Published on October 16th, 2014 | by Alastair Gilmour


It’s show time

Our beer and pub industries are standing up to be counted, writes Alastair Gilmour

We’ve had Norwich claiming to be The City of Beer for the past 18 months or so, and now York is promoting itself as a contender for Britain’s Champion Real Ale City. That’s great, we all love a competitive match – a niggling one sometimes – and this sort of debate brings beer and pubs further into the public domain, which is terrific for all concerned.

But where are we in this tussle for recognition? Where are we, the North East of England; we the great cities of Newcastle, Durham and Sunderland; we the sublime counties of Durham and Northumberland – plus the slumbering potential called Gateshead? Where’s our claim to national pub and brewing prominence?

Norwich has a ten-day celebration of its pubs, breweries and beers of every description straddling late May and early June, around a city-wide Festival of Ale.

And, what was billed as “the North’s largest beer festival” took place on York’s Knavesmire (the racecourse) last month. A BBC Inside Out programme was recorded to directly compare “the jewel in the Northern crown” with “the jewel in the East Anglian crown”, while its myriad pubs and emerging microbreweries were also highlighted. This sort of thing was one of the reasons that Cheers North East first saw the light of day in July 2010. We firmly believe the North East houses some of the country’s best pubs and breweries – but an awful lot of us still need convincing. But here comes the cavalry. It’s our guess that this month’s Craft Beer Calling international beer festival in Newcastle will position the region as the place to be for great beer times, in partnership with the Cheers “crusade”. Hopefully our pubs will also join in the celebrations over the weekend of October 24-26 with their own ideas to excite customers even further – we at Cheers are certainly flying the flag.

“Bringing everything together opens up all sorts of possibilities with the end user – the pub-goer – benefitting most.. it’s going to be very popular.”

Craft Beer Calling is scheduled to have 50 breweries represented at the Stephenson Works Boiler Shop site in Newcastle, each with at least five beers, so that’s 250 different beers to try – 60% cask ale and 40% keg from a range of local, national and international brewing outfits.

“Keg producers are quite innovative, so it’s good to be able to bring other free-thinking breweries to the city,” says Dave Stone, one of the festival organisers.

“On our travels to all parts of the world we’ve come back thinking that although the North East has some great beer festivals, there is nothing that represents beer at a regional, national and international level simultaneously, so we set about bringing the best beers in the world together under one roof.

“Some of the beers will appear in the UK for the first time, such as Yeastie Boys and Renaissance from New Zealand – I can tell you it’s been fun getting those. And it’s not just about beer; we have some terrific street food booked and great music with world-class DJs in Greg Wilson and Mr Scruff.”

Dave Stone is passionate about attracting different audiences to beer festivals – alongside the traditional, highly supportive regulars. In that way, everybody benefits – from the beer producers to the pubs. Craft Beer Calling also gives the region’s brewers a chance to rub shoulders with some of the world’s best, from Lagunitas (US) to St Erik’s from Sweden.

“The beauty of the beer industry is that everybody collaborates and shares information except recipes and wives,” says Dave. “Bringing everything together opens up all sorts of possibilities with the end user – the pub-goer – benefitting most.

“Craft Beer Calling ticket sales are going very well but my advice would be to get yours in advance because it’s going to be a very popular weekend.”

Right, so we’re up for the challenge. Put Newcastle in the ring with Norwich and York. Bring in Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Cardiff and London and pour steadily. We’ll show ’em.


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Alastair Gilmour

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