Friday, 1 May 2020


The last time I was in a pub was on March 17th for a regular Tuesday night quiz. There are usually six of us. Now of course, for now this is not possible so it was suggested having a video conferencing quiz, One of us volunteered to set the questions. 

Unfortunately said question master is not used to drinking strong beers and for some unexplained reason had bought some bottles of St Austell Proper Job. This is a 5.5% bottled conditioned beer as it clearly states on the back of the bottle. Not really being a real ale expert he didnt have a clue what this meant.

At the start of the quiz he showed the bottle to the rest of us. I pointed out the fact that it would contain sediment and was just about to say it should be poured carefully when he proceeded to down it straight from the bottle

During the second bottle he lost the plot as to who's question it was in the quiz, which was in danger of descending into chaos.

By the way, I was drinking bottled Maximus, which I wouldn't recommend when trying to come up with answers towards the end of the evening.

On the subject of Maximus, on the same night elsewhere in our branch a local band were having a virtual jamming session with one guy drinking Maximus from a minicask. Reflecting on this the next day he was not sure it was a good idea. He ended up singing a Russian folk song called Stenka Razin (no me neither). - a very sad tale and he really hammed  it up. It has been performed by Red Army Choir and can be heard at. Fantastic !

Wednesday, 1 April 2020


"Bring a growler" suggested the Station House landlady. Well I dont have a dog so after some brief research a light bulb went on in my head. Of course - an empty carton for a takeaway.This was on the 17th March, a mere 2 weeks ago. This seems like a lifetime away and it was the last night I was in a pub.

My growler was an empty 2 pint cider flagon, so came away with 2 pints of cider in a flagon, sorry growler. Told Mrs Ken when I got in as likes the odd cider so I said, "Well that's Ok, a pint each then "  " But I'll be asleep after a half!" " Dont worry about it, I can manage yours !"  

Preempting the apocalypse, two days later I was at Maxim brewery stocking up. 2 mini casks and 12 bottles of Maximus should keep me going I thought. I set up a little bar in the garage ( pictured). It wont win any prizes for ambience, but keeps the beer cool. The only drawback is having to keep nipping out to top up, especially if watching the telly.

My birthday is 5 weeks before Xmas and family and friends had gifted me with plenty of bottles. Then came Xmas and more booze! So a quick stock check revealed I had enough to keep me going for a few weeks from when the inevitable was going to happen.

Sure enough, 23rd March -the inevitable  happened - Lockdown Day. A couple of days later came the news that takeaway beer from a brewery was classed as essential items. Quite right to. There was  news that supermarkets were restricting sales (well sort of). You could only buy 3 bottles of beer (3 items) but you could buy 3 multipacks of pissy lager, - 36 cans ....3 items,  work that one out !

Anyhow, back to Maxim for some more bottles - Raspberry Porter.....this lockdown could last a while so best to be prepared. It is safe to say I now have more bottled beer in the house than toilet rolls now !      

Ive gone through the first minicask and am looking forward to the next one ( Cherry Stout) next weekend.
Last night late on I opened a bottle of Robinsons Old Tom. At 8.5% this is a fantastic beer and made a great nightcap. Clearing up after, Mrs Ken said , "You've left some in the bottle". Panic set in until I realised all that was left was the size of a single raindrop. I think she was taking the piss.

So that was March. Hope to do this every month from now on till normality returns. 

Cheers .

Friday, 6 March 2020


The Spring edition of CAMRA Angle , the quarterly magazine of the Sunderland and South Tyneside branch of CAMRA, has  just been published. Copies will be distributed to real ale pubs throughout the area , and beyond from the middle of  the coming week. As usual , this is another full issue and well worth a read. 

The front cover heralds the fact that the Pub and Club of the Year have been announced. These include regional and national awards. Full listings  can be found in the centre pages.

There are articles about Hebburn, Mid Wales, the CAMRA Winter Beer Festival,  a Beer by Bus trip between Sunderland & Whitburn and how this magazine is produced and distributed. 

