Weatherspoons real ale festival


Weatherspoons seem to have really been hitting it out the park of late the company started as a collection of London ale pubs and grew throughout the 90s into a collection of hanger like spaces specialising in selling you a curry bypassing the takeaway, the usual lagers cheaper than elsewhere and some of that blue stuff that I never worked out what it tasted of but was darn cheap.
And as we seem to hear pub companies complain non stop about difficult trading conditions like too much rain in winter people are staying in and it was sunny so nobody went to the pub in summer spoons seem to have quietly been changing the game plan.
There was a bit in the press last week about people will no longer be able to get a Sunday dinner in a weatherspoons pub one of the hallmarks of the brand, and on paper quite a change it certainly drew some amount of comments online.
but there have been seemingly many changes quietly happening for years most the pub’s no longer show sports and almost none have a jukebox so you end up in a pub with no noise issues you could even dare I say it have a conversation and not many chain pubs can claim that.
The gin range has grown and includes some fairly good tipples at reasonable prices and the hanger like buildings seem to be disappearing too replaced by more intimate designed spaces some like the wallaw cinema building in Blyth winning awards for lovingly restoring buildings and they now own around 50 pub hotels.
But for me personally the change closest to my heart has been the explosion or both real and craft beer at very reasonable prices. The union rooms even stocks 30 local bottled ales and has a weekly bottle tasting club.
The beer festival sees spoons build on that with 50 real ales spread to all of its pubs making it so they claim the biggest beer festival in the world.

This year the union rooms kicked off the festival by setting up extra bar space and stocking all 50 beers on opening night.
A grand building near the station is a example of weatherspoons new style pubs split into numerous rooms around its grand Hall and staircase, the library room looked exceptionally cosy and charming with the addition of 20 handpulls to the room of towering book cases and grand windows.
The organization by the staff was top notch all beers were available in 3rd pint glasses at three for the very reasonable price of a festival pint and plenty trays were available lined with paper to mark the number corresponding to the ale as listed in the tasting notes leaflet.
All on all a great night and I hope you enjoy some of these beers as much as I did but here are a few picks to look out for
This italain Brewer has been on my radar for some time now but unfortunately due to signing a contract with a terrible distributer there beers are seldom seen in the UK and almost never fresh, so to get around this head Brewer Agostino Arioli visited wadworth brewery to brew some for the fest with a light hoppy aroma malty backbone and a lingering honey and hazelnut flavour it seems to have lost some of the fruit notes but it’s as close as I’m getting to this italian masterpiece any time soon.
This is a beer that’s not new to me but has been taking plaudits fom craft and real Ale fans alike getting high praise on the beer o’clock show podcast and gold at 2015 great British beer festival expect big hop flavours from this one as it lives up to its Name
This is another beer I had heard so much positivity towards it almost seemed certain It wouldn’t live up to the hype but it surpassed it dark and strong porter with natural plumb flavourings and a plate bitter hop create such a well rounded bitter sweet taste
A black stout with three levels of chocolate starting with chocolate malts added real Coco and chocolate essence then a slight bitterness from a fair amount of hops think nesquick powder with a bitter note but so much nicer than that sounds
A new beer brewed for the fest by local brewery exceptionally light without feeling watery but instead more floral and refreshing a good example of a straight wheat beer

So there you have it a few to look out for as beer festival season springs into life you can get some of these and many others in all weatherspoons pubs until March 27th and then after that it’s the 40th Newcastle beer and cider festival on April 6-10
North by North yeast


Brooklyn brewery ghost bottles

The brooklyn brewerys brooklyn lager has been a beer I have liked for over ten years now, long before I was interested in real ales or craft beers I just knew it tasted nice and that was enough for me. Head brewer Garrett oliver agrees with that simple philosophy anyone can brew the strongest or the hoppiest beer but wouldn’t you rather drink a nice beer nobody would want the saltiest chips or the hottest possible curry so why should beer be any different.

Garrett grew up in Boston and studied filmmaking at Boston university organising gigs for bands including REM and the ramones before moving to London to spend a year stage managing bands at London university. After graduation he traveled around Europe tasting many styles of beer and in doing so found his calling and in 1989 he started at the mahattan brew Co before moving to brooklyn brewery,  he is currently head brewer at brooklyn as well as award winning author and beer authority.

