Thursday, 17 December 2009

Chester-Le-Street Cricket Club, Ropery Lane, Chester-Le-Street, Co.Durham. DH3 3PF.Tel: 0191 3883684.

On entering a car park, off the main street in Chester Le Street, was The Chester Le Street Cricket Club.
I didn't realise it was there, with the emergence of the international(?) ground at the other side of the town. What a pleasant bar it turned out to be. Quite large and totally glass fronted. A great spot to relax, sup your real ale and watch the cricket. Marvelous!

4 handles on but only 2 in service. Consett Ale Works Red Dust and my choice, Captain Cook Brewery's Slipway.
Very pleasant. Pleased we called in.
Very nice.

Lloyds No.1--The Wicket Gate, Front Street, Chester-Le-Street. Co.Durham, DH3 3AX. Tel:0191 3872960.


Cask Task spotted this building, Lloyds No. 1--The Wicket Gate, on the way through Chester Le Street and decided to investigate.
Lo and behold, the interior was like a thoroughly modern and posh night club!
But no, here we have yet another Wetherspoons where you have to carefully wipe your feet before going in. It must have cost a few bob to do out, but I must admit, it was impressive.
As usual with Wetherspoons, the real ale choice in The Wicket Gate was terrific and the prices very reasonable.
Ruddles Best, Abbot Reserve, Elgoods Snickalmas, Hook Norton Brewery Twelve Days and on and on. 9 handles in total.
The place is set up for food and though a bit soulless, as Wetherspoons is, how can you complain? Enjoy your ale, sit back, and stop whingeing.
Certainly worth a look and a pint or two.

The Victoria Inn, 86 Hallgarth, Durham, DH1 3AS. Tel: 0191 3865269


In The Victoria Inn, an old pub in Durham itself, gave Cask Task its next major adventure.

The bar itself is fairly small, but as the snow was tossing it down outside, a roaring fire was ablaze inside. We took our pints and settled down beside the fire.

A knock came on the main door (see the corner door on the photo).
A customer left his seat opened the door, looked out, closed the door, took up the door mat, lifted a hatch, thereby revealing the sheer drop into the cellar below, and returned to his seat and pint.

If this had been a comedy, an incoming customer, in a rush to get out of the snow storm outside, would have opened the door and immediately strode into the cellar below.
Now, I kid you not, but I'm only lying to you about the last bit. Another older, and somewhat wiser, customer yelled a warning, leapt up, and managed to re-open and prop open the door, thus averting tomorrow's headlines in the Sunderland Echo. I had to laugh!

The little place was full and obviously popular with good real ale on hand. Our Durham Brewery Magus was drunk but a fine choice of Wylam Gold Tankard, Big Lamp Bitter and Nick Stafford Hambleton Ale Festive Folly was also there.
A lovely old pub.

Ye Old Elm Tree, 12 Crossgate, Durham, DH1 4PS. Tel: 0191 3864621.


What a smashing pub Ye Old Elm Tree is.Although the weather nearly prevented me from gettng in.
A good old fashioned snow storm, on top of the existing ice on the sloping pavement and the two entrance steps, became like tackling the north face of the Eiger to a gronk like me! It's grand to find there are still some kind souls about and an Elm Tree customer, following me in, guided me into the welcoming and warm bar. Everyone in there, including the owner, was easy to talk to and helpful for Cask Task's onward journey.
Ye Old Elm Tree's forthcoming real ale beer fest, 28th Jan 2010--1st Feb is to be given a Cathedral theme based on Durham, York, and Glastonbury,etc with plenty of beer to choose from. Sounds good to me.

A pint of Nick Stafford Hambleton Ale's Reindeer was immediately supped and enjoyed. A difficult choice from the Elm's fine selection, including Consett Ale Works White Hot, Fowlers Yard Durhams Festive Ale and Double Maxim.

The friendly lot from Ye Old Elm Tree gave us instructions for our next port of call as sadly we had to continue the good work elsewhere. What a chore this is.

Bridge Hotel, 40 North Road, Durham. DH1 4SE. Tel: 0191 3868090.


After a little parking problem The Bridge Hotel turned out to be a quite pleasant find.
First of all the Braine Brewery's Reverend James pint was tasty and The Bridge itself was a comfortable place to drink it in. Quite busy with diners, the atmosphere was good and the other two choices on the real ale front were Speckled Hen and Wells Bombardier. Safe but popular.
Worth a visit.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Low Lights Tavern, Brewhouse Bank, North Shields, Tyne and Wear, NE30 1JN. Tel: 0191 2595593.


