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The South Side of The River....

A visit to a new place in the North East, and as usual, I discover some really interesting places....
I made my first proper visit to the town of South Shields this week.

And so first, here's some history....

The current town was founded in 1245, but evidence of civilisation dates back much further, with Stone Age and Iron Age relics being found in the area. The Romans founded a fort, Arbeia, here, which has now been re-created as a museum. The town grew up predominantly a fishing port, as befits a location on the south side of the mouth of the River Tyne, but as the 19th century brought industry to the town, it developed as coal mining and glass-making became established. The population grew from 12,000 in 1801 to 75,000 by the 1860's and the town prospered. There was, though, frequent flooding at the mouth of the Tyne and so lengthy piers were constructed as part of the sea defences on both sides of the Tyne. Shipbuilding developed in the town from the latter half of the 19th century, a downside being that it was a target for the German air force in both world wars, leading to many civilian casualties. Gradually, as the 20th century went on, most of the traditional industries that helped the town develop declined and tourism became a more significant part of the local economy.

I was in South Shields to meet up with my daughter and grand-daughters, who live a few miles away in Washington. With sandy beaches, from where you can watch the boats heading out to sea as they leave the mighty Tyne, amusement arcades, rides, and fish and chips, there are all of the usual seaside attractions which enabled us to have some enjoyable family time. It helped that the weather was great too!
The girls departed, and I decided to go for a pint. My first port of call was the very welcoming Marine (pictured above), which had the feel of a traditional, comfortable seaside pub. There was a good range of beers on hand pump from local breweries like Cullercoats and Two by Two (from across the river in Wallsend), but I opted for a pint of Golden Plover from Allendale, which was extremely refreshing (NBSS 3.5). With it being sunny evening, I took my beer and sat in the small outside seating area. The Marine is situated on a junction, with the main entrance on Ocean Road. This is an interesting road, with the left hand side as you drive up from the town centre being predominantly B'n'B's, whilst the right hand side, bar the odd fish shop, is almost exclusively given over to Asian restaurants, which no doubt reflects the fact that South Shields has one of the largest Bangladeshi populations in the North East.

I had arranged to meet up with a friend who has recently moved to a village a few miles from South Shields, but as he had been working, he wouldn't be around until about 9. I decided therefore to try a couple of places before we met up. I wandered down Ocean Road into the town centre and just past the town's museum and the Metro Station bridge, I spotted an A-sign on the pavement advertising the Criterion. This is an upstairs bar above a branch of Ladbrokes. There is an old Tetleys sign high up on the building, but otherwise there is no external sign of what lies within. I went up the stairs, and at the top, it opened out into a plush, wood-panelled room, with a long bar on one side. It has though benefited from a recent refurbishment which has restored it to its former splendour. Comfortable leather armchairs and settees and polished wooden tables add to the Victorian feel of the place, and I noticed a number of chandeliers hanging down from the ceiling. There were 2 beers on hand pump, and I opted for a half of Great North Eastern Brewery Rivet Catcher, which I rated an OK NBSS 2.5. The place was quiet though, with just the girl behind the bar and one sat talking to her on the other side, apart from me.
Plush: The Criterion, South Shields
I finished my drink. I had arranged to meet Bez in the Steamboat, which I spotted on my way to the Dolly Peel, another Good Beer Guide-listed pub. It was about 10 minutes walk away, on a quiet road. I passed a mural depicting events from the history of South Shields, the South Tyneside courts, and as I approached some houses, I spotted the Dolly Peel standing on its own as the road heads in to a corner. The pub got its name from a famous local fishwife and smuggler whose husband and sons were press-ganged to serve in the navy.
Traditional: The Dolly Peel, South Shields
I wandered in, the rather stiff door banging loudly shut behind me. I had arrived! The heads that turned around to see what this noisy intrusion was were of a predominantly mature pedigree. The heads turned back, resuming their interrupted conversations, and I made my way through to the bar and ordered a half of Taylors Landlord from the friendly landlady. I retreated to a corner, and sat at a table with my beer. The seating was comfortable, and whilst not on the scale of the Criterion, it was a nicely-furnished, traditionally decorated room, with a further small room beyond the bar. The Landlord was in fine fettle (NBSS 3), and I would have happily stayed for another had I not made arrangements. I finished my drink, took my empty glass back to the bar, bade farewell to the smiling landlady, and left the pub as noisily as I had entered....

I retraced my steps along Commercial Road, turned down Mill Dam, and I was lining up the Steamboat for its photo shoot when I spotted Bez approaching from the bottom of the road. We shook hands and entered the pub. It was quite busy, but we soon got served by the cheerful lass behind the bar, me opting for a pint of Double Maxim, Bez a half of stout. The Double Maxim is a typical traditional North-East premium ale, brown and malty with a hint of sweetness, now brewed by the Maxim Brewery, having originally been brewed by former regional giants Vaux. There were 8 hand pumps on the bar, with a mix of local and national names, with the styles very much reflecting traditional North Eastern tastes. So there was not a DDH, a NEIPA, or a DIPA in sight! Not that that was a problem. The Steamboat is a cracking, atmospheric pub, packed to the gunwales with nautical memoribilia and artefacts, and it reminded me of a larger, urban version of the Olde Ship at Seahouses
Ahoy there! The Steamboat, South Shields
We were enjoying the friendly and welcoming atmosphere so decided to have another pint. This time I went for the Consett Ale works Consett Stout, which like the Double Maxim I rated NBSS 3. This was dark and creamy, and it was good to see the beers from the back of the Grey Horse in Consett in one or two bars on this trip.

It was just past 10, so we decided to try another spot. We walked past the ferry terminal and headed to the next pub where we spotted plenty of people sat in a beer garden overlooking the river. Bez finished his cigarette, and I headed in to be greeted by an array of welcoming hand pumps and a not-so welcoming barman who advised me the bar was shut. I was shocked! It was still sunny outside, it was just gone five past 10, and there was a large number of people still drinking outside. And what's more, according to What Pub, it stays open until 11 on a Tuesday! So let's have a shout out then for the Alum Ale House!

We had no such trouble at the next and final destination of the evening. This was the Maltings, once a home of the now-defunct Jarrow Brewing Co. who were the original brewers of Rivet Catcher, which I had tried earlier in the evening at the Criteroen. This was another upstairs bar, another wood-panelled beauty, this time above a nightclub. There were a couple of lads sat by the bar. The landlord, a friendly chap, appeared and we ordered a couple of halves of Thirst Quencher, from the unlikely source of the Spitting Feathers Brewery in Chester. It was OK. It was a pleasant enough place, and as we left we noticed a couple of wooden barrel-end signs on the stairway from the former Jarrow Brewery.
Memories of Jarrow Brewery, The Maltings, South Shields
Bez kindly dropped me off at my B'n'B on Ocean Road, and resisting the delicious aromas wafting from over the road, I headed in and up to bed. It had been a good day catching up with family, a mate, and finding some decent pubs in a town I hadn't really appreciated had so much to offer.

More next time....

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