Hoppiness, Hoppiness…

24 02 2011

“This might be all there is?” It’s 7:15pm on the 16th February 2011 in the Bacchus Newcastle, and we are looking around to see who is here for the unveiling of the latest creation by Yorkshire Dales Brewery. There are only eight people we recognize, but we shouldn’t have worried. A steady trickle, then a flood of Newcastle beer aficionados appear congregating in the snug.

Yorkshire Dales Brewing Co has been in existence since 2005 and brew out of Askrigg, North Yorkshire. They have developed a reputation over the last few years for producing quality beer of many varying contemporary styles. They are one of the most prolific breweries I know, Rob Wiltshire, head brewer, reckons they have brewed 193 beers in five years. Many have appeared at the Bacchus in the last two, first of all a steady stream of good beers, then an excellent eight course beer/food match event and finally a dedicated handpull in the bar has seen the brewery established at this venue. This relationship has also brought some excellent collaboration beers with Andy (the Bacchus manger) assisting: Stout Of This World, a sweet vanilla stout and the robust barley wine – Dead Mans Hill. A number of their brews have also appeared in other local hostelries most notably the Newcastle Arms.

This ‘Meet the Brewer’ event was to celebrate the unveiling of Cautley Spout, the first of eight ‘two hop’ beers, which will be a theme for the next year. As Rob explains on the Yorkshire Dales Brewing Co Site (http://www.yorkshiredalesbrewery.com/)

“In the addition to all the special beers I plan to brew this year will be something a little different. I feel single hop beers are very one dimensional. So to create a series this year of something exciting I will brew 8 brand new ales of varying beer styles, bringing together complimentary hops from around the world”

Cautley Spout, is a 3.7% golden ale using Amarillo and Cascade hops. Initial smell is sharp citrus, and initial taste confirms this with an instant bitterness balancing through the sip and ending with a pleasant sweetness. The first impression was quite good (considering I prefer the dark side) and I could imagine this being a refreshing change on a warm afternoon.

Rob also talked briefly of the second ale ‘Sedbergh Silver’ due out in early March, a heady mix of Chinook and Sorachi. This interested many in the crowd, but I fear may be a little too hoppy for me.

As we munched on the food match of Onion Bhaji’s and (Rocket Fuel) Piri Piri Prawn filo Wraps, Rob answered many questions from the brewing process to the design of his iconic pump clips. As always his answers were informative and he came across as someone deeply passionate about his art.

An excellent evening and I look curiously forward to trying the rest of the two hop ales.


Linked here is the pdf detailing the beers planned in this series (kindly sent to us by Eric)

Local Beer Fest News – Brandling Villa Sausage & Ale Fest 2011

7 02 2011

The first week in March (3rd to 5th) sees the triumphal return of the Brandling Villa Sausage & Ale Festival.  Last year’s event was a tremendous success despite a few teething problems and Dave has learned from that and has planned an even more adventurous event for this year.

The pub is outside of Newcastle city centre but easily accessible via the Metro system.  Take a tram to South Gosforth and you will find it a couple of hundred yards down the bank.  The BV is an imposing, double fronted stone building and has plenty of room inside to fit everything and everybody in.  Dave has done a great job with the place since he took over about 18 months ago which will surely be rewarded with an entry in the next Good Beer Guide.

Anyway on to the festival and the beer and sausage lists, these are yet to be 100% confirmed but here is what we have so far and I’ll post updates if things change enough to warrant one.  The following lists are a bit long but worth reading through to pick out all the goodies to put on your festival hit-list.


8 Sail – Victorian Porter 5.0%

Adnams – American IPA 4.8%

Adnams – Belgian Abbey Ale 5.0%

Anchor – Liberty Ale (USA Import) 5.9%

Bacchus – Framboise (Belgium Import) 5.0%

Bays – Topsail 4.0%

Blindmans – Golden Spring 4.0%

Brew Dog – Edge 3.2%

Brew Dog – Hardcore IPA 9.0%

Castle Rock – Preservation Fine Ale 4.4%

Dark Star – American Pale Ale 4.7%

Flying Dog – Doggie Style (USA Import) 5.0% (may turn out to be Old Scratch)