The Low Lights Tavern has the potential to be another North Shields real ale gem.
Reputed to be the oldest pub in North Shields and it certain looks it.

A real old fashioned boozer, split into two separate areas, as they used to be, the Low Lights was the original fisherman's drinking place. Loaded with character and of course its share of ghosts roaming upstairs and in the cellars below, as related to us by Sophie behind the bar.
Having just come under new ownership its ancient origins are trying to be revived. And so they should be. Rather than than trying to turn it into a wine bar (holy mackerel!!) as the last owner apparently tried to do!

Your two intrepid Cask Task hunters almost gave it a miss, because of its recent past, but of course we couldn't resist its ancient facade. We're delighted we couldn't.

Among the 4 real ales on offer were Mordues Workie Ticket, Bass and my choice Wylam Bitter.
An enjoyable and entertaining visit.
Good luck to Sophie and the new owners.

Porthole, 11 New Quay, North Shields, Tyne and Wear, NE29 6LQ. Tel: 0191 2576645.


The Porthole is next to the ferry terminal in North Shields and hasn't got the most inviting of exteriors. Once inside though, the picture does change for the better as the soft jazz music greets you.

A bit dated the interior might be, but don't let this put you off, as the place has a good atmosphere and some good real ales to choose from. The live jazz, afternoon and evening, certainly adds to the enjoyment.

Real ales of the calibre of Courage Directors, Durham Brewery White Velvet, Bass Premium Ale and Wentworth Brewery Harvest Pale Ale were the choices.

A very enjoyable and friendly visit. A good real ale pub.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Hugo's at the Coast, 29 Front Street, Tynemouth, NE30 4DZ.Tel: 0191 2578956.

Hugo's at the Coast is on Front Street Tynemouth.
What a street this is for real ale drinkers. Cask Task discovered another pub there on sunday after a meal at Il Forno at Tynemouth Metro station.

This one's from the Fitzgerald Group and is another busy treat for the drinker. A fair sized one room affair for the booze.
Black Sheep, Deuchars IPA, as regulars, plus World Top Brewery Falling Stone and Edinburgh No.3 as guests. Typical Fitz pub. Busy but seemingly well run.

Must get back again in day light to get a decent photo. And a soberish one if possible.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Magnesia Bank, 1 Camden Street, North Shields, NE30 1NH. Tel: 0191 2574831


The Magnesia Bank and North Shields in general was suggested, by one of Cask Tasks most prominent members, as worthy of a visit. It certainly was.
The Magnesia Bank had originally been a georgian bank many years ago and the interior and attached restaurant were worth a visit. A relaxing and tasty pint in front of the open fire was very pleasant indeed.
The superb selection of real ales came from the seven taps and included Durham Brewery Magus, Caledonian Double Dark(delicious) and 80 shilling, Poaches Billy Boy, Theakstons loverly Old Peculiar, Devonport The Fall and the ever popular Deuchars IPA.
This lot set us up for the enjoyable day to come.
Grand pub.

The Bell and Bucket, 37-39 Norfolk Street, North Shields, NE30 1NQ Tel:0191 2570680.


The Bell and Bucket turned out to be the end part of an old fire station. Once inside, this cosy little pub turned out to be a warm and relaxing place to have a pint.
One wall kitted out with fishing tackle from divers helmets to photos and the other with a huge assortment of porcelain owls! What's that lot all about?
Never mind. The beer was ok from High Gate and we enjoyed a Dark Mild.

Oddfellows, 7 Albion Road, North Shields, NE30 2RJ. Tel:0191 2574288


What a little belter the Oddfellows turned out to be.
A one roomed inviting boozer full of friendly faces and real ale drinkers. I think all three of Cask Task's members wished we lived next door to this little gem, so that we could take advantage of the Oddfellows Day Time Saver Scheme of buy 5 get 1 free!

Graeme, the owner, had a nice little selection of real ales from Abbott Ale, Jarrow Brewery's Jarrow Bitter and Maxim Brewery's Three Cheers for Christmas which could not be ignored and wasn't!
All round enjoyable visit.
Definitely a pub not to be missed.

Tynemouth Lodge Hotel, Tynemouth Road, North Shields, NE30 4AA. Tel:0191 2577565.

The Tynemouth Lodge Hotel goes back a long way. See the picture!
Not to be out done by the others on our North shields booze up, Cask Task stuck manfully to the job and sampled the real ale here. By god it's hard work though.
Another good little real ale pub. Both cozy and comfortable with Greene King IPA, Caledonian 80 shilling and the powerful Abbott Ale.
What a super way to round off the day.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Beamish Mary, No Place, Beamish, Stanley, Co. Durham, DH9 0QH. Tel:0191 3700237.