The branch have two new micros ; Lighthouse in Fulwell and Blues in Whitburn. The former is featured in a review. There are tributes to Terry Jones and Draught Bass and a presentation to our chosen charity - the RNLI.

Phew - and if that's not enough, there is the usual pub and brewery news.

If you cant wait, click on the link below for an informative read. 

CAMRA Angle Website

Friday, 7 February 2020


Yesterday Mrs Ken and I attended the CAMRA Winter Beer Festival in Birmingham. Arriving in New Street Station, which is basically a huge shopping mall with platforms underneath. We caught a bus to the venue which is next to Hockley Circus. Slightly disappointed there was no big top or a trapeze, just a roundabout underneath a dual carriageway.  

The venue, New Bingley hall, was 2 minutes walk, between there and the bus stop were two obstacles. One was a guy outside the gates of the car park in front of the hall who greeted us with a cheery, shook my hand and called Mrs Ken "Daisy" I thought he was CAMRA, turns out he was trying to flog a joke book. Told him politely where to put his book, then headed to the entrance, to be greeted by a CAMRA volunteer in a Hi Vis Jacket. 
"You a member?" 
" Yes I am" 
" Is your good lady/"  
I looked round till I realised he was on about the Mrs. 
" No, not worth it the amount she drinks". He kept banging on about benefits etc, I just wanted to get inside and have a beer.

Giving him the slip, we picked our tokens, glass and programme and met up with others we know who had grabbed a long table. At the end where we sat there were 2 chaps not known to us and not part of our group.

One, sitting opposite, never spoke or smiled. He just drank his beer and tried to read his kindle. At one point he fell asleep. The other chap was what turned out to be a champion beer ticker. He had a huge ring binder on the table full of notes of what he had drunk, presumably for years. In a holdall on the floor, which I kept standing on every time a got up,  was another ring binder. So he dutifully, checked the programme, his notes then toddled off to get his next drink so he could tick it off. He then underlined each beer in his dogeared 2020 Good Beer Guide.

After half an hour another one of my mates wandered in. He lives near Birmingham but is from the North East. The guy in the Hi Vis outside picked up on his accent and mentioned that I was already in, along with "this short bird with the sunglasses"! Mrs Ken! She's got a new nickname now!

Anyhow about the beers. I tried the champion beer - Fixed Wheel Blackheath Stout. It was OK. I also tried the CAMRA Champion Bottled Beer ( in cask form) , Thornbridge St Petersberg Imperial Russian Stout...again it was OK.  My taste buds must be deteriorating
with age.

The best pump clip was this, brewed in Darlington:-

You should know this name is associated  with the film "Deliverance"

After over 5 hours of drinking it was time to head back the station and our trip home. A long day but a chance to meet up with friends and Mrs friends I only see about once a year.

A quick note about the beer tokens, they had this crap system where a card had a value of £10. When you get a drink they cross of the value. You will note my final card had 60p left. Might get away with it in Wetherspoons but not a beer festival. I gave the card away.

One final thing, spotted this in the Gents:- Didn't have a clue why till someone said some of the local muslims use the venue and presumably wash their feet.


Saturday, 1 February 2020


Mrs Ken and I have just returned from a weeks holiday in Lanzarote. Before we left I spotted on Facebook mention of "Roscoe's Beer House" on the aforesaid island - in the resort of Playa Blanca. "That looks interesting" I exclaimed ! It was  an hour's walk from our hotel. Mrs Ken was less excited but agreed on Day 3 to accompany me along the promenade to Playa Blanca town centre.

Passing several cafes with San Miguel and other shite beer signs, we found the pub/ cafe in the town's pedestrianised area. The place was festooned with signs and bottles , principally Belgian in origin, which was no bad thing. Mind you, there was also a Brewdog sign, but ignored it.

I love strong dark beers so perused the menu and spotted one of interest. La Corne Black at 8%. Mrs Ken ordered a cider and the owner - Roscoe - scuttled off into his store cupboard and appeared with a few bottles. Soon the beer arrives, along with what can only be described as a glass horn in a wooden holder. WTF?
He pours the beer into the glass horn , showed me how to hold its holder to stop me getting beer all over myself and left us to it. The beer is described in the menu as as having chocolate, caramel and coffee notes, followed by plum, blackberry and red fruits aftertaste. Spot on. 

