Published on July 10, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour0
The Gate is well and truly ajar
A labradoodle-type dog is hoovering up a few spilt crisps, although it’s not meant to be in The Ale Gate, Alnwick’s newest pub. Dogs are very welcome here and this is obviously a regular visitor, but its owner had only been passing by when it decided to pull her in.
“Oh well, we might as well have a drink while we’re here,” she says.
The Ale Gate, sitting on the town’s quaintly-named Bondgate Without has become something of a fixture since in opened five months ago and an attraction for a whole spectrum of beer lovers from all over Northumberland – and not dragged in by a lead, either.
“It’s all going very well,” says Paul Johnson, who owns The Ale Gate with his wife Sarah (plus The Narrow Nick pub in Rothbury). It’s getting busier all the time with a great mix of clientele – a lot of them are now regulars who have come from elsewhere in Alnwick.”
The Ale Gate is across the road from the town’s Playhouse theatre and arts centre (which is currently being refurbished and will reopen in October), and close to Barter Books situated on the former Alnwick station, plus it’s not far from the castle, so you could argue that it’s a bit of a cultural quarter.
The Johnson philosophy is to support local businesses whenever he can, so the six handpulls in The Ale Gate serve exclusively regional beers, rotating from the likes of Big Lamp, Great North Eastern, Wylam, First & Last, Cheviot and Alnwick breweries. Then there are 47 gins – a lot of them locally-produced.
Besides, with Alnwick being such a tourist destination – as is Rothbury – people from other parts of the country don’t want what they can get at home. They seek out something indigenous to the area, something they can enjoy as part of their holiday and talk about when they get home.
“You’re never going to be able to drink all the beers that are produced in the region now, so why go further afield?” says Paul. “Anyway, it’s great to be able to meet all the suppliers and pick up beer yourself from time to time. That way you can have a bit crack.”
The premises the pub now occupies was formerly an NFU Insurance company office, which had its card marked by Paul and Sarah on one of their “scouting” trips. Gut feeling told them it would make a great pub.
Sarah says: “It simply lends itself to being a pub. We get people coming in, saying ‘my desk was over there’.”
The hefty counter and back bar came from the Ryton Hotel in Ryton, Tyne & Wear, which is being converted into shops and flats. It fits with Paul Johnson’s “upcycling” ethos; nothing wasted, everything can be put to a new use.
“It’s solid oak,” he says. “Two-thirds of the counter is in here and the other third is at home. You can’t beat solid oak, especially when you get it for MDF prices.”
The pub cellar is actually up a small flight of stairs where a glass-panelled door allows customers to observe what goes on in the “back office”. It’s reassuringly spick and span and though it’s the normal line-up of aluminium casks, plastic pipework, connectors and electrical wiring, it looks the business.
The Ale Gate doesn’t offer food but the adjacent Café Tirreno, Italian restaurant will advise prospective customers to pop in and have an aperitif. They’ll also come and collect you when there’s a table free.
It’s not all perfect, however. Paul has just one niggle with their 24/7 life. He says: “I can’t get nee golf in.”
The Ale Gate, 25 Bondgate Without, Alnwick NE66 1PR.
Tel: 07979 101 332.