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Hang on to summer with North East beer festivals

As the August bank holiday nears, Richard Fletcher highlights several beer festivals for you to sample rather than spend hours in traffic jams

I can completely sympathise with people who have seasonal affective disorder. The concept of the nights getting longer and the slow, lingering death of the summer isn’t a pleasant thought. While September brings its own delights, it just feels too soon to lose the light and head on the road back to winter.

It only seems like yesterday that I was writing about the first beer festivals of the year marking the beginning of summer – how we could encourage the good weather to begin by sitting out with a pint and enjoying a beer festival. And now it’s already getting darker at 8.30pm.

But for those of us who simply feel the blues when the light fades, there’s a perfect cure. What better way to rage against the dying of the light than to spend the weekend in a classic summer expression of sociability, good beer and marquees at a beer festival?

And there are still plenty out there with the pace of the summer beer scene having not dropped. The beer line-ups have been announced for several events over the bank holiday, which are always worth a perusal.

Warkworth Beer Festival marks up its third year this weekend, and has a high-quality beer line-up that looks like a big city festival but in miniature. With the Free Trade Inn’s Mick Potts behind the wheel, they’re pulling in some of the hottest and most modern breweries into the beer list. The US-influenced brews from Magic Rock in Huddersfield are some of the highest-regarded beers in Europe and there’ll be their High Wire on the bar. Tempest Brewery from Kelso is our own regional highlight and their Ball Park (3.8%) – interestingly described as a ‘recreational pale ale’ – will also be there. Manchester brewery Marble’s Marble Ginger will also put in an appearance alongside some local faces including Anarchy, Tyne Bank, Cullercoats and Allendale. Head to the Warkworth Beer Festival Facebook page for the full list. Although the festival starts today with a Twenty20 cricket match, there will be more beers available from Saturday to Monday.

Meanwhile, on Sunday and Monday, Big Ray and The Hipthrusters will be playing in the garden at the Schooner, Gateshead from about 3pm. The interestingly-named Star Spangled Chestwigs will be supporting on the Sunday and they’ll have the barbecue fired up on both days to make the most of the barbecue weather while it lasts. Four of the beers will be coming from the brewery in the cellar – Amber Aspect bitter (3.8%), Green Aspect Golden Ale (4.1%), Night Train Porter (4%), and Walk the Line Amber Ale (4.5%). These will be served from an extra bar in the conservatory along with two other local beers.

The Gosforth Hotel is also getting in on the bank holiday action with a pie and beer weekend. Pies come from the New Zealand Gourmet Pie Company and there will be an impressive 22 beers with nine on the bar at any one time. Pies will be available from 3pm today. Two good quality wheat beers to look out for are Rat Brewery’s Project Rat, a honey wheat beer, and Riverhead Brewery’s Sherbet Lemon at 4%, flavoured with lemon grass and lime leaves. There will also be beers available from Ossett Brewery including Silver Link (a grapefruit-hop flavoured lager colured ale), British Pride (flavoured with three American hops), Big Red (a ruby red ale with chocolate malt character), Silver King (lager-style beer) and Citra (pale ale).

August Bank Holidays can either be spent in traffic jams while trying to head for a brief mini break at the seaside, or in a marquee or pub, good quality pint in hand, enjoying the extra day’s holiday at the kind of festival the British do best. I know where I’d rather be.


David Whetstone
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