Having had enough "Awesoming" for today (my new term for travelling around a town's Craft bars), I decided next on a more traditionalist outlet. I left the patrons of Ten Green Bottles to their Index Card Drawers display of artisan coffee beans and, noting the demolished Sainsbury's behind me (still with folorn looking trolley park signs) turned right down Bridge Street.
|Bridge St. Ale House in happier and more populated times|
3. Bridge St. Ale House
Music : none - deathly silence.
It's only a short walk there, thankfully (who would have thought that Newcastle Under Lyme would have a microbar quarter?). I looked inside from across the road and saw the Ale House was empty. I'd looked up the opening times beforehand, and these insisted the doors opened at 1pm. Investigating further showed the lights on, so I turned the door handle more in hope than expectation. It opened. The look on the woman behind the bar's face indicated I was the first customer of the day. It was 3:30pm by this stage.
There was a choice of 4 beers. I went for the Heavy Industry Freak Chick which, despite expectations engendered by the name, turned out to be a malty best bitter. A decent enough palate-reset after an IPA. I sat there drinking in silence while the bar woman got on with necessary/unnecessary but helping to fill time (delete as applicable) cleaning jobs. The signal down this end of town is poor, so I was reduced to pointing my phone out of the window to do anything with it. I now dub this practice "The Newcastle Salute". Bar woman sighed, sat down with what looked like a kale smoothie and said she was going down into the cellar. Proabably to cry.
I had thought of telling her my own suggestion to drum up custom. Simply get a bloke to stand outside asking passers-by to "Come into my Pumpclip Cave!", But I thought better of it and left.
|Would you come down here after dark?|
#4. Lymestone Vaults.
Music : 80s indie
It was nearly dark about this point. Thankfully, I know the layout of the town well, having collapsed and fallen asleep drunk in many places here. So, back up the hill towards the Lymstone Vaults, a local outlet for a local brewer serving local beer to local people. It's local, anyway.
This place was also empty, though the barstaff were more talkative than in the previous place. I ordered a pint of the Ein Stein (a German-hopped beer with scientist motif), and asked what was going on in this town, and how I recalled it being much busier in 2000. The barman admitted some days can be pretty dead now, but it was usually busier than this. I then regaled him of what Castle was like all those years ago, when the building the Vaults part-occupies was an O'Neills (the other half is an estate agent's, much needed in an area where half the buildings are either To Let or For Sale).
Despite one wall being plastered with CAMRA 'POTS' and 'POTY' awards, he didn't think much of the organisation itself. "Your lot come in here, have a half and bugger off to the next place." he said. I've never heard of me being lumped in with the CAMRA crawl crowd, I thought, even if it is broadly true. He also said I'd walked straight past Castle's Latest Latest Awesome Craft Place on Hartshill Road earlier. "Doesn't look like a bar, so you probably missed it."
It was at this point another customer arrived, dragging in a 13-week old black labrador with him, He proceeded to open his back, and take out a small black polythene back tied up at the top. Now, all of you who have experience with dog-walkers will be thinking "Oh dear, what's going to happen now". Fortunately it turned out to be dried food for his undoubtedly hungry growing pup. I took note of this near miss and left.
|Get connected in Newcastle. If you can.|
Music : Reggae
On Twitter I'm followed by a journo from The Stoke Sentinel, and last week he put up a link to an article about yet another new micropub opening in Newcastle. I looked up the location, and I used to know it as clothes boutique next to a closed public lavatory in a narrow alley. Also close to Lymestone Vaults, so during my somewhat haphazard planning on the train down, I put this down as the one after that.
Run by the local Weal Ales Brewery in Chesterton, it naturally has 5 of their own beers on, plus some craft keg behind it. One of these was Buxton Axe Edge, which I was sadly now to far gone to sample. Oh well, I ordered a pint of something weaker that I've forgotten the name of. The barmaid was talkative here too, which proves how dire things must be in Castle on a Thursday if people are willing to converse with random paisley-shirted drunks.
Unsuprisingly, give the name of the bar, the decor was Paul Weller-themed, the owners being big fans or something. I asked if Weller himself had come down to the opening three weeks earlier. "We did ask him, but his managment said he hasn't drunk for two years." Which of course must be the reason. Why would you not want to come to a small bar in a dark alley opposite a disused NHS adminstration building and a former video shop? I did think of asking "You should have asked Jonathan Ross. He's not busy and will happily endorse 'Weal Ales'.", but even I think better of such things these days.
After much "Newcastle Saluting", I managed to get 1 bar of signal on the phone, where I found my sister had sent me a message. "So, you're in Newcastle, eh?" she wrote "Is it still shit?". The barmaid asked what it said, but I told her such things controvened the 'No Swearing' policy promulgated by the helpful poster next to me.
After another pint, I announced my intention to go to the Hop Inn. "Oh, that's ok." said the barmaid.
|Is it very rude? Oh dear.|
6. Hop Inn
Music : Couldn't hear.
I staggered out of town, down the subway and up the hill to King Street. Such things are no small feat given Newcastle's lumpy geography. I got to the Hop Inn by 8pm and it was the first place I'd been in that was actually busy. I ordered the Bass, as is traditional here and stood at the bar as all the seating had been taken.
My bladder being full at this point, I went to the gents. As any man who's been here knows, these are decked out in vintage saucy postcards, either to bait Melissa Cole or just to give easy laughs to working class punters. Who knows? Anyway, by the time I got back to the bar. My sister-in-law (who lives nearby) had sent me a message requesting my presence at the Victoria in May Bank. Never disobey a woman, especially after saucy postcard viewing laughter guilt. I polished off my Bass and headed down the road.
|Embering. Photography depiction actual state of vision at the time of taking|
7. Victoria, May Bank
Music : Memory fuzzy at this point
This pub I remember, when I lived here, as a bog standard carvery type place. But when I got there I was in for a surprise. It's been Embered, and the beer choice was exactly the same as the three Embers down the road from my house in Preston. I looked at them one by one and, resigned to my fate, ordered an Ember Ale. As I always say, when in Rome...you may as well be sold into slavery and killed by lions.
I can't remember much of the conversation with my brother and sister-in-law. No doubt they were talking about selling fabric over the phone as that's what they work in. I was too drunk at this point to pretend to take notice and after I finished my pint I was driven back to Stoke station and shoved on the train back to Piccadilly.
I got home. Eventually.