Kwak (Belgium Import) 8.4%

Leeds – New Moon 4.3%

Ouseburn Valley – Bangerade 6.0%

Phoenix – Massacre 4.5%

Poachers – Shy T

Roosters – Orange Blossom Cream Ale 3.9%

Saltaire – Cascadian Black 4.8%

Springhead – Sweetlips 4.6%

Summer Wine Brewery -Barista Espresso Stout 4.8%

Thornbridge – Jaipur IPA 5.9%

Thornbridge – Kipling 5.2%

Trentside – Hickman Gold 3.9%


Brooklyn – Chocolate Stout

Mort Subite – Gueze

Schlenkerla – Rauchbier

Quintine – Hercule

Goose Island – India Pale Ale

Bohemia – Regent

Flying Dog – Gonzo Imperial Porter


Bison & Blueberry


Black Rabbit & Brooklyn Chocolate Stout

Pheasant & Pear

Northumbrian Beef & McConnell’s Irish Stout

Roast Duck, Spring Onion & Wasabi

Pork, Bean & Jalapeno

Wild Boar, Honey & Thyme

Wood Pigeon & Damson Jam

Venison & KWAK

Award Winning Cumberland Sausage

Craster Kipper & Dill

Full English Breakfast

Butternut Squash, Sage & Gorgonzola

Duck, Orange & Apricot

Pork & Thornbridge Jaipur India Pale Ale

Liver, Bacon & Ouseburn Porter

Allendale Beacon Fire Banger (HOT)

Pork & Ginger

Haggis, Neeps & Whisky

Northumbrian Lamb & Mint

Ostrich & Rosemary

Crocodile & Sage

Beef & Newcastle Brown Ale

Pork & Black Olive

Lamb Bhuna

Pork & Apple

Pork, Dijon & Roosters Orange Cream Blossom

Spinach & Cheddar Cheese

Mushroom & Tarragon


Duck Pork & Stilton

If you are still here after wading through all that, congratulations.  There will also be a selection of Ciders on throughout the Fest to keep the Tarts happy and in all Dave reckons that there will be 38 brews on at any given time.  Musical entertainment will be provided by the Lyndon Anderson Band, ZepFreeCream and the Mojo Hand band…if they can find any room to set up.

There are certainly some great beers to try here and if Dave can get things to anywhere near the standard of last year’s event you will be in for a treat if you make it along.


Local Beer Fest News – Newcastle Arms

5 02 2011

After winning the glory of being both mine and HH’s Pub/Bar of the Year the Top Arms is not resting on its laurels and next week see’s the first of this year’s Festivals.  Running from the 10th until the 13th of February, Neil and the gang have 41 cracking beers lined up with at least a dozen of them on at any one time.

For those of you who have never been to the Top Arms before it is a real pub.  By that I mean that it’s a little rough and ready around the edges and doesn’t do food or have any music playing.  What you get is just a great friendly atmosphere and some very well kept beers to keep you entertained.  Situated up near St James Park and Newcastle’s China Town it is easy enough to walk to for anyone who can make it into Newcastle itself.

Anyway, back to the festival.  Having seen the beer list* I think we are in for a treat this time:

AllGates – Green Bullet 4.1%

AllGates – Kiwi Best Bitter 4.2%

Backyard – Heriot 4.4%

Big Lamp – Golden Star 4.0%

Big Lamp – Winter Pale 5.0%

Bird Brain – Little Brown Jobbie 3.9%

Bird Brain – Little Wren 3.5%

Boggart Hole Clough – Bitter Blue 5.0%

Dark Star – American Pale Ale 4.7%

Dark Star – M&M (Mark & Mellisa) Special Porter 6.5%

Delaval – Delaval Hall Pale 4.2%

Delaval – Souter Lighthouse 3.8%

Durham – Apollo 4.0%

Elland – Red & Ruined 4.6%

Fyne – Avalanche 4.5%

Fyne – Sublime Stout 6.8%

Happy Valley – Black Magic 4.2%

Happy Valley – Sworn Secret 3.8%

Mallinsons – Binary Star 4.7%

Mallinsons – Hidden Malt 5.2%

Mallinsons – Lynx 4.3%

Mallinsons – Temple of Fame 4.4%

Marble – Ginger 4.5%

Marble – Three Point 9 3.9%

Pictish – Alchemist 4.3%

RedWillow – Smokeless 5.7%

RedWillow – Wreckless 4.8%

Rudgate – Truckies Special 3.8%

Rudgate – Willamette 4.2%

Summer Wine Brewery – Barista Espresso Stout 4.8%

Summer Wine Brewery – Boreas American Pale 5.0%

Summer Wine Brewery – Diablo IPA 6.0%

Summer Wine Brewery – Red Eye Rye Wheat Ale 4.8%

Tempest – Spiced Porter 5.9%

Thornbridge – Chiron 5.0%

Thornbridge – Colorado Red 5.9%

Thornbridge – Galaxia 5.9%

Thornbridge – Jaipur 5.9%

Thornbridge – Maniola 4.8%

Yorkshire Dales – St Josephs Wood 3.9%

Yorkshire Dales – Ulla Bridge 4.4%

I’m particularly looking forward to trying the Dark Star M&M after having heard so much about it on Twitter and beers from Summer Wine Brewery, Thornbridge and Fyne are also always worth trying.  Not having come across RedWillow Brewery or Tempest Brewing Co before I look forward to tasting their brews but to be honest I think everything on the list is going to be worth a try.

Again HH and I will be in a couple of times during proceedings with a Cider Tart or two in tow so say hello if you see us.


*The beer list has come courtesy of Eric Larkham’s excellent North East beer mailing list.  Contact me if you would like to get in touch with him to be added.

The Session – The Best Thing I Had Ever Tasted

4 02 2011

OK so I’ve never taken part in this before (and not sure if you need an invite or anything) but here is my two penneth for beer blogging Friday’s The Session. The topic given for this week’s posts – Cask, Keg, Can, Bottle: Does dispense matter?

My first ever recollection of tasting beer was from a can. Both my parents were tee total but they would occasionally buy some beer in for my grandfather which would often sit half empty in the fridge after his visit. Now as someone who couldn’t resist a good rummage around his parents’ bedroom at Christmas for clues about what presents I might be getting this was far too much of an open invitation. The tingling bitterness on my tongue and the bready comforting aroma sold me there and then. I loved beer. Unfortunately being around 10 years old meant I had to wait a while before I could really explore this love. The beer in question was McEwans Export and I knew that canned beer was the best thing I had ever tasted and I would never look back.

In my early teens I would try some more exotic beers from cans, Colt 45 was a particular favourite, and obviously very classy. It helped that the parents of one of my school pals owned the local off licence so we were able to try a multitude of these tempting brews. However, living just outside of Newcastle there was only one king of beers. Dog. Newcastle Brown Ale was seen as the drink to turn up to a party with if you were being serious about your drinking and if you saw someone with it you knew what they were either very brave or very stupid. To prove its obvious superiority it didn’t come out of a cheap can, oh no, this was proper stuff and came in a bottle and because of that bottled beer became the best thing I had ever tasted and I would never look back.

The now long gone Engine Inn provided me with my first ever taste of draught beer at the tender age of 16 and was again McEwans in the shape of keg Scotch. This was the real, grown up world I was in now, shoulder to shoulder with fitters and welders from the Yards who would laugh knowingly at us as we tried to act about 5 years older. The keg Scotch was like the can of Export on steroids, bursting with flavour and it came in a wrist aching pint glass…a whole pint! As you can imagine keg beer suddenly became the best thing I had ever tasted and I would never look back.

However in the early 80’s the only thing to be seen drinking was the much paler lager which was apparently some complex, arcane continental brew which made it much cooler to be seen with. The great thing was that it wasn’t just cooler in a John Travolta kind of way, it actually came chilled and girls liked it, winner. The dispenser taps for lager were also cool. Gone were the simple lit boxes of the Scotch and in came garishly lit chrome masterpieces to tempt you with their wares, each seemingly more complex and overdesigned than the next. Served chilled from a keg it became the best thing I had ever tasted and I would never look back.

At some point in the mid 80’s I ventured down to Tynemouth to partake in what would be my first ever Indian meal. We arrived early knowing there were (and still are) several pubs worth popping in to and we never passed up the opportunity for a beer or two. Entering the Cumberland Arms (I think) I noticed that they had McEwans Scotch on and in a fit of nostalgia I strode to the bar and promptly asked for a pint. “Keg or cask?” came the reply. What?!?!? I gave my mates a blank look which was duly returned and had to ask the barman what on earth he was talking about, whereupon he rather patiently, and maybe a little patronisingly, explained the difference to me. “Cask it is then” I said after picking up from the tone of voice that this was the right answer to give. When my pint arrived it looked no different than I could remember from the keg version but the taste, now that was different. Even as a lager boy I could tell this was special, it was smooth, creamy, nutty and refreshing. Cask beer was the best thing I had ever tasted and I would never look back.