The Beamish Mary in No Place.

The pub named after her, probably a coalmine, is an inviting and cozy little place complete with glowing open fire. A grand sight on a winter's evening, complete with a fine selection of real ales.
Back Shift Bitter and Lamplight, both local brews, Consett Red Dust and White Hot, Northumberland Fog On the Tyne, Daleside Old Leg Over, Hadrian Farne Island as well as Weston's Old Rosie Cider. By, you could have a good night in here.

It's a shame we were pushed for time (the driver had to pick the wife up from work; must get a new driver!) but we must call again, to down some more of that very nice Back Shift Bitter.
Smashing pub.

The Black Horse, Red Row, Beamish, Co. Durham, DH9 0RW. Tel:01207 232569.


The Black Horse. There must be hundreds of them, but Cask Task managed to find one that wouldn't let us in.

Cask Task is made of sterner stuff though. At the third visit, we got in! Our persistance was based on the attractiveness of the place and its surroundings. It didn't disappoint.

The two stoves, one from the original part and the other from the extended section certainly added to the feeling of warmth in what is one large room split into two by the central bar. We had difficulty getting in because the place has had a complete re-vamp, including the surrounding gardens. It should be a picture in the summer.

Going back to the 1700's The Black Horse seems to be based on the row of cottages there and a sound job has been made of them.
The three real ales on sale were Brains SA(a Welsh brewery), Shepherd Neames Spitfire and Wells Bomardier. The SA we sampled was 1st class.

We were made very welcome there and I'm sure you will be too.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Brandling Villa, Haddricks Mills Road, South Gosforth. NE3 1QL. Tel:0191 2840490.


The Brandling Villa in South Gosforth sits on a corner site of a busy road junction with a decent sized car park at the rear.
What a smashing old building it is. A shame the builders were in and the scaffolding spoilt the look of the place. The wild wind unfortunately flattened the sign offering food. See the Cask Task photo above.
Inside though, made up for the temporary disruption outside. Warm, welcoming, attractive and comfortable it was. The place was under new management of some two months. Young (god they all look like school kids to me these days) Dave Carr was the new encumbent (previously at the Market Tavern, Durham City) but a very pleasant chap he turned out to be.
Although there were only three hand pumps. Deuchars IPA, Black Sheep(what else!) and Old Rosie Scrumpy, Dave had three more to come.
Cask Task enjoyed a couple of pints of the IPA in the Brandling Villa before wishing the new management best wishes and moving on.
Well worth a visit.

Snowy Owl, Blagdon Lane, Cramlington. NE23 8AU Tel:01670 736111.


The Snowy Owl was a closer sunday lunch venue for me and a substitute for the good old Badger when I was at Ellington. In the same pub group with its lovely open fires, the Snowy Owl was just as welcoming as the Badger too.

The usual real ale taps were there. Deuchars IPA,(and guess what!) Black Sheep and Harvestoun Bitter and Twisted(my choice for the day). Lovely.

We sat by one of the open fires and put the world to rights. Then run off home satisfied.
See you.

Falcons Nest, Rotary Way, North Brunton, Gosforth, Newcastle Upon Tyne. NE3 5EH. Tel:0191 2367078.


The Falcons Nest, just off the A1 roundabout for Gosforth Park, appears to be the latest edition to the Badger and the Snowy Owl, and did not disappoint. Although Cask Task did not try the food the ambience was exactly the same as the other two. Welcoming and comfortable.

The three real ales were Deuchars IPA, Black Sheep, and Harviestouns Bitter and Twisted, the last of which was sampled and very nice it was too.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Shakespeare, 63 Sadler Street, Durham, DH1 3NU. Tel: 0191 3843261.


The Shakespeare, in Durham, came on one of those sudden and impromtu visits to the beautiful old city.

With the castle, built around 1072, and the cathedral in 1093, the Shakespeare is in good company, originating around 1190!! If you don't believe me, just try out the gent's toilet! I fully expected to see the manacles still hanging from the walls and the moaning of the incarcerated ghosts.

This small atmospheric pub is still back there. Go in and sample it.
With 4 real ale pumps to pick from the Shakespeare does offer good beer. Deuchars IPA and Fullers London Pride being the mainstays. Bath Ales Gem and Ringwood Brewerys Huffkin, the two back ups.

Go on. Take your torch with you if you're the nervous type!

