When I were a lad, and by this definition it will be 1988 until 2007, Newcastle-under-Lyme was crap for beer. You had a couple of brewery-owned places with a very limited selection. Or you had a Yates's. Yes, it was so bad, we didn't even have a Wetherspoons.
If I were a more paranoid man, I would suspect a conspiracy. But since I moved away, the beer scene seems to have improved out of all recognition. The cosy Ansell's/Marston's duoply has gone, the shit Vaux pub has closed, and Titanic Brewery have opened a pub where you have a fighting chance of getting decent beer.
But things move on from SIBA approved real ale. Craft Beer has been marching across the country since 2007, and it's inevitable it would reach Newcastle-under-Lyme eventually.
I'll be honest here and say North Staffordshire is a dump. Every time I go back there more has closed and more has been demolished. Apparently, the council get a lot of money from the EU for this purpose on the spurious grounds of "improvement". It never gets any better. More local businesses close, people desert the urban centres and never go back. Even here in Preston I work with a Stoke native. And, to put it mildly, she is less than complementary about the place.
And so, Craft Beer has reached North Staffs. Not in the classic Five Towns of Stoke-on-Trent. That would be silly. But Newcastle-under-Lyme is the place where it's at. After all, even in my experience, it's one of the wealthier parts of the area.
" 10 Green Bottles " opened earlier this month on Merrial Street in Newcastle. Many (many) years ago when I was a kid, this shop was occupied by Wain's electrical shop, one of the many family businesses that have died a death in Britain's market towns in the last 30 years. But with closures comes lower-than-average rents, and with that comes the hipsters. As I said, Craft Beer will reach everywhere eventually.
As a bar, 10 Green Bottles is fairly typical of the breed. Wall full of taps of Bristol or London Beer priced at £3 for two-thirds, shelves of Craft and craftesque beer at between £3.50 and £5. Talking to the barman, I reckoned be knew what he was talking abou, and was completely into the awesome Craft Beer scene. His customers, however, were mostly from the council building next door. They were nice enough, but whether they knew much about what they were buying is a moot point.
To be quite honest, I like the place, and wish to God there was something like that in Newcastle-under-Lyme when I lived there. But I do wonder if the notoriously thrifty North Staffs. customers will pay as much for beer as is feasible for a Craft Bar to charge.