Tyne Bank’s beers have popped up in Booth’s recently, alongside new listings for the always excellent Harbour and Camden, who are settling nicely into the ‘reliable’ slot in the beer shelves. Notably, this doesn’t come long off the back of a rebrand for the Newcastle-based brewery, who, for me, possess that rare quality of, well, quality. there’s a lot to be said for consistency of quality these days – in fact, there’s there’s been a lot of noise recently about how it must be the cornerstone of a brewing business – and Tyne Bank’s beers have never been less than excellent every time I’ve tried them.
Silver Dollar (4.9% abv) takes me back to drinking it at Mr Foley’s Cask Ale House. When it first appeared, the barman at the time raved about it’s sheer ‘drinkabililty’; pints were duly ordered and sunk with the ease at which they’d been suggested. Now, it’s a bit of a poster boy for where my tastes lie right now; I’m craving body these days – searching for beer (particularly pale ale) with backbone.
Centennial and Amarillo are a hop combination you can’t go far wrong with ‘s , but Silver Dollar’s strength is, well, it’s strength of flavour – rugged, crunchy malt that even brings a little gingery cake – spice to proceedings. Combine that with a briskly citrus finish and round, sweetly fruity aroma and you’ve got a winner that fans of other ‘big pale ales‘ such as Bristol Beer Factory’s Independence, Salopian’s Darwin’s Origin and Oakham’s Scarlet Macaw should find comfort in.
That ginger-biscuit snap in the heart of the beer is evident again in Moteuka (4% abv), the palest beer of the trio. Again, it serves to bring sweetness and smoothness to what could have been too dry a pale ale, too rasping to be truly thirst-quenching. As you’ve guessed, it’s a showcase for Moteuka hops; all lime sherbert in the aroma and lifting the finish a little. Bittersweet rather than dry, it’s another beer you could happily sink all afternoon.
Now, who doesn’t like the way the word ‘Cherry Stout’ sounds? What a comforting, attractive pairing of words. Somewhat of a cult favourite on cask, my bottle of Cherry Stout (5.2% abv) certainly didn’t give too much away on the rather muted aroma: just a roasted, toasted malt note underpinned with a little liquorice. Luckily, I needn’t have worried about the flavour – deep within those black northeastern depths swum woody, perfumed flavours that brought a smile to the lips.
Those fruity notes balanced sweet and sour, rich and tart, with a floral note – not unlike Parma Violet, to my taste – but perfectly balanced with the stout. Begging to be poured alongside roast duck or beef, Cherry Stout is an endlessly interesting, rewarding beer that will give Stout freaks something to ponder.
After my gushing piece about northern monkeys Mordue a while back, I hassled the guys to make sure I got a bottle of Rob Millichamp’s Pandazilla (made under Rob’s small-batch brewing banner of Panda Frog) at the earliest opportunity. I don’t do that sort of thing often, but what I’d heard of it was so positive, it was just bugging me. I had to have it.
Being nice boys, they sent some down in a delivery to North Bar, and I jumped in the GoodStuffMobile the very next day to crack it open. I also didn’t want Matt and co to drink it, which was another factor in my haste!
Anyway – unleashing Pandazilla (which, for some reason, I want to keep pronouncing like Manzanilla) made me realise that I’d not had a Black IPA in ages. Funny how quickly some phases pass; although I hope it doesn’t disappear entirely. When done right, the balance of dark malt and lupulin-loaded hops can be sublime; when handled badly the style crashes and burns. It can stomp all over your tongue like the mutant Panda on this label crushing Tokyo.
Pandazilla (7%abv) gets things right because it leans a little more toward malt – making it a hopped dark ale rather than balls-out IPA, if that makes sense. Beneath a mocha-hued head there’s an almost stone-fruit, peaches and cream note in the nose, all light and fresh, but the body is full of Coffee grounds, Almond cake, red fruits and Blackcurrant jam. The finish is long and raspingly dry, as you’d like. The beer was incredibly fresh and vibrant and – most importantly – a pleasure to drink.
Rob Millichamp says Pandazilla is about ‘…Imagination, fun, passion and a streak of rebellion’, brewing limited edition runs of beer when he can get a window at Mordue. Both Mordue and Rob deserve credit for allowing themselves to have fun, take a little time off every once in a while, and re-aquaint themselves with things that brewing at its best can be; imagination, fun and passion.
You can follow Rob’s Beer Quest here. If in Newcastle, keep an eye out for Panda Frog’s creations – you lucky, lucky people.