Market Tavern, 27 Market Place, Durham, DH1 3HJ. Tel:0191 3862069.

The Market Tavern in Durham's city centre is a busy little pub in an ideal situation for the shopper, although I'm told its a noisy place in the evening, due to the student population.
Cask Task was a lunchtime visitor and found the place relaxing and enjoyed an excellent pint of Orkney's Dark Island beer.
An old building with a very traditional look about it the Market Tavern has six real ales on offer from the Best Bitter by Theakstons, Mordues Workie Ticket and Radgie Gadgie, Houstons Tartan Terror, Fullers London Pride and not forgetting the delicious Dark Island.
The Market Tavern's 3 or 4 hundred year history can be read by left clicking on the sign above.
A pub well worth a visit if you're in town.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Grey Horse, 115 Sherburn Terrace, Consett. DH8 6NE. Tel:01207 502585.

The Grey Horse is what Cask Task calls a proper pub.
It very much reminds us of my father's long since demolished local in Gateshead which had two individual rooms which were run entirely separately. Almost unheard of in these days of large open-plan noisy areas from which there is no escape.

What a pleasure to find that some pubs like The Smiths Arms at Brecon Hill, The Saltgrass at Sunderland , The Boathouse at Ryton and so on still have these traditional old cast iron fire stoves and ovens to give warmth and atmosphere in the winter months. Also the added peace and quiet where civilised conversation can be enjoyed. Super!

Well it looks like Cask Task has discovered another one. The Grey Horse at Consett.

The home of the New Consett Ale Works, the Grey Horse has 4 real ales of its own called Red Dust, White Hot, Cast Iron and Steel Town which got a satisfying tasting from us. There is always the addition of guest ales as the board above shows. As you can see from the photo, the stove was crackling away too. The young lady serving was also a welcome asset to this 150 year old pub.
The next door room is much the same in carpet and reasonably comfortable furniture.

An altogether enjoyable visit and one which is highly recommended by Cask Task.

The Company Row, Wetherspoons, Victoria Centre, Victoria Road, Consett, DH8 5BU. Tel:01207 585600.


The Company Row in Consett. Yet another Wetherspoons bland but busy boozer with a large range of very inexpensive beers to choose from.

Ruddles, Directors, Batemans Iron Lady, Adnams, Toshi's Amber(Japanese, Ah So. Yes I kid you not!) and many more. Some at £1.50 a pint!

The William Jameson,(Wetherspoons), 30/32 Fawcett Street, Sunderland, SR1 1RH.Tel:0191 5145016.

The William Jameson in Fawcett Street was at one time Joplings Department Store, I think. It was so long ago since I was in Sunderland city centre, and there have been so many changes, some not so good. This good building has been saved and is thriving thanks to Wetherspoons.
The beer fest was in full swing with Northumberland's Coffin Dodger, Theakstons Old Peculiar, Ruddles and Abbott to name but a few of the 10 real ales on offer. I went for a Leg Over (chance would be a fine thing) from the Daleside Brewery. Very nice.

The Lambton Worm (Wetherspoons) Victoria Buildings,Low Row, Sunderland, SR1 3QA. Tel:0191 5689910.


The Lambton Worm it may be called but it is a Wetherspoons with out a doubt. Characterless but nonetheless busy. The beer fest did help and of course the beer selection, see above, was tremendous, (and cheap!).
I couldn't resist the Purkmister Bohemian Schwarbier, a stout from Czech Republic's Purkmister Brewery (4.8%). By the time I'd got through ordering it I was ready for a pint. What a surprise! It was very tasty!
I must admit there were some lovely beers to be had but Its not my idea of a pub.

Fitzgeralds, 12/14 Green Terrace, Sunderland, SR1 3PZ. Tel:0191 5670852.


Fitzgeralds, Green Terrace reminded me, from the outside, of an ancient solicitor's house but get inside and it's a smashing old pub you must visit.

Although large and mainly open-plan, the old carpet and solid furnishings create a warm and welcoming atmosphere that Cask Task really appreciates.
On top of that the beer selection is excellent. With 11 real ales to choose from including Black Sheep(good grief its everywhere), Timothy Taylors Landlord, Hobgoblin and a fistfull of guests. Harviestouns, Jarrow IPA, a new one on me from First Yard Ales Ferryhill and from the Durham Brewery, my choice for the day, Genesis!
Very nice!

2004 CAMRA pub of the year and deservedly so.
This type of pub, for me, knocks spots off the likes of Wetherspoons.

Get youself in for a pint.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Trimmers Arms. 34 Commercial Road, South Shields. Tyne & Wear NE33 1RW. Tel:0191 4545550.


