Friday, April 22, 2011

County Durham LocAles

Last week I had the opportunity to spend several days in Durham (the north of England one, not North Carolina, where I've spent a fair bit more time), and I resolved to keep my eye out for locally brewed real ales in the pubs there. Disappointingly, the first pub we visited, on the recommendation of locals and students alike (The Shakespeare), served beers from Kent, Cornwall, and Edinburgh, but nothing with even a shouting acquaintance to local.

By the end of my stay, I did come across four beers that were vaguely local (if you count North Yorkshire and Tyne & Weir as well as County Durham itself: I haven't looked up and measured to see if these truly qualify as CAMRA LocAle in that part of the country):
  1. We found Jarrow Brewery's Rivet Catcher on the first night, which was a bright, amber-gold colored ale with quite a coarse, gritty aroma and a bitter, fruity taste with a good balance of hops. A little tart on the finish, but overall a pretty satisfying quaff; one to come back to. (tweeted here)
  2. Later I had a couple of pints of Stable's Silver Buckles IPA, which was a light-colored ale with a sweet odor, and a very mild first taste; honey, hops and malt were present in perfect balance, and there was a hint of herbs on the swallow. Beautiful. (tweeted)
  3. I was only able to manage one pint of Hambleton's Nightmare, described as an Extra Stout Porter, which was a really interesting blend of two dark beer styles. Not quite black in color, with red and brown light coming through when you hold up the glass, but quite a sharp smoky aroma, suggesting the coarseness of a stout. On first taste, however, it's fruity and slightly tart, but then disappointingly watery; it has a very smoky bitter finish. Not bad, but not a keeper. (tweeted)
  4. In a popular town-center pub on the last night, we had a pint of Consett Ale Works's Red Dust (served chilled, to my dismay). This was a dull, dark russet in color, with a creamy head and very little odor; I'm not convinced it wasn't from a hydro-keg, to be honest. There was some subtle sweetness in the first sip, a cloying hint of overripe fruit, and some berry on the swallow. It's unfair to judge this beer given how badly it was served, but I wasn't impressed. (tweeted)
On the whole, I like the way they drink their beer in Co. Durham. I'll be back. (And I'll be taking notes.)


  1. I must remember to take notes as it all becomes a bit of a blur after a while! I had the pleasure of accompanying the author to several pubs in the Durham area; some were quaint and others were just a bit odd. If you visit, remember, almost all pubs stop serving food at 19:00.
    From memory: I enjoyed both the Rivet Catcher (as it was the first pint I tasted there) and the Silver Buckles IPA (the latter particularly as someone else was paying). As I recall, there were also a few sweet blonds but alas their names escape me.

  2. hmmm, from the dim memory of two weeks past, I seem to remember having numbers 2 (Silver Buckles IPA) and 3 (the Nightmare Porter), and I have to concur with Gabby's judgement. It was fun having the opportunity to try a porter from the tap, but the Silver Buckles was definitely the best beer I had over that weekend. Light, refreshing and yet with a satisfyingly full bodied taste - I confess that I had more than one...