The Big Hop Newcastle - Tyne Bank Brewery

It's just a short spin around the coastal route to Tyne Bank Brewery from Cullercoats, so even we couldn't cock this one up...

Owner, Julia Austin was one of the first people we approached for our trip up to Newcastle as we'd heard a bit about Tyne Bank through their collaboration with the nearby legendary Free Trade Inn with a cycling themed beer named 'Peloton'.

Julia was happy to agree to a visit, and even promised us a sample of the said Peloton when we came to visit. True to her word, we did indeed get to try some of this light, tangy pale ale after our interview and very good it was too! At 3.7% it's a sensible strength post-ride beer to replenish those precious fluids. We actually featured it in our Le Tour themed ales review earlier this year - check it out here.

After introductions and a chat with everyone else, brewer Adam gave us a little tour of the brewery and we grabbed some action footage of a hop addition to the brew, along with a few other shots and angles before cornering Julia to pose our usual line of questioning to her. She'd clearly done her homework...

Ride detail is part of the previous GPX, available here. Interview starts at 1.36.

Music is 'Analytix' by Anitek


The Big Hop Newcastle - Cullercoats Brewery

Ok, we'll kick this first visit  off with a little confession (and some friendly advice). Despite what the name says, Cullercoats Brewery isn't actually in Cullercoats. The reasoning behind this I'll leave for them to explain via their website, but in short I'd just looked at their contact address details to plumb in the address on the bike GPS, not noticing that it wasn't the brewery address.

Alarm bells didn't even ring when on the journey up the night before Nick had said that looking on Google Street View, one of the postcodes led to a suburban looking house and not a brewery. I just thought the brewery would probably behind the houses, or something like that.

So, off we went bright and early on Thursday morning in the direction of Cullercoats. In the rain. Not the most exciting of rides (apart from a near miss from a totally oblivious Mini driver which you can see in the video about 30 seconds in), all along main roads and pretty typical urban scenery. Ah well I thought, Cullercoats is right on the coast, so it'll be worth the ride. And it's only 11 miles away. 

Apart from it wasn't. We did indeed arrive at some lovely houses just off the seafront, but definitely not at anything remotely resembling a brewery. Was this 'Cwrw Ial-gate' (as all directional cock-ups are forever going to be dubbed) all over again?

Well, yes it was. I looked at a tweet I'd had from owner/brewer Bill that morning about timings in which he'd also given me the postcode.

And it wasn't the one I'd used.

After a text to apologise for our anticipated lateness, we hastily reconfigured the route. Fortunately it was only a further 7 odd miles round the coast to Wallsend - so off we pedalled, slightly faster than normal!

We arrived (only a little late) and met Bill and colleague Sean who were sorting some cask filling and getting ready to harvest some yeast off the latest brew. We did a little bit of background filming before setting up and having a chat with Bill...

Interview starts at 1.30, if you don't want to see us nearly squashed by an errant Mini.

If you fancy a laugh, GPS of this ride and it's little diversion is available here. Also includes the ride to Tyne Bank Brewery. Starts and ends in Jesmond.

Music is 'Closely' by Anitek

The Big Hop Newcastle - Prelude

So, no sooner had we completed our little trip to Wales, it was time to take a couple of days off and head up to Newcastle for our second 'Big Hop'. 

Now had time allowed, we'd have cycled up there and back, as well as between the breweries whilst we were there but there are bills to pay and day jobs to earn the money! So as it was, we drove up after work on a Wednesday evening with the bikes and gear in the car. We'd looked at trains as an alternative, but they were a) eye-wateringly expensive and b) chronically timed, so we had to resort to the motor.

We'd sorted accommodation out in Jesmond (very poor for decent ale by the way, but that's another story) for the few days we were going to be up here, so as soon as we'd found the hotel, secured the bikes in the conference room and dumped the bags, we went in search of suitable ride fuel for the following morning. As it was well past 10.30 on a Wednesday night, pickings were slim. But as is often the way, you can always rely on being able to get a curry. Nick has some sort of built in radar for them, I swear.

