Friday, 17 July 2020


March 17th 2020 - The Station House & The Bridge Hotel - Durham.
Last pubs visited before lock-down

July 14th 2020 - The Stables, West Herrington Sunderland. First pub visited after lock-down.

During the week Mrs Ken and I went for a walk in Herrington Country Park as it was a nice day. I thought it was time to for a pint on a pub so I casually suggested a route that would lead to The Stables

This pub, as the name suggests used  to be stables. It is long and stone built with stone floors and low lit lighting. From the road it doesnt look like a pub as there is no pub sign. Its on an outside wall facing the cobbled car park.

I was expecting a load of signs and instructions  with the dos and dont's, but there wasn't  much. A sign in the car park said "queue here", but no queue. A sign at the entrance saying "please use hand sanitiser", but no hand sanitiser - it was empty. Good start.  

I wear reactor light glasses and every time I go into this place, my eyes take a while to react to the gloom, so I literally nearly walked into the bar.

" You're not allowed at the bar" came the voice of the manageress from the darkness.

" Cant see the bar, what beer have you got ?"

There was White Rat and Landlord but the former was off so Landlord it was. Table service I was told , which I could get used to. It didnt take long for the drinks to arrive ( Mrs Ken had a coffee)  Half way through the beer I realised they hadn't taken any contact details. Hmm.

Anyhow, the lack of signs about the rules got me thinking.........

By coincidence, earlier that day I was reminded of the fact that it was nine years ago to the day a group of us were on a pub  crawl in Berwick. The best pub we visited was The Barrels Ale House, famous locally for having a old dentist chair at the bar. Around the walls were plastered old signs and notices, including this "Rules of the Inn" dated 1786.

So I can imagine in 200 years time a poster dated 2020 is unearthed with pub rules relating to Covid 19.What would the drinkers make of it all ?

" Look, they weren't allowed to stand ! How did they go to the loo then?"
" No shouting so no music!"
" Contactless only no cash. What's cash ?"

Perhaps they would ask the robot barperson ? "Computer says no".

So back to the Landlord. During lock-down Ive been drinking plenty of beers, mostly Maxim bottle beers and minicasks all of which I have enjoyed. However this was my first pub pint in about 4 months. I listened to a podcast the other week featuring beer writer Roger Protz on which he was asked " whats your favourite beer?"

" Well if its pored right and kept right - Timothy Taylors Landlord." he said.

He would have liked this then! Spot on.


Friday, 3 July 2020


So what happened last month ? Well it was Fathers Day and although my daughter lives and works in Glasgow she managed to have shipped down a box of Isle of Skye Brewery beers. Ive had some before such as Skye Red and Skye Black but the rest are very good. I have always preferred strong dark beers but the first on I opened, Young Pretender was a mere 3.8% but on a summers day it was quite refreshing. Last night I had the strong one the 7% , Cuillin Beast. Cracking beer.

On the subject of cracking beers, Maxim launched a new beer, Maxim Pils. Now I don't normally go for Pilsner type ales but I thought, something new, something different. Spot on, well  worth the investment. I was looking forward to sitting in the garden sipping some, but as I was about, it started pissing down (and it is as I type this ) so not had the al fresco pleasure yet.

As I type this, its pub opening eve. Ive done some research of some pubs websites and Facebook pages and to be honest, its not worth the hassle. Its not so much the health aspect but the rules. Table service, no standing at the bar, limits to how many go to the loo, having your temperature taken. No thanks. 

One of the rules if having to leave your contact details. The first thing I thought of was there will be a lot of M.Mouses out there !
One of my daughters ex school mates was called Lisa Simpson. She may well still be called that. I used to work with a guy called Neil Armstrong. Imaging either of those two being confronted by a bouncer . 

"Name ?"

 " Neil Armstrong"   

" Yeah right pal, now bugger off back to the moon"

As well as being a CAMRA volunteer I also volunteer for the National Trust, and the following is true. This guy works at Washington Old Hall and he signs in as Bart Simpson. Its not his real name but hes been doing ot for years and no one has noticed !!


