Monday, 12 November 2018


Sometimes ideas for this blog just come out of nowhere. 

Yesterday ( Nov 11th) Mrs Ken and I were at Beamish Museum for the Armistice event. After the ceremony we had a wander around and went into the Regional Resource Centre, which houses hundreds of items that are waiting go on display, or  taken off display. A lot are stacked up to the ceiling. Items such as old domestic appliances, furniture, toys and even a penny farthing bicycle.

Looking at this last one and wondering who on earth came up with an idea like that I said to Mrs Ken , to let me know if she spots any beer related items . " What, like that display behind you ?"

Some items are on shelves behind perspex panels such as these 4 wooden Theakstons Casks, 2 with XXXX, 1 with BBB and 1 with XB. Now Ive heard of and has XB but not the other two. Must look into that.

Opposite this was an even better display and I include some pictures. Being behind perspex, and with strong ceiling lights, it was hard to get the right shot, hope you can see them Ok.

Note the bar price list ( I wish some pubs would have displays like this but dont get me started.) The bottle of Roker Roar was produced by Vaux to celebrate Sunderland's Promotion to the Premier League in 1996.

Worth a visit 


Tuesday, 23 October 2018


A few weeks ago I suggested to my mates " fancy a mystery trip pub crawl?" They were all up for it so last Saturday 8 of us convened for breakfast in the 5 Swans Newcastle. Still keeping them in suspense, we walked along to Eldon Square Bus Station and queued at the stand that said

X 10 Middlesborough ,
X82  Throckley , 
X85 Newbrough. 

They were still mystified as we got on the express for Newbrough and got off at Hexham Bus Station. 

Our next bus to our mystery destination was not for an hour so a quick pint in the County Hotel seemed the sensible thing to do. One guy, who happened to be sitting in a backwards facing seat on the bus said " so this is Throckley ?" Wrong town mate.

The Crown was quite pleasant with well kept beers but only time for a pint, as the next bus was due. So back to the bus station and the number 688 to Allenheads. We got off at Allendale Town half an hour later,  as the town had three pubs worth looking at ; The Golden Lion, The Kings Head and the Allendale Inn.

The first pub was too small for 8 of us so we opted for The Kings head which is literally next door.

But before we even got to the door , marching towards us were three some Star Wars Stormtroopers brandishing their weapons. What on earth was going on ? Turns out a new science fiction museum had opened that day in the town so they were doing some  publicity and collecting for the local school. Parking this experience,  we dived into the Kings Head for a another pint ; some bland Marstons beers.

After one, it was time to investigate this museum. That's when the fun started -outside was Chewbacca from Star Wars, a Cyberman with a bald head , a Dalek in a shed (?) and other characters. The museum cost £7 entrance, in unison we all said - " sod that, that's nearly 2 pints"  so after some photos, straight into the Allendale Inn which seemed to be the centre of attention. 

Inside a few tables were taken up by some Dr Who memorabilia and, as it turned out , an ex actor from Dr Who , John Levene (no,  me neither) . He was there to open the museum and sign autographs in the pub at £5 a time. There was actually people of all ages queuing up for the honour. He apparently played a sergeant in the 70's during the days of Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.
We just sat there thinking we had just entered some sort of parallel universe as we came over the moors on the bus. The local townsfolk just seemed to be taking it their stride. We were pissing ourselves laughing most of the time. The height of the surrealism of it all was when back outside ,  Chewbacca came over and mentioned to one of the lads that he used to work with him !

With buses being every two hours it was time to travel back through the portal and back to Hexham and sanity. A pint in The Heart of Northumberland went down well then down to the Tannery for some excellent grub. 

Getting back to Newcastle , it seemed sensible to go for beer in the Town Mouse to round off the day and recover from what we had just seen.

In all honesty, the pubs and the beers came secondary to our unique experience in Allendale. The lads thought I had planned the whole thing to coincide with this sci fi weekend. Pure chance honest ! 


Tuesday, 16 October 2018


As our daughter works in Glasgow Mrs Ken and I dont need any excuse to go north. This time it was a Sunday to a Tuesday ( weekend before last ). 

Now in the new Good Beer Guide there is a new entry called Crossing the Rubicon. It was one of daughters haunts and they hold a quiz every Sunday night, so why not ? Located on the Great Western Road it was primarily a keg bar from Williams Brothers Brewery ( the co owners with Drygate Brewery) but they did sell real ale ( through founts), quite common in Scotland.

The quiz was called Speedquizzing, which I had heard of but not taken part in. You have to load an app onto your smartphone, or in our case a tablet. Enjoying my Merchant City 80/-, nice and malty, in walks the quizmaster , lugging a console thing, bags and other stuff. Out of one of the bags he dons a sparkly jacket. I thought " what have we walked into here ?"

Actually he quite was good and apparently he does different pubs most nights and daughter knew what to do. He sets it all up with a control app , then every team logs in with a team name. Ours was " Whiskey Pedia"

He then asked us all to nominate our theme tune, which would automatically play if we answered a question first. We picked from a list, Atomic by Blondie. 

So , the idea is that before each question he sends out either a keypad grid if letters A- E -  these are for multi choice questions, or a grid of  the full alphabet so we could answer by giving the first letter of the answer. So if question was, name the largest city in Scotland, you hit the letter G as quick as you can. The first in gets their signature tune played and max points.