The Trimmers Arms looked a very good proposition when we called a few weeks ago but it was closed. Cask Task was on its travels, trying to discover what, if anything, might have been missed when up popped the Trimmers Arms again. Open this time, I'm pleased to say.

Inside is huge and I must say, quite plush. The best part of it consists of the Lobster Pot Restaurant but the bar is substantial also. I would imagine a meal should be tried here to get a full appreciation of the Trimmers Arms.

Don't let me put you off trying a pint or two in here though, as the real ale choice is good any way.
Six real ale pumps of Thwaites Nutty Black (my choice incidentally and it was good), Wells Bombardier, Everards Tiger, Double Maxim and Thwaites Original were in action.

Well worth a visit.
Must take a photo from the other end some time to appreciate the size of the place.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Barley Mow. Durham Road, Birtley, County Durham. DH3 2AG. Tel:0191 4104504.


The Barley Mow at Birtley first came in to my life at the back end of the 1960s, when I worked at the Drum Industrial Estate which is directly opposite. It was a liquid lunch time escape from the drudgery of the job I had at the time.

I'd never heard of 'real ale' at the time so what a pleasure it was to go back to find this old pub is awash with the stuff now. 8 hand pumps of various beers!
Daleside Blonde and Old Leg Over, Black Sheep, Cathedral Golden Imp, Marston Moor Cromwells Ale, but I plumped for Wychwood's Bountiful.

The bar has been kept very basic but the lounge is well carpeted out and is comfortably decorated with plenty of solid wood. There's a fair sized eating area too.

It was nice to see the place looking good with tasty beer on hand.

The Wheat Sheaf. 26, Carlisle Street, Felling, NE10 0HQ


The Wheat Sheaf is a tiny little pub in what remains of Carlisle Street in Felling. A Street that used to house stacks of pubs. Unfortunately only three of which remain.

The first time, some months ago, that Cask Task decided on a visit, a phone call was made to discover the opening times. 'What time are you thinking of coming?' was the reply. It turns out its a one man band who actually lives on the premises!

Generally he opens at 5 o'clock so Cask Task turned up. The exterior of the place dates back to the year dot, or 1907, and so does the inside, but its clean and tidy. A very affable chap he turned out to be and a very pleasant time was spent by all the three of us (including him) in his pub.

The connection with the Big Lamp Brewery was apparent as the only ale on offer was the full range of Big Lamp real ales. No problem there then.
I just concentrated on the Big Lamp bitter.

The Old Fox 13-14 Carlisle Street, Felling, NE10 0HQ. Tel:0191 4404815


The Old Fox in Felling, where I was born, not in the pub I might point out, seems to have been there forever and probably has been. Between Felling High Street and Carlisle Street there must have been a couple of dozen pubs at one time. There's only three left in Carlisle Street now.

After a days hard slog, on behalf of Cask Task of course, The Old Fox and the other Carlisle Street real ale pub were duly visited and the beer severely tested.

On waking up the next day it was discovered that neither the photos, nor a note of the beers sampled, were to be found missing. Now I wonder how that happened?

Every cloud has a silver lining however, as another trip to Carlisle Street Felling was duly made.
The Old Fox had 5 handles, 3 of which were in use and Fuller's London Pride and Durham Brewery's White Gold again proved to be extremely tasty.
The Old Fox, as you might expect, is a traditional but nonetheless comfortable little pub with good beer.

Just as it should be.

Courtyard Cafe Bar. Arts Centre Washington, Biddick Lane, Fatfield, Washington. Tyne & Wear. NE38 8AB. Tel:0191 2193455.


The Courtyard Cafe Bar in the Arts Centre Washington is a must for a visit. Cask Task certainly highly recommends it.

Although a bit difficult to find, through a covered passageway into a square and then not too obvious a frontage, it is worth the hunt. The beer is tremendous, and I must say well kept, with a choice of 8 real ales.
Buffy's Norwich Terrier, Wylam Northern Kite, Big Lamp Bitter, Mordue's Autumn Tyne, Capt. Cook Brewery's Slipway, Salopian Brewery's Hop Twister, Maxim's Lambtons and Timothy Taylor's Landlord.
There must be something there suits you, surely?
Good food is served there too. I did enjoy my vegetable panini almost as much as the beer. I hadn't had a pint of Big Lamp stuff for years and now admit it has improved and the bitter at the Courtyard Cafe Bar went down nicely thank you. The two real ale drinkers that we spoke to enjoyed the Courtyard's hospitality and beer as well!
Must call again.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The Clarendon. High Street East, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear.

