The Ship Inn Forecast (A micro-brewery in Newton-by-the-Sea)

I’ll start by apologising for the pun. Sorry.

Assuming you’ve forgiven me and are still reading, I’ll tell you a little bit about one of the nicest pubs I’ve ever visited.

It’s called (as you’ve probably guessed) The Ship Inn, and it’s in Newton-by-the-Sea, which, you may or may not know, is on the North East coast, north of Alnmouth and Amble and south of Berwick. It’s a stunning, and much under-appreciated area. Miles upon miles of coast, unspoilt, bordering on rolling sand dunes and masses of countryside, lovely old buildings and them lovely Geordie folks. It’s also, so I’m told, in the least rainy and sunniest county in England. Awesome.

My girlfriend and I love the North East coast. We go there a fair bit, despite the almost 3 hour drive, and love walking along those amazing beaches.

You’re probably not here to read about all that though, you’re here for the beer, right, and the North East coast has a proper gem hidden amongst the dunes and beaches. The aforementioned Ship Inn.

It’s part of a small U-shaped terrace of houses from pre-1700, now owned by the National Trust, with a lovely grassy square in the middle. The pub has functioned as an alehouse since the 1700s.

The Ship Inn is run by one Christine Forsyth and her daughter Hannah. Christine decided she wanted a change in her life, fell in love with Newton-by-the-Sea (well you would, wouldn’t you?) took a risk, bought a pub, did it up and gave it the TLC it needed.

She then decided to make her pub a home from both great food and quality, micro-brewed ales brewed in the building itself.

She’s done good.

The food is reasonably priced look here, and great, with loads of lovely, locally produced grub – I had locally caught crab salad and it was stunning. The beer though, is even more impressive.

They got the equipment second hand, found a brewer in the shape of Michael Heggarty and started brewery 6 or 7 regular beers. In two visits (one for a restorative half during a walk, and one for dinner) I tried a  few. The Ship Hop Ale is a light golden beer with a nice, fresh hop character, the Dolly Day Dream is a lovely ruby ale rich in flavour and, best of all, is the Sea Coal, a dark wheat stout with smoky notes sat alongside rich chocolate and slightly tart raspberry flavours. I mainly drank that.

Really, you shouldn’t need the motivation to visit this stunning pub and try their great beers to come to the North East coast. Take the pub away and I’d still happily go there once a month for the scenery alone.  But come up (or down) walk, soak up the rugged beauty of the place then, when the night draws in, head to this glorious pub, which makes the coastline even more perfect than it already is.

If I can retire near here one day, I’ll be a very happy man.

The Fox & Newt: A Leeds Brew Pub

Fox & Newt

Fox & Newt

I lived a minute or so’s stroll from The Fox & Newt last year. It was my local for two years, yet I hardly ever went there. Why?

Well, when I first moved in, it was pretty fucking horrid. It was dirty, there was regularly tussles and unpleasant drunks outside and once they had a Shed Seven tribute band playing. Enough said, really.

But some time last year, this nice little pub in Burley by Park Lane College got taken on by new landlords who reinvented the place. They started doing food, they cleaned the place up and furnished it nicely. Unfortunately they also started putting on some diabolical local bands in order to attract more customers.  But just go when the bands aren’t playing and it’ll be fine.

The best thing that the Fox & Newt did, though, was to decide to push cask ale. They have four pumps constantly on and stock stuff from local breweries like Wharfedale, Leeds, Elland and Saltaire. They also set up a proper microbrewery downstairs and brew four of their own regular beers which, while not owt to right home about, are perfectly good and varied ales. They’ll give you a tour if you ask nicely, something I intend to do for this ‘ere blog sooner or later.

But I think the Fox & Newt might struggle. Aside from when a band bring down a good handful of fans, it’s never a very busy establishment and the pub seems intent on attracting the plentiful students who live in the area. Since they’re based outside the city centre and surrounded by student halls and a college, this is a sensible move, but are they going to suddenly find a massive spike in students drinking real ale, or will they be going for cheap lager and wine to keep costs down and increase drunkeness?

Move the Fox & Newt into Headingley, Leeds City Centre Chapel Allerton or (ideally) my end of town, Meanwood, and it would probably be a thriving community pub, unfortunately, if your main market is students, a push for real ale might be the wrong way to reach your audience.