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04-05-2013, 09:20
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My local in North Shields is the 'Oddfellows', it is a Good Beer Guide regular and, conveniently for me, it holds twice yearly beer festivals. It is holding its 8th this weekend. The pub is basically one room with a bar serving three beers on handpull and up to another six on gravity. Unusually it also serves free soup, which is a bit unusual. However, it holds its beer festival in the rear of the pub in the beer garden, or outside smoking area would probably a better description.

The festival bar holds 20 beers, on a mixture of gravity and handpulls. Entry is free, and beers are bought by ticket costing £1.60 each per half. And for the cider fans amongst us there are 5 totally different ones on offer. I spent an afternoon there, purely in the interest of research, yesterday.

The beer range covered most styles and most strengths, from 3.8% at the weakest to 5.5% at the strongest, and included many breweries unusual in the area. The sensible thing to do seemed to be to work weak to strong. A good plan until scrutiny of the programme revealed the weakest beer to be Empire 'Moonraker Mild', that sounded a tad familiar, so plan B came into play. I started with Scarborough 'Chinook', 4.1% and hoppy, but not as hoppy as I expected either from the brewery or the hop, but it was a good start. Front Row 'Sin Bin' followed and was excellent, as was Hackney 'Golden Ale', both very well balanced and light coloured. Binghams was another brewery that was fairly unusual for me, and their 'Brickworks Bitter' divided opinion. The locals loved it, I was less sure, it was a little too malty for my taste. Privateer 'Dainty Blonde' was well received by everyone though, as was Wilson Potter 'Cascale', both a tribute to the good beers that are coming out of Manchester these days.

Time to sample the dark side, and there were quite a few to sample. I enjoyed Derventio 'Old Chester Stout' and Windsor & Eton 'Treetops Stout' but was a little unsure about Portobello 'Market Porter'. Strangely enough the stronger beers also disappointed in the main, non having a wow factor and one being exceptionally bland.

Unusually for me, I even ventured into the weird and wonderful world of ciders. Many had said good things about a new producer in the area called Tyne Cider and their cider made with Japanese apples. Apparently the apples have green skin and green flesh and that is reflected in the colour of the cider, but it is pretty good, if you can overlook the colour.

It was an enjoyable way to while away an afternoon, and should you wish to check it out, it is continuing all weekend from 1200 noon.

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