The Clarendon in Sunderland was pointed out to Cask Task as a real ale pub that must be seen! So off we went to have a look.

There it is above. Not a place to give great enthusiasm for the serious drinker! Built in the 1600's the pub was always a drinking house but was first officially licenced in 1727. Getting on a bit then eh! But Cask Task is not to be daunted and entered.
It's like stepping into the late 1800s or early 1900s. Magical.
Walk into the pub and facing you is a cast iron oven and fireplace from somewhere in the last century and the bar area feels the same. Walk on through to the rear window and the view directly below is onto the river Wear. Very impsessive.
A pint of the local brew was called for.
A glass of Sol, a very pale beer, went down very nicely thank you. But where it came from was a mystery soon to be solved, when a Mr. Steve Potts appeared from the depths below the Clarendon where there is a brewery.
That tiny alleyway just to the left of the pub states the name as the Bull Lane Brewery. And it brews Jason's Jinja, Ryhope Tug, Clary Brown ( a super dark ale,my favourite), Sauce of the Niall and of course the Sol. What a selection.
Steve was just on his way to put the finishing touches to the Bull Lane Brewery's particiation in the Sunderland Octoberfest on the 8-10th October 2009 at the Bonded Warehouse in Sunderland.
Good Luck and I hope it went well.

Harbour View. Roker, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear, SR6 ONU.


The Harbour View at Roker. After what seemed like an hour of real ale hunting on a rain soaked day, this modern looking pub hove into view. Keen to get out of the rain Cask Task entered. What a pleasant surprise it turned out to be.

A curved fronted bar housed a real ale drinker's delight of 6 pumps, consisting of Timothy Taylors Landlord and Deuchers IPA as regulars and 4 guest ales. I had never come across Clary Brown (not one of my loose women I must point out), so I gave it a try. It was superb. From a local brewery called Bull Lane Brewing Co..

The Harbour View's others were Wold Top Brewery's Wold Gold, Consett Ale Works' Blast, and Endeavour from the Capt. Cook Brewery. All excellent local north east real ales.

The manager was a pleasant chap and the atmosphere warm and friendly. A good place to enjoy good beer. I could have put my feet up and stayed for the rest of the day. But, as you well know by now, I'm a hard worker for the Cask Task cause and had to move on.

A Ist class real ale pub.

If you want food the Benedict Bar upstairs is there to accomodate.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Black Bull. Middle Street, Corbridge. NE45 5AT. Tel:01434 632261


The Black Bull in Corbridge has long been a favourite of mine not only for its beer but also its comfortable and welcoming interior. Low heavily beamed ceilings, small windows and log fires in the winter give it a good atmosphere and friendly feel. The food's not bad either.

Ruddles County seems to have been on for ages, Black Sheep Bitter, Old Speckled Hen and Greene King IPA make up the tasty fousome. I couldn't resist my old favourite, Ruddles County, which was spot on.
I hope its not too long before I'm back for more!

The Golden Lion. Hill Street, Corbridge, NE45 5AA. Tel:01434 632216


The Golden Lion came to my attention some 30 or more years ago when the Roundheads and the Cavaliers had a mock battle somewhere near Corbridge. If I remember correctly the battle continued in earnest in the pubs afterwards. I'm pleased to say I wasn't involved as a few pints of blood were spilt.
The famous picturesque town of Corbridge is still as pretty now as it was then and well worth a visit. I've spent many days calling there in recent times although not in the Golden Lion. I was looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with the pub today.
A read of the small piece of history on the sign outside tells you some of the places' background.
The interior is welcoming and comfortable but its token two taps of real ale is just that. A token gesture. My pint of Deuchar's IPA was murky and cloudy.
I left. A disappointed man.

Monday, 21 September 2009

The Olde Ship Hotel. Seahouses, Northumberland. NE68 7RD. Tel. 01665 720200.


The Olde Ship Hotel in Seahouses is one of the best run real ale pubs I know and I must admit I've known this one for a good few years now!

Busy or quiet, the bar tables and seats are always immaculately clean and the real ales immaculately well kept.
Ruddles County, Courage Directors and Old Speckled Hen are the mainstays but Border Brewery's Farne Island was a tasty pint when I called.

My first visit to Seahouses was in the 1950's when you could walk from one side of the harbour to the other without getting your feet wet. The fishing boats were so numerous and so tightly packed in! You're lucky to find half a dozen in there now. What a shame.

