Monday 22 September 2014

BRAPA - South Shields and a bit of Newcastle

Ha'way lads, or should it be Ho'way?  In any case, I tried to "cleanse" myself from two solid days of York beer festivalling with a random trip up North to the made up county of Tyne and Wear, which I have identified as "easiest to finish" in the BRAPA ticking terms.

Something in my psyche tells me that any day off work is a wasted opportunity if I don't jump on a train and tick 5 or 6 pubs off.  So it was with something of an aching liver that I arrived in the grey barren wasteland of South Shields, and if I needed any more evidence that Phil Brown's tan was fake (I didn't), here it was.

I was immediately 'gripped', a result of a ticket buying blunder I only had myself to blame for but the criminal way in which I was treated said more about the usual users of zone 3 of Newcastle's Metro system than me.  So I was in a bad mood as I started my ticking session.

534 - Wouldhave, South Shields - So picture the scene, I'm still smarting from paying about £30 for a £4.90 ticket.  It's a Wetherpsoons.  It is cold,  The landlord is unfriendly.  I get an ale from Yeovil that has travelled relatively well but is classic brown Spoons fare.  The atmosphere resembles a morgue, but then again, Friday 11am is hardly going to be banging is it?  I try and blend in with the local grizzled old men with Steve Bruce noses and grim expressions.  I read about William Wouldhave, the probable inventor of the lifeboat who was from Shields, but even this is debatable according to Wikipedia.  Anyway, I drink up swiftly and move on.

The Wouldhave : nice bins, shame about the rest!

535 - Stag's Head - A short walk back towards the centre found me at this lovely unspoilt National Inventory pub.  It had a friendly, family style atmosphere with jolly locals but only one beer on, Draught Bass.  Three more handpumps turned round, and they were pulling one through as I left which was frustrating, but as far as Bass pints go, it was up there (unlike my last experience of this beer in Zouch),  Being a geek, I consulted my 1982 ale guide which tells me the one ale here was also Draught Bass,  How little can change in 32 years, kind of nice really!  I knew my place in this pub, went to sit in the corner, next to an interesting sign (see below) which summed it up nicely.  This pub also gets it's moment in BRAPA history as it was the first I highlighted in my 2015 GBG.

My designated seat in the Stag's Head

536  - Maltings - Just a few yards away from the wonderful Jarrow brewery, it was a case of 'third time lucky' as I struck gold in this wonderful building.  The landlady, who was smoking outside, directed me upstairs and gave me all the latest news.  Jarrow's new ale, Shipwright, was selling like hot cakes and I could see why - pint of the day.  The surroundings were comfortable, old wood panelling, carpetted, dark, plush old sofas.  A bit like a cross between the Victoria F&C in Leeds and an old gentleman's club.  One you can't do justice to simply through description.  The landlady also told me that the Alum Ale House was closed for refurbishment which was a shame but saved me a walk .... altogether now "WE SAY CLOSED ALUM".

My reclining armchair view in the Maltings

537 - Steamboat - In my mind, I'd probably decided Maltings was pub of the day but with my mindset now a  lot more positive (and slightly addled), I entered this pub and was immediately convinced I'd found a very different kind of 'classic'.  The barmaid sold me a "Last Tap" by Consett, another great local brewery.  The beer range in here was superb.  She then told me about their forthcoming Hallowe'en beer fest (25 ales, 1 cider), superhero based, she's going as Robin from Batman but said I could make up a superhero if I wanted.  BRAPA-man?  Has a nice ring to it.  After making my fool of myself walking around the pub to find the gents, the locals pleasingly thought I was a student busily working (what, in September?) as they saw me highlighting pages of a thick text book.  Little did they know ha ha ha! The pub was, in my opinion, more like some of those classic North Eastern ones like Cumberland, Free Trade or Saltgrass in it's heyday.  Wonderful.

Steamboat - a North East classic
My bladder just about survived a painful journey back to the Toon where a Newcastle fan with tunnel vision, so he said, rambled on about Pardraw, Padrew, Pradew (well, let's just say he couldn't pronounce it).  I used the Centurion as a public toilet (all it's good for in my opinion) before continuing my crawl.

538 - Lady Grey's, Newcastle - Easily my third favourite pub of my trip, this had been highly recommended by several people I know and although a busy post-work atmosphere meant I had to perch on a high stool, it was still comfy and somehow, maintained a calm and relaxed hubbub.  Another superb range of ales included the amazing Rudgate No 1 Vanilla Mild, possibly the best beer of 2014.  This was after a slightly disappointing Durham Citra something, I barely believe I got the right pint as it had no citrus whatsoever!  The pub also had quite a studenty feel, I guess it is that time of year, and the staff were plesant enough, but the whole experience lacked the personable charm of the Steamboat or the sheer class of Maltings.

Rudgate No 1 Vanilla Mild - oh yes!
Ben was texting me, and we met at Head of Steam which is neither a 'tick' or even a GBG 2015 pub - get with the programme Master Andrew!  So I had to wait until the following morning for my final tick.

539 - Pleased to Meet You, Newcastle - A new GBG entry, an 11 o'clock opener, it was a no brainer before our traditional pre-match Bodega and post-match Bridge session.  Lots of plusses to start with.  It was open before 11am, how often does that happen?  Especially when it is raining.  I was greeted by three happy smiling young female bar-staff (always the best type) and I ordered a Green Hop by Tyne Bank (yet another superb brewery from this part of the world).  Sadly, despite it's obvious quality, it had a lagery sweet taste so wasn't for me.  The guide describes this place as a "Gin and Real Ale Eatery" and this, it's name, the shabby chic decor, 9 craft beers, kind of tells you that this is never going to be my favourite pub in Newcastle but as they say diplomatically in CAMRA circles, "a welcome addition to the scene".  When Tom arrived, he was offered table service before he'd had chance to breathe having said "we're going to lose today", did they think he was a hipster? 

Me after one too many at Sid James Park.
So overall, a successful BRAPA session.  I'm taking the opportunity this week to rest my liver, do some "book work" and will have some GBG 2015 stats for you soon but Tyne & Wear is a county I will really be looking to push in the coming year.  What a shame Sunderland is on boxing day, the most restricting pub and travel day of the year.  Some more impromptu trips like this are required.



  1. Si,
    Please could you email me a scan of your documentation for your £30.00 for a £4.90 ticket Metty ride? Partly personal curiosity, partly so I can make sure that £30.00 is the end of the matter and that it isn't anything more serious.

  2. South Shields pubs sound great in general, and the Jarrow Ales tempt me to take a trip in order to find my first decent pint of the Summer ! Will Walter's oblige before then ?