He is a man with a great knowledge of beer but a easy going personality that males him perfect to host Brooklyn brewerys tasting nights, he jokes that he spent 15 years in america catching up with Britain then Britain has spent the last 15 years catching up with him, and he’s not too far off the mark

It was under the tyne bridge (that took design inspiration from the brooklyn bridge) at the brilliant bridge tavern I got the opportunity to taste some of brooklyn brewerys ghost bottles (rare brews and experimental one offs not commercially for sale) organised by the supurb Wylam Brewery.

Beer one lancelot

Lees are the name given to the sediment after a brew normally high in dead or residual yeast this is filtered off and often discarded and can be used for a second ferment passing characteristics and flavours onto a beer especially in naturally fermented wines that use natural rather than chemical yeasts,  in this beer Lees from a American brewed riesling are used alongside champagne yeasts to create a beer with more wine flavours and dryness within sweet cider scent, think a fruity dry white wine at 7%abv.

Beer two Galahad

a 9.2% Belgian strong style beer with a second ferment using Lees from oyster river cider mill in upstate new York a dry apple flavour and sweet fruit notes dominate this beer that hides it’s considerable alcohol content well

Beer three Bedivere

a kriek style beer with a traditional British yeast strain and a bourbon barrel aging and 9% ABV in a beer that reads like it would lack any subtilty it was very well ballanced with juicy cherry and smoky bourbon IMG_20160210_221436

Beer four

Chichicapa aged in barrels used in production of authentic Mexican mezcal this was 9.5% of smoky beer

Beer five Caradoc

a beer with a interesting tale after a second ferment didn’t take leaving barrel aged flat beer what was produced and bottle aged was a sherry styled beer at 9% that would rival most sherry in terms of flavour

Beer six Bel air

my personal favourite of the night the lightest at 6.5 a sour beer dry hopped with amarillo creating a tropical fruity sour beer that has a real depth of flavour not usually found in a beer this light.

Beer seven Saison kitaya

Belgian saison soured beer aged in saké kegs giving the sour beer a lactic acidity cutting through a fruity flavoursome beer another example of getting the ballance spot on

Beer eight black chocolate stout 2005

aging a beer is not a new concept there are books from the 1800s giving instructions on the subject but it seems to have become it’s own side subject of beer for serious collectors and brewers but very rarely in the mainstream so this mainstream stout aged for 11 years was something of a surprise on the night but beautiful bittersweet chocolate and warming boozy tastes for a cold evening IMG_20160210_221620

And the final beer hand and seal congnac edition 2013 a special way to end it was a brew to celebrate Garretts 20th anniversary at brooklyn a near 14% barley wine with champagne yeast and a year in a contact keg and two years bottle aging to create a wild tasting malty caramel sweetness and loads of boozy warmth.

All in all a night I shall not forget despite the amount of alcohol consumed and many thanks due to garrett brooklyn Wylam and the bridge tavern.


North by north yeast

What makes a good pub

DSC_0173What is it that makes a great pub or even a good pub for that matter is it a good range of beers,  the quality of said beers the staff punters decor or food?  I’m left pondering this after a recent night out in Gateshead in which I frequented four very different pubs.

The first was the Tilley stone a jd weatherspoons pub based just off the metro. Now I’m not a spoons hater yes they do tend to be a bit samey and the food may tend more to the cheap than cheerfull however they do always have a large range of beer and very reasonable prices.
Both pints were perfectly serviceable if unspectacular and I had just missed out on the golden Perry in the fridge but for under £2 a pint it certainly was a pleasant start to the night.

My second stop was at the Metropole just over the road a odd mash of vintage designed corner pub and led screened disco they served sonnets ipa as well as a three hopped beer exclusive to the chain that owns it both again at reasonable prices and more than serviceable.