Visit the Farne Islands while you're there too.
My parents loved the place and we must have had about 4 or 5 years caravan holidays on the trot there, when the ancient steam train from Chathill took us right into the middle of Seahouses, which was the terminus. What a wonderful place it was then. But I digress.

The Olde Ship Hotel's bar is a must visit, not only for the lovely ales, but hours can be spent with a few pints studying the multitude of fishing tackle and fishing boats paraphernalia on the walls and hanging from the ceiling.
Get in there for pint.

It's a must if you're ever anywhere near it.

The Ship Inn. Newton Square, Low Newton by the Sea. Nr. Alnwick, Northumberland. NE66 3EW. Tel. 01665 576262.


The Ship Inn at Low Newton, Northumberland, is a dream of a little pub at the very water's edge.

I must have driven past the turn off a thousand times and never bothered to investigate. Stupid boy!!
Take the B1339 north through Embleton and watch for the sign post for Newton by the Sea.
Pass through Newton itself and you come to a dead end right at the the water's edge and there it sits. The Ship Inn Low Newton.
You can't get your motor, in so you've got to leave it in the car park, about 150 yards back. But believe me its worth it.

What a beautiful little bay with the Ship Inn at its edge. The silence alone, without the cars to mar the water gently lapping at the bay's edge, is a pleasure. But to cap it all the Ship Inn has its own micro-brewery. Naturally, I sampled it. Smashing.
Sea Wheat and Sand Castles are two of their own beers and Wylam's Northern Kite and High House Farm Brewery's Nels Best were also available.

The place was really busy but with no music bombarding the eardrums the quiet atmosphere was superb. There's fresh lobster and crab on offer but I must admit, I stuck to the delicious beer and sat outside as the weather was superb.


So marvelous it was that I managed to persuade my daughter to take me up again a week later and had some crab stottie and some more of that lovely beer!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

The Saltgrass, Ayres Quay, Hanover Place, Deptford, Sunderland, SR4 6BY. Tel: 0191 5657229.

The Saltgrass hove into view about 6 months or so ago when looking for a drink after visiting some friends.It was a chilly day and a warm
and welcoming open fire greeted us and a good pint of real ale. My second visit today found the place under new management!
Mark Scott, a Heart of Midlothian man originally,
although now living in Sunderland for some years, has taken it on.
Three wooden handles on show but, disappointedly, only one serving ale! Green King's Abbott Ale it had to be then! It was ok.
Plans for six real ales in total, a sprucing up (not too much I hope) of the interior, and a tidying up of the beer garden are in the pipeline. The previous people were strong on food but Mark is going to concentrate more on the beer. I hope he gets his skates on. One real ale on offer?
Based in Hanover Place, a real ale area with two or three good pubs within easy reach of each other, The Saltgrass is a gem. Loaded with 150 or so years of tradition. Just some choices of beer lacking.
Based behind B&Q and within easy reach of The Stadium of Light, Sunderland's football ground, the pub is a good starting point for the match.
A smashing pub . So come on Mark, get your finger out and get all these pumps working!

The Kings Arms, Beech Street/Hanover Place, Ayres Key, Deptford, Sunderland,SR4 6BU. Tel: 0191 5679804

The Kings Arms looks like a real pub should look. It took me back...... now thats enough of that! I'll always enjoy Cask Task visits to places like this. Full of atmosphere and traditional looks. Inside and out. It even has 3 street names! Everybody wants it! Just look at the street signs!
Dating back probably 150 years, virtually on the old industrial part of the riverside, The Kings Arms is an old beauty.
The interior even has a couple of 'cosy corners' in the bar and a beer garden at the rear. But on to the beer which has gained it 3 Camra regional beer victories.
There are 9 wooden handles. Producing Durham Brewery's White Amarillo,Village Brewery White Boar Bitter, Bumble Bee from Wentworth, Lambtons, High House Farm beer and so on and so on which, for the main part, are ever changing. My pint was spot on, incidentally.
The Kings Arms must get a good crowd in on match days because The Stadium of Light (what an awful name for a football ground, but I'm an old traditionalist and loved Roker Park) is within its sights.
Good pub. 1st class beer. What more can you want.

Friday, 7 August 2009

The Highlander, Higham Dykes, Belsay, NE20 0DN. Tel:01661 861220.