I had to drink it slowly to prevent any backwash . What other customers must have thought of this idiot near the back of the pub swigging his beer like that. The price was 6 euros, which wasn't bad considering the uniqueness of the dispensing method. 

I carried out some research when we returned home. The brewery is called Ebly located in the Luxembourg part of Belgium. Their beers brand name is La Corne Du Bois Despendus, of which the Black is one, Roscoe also sold three other styles. 

I spotted a description of the glass on tinternet... "The drinking horn is the ancestor of the modern glass. Let this glass transport you back in time. It's the perfect excuse to dress up as a Viking, or Asterix and Obelix". Not sure that would be apt or practical in Lanzarote    

Looking round the bar near us was what I would all a beer
bottle tree. A few people called in (it was lunch time) but just had coffees or cokes - no beers.

Towards the end of the drink from the horn   it was like staring into a tunnel entrance, watching the beer slowly flow round the bend at the end of the horn.

The bar opened at the end of 2018 and I wish   Roscoe success in his venture, an oasis in a street of  tourist bars.

Satisfied we set off back to the hotel, the H10 Rubicon. They had a great selection of bottled beers in the lounge fridge, all by Damm Brewery of Barcelona. There was very pleasant AK Damm,  an Alsatian style beer ( that would be German state and not a dog) ,  a tasty gluten free lager called Daura and top of the list, a 7.4 double malt called Voll-Damm . Voll in the German for full, which it certainly was.

It was a bit depressing that most hotel guests were drinking the standard Spanish yellow piss, which they always drink without realising some little gems were available.

I can imagine a UK bottle shop selling some and a customer saying - Gimme a Damm Beer!

Tuesday, 31 December 2019


This is the time of year when TV and newspapers look back over the year.

So here are my beer related awards for 2019.

The Dry January Award My Arse Award

Awarded to whoever came up with this idea. Its as bad as Sober October. A mate of mine fell for that October one so I celebrated "Can't Remember November".

The David Crosby Look Alike Award

Remember David Crosby, as in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young ? Well in May I was fortunate to attend the SIBA North East Judging at Gateshead Rugby Club Beer Festival. With much sampling and judging to do in the club bar, during a break two of us adjourned into the beer festival bar and discovered one of the guys serving was the double of David Crosby. He has grown his hair and his trademark handlebar moustache to look just like him

Spoke in a Geordie accent, which ruined the effect somewhat. 

The Best Pub With Its Own Bus Stop Award

 For a week long holiday in 2019 we stayed in an airbnb in Porthmadog, North Wales. This small town, as well as featuring the Festiniog Railway has a brewer called Purple Moose. The brewery is hidden in a back street but they have a bottle shop and a brewery tap, called The Australia, both in the main street..

The pub sells all of the breweries range of beers, including Dark Side of The Moose - an excellent dark beer. Outside the pub is a bus stop. The timetable reads " Porthmadog - Australia". Apparently some locals ( I'm not making this up), when getting on the bus say " Single to Australia please".  That's a hell of a bus ride !

Best Pub Lunch Award 

Usually when I have a meal in a pub, sometime after Ive forgotten what Ive had. So this accolade is awarded for a meal I will remember for a long time. Mrs Ken and I spent a few nights in Beverley in East Yorkshire. We were looking at some stalls in the Market Place with rain looking imminent ( and I was hungry) so we dived into the Dog & Duck for lunch. The pub is family run so no corporate menu to wade through. No pay up front either, I had a tab. Table number ? No chance ! 

There were a few simple choices so I went for Giant Yorkshire pud filled with sausages, potatoes, carrots and onion gravy. Fantastic. I forget how much but it was very good value. Nothing comes close this year.

Best Contrast in Technology Award

On a pub crawl of Weardale with some mates, we visited the Black Bull in Frosterley. Best pub of the day ( see next award).  The pub had stone flag floors and loads of antique bits and pieces all over the place, including an old telephone. I was struck by the image ( see photo ) of this with the chef on his mobile in the kitchen. Great pub.

