Brewpubs in the Toon! | Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Brewpubs in the Toon!

Earlier this autumn, we embarked on an 800-mile round trip of the north. First stop on this little tour was Newcastle - a city we've only visited once before about three years ago, with the sole purpose of going to a gig, so we'd not had the chance the check out the beer scene. With some exciting new breweries popping up around there (we're talking about you, Northern Alchemy), and having heard very good things about their craft beer pubs, we thought it would be a worthy destination for the first night of our beery holiday. Correct we were to think so.


Despite wandering into Newcastle city centre from Gateshead with no idea where we were really going, we managed to stumble straight into the Hop & Cleaver. From outside, it looked a little bit like a fairly standard BBQ joint, but a promising door step lured us in and it was instantly obvious that despite making a big thing about doing top notch smoked food (and rightfully so, more on that in a moment), they make an even bigger thing about their beer. A very friendly barman directed us through the many rooms of the cavernous building to have a look at their on-site brewery - small, but perfectly maintained. We opted for a couple of their brews - the Kiwi pale ale, and the Melon Head. The Kiwi pale ale was nice, if a little forgettable, but the Melon Head was outstanding - vibrant melon flavour coupled with a well-rounded hop character: a really unusual, imaginative brew.


Despite being very tempted by the Hop & Cleaver menu, rather than a full meal, we decided to have snacks and starters in each place we visited to make the most of our trip. We eventually plumped for the rib tips, which were the perfect combination of spicy and smoky. They came smothered in homemade BBQ sauce, and more sauces were available on the table too to suit a range of tastes. This was just one example of the attention to detail which was apparent in every single aspect of the way the Hop & Cleaver operates - even down to the door handles made from knife sharpening steels. Well themed yet understated, this would definitely be somewhere we'd regularly frequent if we were more local. We washed our rib tips down with the always excellent Beavertown Gamma Ray before moving on.

We headed just a short distance round the corner to the Bridge Tavern - another brewpub - on the recommendation of not only our Hartlepool-hailing brewer pal and colleague Dave but also the Hop & Cleaver staff (always nice to see local businesses supporting each other in this way). Both of the beers we chose first were ace. Jim went for Wylam Jakehead IPA, which had a massive body at 6.3% and felt almost like a barley wine. Laura chose Mango and Passionfruit Pale, a collaboration from Squawk and Track breweries, which was outrageously fruity and definitely did what it said on the tin! Beer snacks this time were a slightly odd combination of pickled eggs and oysters - Laura's first taste of both! The oysters were battered in the house TavernAle beer and served in their shell, which had been filled with a sharp and creamy tartare sauce. They were awesome. To finish, we picked a beast of a brew - Five Times Madder Tom, a collaboration between Moor, Arbor, Harbour, Beavertown and Hanging Bat - busy brewday that must have been! An 8% DIPA, this was chock full of lovely malty and resinous notes. Really complex with a pleasantly dry finish. Top marks!

Cheers,

Jim and Laura

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