I arrived in Hexham by bus as, thanks to Mr Prescott, I now qualify for free travel on public transport. It was a fairly hot day, so I made straight for the Tap & Spile, knowing that they would have a good selection of real ales on offer. Six beers were chalked up on the board and I asked my standard question: "Which of these are actually ON at the moment, please?" "Why, all of them" answered the barman "we ALWAYS have all our ales ready when we put them up on the board." A welcome change, I thought. I get fed up with ordering a pint only to be told "that one isn't on".
I had a pint of Jennings' Cumberland Ale and it was in perfect condition. A lovely refreshing drink, clear and sweetish but with a manly bitter aftertaste. I felt that I could sink a few of those and was tempted to shelve my afternoon's schedule and just settle down to a session! Resisting, I decided to give Deuchar's IPA another chance. You may remember from one of my previous articles that I had a vile pint of this brew at the Newcastle Hotel in Rothbury. Well, my second attempt at appreciating this beer convinced me that it just doesn't suit my palate. The pint I was served was VERY clear, mildish and light, with a bitter, hoppy flavour, but there is just something in the aftertaste that I don't like. I've given it a fair trial and I shall avoid it in future. It's a question of individual preference.
Glancing round the bar, I could see that this was a bar for those who appreciated good, down-to-earth living. Dogs were very definitely allowed and everyone seemed to have one except me. I briefly thought of kidnapping one from the street to cover my nakedness, but decided to leave instead. I had other things to do that afternoon (as you shall hear in due course) so, complimenting the barman on the quality of his cellar, I tore myself away and left.
The cellarman's name was Fred, the barman told me, so here's to you mon ami, I'll be back!!