My Craft Beer Calling review

Sat drinking Anarchy Sublime Chaos and it got me thinking…..

Last weekend saw the first holding of Craft Beer Calling.  The event was set up very much like the Boiler Shop Steamer event and as such there was good live music on and a great array of street food to keep the happy punters very happy indeed!  The location was in the Boiler Shop which is an old warehouse on Sussex Street behind the central station and this building represents a very important step forward in the industrial revolution as it was the location where Robert Stephenson built his rocket in 1829 which changed the transport world as they knew it, with rapid expansion of the rail networks following its success. 

I don’t want to make obvious links here but I do think the first holding of this event will probably kick the Craft Beer revolution on further in the North East as there is already a healthy appetite for craft beer but I think it’ll grow all the more as people go to these events as an entry to their Craft Beer voyage of discovery.

I poured over the beer list ahead of the event and selected many beers that I wanted to try over the course of the weekend.  As it turned out there were probably 35-40 beers available at any one time so you had to keep a close eye out for any particular beers that you were hoping for.  One beer that I had read abit about before hand was the keg of xeRRex that Yeastie Boys were sending over.  The brewers themselves will readily admit that this is a beer you’ll either love of loathe.  It’s a big 10% smoky monster of a beer, most of the group I was with couldnt get past the smoky yeast aroma.  This was a beer with bags of flavour and character, delicious.  But beers like that leave you with a dilemma of how do you follow it, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me! 

Its special beers like this which the festival needs.  Initially the organisers will easily attract a crowd of beer drinkers in Newcastle, but attracting the more discerning drinkers from outside the region would be very useful for the city’s tourist industry.  The more unusual beers will put a beer festival on the map.  These weren’t your usual CAMRA festival beers, which is by no way a criticism but this festival had to be a significantly different event to the CAMRA Newcastle Beer Festival.  I suspect the timing was chosen to keep it as far from the CAMRA event as possible for that reason.  It worked, this was an entirely different experience with a very different atmosphere and a very different structure.

The Boiler Shop is a great space, could probably do with a couple more toilets for busier times and the bar did get very busy at times but that apart it worked very well.  There was a very cool tucked away Gin Bar and a brilliant space upstairs where they held the meet the brewer sessions.  There was real beer and food theme too though. The food vendors were all top quality outlets, no cheap burgers here!  That was all brought together by the Beer and Food matching talk that the lovely Melissa Cole gave where she paired beers with the delicious food offerings from Tony Renwick of The Bridge Tavern.  Food pairings were all excellent, and the depth of knowledge from Melissa added real expertise to the talk.  I did feel alittle disgruntled when some at the back of the room were talking throughout the event but I didn’t let it spoil it.  I guess you put people with drink you inevitably get events being abit rough around the edges like that.  Melissa and Tony didn’t seem to mind though.

So anyway, back to the beers.  I wont bore you with a run through every beer I had but there’s a few I want to mention.

Camden’s collaboration with Beavertown, One Hell of a Beaver, was one stand out beer.  It had all the hoppy notes of Beavertown’s Gamma Ray but with the crisp fresh texture of Camden’s Hells lager.  It almost felt like you took a sip of Gamma Ray but swallowed a sip of Hells.  Brilliant beer!  Make more please!

Also worth mentioning was Lagunitas American double IPA Hop Stoopid, which was hops piled on hops piled on hops.  Tremendous!  Also loved Mikkeller/Siren Daydream which is a white stout brewed with coffee, cocoa and vanilla and it had a real boozy warm flavour to warm the cockles.

The regions beers were very well represented, I saw Panda Frog Dart Frog 48 sell out in double quick time (too quick for me to get to try it!), Wylam had their Jakehead in Embryo form (racked direct from FV which was delicious), Tyne Bank’s Heavenly Porter was smooth and rich in bourbon flavours, but the star of the show for me was Anarchy’s keg of 15 month aged national gold award winning Sublime Chaos.  This is a breakfast stout infused with Ethiopian coffee bean from of “natural” type, which means they are dried out on sun terraces!  I love this beer anyway but the aging just saw it mature to a bigger smoother more rounded individual.  The chocolate flavours were more pronounced than normal and the bitterness of the coffee notes kept it perfectly balanced.

Naturally, there were some beers that I missed out on but that just makes me keen to go back again next year.  If the organisers could move it to a different month to Indyman that’d be very much appreciated!  Just to keep the missus happy.

Some minor points to note, I thought it would have been useful to have the cask offerings displayed on the barrels behind the bar at a higher level so you could see what was on when the bar was busy. And it did get busy, the bar area was often packed but we’re British we’re used to queuing.  I thought the bingo card beer tokens seemed abit naff but worked none the less. I think given that they’re my only criticisms I have to say it was a good event.  There was certainly plenty people there enjoying it! 

To my mind this festival was a big deal for Newcastle and the North East.  As I’ve said before the region deserves it to celebrate the great craft beers that we are producing (I say we, I’m mainly consuming them but you know what I mean).   So in that respect I think it put down a good marker for future years. I’d like to see it grow and expand although I’m not sure you’d want more people there or more beers so perhaps attracting different breweries to the event would take it forward.  I’ll leave that for the organisers to sort out though, cos they did a cracking job this year!  Well done!

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