So after having to take a de-tour or two we finally got to the stage where we could see the giant bright green 4:20 sign just down the road. This is what I had been waiting for, finally after a good eleven hours travelling and suspense we were finally there I thought as I pace walked oblivious to all surroundings like a transfixed beer hunting zombie towards the big green digits. I always get these moments of suspense and uncertainty before finding a big beer hunting destination. What if it’s closed? Or we can’t find it? Or we get lost? You know how it is, but a few moments later and I realised the wife was trailing 30 or so yards down the road trying to keep up as I had subconsciously picked up the pace .
“Rob, wait for me!”
Anyway inside looked pretty damn awesome, and a good ten minutes were needed to scope the beer range before finally decided to start on a Nogne Pale ale straight from the keg. A textbook American Pale of excellent quality. In short the options were between a good number of cask or keg conditioned beers complemented by a separate set of fridges for your bottled beers. I found a lot of focus was given to international , especially American or American inspired beers. Lots of big Imperial Stouts, Porters, US style IPAs and so on with quite a few Belgian Sour/spontaneously fermented beers thrown in the mix. Like Zak menitioned, lots of big names from the new world of beer are there. De Molen, Jolly Pumpkin, Lost Abbey, Mikeller, Stone, De Struse… So basically a beer bloggers paradise.
It would be almost logical to think that whoever decided on the beer list was reading a lot of UK beer blogs for a while. They were probably like ‘hey, the Beer Nut thinks this one’s good let’s get it’ sort of thing. Not that that’s a bad thing. Every single traditional element of your regular pub is absent. Instead you get super modern, super new wave, new age this is the beer revolution! An attitude I have often secretly yearned for from my Alnwick local the John Bull to adopt. I’m not saying the John Bull should become another Bar 4:20 or anything (it would totally alienate the locals) but an element of progression of some sort would be nice.
Ahh the takeover fantasy floats to my mind this very moment, the little hanging pub sign replaced by giant bright green digital letters ‘JOHN BULL’, a row of craft keg taps replace the John Smiths tap, food cooked with beer and (former) landlord Gus Odlin foaming at the mouth with anger in a cage somewhere nearby.
Anyway, we ordered some food from the slightly small, rather sea food influenced menu and to start I tried pairing up Boon Foederhio with Oysters. Beforehand I was thinking I really needed a middle of the range Irish Stout for this but the nice quenching sourness of the Geuze seemed to work brilliantly with the slippery, slightly salty nature of the Oysters and a squeeze of lemon enhanced this even more. Brilliant.
Next up, a hop burger with cheese was paired up nicely with a Revelation Cat West Coast IPA . A nice clean, slightly light bodied IPA with citric floral hop resins cascading in the finish, the chips were mega crispy too.
To finish things off myself and Helen shared for the chocolate cheesecake made with Baltic Porter with two different beers (the one I thought would pair best and the one recommended by the waitress to pair best). An Imperial Stout by De Molen was one. This bold, thick bodied roasty monster matched the cheesecake well but the bitterness of the roast grain and hops seemed to roller coaster over it a bit. Uncommon Baltic Porter on the other hand, which was very coffee, hazelnut and toffee like seemed to blossom into this symphony of chocolate and creamy dark fruit when paired with the cheesecake.
After this it was time to call it a day. Satisfied with the first day it was back to the hotel for us.