Best Stag Do Award 

On the same pub crawl our last pub in Weardale was in Wolsingham - The Black Lion. Follow the link to see what happened      

Best beer at the Great British Beer Festival ( GBBF) I hadnt tried before award

I have been going to GBBF for a number of years and there is usually a stand out beer I have not had before. So Er...struggling with this one. Was looking forward to Maxim Raspberry Porter but it had sold out ! 

Still, the CAMRA Winter Beer Festival in Feb 2020 has  moved to Birmingham, so have got my train tickets already. 

Ive been to a couple before ( both Manchester) so I know to expect plenty of strong dark beers. Should be good .

Micropubs visited

Not an award as such, just the recognition of a continuing trend in new micropubs, while some larger pubs struggle.

Station House -  Durham
Firkin Alley - Barnard Castle
Sun Inn - Beamish Museum ( well it is small, no TV, no music)
ORB- Darlington
The Office- Morpeth
Dog & Rabbit - Whitley Bay
Chequers - Beverley
Fram Ferment - Framwellgate Moor
Split Chimp - Newcastle   
Lighthouse - Sunderland

Sunday, 22 December 2019


Yesterday I had a strange sense of deja vu. I was being looked at through a pub window and I thought to myself, that's happened to me before this month. It was in a micropub then and I'm in another one now.! More later.

So the micropub I was in yesterday is Sunderland's first. Called The Lighthouse, its located in a former coffee shop called Bojangles. Maxim Brewery employee Sean has finally fulfilled a dream and opened this pub in Sea Road Fulwell. Its located near a busy crossroads junction next to a DIY store and amongst small shops, fast food outlets and a national North East bakery chain that sells amongst other things, vegan sausage rolls..

This opening is the culmination of nearly a year of planning, bureaucracy and red tape endured by both Sean and Maxim Brewery, for whom he will continue to work as a delivery driver for now ( Busy lad !)

I met with a few fellow CAMRA members yesterday for a first experience. It was a typical dull overcast shortest day of the year. It took me two buses and ninety minutes to get there. Several buses stop nearby from Sunderland and South Shields. When they not on strike, there is Metro station about ten minutes walk away. One of the guys I was with said , on finding out about my journey, that he lived two minutes walk away ; I really could have done without that snippet of information!

So, whats the pub like? Well it has retained some of the features of the cafe, including some furniture , the slate tiled floor and the white tiled right hand wall as you walk in. What is new is the bar itself. 

There are three handpulls and three keg fonts.On day one there was three Maxim real ales  Double Maxim, Hapi Christmas and Winter Tipple. The former will feature all of the time, alongside a Maxim monthly special and a local guest. As the brewery release a special, they are snapped up and sell out pretty quickly. So I reckon this is place to go to find one. I'm thinking ahead to the spring of 2020 when Sour Cherry & Chocolate Stout makes it's debut. This will be one place to find it.
The keg beer was Lighthouse craft, Samson Smooth and Scorpion Lager.There is a bottle/can fridge and a range of spirits and soft drinks. 

The pub has a small outdoor drinking area at the back which looks like it will be a suntrap in the summer.

As you can see from the photo of the front of the pub above , it mostly comprises of a large glass window. I was standing facing this and noticed mostly shoppers walking past. Every so often someone would stop and peer inside through the steamed up window. Some almost walked past then screeched to a halt, then did a double take. I could almost read their minds    " that's been closed for ages, it's open !"

Observing this reminded me of another such new venture I was in one at the beginning of December in Framwellgate Moor, Durham City :- The Fram Ferment Bottle Shop and Taproom. This was a former NHS clinic and again, people were stopping, having a look through the window and having a nosey, then either staying or moving on. Deja vu you see.

One more thing about the decor, he has really gone to town on the Xmas decorations. To the left is it !

So , a great new addition to the drinking scene in Sunderland. Despite there being no cellar the beer is well kept and at the right temperature, And at £2.80 a pint for cask ale, good value. I would recommend a visit.

See Whatpub for pub details and a map. Whatpub Lighthouse.