Thursday, 8 April 2010
Welcome to my world
Flag of Northumberland
Northumberland, glorious Northumberland. Villages, more villages, idyllic countryside and coastal views, some castles, more villages, a bloody great big wall, farmland, and heaps of quality country pubs. OK admittedly I am not a born and bred Northumberland lad, I'm actually from Gateshead (no, don't bother going, you wont find any good beer). So why a post on Northumberland then? Well after living here a few years I have become quite attached to the place, or more specifically to Alnwick town. But before I moved here I didn't really know much about Northumberland, just that it's the area between Tyneside (or "the toon" as many call it) and Scotland. But many who love this place often see it as an overlooked, underrated county. I have even met people that have thought the area was part of Scotland. To be fair Northumberland doesn't get as much publicity as Tyneside or Yorkshire.
Another thing, Northumbeland doesn't really have any regional breweries. But remember that in this neck of the woods towns like Alnwick and Morpeth are seen as county capitals. Those who want to see a real city for the day head down to Newcastle, which has some worthy pubs as long as you know where to look. Generally you'll find in both Tyneside and Northumberland the likes of Wylam, Hadrian and Border, High House Farm and Jarrow breweries have a good following, and Black Sheep seems to have covered a lot of Northumberland territory.
Alnwick town centre
The Tenantry column, Alnwick
Alnwick is a small market town very different from Gateshead or Newcastle, it has a Castle (where scenes from Harry Potter and Blackadder have been filmed) and a very picturesque Garden both owned by the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland (nice yet pricey). It has a market open every Saturday and Farmers' Market on the last Friday of the month, plenty of family businesses and a couple of supermarkets. But if you do go to Alnwick, there is one place more worth visiting than the above.
The John Bull outside view
The John Bull is not just a great pub. Like a maverick amongst sheep, it's one of Alnwick's only independent pubs, run by a true beer and whisky geek landlord Gus Odlin, intent on serving quality cask and Belgian bottled beers alongside a massive range of single malts. After its almost cult following of locals who want more than your average mediocre Alnwick pub I have met many visitors intrigued by the place. But one of the John Bull's only problems is that it's hidden away on a quiet street close to the town centre so without directions it's hard to find.
One of my favorite things about Northumberland is its combination of breathtaking scenery, old school country pubs and local friendly folk which make for a great setting to enjoy beautiful beer. We might not have a Thornbridge, Brew Dog, Fullers or Dark Star, we don't even seem to have any speciality beer shops or pubs such as The Rake that aim to capture the diversity and essence of the craft brewing world. Here we have our own beers, simple, well crafted drinkable beers and no shortage of local folk willing to enjoy them.
For a beer and cheese night turn to the one and only Alnwick deli