The Newcastle Beer and Cider Festival
The Annual Newcastle Beer & Wine Festival has being going strong for 37 years and attracts a loyal fan base. 2013’s event showcased over 130 ales in 1/3 pints from the best breweries across the land. The list was an eclectic one compiled by local cask beer expert, CAMRA branch chairman, Ian Lee. There were some low strength beers (which are very welcome when you’re tasting beers all day) like the 2.8% Hook Norton’s Hooky Mild or some deep, dark and interesting varieties like the Harbour Porter and the chocolaty Gloucester Dockside Dark.
Every year the festival stages a ‘Battle of the Beers’ which is viewed with the utmost seriousness by festival-goers. This year’s winner? An ale brewed with two hop varieties and two malts, the sweet and light X2 beer by the Mordue Brewery.
The Big Lamp Brewery
Quality beers have been artfully brewed here since 1982 when a group of ale fans started brewing beer as a hobby more than anything else. The outfit has mushroomed and is now one of the country’s most respected microbreweries, turning out gems like Embers, Old Genie and Big Lamp Bitter. Their Prince Bishop Ale was even commissioned for the Durham Beer Festival.
Why not take a cycling trip down the riverbank and stop by the public house next door to the brewery to sample its best beers?
Go back to (beer) school
Don’t know your malts from your hops? If you’re fairly new to the big and wonderful world of beer, the Newcastle School of Wine runs the odd class which focuses on grain rather than grape.
Learn how different beers like cask ales, fruit beers and lagers are made and what to look for from a decent brew. You’ll also get to scoff some very tasty grub like proper English sausages to complete the experience.
Best Beer Gardens
When the sun’s shining, nothing beats a perfectly chilled brew in a beer garden. Northerners love topping up their tans, so Newcastle isn’t short of a beer garden or two.
For a lively, student-friendly atmosphere, a sun trap of a beer garden and dirt cheap prices, you can’t beat The Hancock.
Just a hop skip and a twirl (try doing that after a few beers) from Central Station is The Forth. This Newcastle institution used to host boxing matches in the Victorian days, but the atmosphere is far more chilled out these days. Pick from one of their carefully kept real ales, beers and ciders and take them onto their roof terrace to enjoy the view. If you pop your head in on a Sunday, you’ll be lucky enough to sample their homely Sunday roast with all the trimmings.
Best Real Ale Pubs
Craft beer fans are in for a treat in Newcastle. The Bacchus serves up great pub meals to be washed down with a selection of locally brewed and guest ales from further afield.
Elsewhere, the staff at The Boathouse are so committed to serving a range of interesting ales that they tour the country, tasting beers at festivals to sniff out the best. Hard job, but somebody’s got to do it.
Brewdog is firmly in the heart of the craft ale revolution that’s taking Newcastle – and the rest of the UK – by storm. Sandwiched between the historic Granger Town and the bustling Quayside, Brewdog invites you to try your hand at their vintage pinball machine, watch a local band in action and drink your way through their extensive menu of brews which have been given the Brewdog seal of approval.
Where to go if there’s a game on
If you can’t bear to peel yourself away from a game, the Thistle hotel’s Rendez Vous bar in Newcastle’s city centre is a top spot to start (or end) the night. Nibble your way through the bar menu, watch a match on one of their three massive screens and if lucky, spy a local celeb or footballer in this popular haunt.
Where do you like to go for a pint in Newcastle?
Robert Mills is a food blogger touring different Beer festivals around the UK.
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