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A Canny Day's Beer Hopping....

I made a welcome return to the North East the other week to catch up with family and managed to spend a day sampling some of the area's wonderful beers. Here are my recollections....

The last time I had been to Newcastle was way back in July 2020. Like most people, I haven't ventured very far over the subsequent months and so the two hour journey was felt like a proper odyssey, punctuated by a higher than I remember percentage of idiot drivers. I reached my hotel on the Quayside, dropped off the car and bag, and headed into the city centre to get the metro. Walking up Side, many more places were open - though not the Crown Posada, unfortunately - than on my last visit. A carpet of artificial grass and seating and tables lined much of Grey Street as I made my way to Monument, giving the city centre a real buzz in the warm lunchtime sunshine. The place was coming back to life.

I had decided I would check out a new micro pub that had opened up at North Shields since I had visited the town, although in these days of no opening times stated in the Good Beer Guide I accepted that I might find the place shut. I bought a Daysaver ticket covering all the zones and caught the next metro heading coastwards towards North Shields. Despite having plenty of pubs, North Shields has tended to be something of a beer desert in recent years. It was though home to the Mordue Brewery for many years until they sadly closed, but with newish breweries in the town like Flash House and Three Kings alongside a micro pub, things are definitely looking up. Incidentally, I enjoyed an excellent Apache American Pale Ale from Three Kings on cask at the Meandering Bear in Halifax last weekend. 

I emerged from the metro into the heart of the town centre where streets fan off in all directions. The address suggested it wasn't far from the metro, but I inevitably headed off at first in the wrong direction, down the hill towards the Tyne, before I realised my error, re-calibrated, and went back up the hill beyond the metro station and found the Enigma Tap in a quiet side street off Northumberland Square. As I approached, it soon became clear that it had been a fruitless journey; a list of the opening hours on the door revealed it didn't open until 4 on a Friday, and as it was just approaching 1 and I was booked in elsewhere at 4, unless I did some re-jigging of my plans it was highly unlikely that I would get there on this trip. Shame, but something to look at for next time, possibly along with another newby for me,  the Split Chimp micropub in Whitley Bay. I retreated sadly back to the metro station, where I caught the next metro heading towards Monkseaton.

I was confident my next destination would be open and sure enough, as the metro pulled into Monkseaton station, I spotted seated people and an open door at the wonderful Left Luggage Room on the opposite platform. I walked up the ramp, over the bridge, and headed towards the micro and, having checked in, I sat down at one of the few unoccupied tables outside.

The beers were listed on a chalkboard as you approached check-in, but they were also listed on the door. This is a guaranteed spot to get hold of the beers from Wallsend-based brewers, Two By Two, and I started with a pint of the Session Pale on cask, which was quite a bitter one, but with the usual, reassuring, appearance of hazy murk, and as usual with their beers was most enjoyable.

I was tempted to try the Green from Almasty, but as I was booked in at their taproom for a visit that afternoon, I decided I would wait until then, and so went for the 5.1% CIA from 2 x 2, as it was listed on the board, which was on keg. This was delicious, the same appearance as above, but a much more rounded flavour. I am assuming the initials were of the hops used, at a guess I would say Citra, Idaho 7, and Azacca...unless anyone else knows any better? 

I always enjoy the ambience at the Left Luggage Room. Friendly and unhurried, with a mix of age groups and walks of life, customers popping in from the metro or round the corner, just like the best local pubs. I decided I should just re-check the directions to Almasty. I was sure the address when I had booked was close to Walkergate metro station, but Google was suggesting it was at Shiremoor, which meant going in a different direction. After a few minutes of doubt, I re-checked my booking, and yes, the address was definitely close to Walkergate, which meant re-tracing my route back towards Newcastle city centre. According to the Good Beer Guide it seems that the brewery, which opened in 2014, operates from the two sites, with the taproom at Benfield.

And so I headed back along the metro to Walkergate. Which is what led to more confusion. I got off the metro, checked on the map at the station, and it appeared that the entrance to the industrial estate in which Almasty is based was from way up a main road with no entrance near the station, despite being in a unit near to the line. So I set off, walking along a straight main road through the suburbs of Benfield. And I walked. Eventually, as directed by Google Maps, I turned left towards the industrial estate, passing a gatehouse several minutes later. All was quiet, save for the odd car making their weekend getaway.

Somewhere in here there is a brewery!

And then, after walking from the metro for around twenty five minutes, I spotted the Almasty Brewing Company just around a corner....

I had booked in for 4 and was a few minutes late following my unscheduled tour around the suburbs of north east Newcastle, but I needn't have worried, the crowds were confined to a couple sat at one of several bench tables laid out between a couple of opened-up containers - one acting as the bar, one as covered seating - and the brewery building. There were a few friendly staff wandering around. One checked my details, I signed in on the app, and ordered a pint of Green, a 5% hazy pale with lots of tropical fruitiness courtesy of a hop blend of Mosaic, Simcoe, and Ekuanot. Sat in this brewery yard, with hot sunshine streaming down and enjoying a great soundtrack, I was willing to forgive the plastic glass and the regular trundle of another metro train as I thoroughly enjoyed my pint. This is what it's all about, I said to myself. Bliss!

Bliss in a (plastic) glass

I had another pint, and then decided to move on. I explained to one of the lads from the brewery that it had been quite a trek from the metro, and asked if there was a short cut back to the station. He thought there was but he would check with one of his colleagues who used the metro to come to work. A few minutes later, he was back, and yes there was, past the brewery and then on through a gate. I enjoyed my visit to Almasty, great beer and friendly staff. And, readers, I can confirm that if you walk through a large pedestrian gate at the back of the coastbound side of Walkergate metro station, the walk to Almasty will take you two or three minutes....

And so to what turned out to be my final pub of the day. I knew the Free Trade Inn was still shut, but another favourite close by had opened up recently. So I was heading there. I got the metro to Byker, and then headed down the high street to Ouseburn, where the Cumberland Arms had finally opened up after a long period away. It was outside drinking only, but I was more than happy to sit at one of the tables in one of my favourite beer gardens in the world. I ordered a Tashy Bob from Northern Alchemy, a 3.9% refreshing pale featuring Styrian Bobel and Cascade hops with added lemongrass. It was great to be back, and I have a visit booked there in November to look forward to as well, as I have a ticket for when the Blue Orchids play there, but I hope to get there again during the intervening period. 

I wondered about ordering another pint, but I was tired after a lot of wandering around and being out in the sun (not the beer, of course!). So I headed back down the valley past the Ouseburn river which was at low tide and then along the Quayside, with stunning views in the fading light. I picked up a donner pizza which I enjoyed sat on a bench beside the river, listening to the commentary and cheering as Italy and Turkey opened up the European Championships on a big screen behind the barricades of the pop-up Paddy's Park which had taken over the Riverside venue.

Two pubs and a brewery, so not many places. But still a canny day's beer hopping....

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