Pleased To Meet You
It specialises in gin cocktails and looks like a colonial-era country club, but Pleased To Meet You (PTMY) is one of Newcastle‘s foremost hotspots for craft beers. Fifteen craft keg and six cask pumps run the gamut of cutting-edge breweries from Flying Dog to Thornbridge, with local outfits, such as Tyne Bank, Mordue and Anarchy Brewing well represented (look out for the latter’s sherbety, gooseberry-sharp Citra Star). A vast bottled beer list reads like a Who’s Who of new-wave UK microbreweries: Kernel, Partizan, Red Willow, Wild Beer but includes clear, intelligent definitions of obscure beer styles for the novice drinker. Naturally, the price of some of the keg and rarer bottled beers will make your eyes water, as much as your mouth. PTMY has two sister bars in Newcastle: Redhouse and Lady Grey’s, both of which provide plenty of boozy entertainment for beer snobs.
• 41-45 High Bridge, 0191 340 5137, ptmy-newcastle.co.uk. Open daily 11am-1am, pint from £3.10
Under the stanchions of the Tyne bridge, this smart brewpub feels part gentlemen’s club, part New York beer bar. Obviously, the ales brewed in the pub’s 360-pint kit – the gleaming copper tuns are visible at one end of the room – are the main attraction. A sample half of Gold Dust (£1.70, a sweet, melon-tinged, crisply bitter pale ale, made with Pacific Gem hops) was A1. Outside of its house beers, the Tavern’s 10 cask pumps feature a UK-wide selection of new-wave breweries, from Bristol Beer Factory to Manchester’s Blackjack. It also carries a few keg beers and a less interesting selection of bottled world beers. Food is as important as ale here, and the menu includes excellent beer snacks, such as pig’s head croquettes with a sharp, caper-spiked mayo (£3). On a freezing day, all of it – food, good beer, warmth from the newly-stoked woodburner – was very welcome.
• 7 Akenside Hill, 0191 261 9966, thebridgetavern.com. Open Mon-Thurs midday-midnight, Fri-Sat midday-1am, Sun midday-11pm, pint from £3.20
The Head of Steam group owns several top-ranking ale houses in Newcastle, including the Cluny. There’s the group’s eponymous bar (The Head of Steam) that you’ll find opposite the train station and Tilley’s Bar on Westgate Road, whose 150-strong bottled beer menu is, reputedly, a real page-turner. However, the Head of Steam pubs were recently sold to Camerons Brewery, a big regional pub company and brewer, based in Hartlepool. Camerons is promising that there will be no radical changes at the Head of Steam sites. Apparently, buying them is part of its strategy to acquire a larger estate of pubs that will focus on selling quality cask ales and craft beers. We will have to wait to see how that pans out but, judging by the wishy-washy Cameron’s IPA (half, £1.45) that I tasted in the Cluny, it will have to seriously up its game if it hopes that its beers are going to be taken seriously in establishments like this.
Tucked away amid the creative industries that have sprung up in the Ouseburn valley, the boho Cluny – also a live music, comedy and theatre venue – is a bit of a bind to get to from town, particularly on foot. But it is worth the effort. It serves seven cask ales and a raft of keg and bottled craft beers, many of them from US breweries (for instance, Fordham, Rogue, Old Dominion), which have yet to gain widespread exposure in the UK. Look out, also, for frequent in-house beer festivals, which have previously included a Black Sheep Week and a Northern Irish beer showcase.
• 36 Lime Street, Ouseburn, 0191 230 4474, thecluny.com. Open Mon-Thurs 11.30am-11pm, Fri 11.30am-midnight, Sat midday-midnight, Sun midday-10.30pm, pint from £2.85
If you want twinkling, minimal techno and a game of pinball with your pint (and who doesn’t?), then this late-night Pilgrim Street bar will hit the spot. It is big on cocktails, but also committed to craft beer in the shape of draught Brooklyn lager; a guest keg pump that features hip British micros such as Magic Rock and Camden Town; and a small, evolving range of bottles and cans that features transatlantic trendsetters as geographically diverse as San Francisco’s Anchor Steam and Buxton Brewery. A half of Beavertown’s American pale ale, Gamma Ray, was, as ever, brilliant – full of tropical fruit flavours, unapologetically bitter – and very bloody expensive (£2.80). Erdinger and Timmermans fruit beers are also available on draught.
• 88 Pilgrim Street, 0191 261 5656, alvinosbar.co.uk. Open Mon-Tues 10am-midnight, Wed-Thurs 10am-1am, Fri-Sat 10am-2am, Sun 5pm-midnight, pint from £3.80