Fate is a funny thing.
Sometimes, the stars align, Jupiter and Saturn do a tango, and the Gods drop you somewhere you don’t deserve.
Last week I was heading to a wedding in Scotland (at a house owned by Prince Charles, with Monets on the wall and Chippendale furniture in the drawing room – suffice to say I did not fit in) with a stopover in Newcastle factored in to counter the 8 hour drive.
It was my first time in the Toon, and while I was looking forward to seeing the city which inspired Sting, Knopfler and Nail, I was mostly looking forward to heading to Wylam Brewery.
One night in a taproom, and a canny kebab on the way home was the plan.
But whatever lies in the Fog had other plans.
My now-betrothed friend may have foolishly organised a wedding in Scotland in October, therefore ruling out any chance of Vitamin D intake, but he did manage to organise it on the same weekend as Craft Beer Calling (CBC).
Thirty-plus UK, US, New Zealand and European brewers in Wylam’s stunning art deco brewery, with lip-smacking street food and some good tunes.
Nice one, fate.
While the line-up was international and beautifully curated, it was the UK breweries that were very much star of the show at CBC.
Cloudwater, Deya and Verdant were there, and brought their staples – as much as Cloudwater have staples. Juicy IPAs all round.
Also there – their stalls skirting the walls of the central exhibition space and brewery like it was the best fun fair ever – were Fourpure – whose Passion IPA was one of my highlights – Magic Rock, Wild Beer, and other big swinging things of the British beer scene.
The gild on the lily was hidden in a heavenly apse just off the main space, where Orval and Bourgogne des Flandres were being served as a reminder to the Johnny-craft-latelies that one great beer can be all you need.
The festival’s doors opened at 5.30pm, which has been legally designated as teatime in England, and meant they had to have food.
The leaden pies and pints of pork scratchings of the average real ale festival have well and truly been effed the eff off by their craft children, and CBC was no different.
We inhaled a couple of chicken parm burgers, and some fries with bacon and blue cheese sauce, but there were burgers, pizzas, hot dogs and more. All delicious-looking, all spot on with a beer.
As I found out at BeaverEx, there is more than one way to skin a beer festival.
CBC was fairly traditional, with a few twists.
Once you had paid your £11 to get in (ticketed), you then exchanged wonga for tokens, which you then turned over for beer and food.
Unlike BeaverEx – where punters had paid up front and were trying as much as possible – CBC was more relaxed, with discerning drinkers taking their time over choosing and drinking. The service was always quick and friendly.
The prices were excellent. Half a pint of Cloudwater, for example, was £3. Most other beers were £2 a half.
To top it off, cool cats could enjoy the slickest beats played by a resident DeeJay – or something like that. Seriously, the tunes were brilliant.
In fact, the whole thing was brilliant. I will return, if fate allows.