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So many summer beers to choose from - if you're in the know

With so many great summer beers, where do you start when choosing your favourite? At least consider the best of craft, argues Richard Fletcher

Brew Dog general manger Helen Davison
Brew Dog general manger Helen Davison

I’m enjoying a nice can on the train. I’m gonna put this out there, it’s the nicest summer beer. Opinions?”

The beer my friend had mentioned on his Facebook post was a big brand name from an international brewer.

All the replies were likewise. Another unwittingly suggested a cider (I wasn’t going to be one of those people who pointed out their mistake on Facebook. No; I’d rather wait until I could superciliously do it in a newspaper column, without fear of immediate comeback).

With the huge proliferation of top quality breweries both in the North East and internationally, it’s easy to feel that everyone in the world must know about the wide variety, the whole gamut, the glut, the endless choice of great-tasting cask, keg and bottled beers.

If there ever was a fight to promote great beer, wasn’t it won a long time ago?

Plenty of breweries send out literature and talk about how they’re fighting against ‘bland, mass-produced beer’.

BrewDog are the obvious ones, suggesting that they’re leading a craft beer revolution, and even list their Newcastle branch as ‘a beacon for craft beer lovers in central Newcastle’ – maybe something that our many wonderful and long-established drinking holes across the city and beyond might dispute.

I also recently got a press release about a brewery that’s returning to the roots of quality brewing ‘in a world of ever-increasing bland, mass-produced beer’.

Whenever I read statements like this, I always wonder: if everyone seems to be making these statements, who exactly are they railing against?

The Facebook comment at the top of this column made me think again.

Of course, taste is subjective; there’s no right or wrong. People can drink whatever they want; the only desire of the committed craft beer evangelist (and maybe evangelism is a better word than revolution, as it’s about spreading the word about great local beer rather than forcing it on people) is that everyone knows what’s available before making a choice.

It’s what helped those committed early CAMRA members save cask beer, by promoting it through beer festivals. But of the many replies to that Facebook comment, none of them mentioned local beers, or those beers making huge waves among beer fanatics – which made me realise that perhaps they’re not as well known as I think they are.

Maybe I will reply, and mention some of the awesome local pale ales, IPAs and golden ales both on cask and keg that I’ve enjoyed drinking in summer months. It’s only my opinion, and they don’t have to take it; but maybe it’ll satisfy that bit of me that wants to tell everyone I meet about the beers I love.

● Get yourself down to Fitzgerald’s on Grey Street, Newcastle, this Bank Holiday weekend for a great selection of IPAs.

The pub is hosting a wide selection of India Pale Ales, highly popular for their refreshingly strong hoppy flavour and higher than usual strength. The full cask list is Alechemy Black IPA (4.8%); Atom IPA (5.6%); Brew Co Frontier IPA (4.7%); Fell Tinderbox (6.3%); Harbour IPA (5%); Highland Orkney IPA (4.8%); Temptation Golden Rye IPA (4%); Temptation Red Eye IPA (5.5%); Three Kings Hedge Your Bets (4.9%, brewed by pub manager Phil Hall); Yorkshire Dales Hoppy Trio (4.8%, brewed by pub staff); and Yorkshire Dales Smarber (3.8%). On keg, there’s Allendale APA (4.7%); Fourpure Session IPA (4.2%); Roosters Fort Smith (5%); Wylam Jakehead IPA (6.5%); and Yorkshire Dales IPA.

Also taking place this Bank Holiday is a beer and live music event at The Schooner. The Schooner – which is based on South Shore Road, near to the Tyne on the Gateshead side – has live music on Saturday night, Sunday afternoon and Monday afternoon as part of its Devolution Festival. There’ll also be beers from Ossett Brewery and Wylam Brewery, with a barbecue and ice cream if you get peckish, too.

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