( I hope you are all following this ?)  ( You lost me - ed)

Anyhow, our tablet kept dropping out and we had to log back on each time. Imagine doing that when you have to answer questions within a micro second ? So Mister Tinsel brought over a spare so we could use. Unfortunately he had typed in our team wrong , so for the rest of the night we were the  "Whisky Pedo's" !

Halfway thru he asked the teams to write down their  funniest joke, which he would read out for a prize.
Daughter suggested this :-

"Roses are Red, Violets are Glorious
Dont Creep up on Oscar Pistorious"

The team with the most laughs won. So we laughed and cheered at our own and won !.

A box of chocolate fingers
Some hand cream
4 cans of Williams of Joker IPA.

We came third overall which wasn't bad considering it was a quiz for the young ones ( I was oldest in the bar).

One final word - its back to the beer. I ordered another 80/- while daughter ordered a pint of some fruity keg IPA. I had a was bloody awful. It was so hoppy and bitter my cheeks sucked in to meet in the middle. She didnt like my beer either so its down to age and taste I guess.

A good night was had by all.

PS - had a chocolate finger the next day but no sign of the beer !! Someone must have knocked it all back in the intervening period.    


Wednesday, 10 October 2018


Being a personal account of the 2018 Sunderland Beer & Cider Festival.

Day 1 - Collection of equipment.

All the equipment for the beer festival is held in a lock up somewhere in South Tyneside ; and it all has to be transported to the festival venue, The Point in Sunderland. So thats everything that is needed to make up the 2 bars, the racking for the casks, handpulls, flooring and dozens of glasses and boxes. The heavy stuff went in one van which would be unloaded at the front of the venue, the rest in a second van to be unloaded at the back of the Point into the cellar. Access from the cellar was only possible by this dodgy lift that took our stuff to the festival, floor.

Several trips up and down were made in the lift, which only had one light - on the verge of going out. At some point at the end of this up and down, seven of the guys found themselves in the cellar waiting to go up. Luckily I wasn't one of them. No lift arrived. Where the hell are they. After 5 minutes I banged on the door. A muted response. Apparently they were stuck. We found out later the lift went down a few inches instead of up. The cellar door was locked from the inside so we couldn't get in to "rescue "them.

We found the caretaker who promptly rang someone and said " Hes going to try and get an electrician out "  Try ?

Suddenly the phone rang of one of us in the safety and comfort of the main hall. Updates were given and to comfort the magnificent seven down below, we told them an engineer would be out at 9am the next morning.

After half an hour ( some later said 20 minutes and 45 minutes ) the lift apparently "woke up ", and the door opened. What happened next was probably the fast exodus from a lift in history.

Day 2 - Set up day.

After collecting most of the casks and cider boxes from Maxim Brewery, as we do every year , we headed into town in the van to drop them off, to be carried up in the notorious lift. This time there were no incidents. 

Most of the guys were assembling the racking for the casks  and bar so decided to keep out of the way and wash the 400 plus glasses we had left over from last year. There is a small kitchen with a small glass washer. After spending several minutes figuring out how it worked, our efforts were helped enormously when we switched the power on at the wall. 
After a few button presses it was loaded up and we were good to go.

After about 10 mins and a few successful washes the guy who managed the place walked in. " That's broken" he said. " Well its working now, where do we send the repair bill ?"

Just then we all looked down at the slowly growing pool of water on the tiled floor of the kitchen. The water was heading to the door leading to the landing at the top of the staircase down to the entrance. With quick presence of mind the manger grabbed 3 ( I counted them) tissues, stuffed them against the door, then buggered off !!   He didnt come back.  

Luckily I found a mop and bucket so spent the next few hours with 2 others washing, re- boxing and mopping.  Another behind the scenes drama the punters never see.

Day 3 - Day One ( if you see what I mean)

I was busy behind the bar for most of the afternoon. This couple, who I remember from last year, kept coming to the bar and ordering one of the stouts. She came first, wandered off then shared her half with her boyfriend. Then he would come up and so on. After an hour of this they had gone through all the dark beers, including an 11% Russian Stout. They came over to say they were off, as he had a woodwork class to go to !! Visions of scenes of the DIY guy, Reg Prescott from the Kenny Everet show came to mind as they left for another year.

Day 4- Day two

I was helping out on the front desk today which included wrapping a wrist band round the payees and handing out glasses/ programs. One guy came back for a new wrist band as the one he had on was too tight, digging into his skin and severely restricting his drinking hand ! Cant have that !

I was a good way to get to know our customers but if I was honest I preferred behind the bar   

Day 5 - Day three

An interesting experiment was carried out today. One of the beers was from Black Sheep, a milk stout - newly released in bottle and cask . Now to me, it didnt taste like one, with no or not much lactose in it. Anyhow, one of the guys had a bottle so we had a blind taste of both. I thought the bottle was better -  in fact the score was 10 -7 in favour of the bottle !
I bought a one after the festival but have not tried it yet. 

This was a Saturday and we were just ticking over. Also my last day as heading for Glasgow on Sunday morning - see next blog soon.


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 !!