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Toon on Tour Beer Festival....

Tap takeovers where one brewery takes over the pumps and taps of a particular establishment are common enough, but the Toon on Tour festival taking place in Halifax in February puts a different slant on things....
"Hi, Chris. Will you be calling in the bar/s this weekend? Got an idea I'd like to put to you." The text was from Michael Ainsworth. The idea was to have a city-based takeover of the pump and keg lines at the two bars he runs in the town, the Grayston Unity and The Meandering Bear. The first city he had in mind was Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a city that he knows that I love to visit. And that's where I came in. Would I be interested in curating the beers for the festival? I thought for a minute. I said yes.

There is something unique about Newcastle. The city, built on the side of the Tyne Valley, is full of stunning views. Bridges, roads, and railways pass below you, sometimes above. Grand old buildings give the city a sense of importance, and in Grey Street, the city possesses one of the grandest streets in all of England. The quays have changed beyond recognition; gone are the docks and warehouses to be replaced by cafes and bars and offices and prime-site apartments. Areas like the Ouseburn Valley are full of creative spaces where there once were workshops. You have the Metro to wizz you around from one place to another. The city feels important, a regional hub, the star at the heart of its own universe, its people proud of their city and their culture. And nowadays it is one of the finest drinking cities in the country, with some of the country's best pubs ranging from classic town pubs like the Crown Posada and The Bodega to suburban delights like the Cumberland Arms or the Free Trade Inn to friendly micros such as the Town Mouse and the Mean-Eyed Cat. A pint in the sunshine on the terrace at The Cumby, or at one of the windows at the Free Trade with its views over the Tyne, is one of life's great pleasures.
But it wasn't always like that. 40 years ago, the city was awash in a sea of nasty keg, when breweries such as Scottish and Newcastle and Federation held all the cards. Only a few flickering lights shone out, Vaux, in nearby Sunderland, and Camerons, further away in Hartlepool, brewed cask ales on any scale. Back then the taste in this part of the world was for ruby, fruity and malty bitters like Camerons Strongarm or Vaux's Maxim. There was always of course the old standby of a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale, or Broon, to go to, but the situation was, generally, pretty dire. 
In 1982, the area got its first micro-brewery, Big Lamp, whose beers were available at the Royal Oak in Halifax for a while, and which is still brewing today. But it was a while before the area became the brewing centre it is today. In 2000, a small brewery called Wylam started out in Heddon-on-the-Wall, and as they grew, their beers became more widely available in the city's free houses. They moved to the stunning Palace of Arts in Exhibition Park on the edge of the city in 2016, and have continued to grow. Other breweries have sprung up, their brews covering every style imaginable from hazy New England pales to dark and smoky porters, such as Almasty, Firebrick, Tyne Bank, Northern Alchemy and Brinkburn Street. In 2018, one of the area's most popular breweries, Anarchy, moved from Morpeth to Benfield, whilst Two by Two and Cullercoats are based down the river at Wallsend. And that's just a few of them!
But don't worry if you can't get to Newcastle, this festival aims to bring you some of the city's best beer to Halifax, some from breweries that haven't been in the area before or only rarely. The final list of beers, based on what was available to order, were selected by Michael, Steve, and Chris at the bars, and there are some crackers due on:

Three Kings - Darkside of The Toon Stout 4.1%
Dry, dark, bitter, and creamy with roasted barley and Challenger hops giving hints of coffee and chocolate.
Northern Alchemy - Mango, Lime & Cracked Black Pepper Oatmeal Pale 3.9%
Jade, Delta, and Citra hops, a late addition of black pepper, conditioned on fresh mangoes and lime zest.
Cullercoats - Jack The Devil ESB 4.5% 
A delicious and rich balanced chestnut ale with English hops giving vanilla, woody, and toffee notes.
Out There - Crass Stupidity Salted Caramel Milkshake Porter 4.0%
Includes Munich malt and British hops.
Northern Alchemy - Dry Hopped Farmhouse Pale 4.9%
Brewed with a mix of yeasts. Lager malt with Nobel hops added during the boil. Dry hopped with Hallertau Blanc and Simcoe to give a fruity finish with melon and saison.
Three Kings - Ring of Fire American Pale 4.5%
Features lots of Cascade hops. Medium to intense floral citrus and grapefruit tones.
Two by Two - Session Pale 4% 
Light, bitter, and zesty with Citra and Ekuanot hops.
Northern Alchemy - Dark Chocolate and Mint Stout 5.1%
Features Pale, Crystal, and Chocolate malts, roasted barley and oats, Bramling Cross and Pacific Jade hops, lactose, 90% Cocoa Dark Chocolate, torn mint leaves, and peppermint essence for the aroma.
Brinkburn Street - Byker Brown 4.8%
A balanced malty and hoppy brew with chocolate and biscuit notes leading to a subtle hoppy finish.
Tyne Bank - Monument Bitter 4.1%
Award-winning classic North East bitter.
Wylam - Hickey The Rake Limonata Pale 4.2%
Ultra pale with plenty of citrus flavours and sherbet zing.

Northern Alchemy - Passion Fruit & Pineapple Sour 3.1%
Berliner Weisse-style beer fermented with natural Lactose before conditioning on fresh, pulped fruit.
Anarchy - Cult Leader Strong Pale Ale 5.5% 
Single hop pale ale with Mosaic giving hints of blueberry, tangerine, papaya, grass, and bubblegum.
Box Social - Concealing Fate IPA 6%
Juicy, double dry-hopped, and packed with flavours and aromas of passion fruit, grapefruit and orange to give a hoppy and refreshing beer.
Northern Alchemy/Full Circle - Spiced Quince Porter 5.5%
Pale malt with Chocolate, Carafa Special, Three Crystal, Oats, and Biscuit Malt giving a rich, dark base, Bramling Cross hops, quince fruit, and lightly spiced during the boil with cinnamon, nutmeg, and root ginger.
Box Social - Bubba-licious Cherry Bubblegum Sour 4.4%
Very accessible and refreshing.
Two by Two - American Pale Ale 5.8% 
Light, bitter and zesty. Citrus pine hop character from a blend of American hops.
Errant - Panda Funk Pilsner 4.4%
Clean, moderately hopped and full of New Zealand Motueka hops.
Wylam - Jakehead Pale 6.4%
Rich and bitter-sweet and massive American hop flavours and aromas.
Flash House - Tiny Dancer American & German Hopped Pale 5.4% 
Packed full of Mosaic, Citra, and Hallertau hops and malted with plenty of oats to deliver a beer that is well-balanced and refreshing with a big mouthfeel.

The Toon On Tour Festival takes place between February 6th to 12th. Howay, yee'll have a canny time....

The Grayston Unity, 1- 3 Wesley Court, Halifax, HX1 1UH
The Meandering Bear, 21 - 23 Union Street, Halifax, HX1 1PR 

Follow me on twitter @ realalemusic


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