|Having worn a Newcastle shirt in Bodega the previous year, Ben proves he still has no shame in 2014!|
193. Duke of Wellington, Newcastle - This old pub on 'High Bridge' (feels more like a sunken cobbled street) has been a guide regular and very popular with the locals for much longer than I've been into ale. I've been here on three occasions, the most memorable being when Dad and I got into Newcastle very early 10am, it was freezing, but we saw from behind the glass, several glum Geordie faces staring out onto us like they'd been here all night, they probably had. I'm not sure (this could have been before a Sunderland away game 12th Sept 2009 I'm guessing). This feels like a proper old school boozer and I was also here before the Swingin' Utters gig 6th September 2011 and probably also the cup win up there on 14th Jan 2009. What these experiences had in common was a random phone call, in 2011 from Dad and in 2009 from Ric - and I never receive phone calls, especially in my pre-iPhone days where I barely ever used a phone so it was notable in a boring way.
194. Chillingham, Heaton - A classic Groovie Ghoulies gig always seemed to end up drunken debacles (see my Nottingham archive reviews) and the first, Friday 21st Feb 2003 was one of the best. I remember getting a scary Metro into that whole Byker area with JW2, a first for me, and being smitten with a girl at work who I was on a course with at this time. A bit like the Cluny, I saw this as a gig venue with the added bonus of ale, and remember having to take it from the bar, outside, in another door, up some stairs, to the venue which had quite a light, loungy feel for such an event. People bringing trays of takeaway curry in only added to the surreal environment we found ourselves in. Future Victorian-waxwork Chris Milner and sister Lu appeared at some point, the gig was great, I was up & down those stairs for ales like a washerwoman, and a drunken singalong in the car back to Shincliffe (poor Ken!) made for a fantastic night, and still the most drunk I've ever seen JW2 to this day! Superb night.
195. New Bridge, Manors - Typical of my hazy memories of Newcastle, this was part of a very BRAPA-esque crawl before I went to a gig having a whole afternoon free. I think the March 2008 Tossers gig is the most likely, I have a feeling I visited after chatting with those hens at the (old) Bridge, and got a bit lost negotiating my way around railway sidings and tunnels to get here. Ale-wise, this was excellent (loads on I'd never heard of) and I still have a loyalty card the friendly barman gave me (wonder if it's still valid?), the pub was full of students and he thought I was one. I felt pleased until I started listening into their incredibly annoying conversations, I wondered if they'd escaped from University of Dork. The pub was quite light (I prefer the relative darkness of the Bridge Hotel). I moved on pretty swiftly, for I had much new pubbing to do before the gig!
196. Crown Posada, Newcastle - My introduction to real ale in the City came when, I'm not sure exactly what the purpose was, maybe there wasn't one, but I met John some time after finishing uni (2000) and his 2003 move to York, I think maybe the summer of 2002. I'd just met his lovely parents for the first time, enjoying a coffee in some shiny new eatery across the road which me n John weren't impressed by, and the contrasting atmosphere in the 'Coffin' (as it's sometimes known) was even starker. I still remember it clearly, walking into this long thin pub, the glorious pint of Big Lamp, squeezing onto the end of some old locals seat, the old fashioned music coming through an old gramophone - there's a great chapter on this pub in my "In Search of the Perfect Pub" book which really captures it's spirit. I am pretty sure I've been in here once or twice since, with JW2 again or Dad, but never on my own though I drunkenly looked for it twice in vain on the way back to the Travelodge after various gigs. An absolute marvel of a pub.
197. Fitzgeralds, Sunderland - I was first aware of this pub living at Chester Road when at Uni between 1998-2000, when somebody (probably Philip Lister) had a friend on his course who worked here, so Philip claimed he could get us all discounted drinks, though we once went (making it a very early BRAPA tick, we'll say 1999 for the sake of argument) and any discount predictably didn't transpire. The real tragedy though was that i overlooked all these weird looking beers in favour in some lager or other, blissfully unaware what real ale even was! Despite hearing "Fitzy's this", "Fitzy's that" on a regular basis, I avoided this pub for the remainder of my time at Uni and it was only one post-match (18th April 2009's 1-0 defeat perhaps) that we went for post-match drinks believing "Beefy" Mark Bainton was there, he wasn't but it was busy, we stood up, but considering all this, we enjoyed the experience and did get a seat for about the last two minutes! To this day, it's still a mystery to me why I haven't been here more.