Anyway, with full bellies and slightly weary heads we headed back to the hotel for some shut eye ahead of hitting our first visit on Thursday morning.

This time we had four breweries lined up - Cullercoats Brewery, Tyne Bank Brewery, Anarchy Brewing and Out There Brewing, but this had increased to five on the journey up there due a conversation via Twitter with Marc of the newly set up Almasty Brewing. This meant two breweries on Thursday and three on Friday - but we were confident we'd manage them all.

We'd saved Saturday for a guided beer tour around Newcastle with some brewers and Twitterfolk - more on that at the other end of these visits!

So first up later this week will be Cullercoats Brewery. Watch this space!

Yes, that's a Ford Fusion. Bikes and rack worth more than car. As it should be.

Yes, that's a Ford Fusion. Bikes and rack worth more than car. As it should be.

Sage advice courtesy of The Free Trade Inn's legendary toilets.

Sage advice courtesy of The Free Trade Inn's legendary toilets.

We won't divulge the location, but this is untrue.

We won't divulge the location, but this is untrue.

Sampling ahoy! (Less than a pint in total mind you)

Sampling ahoy! (Less than a pint in total mind you)



The Big Hop - Part 4 - Cwrw Ial Community Brewing

Here we are at our last stop on our first Big Hop, finishing up in the village of Llanarmon yn Ial at Cwrw Ial Community Brewing Company, and our first experience of a social enterprise brewery.

Let us tell you, there's a few hills between Wrexham and there. Due to a slight error on our directions (I'd programmed in our hotel postcode thinking it was right next door to the brewery), we managed to go up and down a few of them more than once, as well as end up some places we hadn't intended to!

Once we'd managed to get something like close to the right location, we plumbed in the postcode for the brewery and dutifully followed the last few turns and directions - to a field at some crossroads. Nothing we could see remotely resembled a brewery.


"Let's ring them" I said. No signal.

"Let's pedal up this hill to get a signal" I said. Still no signal.

"You're an idiot" said Nick. 

Right. This was awkward. Middle of nowhere, no technology to assist, late to see a brewer who was in the middle of casking. "Let's pedal down to that farm down there and ask if they know where it is" I said. Freewheeling down the hill looking for signs of life (there was none) I happened to spot the now familiar giveaway of some casks stacked outside a giant barn building, and then, just faintly, the familiar whiff of hops. It really is becoming a good way of discovering these places when you don't know exactly where they are!

So a little late, but very pleased to have finally found it, we arrived at Cwrw Ial and met head of the set up Doug and colleague Dave, who were indeed right in the middle of casking up the latest brew. Doug handed us some of his favourite 'Limestone Cowboy' to try, whilst we chatted about the brewery and set-up. We made some effort towards helping put a few of the casks in the store before getting some brewery activity on film, after which Doug led us to our stay for the night (The Raven Inn, also a community-run enterprise of which Doug is cellarman) via one of his locals - The Rose and Crown for a swift pint and the location for our interview.


Doug saw us to the door of The Raven, before bidding us goodbye. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay there - it's a fantastic pub run by local volunteers. It's what rural pubs should be, independent, full of character(s) and with good beer and hearty food on offer. We couldn't have been made to feel any more welcome! Several pints were consumed including Cwrw Ial's very own 'Volunteer' - a superb light, copper coloured session ale, along with Big Hand Brewing's 'Zeta 2' and Heavy Industry Brewing's 'Nelson's Eye' - clearly The Raven definitely supports the local brewing scene!

Over to Doug now, to give you his take on our questions...

Interview starts at 1.48, and Ride GPX (Wrexham to Llanarmon yn Ial in a roundabout fashion) is available here.

Music is Axiom 'Fusiform'.