As soon as the clock hit five thirty on Friday I grabbed my jacket, put on some lippy and headed straight for the Robert Stephenson’s Boiler Shop on Sussex Street. This is something I normally only do on the first Friday of the month when the Steamer event takes over the building, but this weekend it was home to Newcastle’s first ever International Craft Beer Festval, ‘Craft Beer Calling’.
I have to admit to something now… the beer I’m holding in the picture above actually belonged to James as I’ve decided to stay off the booze for the month of October, bad timing I know! I was still keen to check out the festival though as the venue is one the city’s quirkiest and always attracts a great crowd.
I was also lured to Craft Beer Calling by the promise of some amazing scran from the likes of Electric East (their rice balls are a guilty pleasure of mine), Fat Hippo, Utter Swine, Longhorn and many more!
If you’ve ever been to the Boiler Shop Steamer you might be thinking it looks quite similar but as well as beer from local breweries like Wylam and Allendale in the pumps, there was all manner of weird and wonderful ales from around the globe, James was in his element trying out beers he’d never heard of before!
The ‘meet the brewer’ sessions also set this event apart, giving drinkers the chance to really learn a thing or two from the people behind the beers.
Sadly we didn’t have time to stop for the talk on Friday night as we were on our way to see Paolo Nutini at the Metro Radio Arena (who was utterly incredible by the way!) but judging by the stream of tweets with #CBC14 the discussions have been well attended by enthusiasts who have travelled from far and wide for the festival.
I may not have tried any of the 200+ craft ales but that didn’t stop me making some new discoveries; Jack’s Gin Palace was a wonderful hidden gem that nearly tempted me to fall off the wagon with its alluring offer of splendid cocktails. The pop up bar was tucked behind the main ale pumps and James and I managed to grab a seat for five minutes. As we watched the bar staff hard at work it felt a little bit like we’d stepped back in time and stumbled in to a Speakeasy!
I think my favourite find of the night was something called Karkli, a crunchy little snack packed full of flavour, handmade from lentils and spices. I got chatting to the creator of Karkli, Kumar Kolar (below) he told me that he’d come to the event to showcase the product as it’s a perfect snack to go with beer. I have to agree, so much nice than a boring bag of dry roasted!
I was amazed when Kumar told me that he was yet to secure a stockist in Geordieland, as it seemed like just the kind of thing you’d find in Fenwick’s Food Hall or Mmm… and Glug. Well, low and behold but the very next morning the food and drink heaven in the Grainger Market shook hands on a deal to stock the savoury snack, nice one Mmm… and Glug, I’ll be in on Saturday!
As I write this post, real ale fans and mighty fine music lovers alike will be enjoying the last few hours of Craft Beer Calling as DJ Mr Scruff plays to a packed out crowd. I’d actually quite like to be there but I’ve got work in the morning and I need my beauty sleep, oh dear am I getting old?
By Rachel Kershaw