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Published on October 31, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour

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Peering through the smog

When Her Majesty The Queen opened the newly-constructed Blaydon Bridge on the A1 Western Bypass on December 1 1990, it was part of the tradition of Tyneside bridge ceremonies onvolving members of the Royal Family.

But when she stepped out of the car to cut the ribbon, she apparently looked around and said: ”Where’s the bridge?” 

She was right; the point at which she was standing, scissors at the ready, is a stretch of carriageway over the Tyne that doesn’t look like any river crossing to crow about. Not when we’ve got the unique structures that we have.

I’m reminded of that scenario at The Golden Smog in Stockton-on-Tees. It represents the Campaign For Real Ale (Camra) North East region at the organisation’s annual Pub of the Year (PotY) competition, tensed and ready to go up against some of the nation’s finest in the next round – a super-regional tie at that. The Golden Smog is a fine little pub, well run, with a certain charm, but to my mind it’s not the best we can offer. Cue magazines being thrown in my direction.

Camra’s pubs are judged on the quality of their beer, cider and perry. Representatives look at style, décor, furnishing and cleanliness. They gauge service, welcome and offering, consider community focus and atmosphere, then align them all with Camra principles to form an overall impression.

I feel they’ve got this one wrong. My Brass Castle Neveresting bitter was decent but not brilliant, although the welcome and service from the young barman were exemplary. As for style and furnishings, someone’s been trying too hard with nickery-nackery and frippery-frappery then expecting it to hang together enough to be termed “décor”.

Fair enough, my drinking times tend to coincide with quieter pub periods; that’s the way I like it. I haven’t been in The Golden Smog on a busy weekend shift, but nothing there gives me any confidence that I’m sitting in what is essentially the best real ale pub in the whole North East of England.

Its TripAdvisor posts rave but I blame the Camra judges for overpromotion. It’s a fine pub, but where’s the PotY?

Alastair Gilmour


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Alastair Gilmour



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