A deep deep dark ruby, almost black beer, with a cream coloured tight creamy head and a nose full of chocolate, a little sweet coffee and a nose wrinkling spicy touch.

Smooth and creamy in the mouth, quite full bodied this. The first flavour to register is a bittersweet chocolate, then a note of rum and maybe raisins (anybody remember “Old Jamaica” chocolate? No? I REALLY am an old git!) with a deep fruity tone.
A second sip gives more of the same, but introduces a little peppery spice to the tongue. This is really smooth. The chocolate and fruit lead to a dry chocolatey finish. A satisfying beer for a cool spring evening.
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Grounds for DivorceFive Towns Brewery (Wakefield) – 7.8%abv – Belgian Tripel – 500ml – Direct from the Brewery
My Beer of the Festival at ISBF. I only managed a sneaky half. And I organised it. Bad planning!¬†I was horrified that it ran out before I could snaffle more. So Malcolm sorted me out a 750ml bottle. The Atilla drank that! Some things just aren’t meant to be…..Or are they?
Fermented with the yeast used by Brasserie Orval in their eponymous classic, this poured a hazy straw gold with an abundant but swiftly diminished white head and the aromas of…. peach, banana, a little clove…. Just… Mmmmmm….

This. Is. A. Big. Beer. Yum! Initial sweetness, sticky with bitter orange and peach then more fruitiness with banana bringing up the rear with a proper spicy hit riding it with a whip over the first fence! (I drank this on Grand National evening, forgive me!)

That fruitiness is almost overwhelming!¬† I don’t really know Belgian beers all that well, but I absolutely adore this. Fruity, spicy and warming as it slides into my belly. On a cool spring evening, with a good book, what could be better!

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Carl Northern Alchemy
Now. That bookend.
Some of you may know Andy Heggs, he of the excellent video blog series Hop On The Bike. Well, on one of his trips, he and his fellow Hoppers collaborated on a beer at a brewery called Northern Alchemy in Newcastle. The beer that they created – a Marmalade & Assam Tea IPA no less – is being launched at Font Bar on Sunday. All proceeds to go to the admirable charity Forever Manchester.
As a regular proponent of the maxim “Beer People Are Good People”, it didn’t surprise me at all, when several beery linked people donated a number of items to be used as raffle prizes. Take it from me that there are some astonishingly good prizes in there!
This event is easy to attend. And let’s face it, it’s in FONT!!! If you needed any more reason to go for Christ’s Sake????
You can read my review of a sneaky advanced bottle of the¬†Marmalade & Assam Tea IPA below. Tickets for this event are free. Click on the link here.¬†This event deserves to be a HUGE success. For the following reasons…
  • It’s for a brilliant and worthwhile charity.
  • There are loads of great prizes that you could win
  • It’s in FONT for crying out LOUD!!!
  • You can even MEET THE BREWER
  • Read on….

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Marmalade & Assam Tea IPANorthern Alchemy & Hop On The Bike – 7.3%abv – IPA – 330ml

The moment I popped the crown cap off, I was assaulted by orange zest aromas. From the bottle! Drool.

This is a murky dark amber in the glass, the white head in clinging and persistent and the smell is just….. Deep orange with a toffee undernote for it to ride.

Oh my giddy f***ING aunt but this is astonishingly good! Chewy and full-bodied, the first sip is like the best use of marmalade since Paddington last licked his paw. So good. Then the tannins from the tea give your drooling tongue a rub down and dry it off. Oh dear…

This is SO dry it’s almost rye like. The fruitiness floods your tongue from front to back and it is a real orange marmalade bass note. This is like a Peter Hook bass line, made beer.

The finish is sticky fruity and oh so resinous. It’s an absolute belter.

Go to Font on Sunday. Drink excellent beer. Spend money. Win Prizes. And do amazing things for this excellent charity.
Win. Win and thrice WIN!
On that note….I’m off to Peterborough to gorge myself on Oakham beers at a family 40th.
Hopefully see you on Sunday!
Slainte!