So there you go, 25 years ago after trying all the dispensing methods I came across I knew cask beer was by far in a way the best of the lot. Fact. Except life doesn’t work like that, does it? Despite my new found irrefutable knowledge I still drank, well, pretty much anything to be honest as long as it was relatively cheap, had the desired effect and regardless of dispensing method. I even largely gave up beer for quite a while during what I refer to as the Whisky Years. Over the past decade or so I have taken much more of an interest in beer but, thankfully, have never felt indoctrinated by the cask or nowt argument peddled by CAMRA etc. I’m led in my drinking choices by two things, taste and the company I’m in. If it tastes good to me I’ll drink it regardless of how it is served because I drink for pleasure not to prove a point and, if the neo-prohibitionists allow, I’ll enjoy the 30p bottle of no-brand lager at my mates barbie this year knowing it was the best thing I had ever tasted and that I would never look back.


Another Drinking Song

3 02 2011

OK here is the first of what I hope will be an regular/occasional (we’ll see) series of posts about drinking and music, my two big loves [EDIT Cider Tart γ has just reminded me that they are actually numbers 2 and 3 on my big loves list].  The songs featured may have nothing to do with drinks or drinking themselves but to me they will have a strong affinity with the places, people and drinks my memory connects them to. They may also be simply, as in this case, about the joy of drinking and the places in which we do it.

First up for your entertainment is the very ditty which gave inspiration for the title of this here blog and of course the title of this post.

Title: Anotherdrinkingsong

Band: Skyclad

Album: A Semblance of Normality

Where they sit around and get a round in while the getting’s good,

They’ll make the most until the money’s gone.

They’re coming out to celebrate, to sing and dance and to escape

A crazy world where everything seems wrong.

Drinking to forget and to remember all the glory days,

The days we stood apart and we stood strong;

Though the beer befuddles sense it can’t provide them recompense,

They settle for anotherdrinkingsong.


Where the busy man finds recreation the idle man finds business,

The melancholy man finds sanctuary;

The stranger may have welcome and still within these selfsame walls,

The citizen may find some courtesy.

From Rose and Crown to Cock and Bull all history is written there,

To folklore, myth and legend we belong;

Come Masons, Plumbers Carpenters, come Cricketers and Huntsmen,

All join in with anotherdrinkingsong.


Well you can keep your long-hours culture and lusting for adventure,

There’s life aplenty down The Tap ‘n’ Spile

Forget your occupation down the Salutation

This tragicomedy will make you smile

From quaint barstool philosophy to subtle innuendo

It’s funny how the tribes all get along

Curse abstinence and temperance; and celebrate insouciance

And join us in anotherdrinkingsong.


Kevin Ridley:  Vocals, Guitars

Georgina Biddle:  Fiddle, Keyboard, Piano

Steve Ramsey:  Guitars

Graeme English:  Bass

Arron Walton:  Drums

Listening to this song always puts a smile on my face and starts me looking for the nearest watering hole to rest my wearies.  What I really like about it is the way it truly celebrates drinking culture and the feeling of community offered by the Pub and its various occupants.  It is a positive affirmation of all that is good about the Pub and what it is that keeps us going back when it is probably easier to open a bottle or two at home.  Sure it’s a rose tinted view of things, but come on it’s a celebration, why spoil the mood? In many ways it reminds me of a musical version of a Hogarth cartoon.  I never tire of it and every time I revisit it I discover something else to amuse.

You have to love a tune that can get insouciance into the lyrics and they are delivered with just the right amount of tongue in cheek reverence by Kevin Ridley.  Musically things are equally as good and even without the lyrics you would just know that this is a party song and that drinking had to be in there somewhere. A true toe tapper/head nodder.  Of course if you don’t like folk influenced hard rock then it’s all going to be absolute drivel to you, mores the shame.  It’s not often that we get a song which isn’t about alcohols more detrimental effects or its use in dulling the pain of a broken heart so good on you Skyclad.

The song appears on Skyclad’s first full album after the departure of original vocalist Martin Walkyier, A Semblance of Normality, and along with last years In The…All Together I think they represent the bands best work.  Steve Ramsey and Bean were both members of one of the North East’s premier NWOBHM bands, Satan, and I can heartily recommend picking up their Court in the Act album which is re-released sporadically.  It wipes the floor with many of the more well known releases from the genre, I’m looking at you Venom.

You can check out more tunes on the bands MySpace page and purchase CD’s from their Website.