198. Isis, Sunderland - A bit like the terrorist organisation of the same name, this pub's emergence on the pre-match Sunderland scene was put to me a bit like it was a threat to the national security of our King's Arms homeland. Intrigued, and with JW2 not quite such an early starting drinker as us, we popped in 8th Feb 2014 and I was immediately impressed. A great range of Jarrow beers served by really good staff, and a terrific two roomed building with secret toilets and a proper hallway giving it grand pub of old feel you normally find more in Greater Manchester, Merseyside or the West Midlands. Though me, Ben and Tom (quite rightly) stuck to the plan and moved on, Dad lamely and annoyingly decided he was "too ill to move", Mark's knee suddenly had a twinge, and Chris Douglas insisted an a sit down meal as is so often the case, before Christine then declared it "away pub of the season". Ben and I both texted our displeasure! Still feeling the need to let it impress me, I made this our designated pre-match pub on 26/12/14. Now most pubs open 12 noon on Boxing Day, but this place looked like it'd been serving pints of Rivet Catcher since at least 8am! It was heaving, and in the back room, very very cold. Things warmed up when John and Ken arrived, and had a few hundred Mackems been ejected for no apparant reason, it might have been pub of the season!
199. Ivy House, Sunderland - It doesn't sit easily with me even 'highlighting' this as a visited BRAPA pub. It was a dark, windy night in the late Autumn of 1998 and in our Chester Oval house of ill repute, Jane Taylor's Autumn of Terror was building us her stalker, Graeme, wouldn't leave her alone. Not one to front awkward situations head on, she decided the solution was that everyone currently in the house was to vacate it for the evening, and go to a pub where he'd never find us. So we soon found ourselves walking down behind our house, through a few terraced streets, to this pub I'd heard about since my Panns Bank days. At one point, a bush bristled in the wind and Jane leapt a mile in the air, thinking Graeme was lurking behind it. The people present were me, Jane, Andy Denton, Philip and Jane's friend Kerry, the ginger teacher with the big knockers. We played pool (I was off form, even Philip beat me, the shame!), drank lager and alcopops unaware of "real ale", watched music videos on a screen, it was a good night, awful hangover next day. Had felt like being in a pub, just a studenty one. I still feel I have unfinished business here and will strive to return when I'm "mopping up" Sunderland.
200. King's Arms, Sunderland - A fitting pub to bring up the 200 with, another "Welly away day pub of the season", very much our Bodega of Sunderland and it also does Ham & Pease Pudding "filled rolls". When the good JW2 realised Saltgrass just wasn't cutting the mustard any more (loyaler than most), he joined many others marching up that hill to the King's, and was soon raving about it. So on 18th April 2009, we joined JW2 and his Dad here with a huge Welly gang including the likes of Lizzy and Colin Scunthorpe for one of the best away match sessions ever. A great ale range, a friendly barmaid (as long as you speak loudly, bit deaf) and a brilliant pub quiz even featuring a section on the "away team" made for a classic. No wonder we were back the following year 12th Sept 2009 and on our long awaited return 8th Feb 2014 where we proved it doesn't have to be an unlucky pub for Hull City either. It was busy without being uncomfy, and again I thought the beer quality was superb, the likes of Consett White Hot and Durham White Gold, and one about Admiral Collingwood. I like the bare boarded circular layout, it feels like a basic non pretentious boozer. However, JW2's reports on 'beers going off' or 'on the turn' may be a bit more often than is acceptable for a GBG pub. It could be a match day thing, hard to cope with demand (see "The Pub" in Leicester), but even so, it may be a worry if a tough CAMRA inspector came in on one of these days.
Wow, well that made me nostalgic and I'm wondering if it's too late for Newcastle and Sunderland to join us in the Championship next season for more adventures like these? Either that or Groovie Ghoulies reform and come on tour. I'm not sure which is most likely.
Next time, we'll finish off in Sunderland before turning our attentions to the West Midlands.