The Big Hop Newcastle - Almasty Brewing Co

We were a little late getting to Almasty from Anarchy.

Not because we didn't know the way, no. 

Mainly because having stopped for a puncture repair on Nick's bike, I'd managed to drop my phone on the verge when I thought I was slipping it back into my rucksack pocket. That would have been fine, had I noticed. 

I didn't though. Not until we'd had to stop again, 3 miles on to properly repair Nick's puncture. After a frantic (as you might imagine) search through all my rucksack pockets, shorts, jersey and every other conceivable location upon my person, I concluded it must have fallen out somewhere on route - but definitely since we'd previously stopped as I'd been looking at my phone. So back through Wideopen we pedalled (a place name now forever branded in my memory), looking hopefully in the gutter and roadside for what I was sure was no doubt the smashed remains of my poor phone.  

There was nothing.

Until we got right back to where we'd stopped and there, face down in the grass lay my bloody phone. The stupid hunk of electronic uselessness.

Still, a couple of extra miles in the legs, and  slightly raised blood pressure never did anyone any harm, did it?

Anyway - grovelling lateness text sent ahead, and back on course we made it to Almasty, based just outside of Newcastle city centre about half an hour later, to meet owner and brewer Mark McGarry.

Almasty is probably the 'newest' brewery we have visited, in terms of how long it's been up and running, with it's official launch only a month prior to our visit  - in the form of a soft launch of two of the beers on tap at The Free Trade Inn.

Almasty is a one-man operation. That one man is Mark, former head brewer at Tyne Bank Brewery (and prior to that Mordue Brewery). We were very grateful that Mark had offered to take a break from his very busy schedule to have a chat with us - no mean feat when you are responsible for literally everything in the 10bbl brewery and everything that comes with it!

After our chat with Mark, and a sneaky taste of his Session IPA (mind-blowingly good with a great citrus punch to it) we got out of his way as quickly as possible. We offered a pathetically small bit of assistance to his huge workload by taking a couple of the coveted Almasty pump clips to the Free Trade Inn for him on our way back. These screen printed slices of tree trunk (see picture above) really are things of beauty, apparently frequently disappearing from pubs all over Newcastle!

Anyway, over to Mark, and his experiences of setting up a new brewery...

We heartily recommend seeking out any of Almasty's beers should you be up in that neck of the woods. Bang 'on trend' (for want of a better description), big flavoured, bold brews. Favourite for us had to be the Sorachi Saison which we sampled in Dat Bar - a solid, honest to goodness example of exactly what a saison should be.

Ride detail available here. Part of our route from Jesmond out to Morpeth and back.

Music - 'Contact' by Anitek -

The Big Hop Newcastle - Anarchy Brew Co

So here we are on our third stop of our Newcastle brewery tour - Anarchy Brew Co in Morpeth.

If there was an ideal and idyllic location to cycle to to visit a brewery, this was it. Once we were out of Jesmond and into the Northumbrian countryside, the sun came out and so did all our fellow cyclists. Plenty of quiet country roads complete with chugging tractors and rolling fields. It was definitely our highlight of the cycling on this trip, and a gave us great taste of the cycling that's on offer in Northumberland. 

All that said, sadly it was only a relatively short ride of 16 odd miles to the brewery so having only just got into the groove, we were no sooner arriving at the Whitehouse Farm centre, with the 10bbl brewery nestled amongst the shops, cafe and farm zoo!

We were warmly greeted by Andrew, with whom we'd arranged to meet and interview in the absence of the brewery owners Dawn and Simon, who were taking a well earned holiday. Andrew gave us a quick tour of the brewery, before lining up a couple of beer samples whilst we set up for the interview. He informed us that Anarchy started life in 2012, and now produce a staggering number (13 according to the website!) of big flavoured beers, ranging from their citrus based session 'Blond Star' up to the face-slapping 10% 100 minute IPA 'War Head' in cask, keg and bottle. Our favourite had to be 'The Algorithim', a super Belgian wheat beer brewed in collaboration with a French band called, you've guessed it, The Algorithim, which hid it's 6% strength far too well. Good job we only had a third...

Now, with Andrew not being the usual subject of brewer or owner in front of the camera, our line of questioning was a little different than the norm but we're sure you'll enjoy it as much as usual - Andrew is extremely knowledgable and enthusiastic about all things beer. Check out his blog Oh Beery Me (especially his Beer366 project...)

On to Andrew then, and his wise words:

Hope you watched it right to the end...

The ride is part of our three brewery circular day trip, Anarchy being the first out in Morpeth. GPX available here.

Music - Antiek 'Dogma'


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