Craft Beer Calling at Wylam Brewery

Grog on the Tyne is all mine.

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.

The beer

Cloudwater at Wylam
A Cloudwater/Dry & Bitter Mobile Speaker, foreground, and a Mad Hatter Tzatziki Sour behind, at Craft Beer Calling.

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 food

Food at Craft Beer Calling
Two chicken parm burgers with bacon and blue cheese fries.

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.

The details

Craft Beer Calling.
Drinking at Craft Beer Calling

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.

Three Beers: August 28

I drink beer and then tell you about it.

Ding dong!

I swing open the front door and there’s a delivery man stood there, big box in his hand. I sign for it. There’s lots of beer inside. I thank Jesus.

But once I’ve drunk said contents, who do I prattle on to about them? Boom, blog post.

Here are three of a mixed bag I’ve drunk this week. More to come, every week.

Beavertown x Trillium – Beaverillium

After a Friday late shift in the office (I work for a newspaper), I got home to the welcome sight of this bad boy staring out at me from the fridge.

I’ve been wanting to try something – anything – by Trillium for ages, and even half a Trillium would do. Beavertown I already know and love, so what could go wrong?

Turns out, not a lot. This whopping IPA is a beauty, showcasing the hops, mouthfeel, balance and refinement that both breweries have built their reputation on. Warming booze reined in by lots of tropical fruit and lasting bitterness.


Wylam x Brighton Bier x Magic Rock – Rize Up

Having destroyed a couple of Wylam beers recently – and with a trip up to their taproom in Newcastle in my cross-hairs for October – I was looking forward to this American Pale Ale. Magic Rock and Brighton Bier are no slouches either.

But while it poured great, and smelled great, it hit on a seemingly common trend of a lot of lower ABV IPAs and APAs in that it was a little thin, and didn’t quite follow through on the promise of a nose packed with tropical fruit. That might be more in keeping with the style of an APA, but with a description that promised oat and dextrin in the grist, I was expecting more body.


Stigbergets West Coast IPA

This is a beer I’ve heard good things about and should have been right in my wheelhouse. A West Coast IPA, with tropical fruits and lasting bitterness, they said.

It looked great in the bottle, and then the glass – all orange haze with an airy white head – but it was all fur coat and no knickers. I may have had a bad bottle, or the glass wasn’t clean enough (doubtful), but I found it had the mouthfeel of a soft drink – fizzy and thin – with some fruit and a little bitterness which didn’t last long. There was even a little sourness, which I found strange for the style.

However, I see Ratebeerians have been going ga-ga for it so I’m obviously up shit creek here.