Monday, 10 September 2018


The Autumn edition of CAMRA Angle , the quarterly magazine of the Sunderland and South Tyneside branch of CAMRA, has  just been published. Copies are being  distributed to real ale pubs throughout the area , and beyond. As usual , this is another full issue and well worth a read. 

The cover reflects the forthcoming Sunderland Beer & Cider Festival, now at The Point for its second year.

There is a sort of train theme to this issue, featuring a trip on a train pulled by the Flying Scotsman. Manchester is the departure point, with a look at some heritage pubs ; Carlisle is the destination, with another pub crawl. ( well why not)

There is an article about three station pubs in the North East plus a strange tale about having to lift a trapdoor to play darts. Yours truly took part in a Washington Wander, and yet again failed to escape the Washington Village black hole. We also celebrate a city's former brewery. ( Vaux by any chance ? - Ed)    

There are two book reviews this time and a brief look ahead to the 2019 Good Beer Guide. If that' s not enough,  there is look at the UK's first trademark, some cider information and a great night I had taking part in a CAMRA Tasting panel

A regular section is a news update on beer from the wood, pubs and  breweries in the branch as well as Locale pubs and those that offer discounts. Issue 53 is rounded off by the regular pub quiz. 

Enjoy the read !!

If you cant find a copy, follow this link to download your own,  and for more branch news.
And remember, accept no imitations.  

Thursday, 30 August 2018


I sometimes wonder about the power of the human brain. It can store and recall information in an instant. I have know idea how it does it, and I bet most scientists dont know either. Having said that, I can recall events from the distant past but forget where I left my car keys !

However it usually lefts me down after several beers, when the alcohol just kills everything !

So with that background, I was at a CAMRA meeting in The Tap & Spile, Framwellgate Moor, Durham City at the weekend. My brain told me this was only the second time I had been in the pub that sold some great beers. What it didnt tell wasn't till I was on the bus heading home.

Back in the late early 80's was the last time I had been there. I was with some mates doing a pub crawl in Framwellgate Moor...why I do not know !. One of my mates had a false eye, as a result of an accident when he was a kid. 

I dont recall how this happened, could have been due to laughing, but suddenly his false eye popped out of his socket and rolled on the floor. My brain doesnt tell me what our reaction was but I know he just grabbed it and shoved it back in. Then, like now it was a hard floor so no carpet fluff !

I still dont get how the brain reminded me of this on the way home and not when I was sitting in the pub, and why it doesn't remember anything else about that night.

Strange . 

Friday, 17 August 2018


Every Tuesday 6 of us gather in the Bridge Hotel Durham for a quiz. Of the 6, two are brothers.

One night 2 weeks ago, towards the end of the evening, a fly landed in the younger brothers pint.

1 week later, we were doing a one off Tuesday day time pub crawl in Newcastle instead. Our favourite pub of the day was the Town Mouse, all of us that is except the older brother. A fly landed in his pint as well !! To be fair, he only had a quarter left but the barman  gave him a half a pint as a replacement.

Rewind to the early 80's , a group of us were visiting the North York Moors. I had a very early Good Beer Good Guide then and a Theakstons Pub, The Hare in Scawton outside Thirsk,  looked interesting so we all piled in there. One of the guys in our party only drank Fed Best in a club as we ordered pints of Theakstons Best . Club man picked his up, looked at it, looked at me, looked at the beer again with some form of disgust. He had never seen anything like it before !

" Get it down you, better than that crap you usually drink"

He managed with some reluctance. 

One of our group had recently moved up from Manchester so we were unaware of his drinking habits. Eating a bag of  peanuts ( no bar meals in those days), when he had done he proceeded to rinse his mouth out, leaving the beer flat and with loads of little nut debris swilling around inside. 

" Of God, that's disgusting, you're not in Manchester now you know"
Unfortunately I was sat next to him and when I can back from the loo I accidentally picked his pint up, swallowing a lot of this peanut crap. It took me all of my will power to stop me spraying it all over everyone.

I still have nightmares !!

Saturday, 21 July 2018


For our recent holiday in Cornwall Mrs Ken & I stayed a few nights in Helston. On our arrival we walked into town and sought out the local Wetherspoons  ( The Coinage Hall) for something to eat. After an excellent pizza we crossed the street to the pub I was most interested in, The Blue Anchor.

This pub is an early brewpub, brewing Spingo Ales. It features in the Good Beer Guide and other "best pub" publications. It was built in the 15th century and comprises several small rooms and two bars, with a range of handpulls in the front room.  The barmaid was chatty and she pointed out all the beers they brew with recommendations. She also mentioned the beer garden out the back. Now the night in question was a World Cup match night ; when Belgium beat Japan at the final whistle.

So at the back of the pub they had erected a marquee with benches and tables facing a giant telly. Settling down we suddenly heard what sounded like a load of tambourines. Turning round, in had walked a group of Morris dancers. They are surely not going to do their stuff while the match is on ?

One of them, who looked like the main man, walked up and down, assessing the venue,. muttering to himself about "switching this crap off" , pointing at the TV. The game itself was on a knife edge when we noticed it had gone quiet behind us - they had disappeared ! 