The Highlander stands alone at the side of the road, just south of the pleasant country village of Belsay which, incidentally, is bone dry. Without pubs. No pubs. In fact, pub less. It does have a shop and a cricket club though!
I found the Highlander quite relaxing and comfortable although somewhat isolated. A reasonable enough eating place with an inviting little area to sit and read your newspaper in afterwards. Good God I must be getting old.
The small bar area was deserted, but well populated on my last few few visits, which were 10 years ago and generally on a winter's evening. Still, worth a look in if you're in the area and fancy a pint of Hobgoblin, Black Sheep or Timothy Taylor's Landlord.
My Hobgoblin did go down rather well I must admit.

The Waggon Inn, Higham Dykes, Milbourne, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE20 0DH. Tel:01661 881872.

The Waggon Inn sits almost on its own just by the side of the road between Ponteland and Belsay near the village of Milbourne.
Funny, I used to keep a 1956 Buick Coupe at a farm near here and used it for many summer runs up the coast. It had a bench seat in the front and the boss always said she could have brought the ironing board and done a spot of ironing in the front on the way up to Alnmouth. It was huge. Happy days.

The Waggon Inn is a homely, friendly and attractive country pub and restaurant. So Cask Task had a meal in there and very nice it was too.
A pint of well kept Jarrow Bitter went down well although the others were also tempting. Wylam Gold Tankard and Tetleys Cask made up the three real ales. Very nice.
If you are ever up that way I'm sure you'll get a tasty meal and a good pint of real ale there.
I know I did!

The Badger, Street Houses, Ponteland, Newcastle Upon Tyne, HE20 9BT. Tel:01661 871037.

The Badger, now a super pub and restaurant, was three houses in about 1700, in the original village of Street Houses just outside of Ponteland. Now a super pub and restaurant in which I have had many a good meal not to mention quite a few gluggable vinos and various real ales over the last 6 or 7 years or more.

I love the atmosphere, the garden in the summer, and the open fires in the winter. Some happy memories there. Oh dear, pass the hankie.

The Badger has always tried really hard, and sometimes failed, as most of these type of places do, to offer a decent selection of real ales. On offer this time was Sharps Doombar(a Cornish beer), Brakspear Oxford Gold, Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted(which I had), Black Sheep and last but not least the Badgers ever present Bass.I always used to have a Bass and sent a few back in my time. Don't let me be too harsh as they are trying.

Worth a visit.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Cumberland Arms, 17 Front Street, Tynemouth, NE30 4DX. Tel:0191 2571820.

The Cumberland Arms in Tynemouth fell on to my travels for Cask Task by accident, I'm so happy to say.
Every month or so a small gang of my friends have a little jaunt out for Sunday lunch. 'Il Forno' was chosen this time. A good restaurant placed handily in the Tynemouth Metro station. Just fall off the train and 'Bingo' your in. And very nice it was too. But I digress.
Only 2 minutes walk around the corner is Front Street and the Cumberland Arms, so after the meal, in we trooped.
Some 15 years or so ago, the lads from my place of work at the time met on a number of occasions right here. What a good real ale place it was too and still is.
Rather narrow, but quite long inside and on three different levels. No good to me now of course, because of my stroke, but a good ale house it certainly is. With a bit of a nautical feel to it too. The gents is, believe it or not, labeled the 'Bhoys'. The 'Gulls', being the other variety!
Tetleys Cask, Cumberland Ale, Directors, Whitehorse Giant, Brunswick Most Wanted, and Mordue's Workie Ticket were all there, amongst the ten or so hand pumps on two levels, but I could only have one 'Most Wanted'. Too much of a climb to the toilets for me.

Don't let me put you off though 'cos this is a good real ale house. I only wish I could have stayed longer.

The Turks Head Hotel, 41 Front Sstreet, Tynemouth, NE30 4DZ. Tel:0191 2576547.

The Turks Head (By the way, not a lot of people know this, as Michael said), is a seaman's knot in the shape of a turban on a turk's head.
A crowd of us fell in here and it was packed. Another Ist class real ale pub in Front Street. Two with a nautical feel in the space of 100 yards. Marvlious, as Wrighty used to say.
Built around 1850, The Turks Head Hotel comes complete with its own sheep dog,'Wandering Willie', alas dead since 1880 and now in a glass case in the bar.
Having 8 pumps the real ale fans like those of my ilk are well looked after. 2 Wells Bombardier taps, 2 Courage Directors, a Deuchars IPA and 80/- and 2 Mordue's Workie Ticket. What a superb colletion.
A good feel to it, The Turks Head certainly is a superb real ale pub. The Directors and the Workie Ticket were spot on.
I hope it's not too long before I'm back.
Get yourself up there.