I do a Zoom quiz with 7 of my mates every Tuesday and none of us are interested in going to a pub anytime soon. Should be interesting to see how many do tomorrow. Me,  Ive got plenty of beer in.

Friday, 5 June 2020


Before I start this blog I need to point out that the letter E on my laptop keyboard is loose so every so often that letter will not com out, so apologies in advance. Its very frustrating, being the most common letter in the alphabt. In no way is this an excuse for my crap typing - I totally refute any accusations

Anyhow back to the subject in hand. It would have been this time of year when the Summer edition of CAMRA Angle would have been published and hitting the streets. Sadly, this wont happen so Issue 60 will have to wait till later in the year ( fingers crossed).

In the meantime Ive been keeping busy, in between painting the garden fence , producing a monthly newsletter. Surprisingly there is a lot of news out there. I am going to resist mentioning all the crap that is being reported about what pubs will look like if and when they open. Waste of time till it happens.

So, since CAMRA Angle 59 three  months ago there have been three newsletters, which I hope covers most CAMRA news, and also where local takeaway beer can be sought from local breweries and pubs   ( other than supermarkets). CAMRA HQ have set up a dropbox for magazine editors to post their own articles to share with other branches, so Ive been tapping that source, with three more to use !

In the latest one there is uniquely I think, two articles about films. One is a review of a DVD put together about pubs in South Shields. Hopefully this will be available for sale in the town when things return to normal. The other is about the British Film Institute free archive of short information films. There is a fascinating film by Dr David Bellamy giving a tour of Camerons Brewery.

Recntly branch members were asked to partake in a survey about the affect that pub closures was having including the question "have you been drinking more?"  My last pint in a pub was on March 17th, and since the closure date I thought I would keep a record of what Ive been drinking. Mistake. Ive  gone through five minicasks and 35 bottles, mostly from Maxim. So that's more minicasks in a couple of months than I get through in two years !   

Anyhow, without more ado, this is a link to the last three newsletter, the most recent of which has the survey results and the articles mentioned above. You can also see under "Publications" previous issues of CAMRA Angles
Enjoy the read, off now for a beer stock check.................


Monday, 1 June 2020


Despite the fact there are no pubs to visit, or pub crawls or beer festivals to enjoy, there is still a lot going on. 

Everywhere I look online, there are breweries selling mini casks. Ive got four empties as garden decorations. So I got to thinking , whoever is making these to sell to the breweries must be raking it in. All of my empties say made in Germany but one says Huber packaging. 

Anyhow, while doing my research I ended up on the Adnams Brewery website ( dont ask how). On it are  detailed instructions on how to open a mini cask and dispense the beer. 

The first step, according to them, is to pull out the tap from the base on the cask, turn the tap anti clockwise to pour 20ml of beer into a glass then discard.  I could read no further for a while. Discard ? What planet are they from!.

Recovering from this, I kept reading. Step 2 is to left the top tab and turn from 0 to 1. Fair enough Then step three..there it is again. Turn the tap clockwise to pour out the beer, if the first 20ml has sediment and is cloudy......discard !   Sorry Adnams, I can't read anymore.


A couple of weeks ago one of our local,brewers, Darwin started selling bottled beers again. Brewed in small batches, they are bottled on site and they have a click and collect service, offering a free delivery for SR postcode customers. One of the beers, Extinction caught my eye, Its an 8.3% barley wine so I ordered 3 bottles. Not living in SR I drove the next day to collect, and came home.

The next day , while Mrs Ken was out shopping, I unpacked the beers and had just finished stashing them in my secret  cupboard when she returned. " Ive got you a couple of pressies"

A bottle of zero alcohol German beer and a bottle of low alcohol Old Specked Hen ( 0.5%) WTF ?

"Its if we go out anywhere you can drink and drive" I was told. So think about it, five minutes ago I had held an 8.3% barley wine, now I'm holding a 0.5 % Speckled Hen.

Ive drank  then both...nothing special. Will stick with the proper stuff. 

The barley wine ? Wonderful.



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