At the end of the game I went to the bar for a quick half of their stout so asked the barmaid where  the Morris dancers had gone. " Well tonight is usually quiz night but they are making a special appearance, but decided they couldn't compete with the football, so they are performing outside in the street" Sure enough through the window I could see them doing their stuff. Each to his own.

We finished our drinks the same time as the dancers and walked back up the hill to the hotel, followed by one dancer, still in costume, a human tambourine.  As we walked he kept the same pace behind us. The noise !. There want much traffic and not many people around, but the noise !   Finally, and thankfully, he ducked into a side street and peace at last  descended on this sleepy town.

One more thing; the beer. It was OK.  I personally thought it could have been cooler ; it was a hot evening but even so. Maybe that's what the locals are used to.



Saturday, 14 July 2018


A few months ago there was a news item about a Trappist monastery in Leicestershire that was about to start brewing beer. Mount St Bernard Abbey near Coalville became only the 12th monastery in the world, and the first in the UK, to brew Trappist style beer.  

Now as luck would have it, Mrs Ken and myself have just returned from a holiday in Cornwall and the monastery just so happens to lie in between the A42 and the M1. Seems crazy not to make the detour. Just as well we had satnav as there were no "tourist signs" to direct us.

As we arrived the bells of the abbey sounded ( which I thought was a nice touch) and saw 2 women clutching what  suspiciously looked like beer bottles heading  for their car near ours in the abbey car park. "He's just locked up and will be back in 15mins" I was told. " There are loads of bottles left !" Apparently the monk/brother had gone to midday prayers.

Champing at the bit and looking at the time on my phone every 2 minutes, eventually the shop door opened and the monk/brother waved me in and didnt seem surprised when I said " Ive come for the beer ".

"Are you Dutch ? he said  " Dutch, no I'm from the North East Sunderland ". " Hmm, you sound Dutch - I'm German"
As you would expect the little shop was mostly full of religious items plus some honey jars and stacked on the floor were boxes of the beer, as well as a stash on a shelf.

As I was paying another guy walked in, seeking solace after England were knocked out of the world cup the day before. Soon there was  a surreal moment when a German monk, a Leeds supporter and myself were chatting about the World Cup.

Then in walked 4 more guys. "Ive come to buy some honey" , one announced, not believing him for a second . Back outside another car pulled up and the male driver was out
of the car nearly before the engine had stopped, followed by his 2 female companions. 

" Here for the beer I presume?" I said to the women. "Oh course, can you see the way he is striding across the car park".

Suddenly, everything was alright with the world, the football defeat forgotten.

And the beer, well I had some last night. Its called Tynt Meadow, named after a field nearby. Its 7.4% and brewed and bottled in the old monastery kitchen. You can buy the beer but not drink it there, they don't have a license.  It's bottled conditioned and has a sort of muddy brownish colour...very quaffable.

Friday, 13 July 2018


For nearly 2 weeks Mrs Ken & myself have been in Cornwall, our first time. The first hotel was just outside Helston, home of the Blue Anchor pub ( subject of another post later). Next to the hotel was a pub called the May Tree, which sold a St Austell beer ( Tribute) and food, so we dined there one night. 

A friendly barmaid came over to take our beer and food order and we got chatting. 

" Have you heard about our 40% of food offer, if you have voucher".
No voucher.

" Its OK, I like you, will take the 40% off when you are ready. Where are you guys from?"

"The North East near Sunderland"
"Ive got friends from there in the Lake District"
" No No, the other side..just below Scotland"
"You don't sound Scottish !"

Had to resort to saying Newcastle and another clue " Geordies ?"

The light went on . " Ah Geordies, was wondering about the accent".
" We come from the same place as the England goalie ?" Total blank. 
" You know, Jordan Pickford, the World Cup" more blank.        " Oh yeah, thats on the telly, heard about that but not being watching it" 

When paying I thought I would try it on with the 40% discount for the next night. She pulls a voucher out of the till, left by a previous customer. " Here, you can have this one"

Next night she said " Thank you for enhancing my geographical knowledge last night"

Saved about £9 over the two nights, so gave her a generous tip !

Tuesday, 19 June 2018


I friend of mine who i first met nearly 50 years ago died recently. He like telling funny stories, all of which were true. The thing is he kept repeating them every 2 or 3 years so this one I have heard several times. I wasnt actually at this games of pub dominoes but i fell that I was

In the early 70s' we used to drink in the Cross Keys on Washington Village Green. One Saturday afternoon four of my mates met up for a game of dominoes. The game was in full flow when one guy ( he's dead as well !) called Ronnie dropped a domino just as it was his turn. He checked the table then underneath but couldn't find it. They moved the table over, being careful not to spill any pints. Still no sign of it.  Each one of them checked where they were sitting even lifting cushions up on the bench seats. Nothing.

Someone suggested underneath the bench seat but , despite fumbling around in the dust and fluff, still no joy. Asking Molly the landlady for help she disappeared and eventually came back with a torch. 

By now the whole bar was watching these goings on as Ronnie knelt down, shone the torch and bingo, found the missing domino underneath the bench right next to the skirting board. Soon order was eventually restored, the table back in position and Ronnie poised with his now complete set of dominoes. Everyone sighed, had a drink and waited . He checked his hand and said :-


Well, the pub was in uproar !. True Story