This week I had chance to revisit the North East and check out a few of my favourite pubs, and some others that are new on the scene as well as trying to catch up with one or two of the new breweries there. This is a snapshot of what I found.
I was based in Whitley Bay for my stay so at first chance I called in at the 'Briardene' on the seafront. I had been before and was impressed by the pub and beer range. The pub was how I remembered it, but sadly the beer range was a little boring; there were a couple of local breweries represented amongst the big brewery beers but the Ouseburn Valley that I sampled was average at best.
Never mind, a quick trip on the Metro and I was able to check out what Newcastle itself had to offer. My first stop was at 'The Bodega', a pub with a unique glass domed ceiling. Here the beer range was excellent, but the problem was the strength. It was a hard decision, a weaker beer I had tried before or a strong one new to me. Soon I was sipping away at my 6.4% 'Tempest' Step Back, a good light coloured beer that did not taste its strength though sadly lacked a bit of flavour. The next pub was new to me but came well recommended. 'The Town Wall' is just a couple of minutes from Central Station, and well worth a call. It's a massive pub which looks deceptively small on the outside with a square central bar which serves seating on all four sides. Here there was plenty of beer choice with all sorts of strengths and styles. I chose a stout from Sonnet 43, a new brewery to me, of Co. Durham and was pleasantly surprised - a really mellow taste that brought out the background flavours in the beer excellently.
People who know me may have heard me wax lyrically about 'The Central' at Gateshead, the pub at the south side of the High Level bridge. So after a quick trek over the river it was a chance to revisit and see whether my enthusiasm had been misplaced. I was not disappointed, it was just how I remembered it, a friendly pub, long and thin but geared for the real ale drinker. Around eight beers were on offer, but strangely the only one new to me was from Cornwall, Skinners ' Cornish Trawler'. It was good, but not exceptional, though the pub and the craic made up for that. Back over the bridge and into the 'Bridge Hotel' in the city. If you like your Yorkshire beers this could be the place for you in the next few days, with what appears to be an Ossett Brewery takeover. Both some of their beers and plenty from the Rat Brewery are due on the bar. I opted for the house beer, 'High Level Ale' from Hadrian, which unfortunately was a bit too malty for me, but overhearing the landlord, sounded to have been brewed to his taste.
My next stop was another of the must visit Newcastle pubs. 'Bacchus' is a short walk away and generally has a wide range of beers from near and far. Not so on this occasion when the pub had been taken over by the beers from the 'Highland Brewery' with what appeared to be their whole range on offer. A good way to scoop the beers but not quite what I expected as I usually find some interesting breweries here. Fortunately, a fellow ticker told me about the 'Lady Grey' just round the corner, a pub I had never heard of, let alone visited. A bit on the foody side it did have a decent selection of beers on offer though, and I settled down with Tempest 'Cascadian', a nice hoppy alternative to the maltier beer I had tried earlier. Too soon it was time to return to the Metro and back to Whitley Bay.
As usual, Newcastle was an excellent place to sample a few beers and visit some excellent pubs, it was just a shame that I could not find some of the newer breweries that have recently appeared in the area. Never mind, will just have to visit again!!!