Third point on the tour was the black bull a music venue and bar that is probably best described as a “goth” bar with iron maiden flags and skeletons on the wall and quirky extras like a six foot fab ice lolly and the bar parrot (yes that’s a real thing).
I had a pint of Waterloo by wordworth a dry hopped pale beer with plenty of flavour and made friends with a grey macaw not many pubs can offer you that.DSC_0172
The final stop was the central a beautiful victorian building housing a pub run by the head of steam group with venue upstairs games room and a impressive 13 hand pulls and a fun and varied selection I had a great pint if silver king by Ossett brewery and was very tempted to take them up on the offer of a two pint carton to take home.

So what is it that makes a good pub? Well it cam be any of these things really but what makes a good evening is being able to visit different pubs with different things to offer.

Beer of the month silver king by Ossett
A well balanced blonde beer with great taste

North by north yeast

5 beery new years resolutions


I’m not one for superstitions if given the choice between walking under a ladder or on the road I generally choose the car free bit, and I have broken enough mirrors at 7 years bad luck each that even the most optimistic doctors doubt I would outlive my backlog.
But one superstition I quite like is making resolutions at new year it’s a positive way of looking ahead and even if last year’s plan to diet and clear my credit card debt both failed by the first beer festival of spring I still make new goals each year.

So here are my five beery new years resolutions

Love the yeast
I am a hop lover I know to a certain extent what any variety or bundle of hops would do to my pint and frankly I’m all for it, I can taste the difference between barley or malts and even dare I say it even rice beers but I have no clue about yeasts in brewing.
For the longest time I didn’t believe they had much to add to the flavour thinking they are more of a process for beer to help the brew than a ingredient as such,
But Belgian beers do taste different and the bottles claim the yeast is the key, similarly the wild beer Co use wild yeasts to make something different to the norm and I have no idea how?
So that’s my goal learn a little instead of spouting out whatever is written on the bottle as if I’m a authority on such things.

Visit a brewery
So this should probably read visit a real brewery as I have visited St James gate in Dublin home of Guinness but that is not so much a brewery as a tourist attraction where they decided a price to charge people (around £20 if my memory is to be believed) and worked back to build a willy wonka style wonderland and whilst the tasting room was a fun experience and some punters did resemble umpa loompas its just not the real thing even if they have built a indoor waterfall to illustrate that beer contains water,
It was as much a working brewery as the leprechaun museum (that’s a real thing).

My resolution is to visit a real working brewery preferably small or even micro and speak to a brewer not a brew technician and be surrounded by sights and smalls associated with what I’m going to taste at the end perhaps learn some stuff beyond Guinness used to make amazing TV adds.

Help out at Newcastle beer festival
This is as simple as it sounds I’m a member of Camra and hope to lend a hand setting up what has become one of my favourite drinking days of the year.

Collect more badges
Since I was six I have collected Italia 90 stickers and had swaps of Paul Gascoigne, I collected comics way before it was cool not that sonic the hedgehog comic ever became cool, I still collect virtual trophies in my video games but the badges I want, no need more of are in untapped.
Untapped is a app for Android and i-things that is part list of what you drank last night and part “social media platform” with the ability to rate each brew and see your friends recommendations however it also gives awards for every 5 of any type of beer be it light ipa stout Britaish American drinking on certain dates.
I don’t know when Canadian independence day is but if you want to reward me for drinking on that day I’ll graciously accept your praise.
Overall it’s a useful app to keep track of things great when your in the pub thinking I’ve drank that before but did I like it? But also adds that element of fun

See more of the world
……from the bottom of a glass, I think we all get stuck in our groove sometimes drinking the same old stuff in the same pubs and sometimes that’s exactly what you want the familiarity of what you know and like.
Last year I had a few great nights and one great weekend embracing new bars or places to drink the otherwise would have passed me by like Sunderland octoberfest, Durham ale festival and a trip to the Scottish real ale festival in Edinburgh.
This year I aim for more of the same the big weekend away at a beer festival at a as yet undecided location this summer and hopefully a few other great nights in places I can’t yet predict as I sit writing this.

So that’s it five goals for 2016 hopefully this has in some way inspired you to give something new a try and if it hasn’t at least I have a better chance at keeping these resolutions than my annual diet and financial plans

Beer of the post is a tie as I just can’t decide between two beers that are almost polar opposites.
Cherry wheat beer from Marks and Spencer a christmas gift that surprised me brewed exclusively for the supermarket by a Belgian brewery a Belgian wheat beer blended with natural pressed cherry juice giving it incredible and natural fruit beer flavour.
The second beer is yellow belly by Buxton brewery bottled in a white wrap made to look like a klansman hood with a slightly patronising message about cowards and racists this beer is a strong 12% imperial stout with natural malt flavours creating caramel and peanut flavours in a rich luxurious almost syrupy beer a boozy snickers of a beer.

Have a great 2016 and till next time
North by north yeast

Christmas bah humbug!

I am a father of a young child and a lover of decadent food so there is so much of Christmas i love  but for every glazed gammon we get a overcooked turkey , for every fairytale in New York the radio plays is followed by something from x factor with added sleigh bells and for every its a wonderful life at the Tyneside cinema Christmas 24 will show a rodeo and Juliet Christmas and yes that is indeed a real thing.

Christmas beers it seems have not escaped this trend for every amazing beer released annually you get 10 bland ruby ales attacked with cinnamon and given fun festive names and this is the story of my run up to the big day.

I was in attendance at the Cluny Christmas beer festival (not the best place for a spiced beer avoider to be i grant you) boasting 30 beers 20 ciders  food and bands with a glass to take home for £3 entry.

The Cluny in Newcastles  Ouseburn area is a venue close to my heart host to many gigs of my youth and server of good beer too.

There was a few stand out drinks to mention the cider range was varied and boasted some quality drinks , Wylam’s Jakehead embryo was one a first time try of the original recipe of one of my true favourites minus the late hop additions you still get a rounded and strong tasting beer, Dark star’s revelation ipa certainly lived up to its billing as a hop forward full of flavour pint , Out there continued to live upto the name with awakening star a beer that perfectly captures the yeasty smell of rising bread  why you would want to may be up for debate but it was certainly a interesting taste.

And then came the pun laden spice filled beers  Camerons festive frolics  Fell spiced raisin  Consett Santa’s little smelter Ossett nervous turkey all blended into one taste of too much spice and no enough body to carry such flavours.

The final part of my boozy build to santas deliveries was the Camra merry meander a little get together for members taking in lady greys , the Bacchus and Fitzgeralds three great ale bars around Newcastles Grey street always good to catch up with old friends and new and with a mission to avoid all ales with pump clips festooned with red and green i did find at last my perfect winter ale from the Brasserie d’achouffle brewery in the holy land of Belgium comes n’ice chouffe a strong Belgian styled winter ale sweet and crisp as winter snow at first sip giving way to a syrupy boozy rum like finish it was a winter warmer done right.

Also credit to Vedett extra ordinary ipa that packs in a lot of flavour but balances it beautifully even the most hardened of porter lovers was won over.

And so my conclusion is as it was starting out on this decadent December , when it comes to spices in your beers a little of a good thing is as good as a feast but too much is worse than non at all and with the dry turkey fast approaching are they not words to live by?

And if your still not convinced remember stella artois started out as a christmas time beer !


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Beer of the month December
Lentehop – Brouwerij design moren
Belgian farmhouse styled ipa



So this is it the first step into my beer blog adventure, now where to begin?

About myself i live in Newcastle upon tyne and have been on the journey from larger to cider to craft to real ale and have spent the last four years exploring all that yeasts malts and hops can bring.

I am a member of Camra something that may come up occasionally i do not plan for this to be a mouth piece for the group as they are doing a great job of that themselves with canny bevy magazine available in most good pubs in Newcastle however as a lot of the events i go to are put on by the group it is only natural they appear from time to time.

If you are a real ale drinker and have never thought about joining i would advise to do so as it costs just over £20 a year money you get back in tokens for money off in JD Weatherspoon pubs but also the local meet ups and events more than make it a worth while investment.

I am also not just about real ales either craft and cider keg or cask if it stands out to me i may give it a mention the whole aim of this blog is not really about reviewing but more just musings, mulling over the events beers and anything else that catches my eye in Newcastles  beer scene.

I aim to post at least monthly probably more often during summer when more festivals and events take place and hope at least a few people enjoy reading it and get something out of it.

thanks for dropping by and finding me


north by north yeast