The Wylam Tap, Newcastle upon Tyne
A spaniel is chasing a moorhen on the lake. It must realise that when it comes to doggy paddle versus webbed feet and wings, there’s only one winner. In May 2016, Wylam Brewery moved its Northumberland-based production to Exhibition Park and opened a Tap for sampling what’s brewed elsewhere inside the sole surviving structure from the North East Coast Exhibition of 1929. Wylam beers range from traditional cask, such as Gold Tankard (4.0% abv), a clean-cut, hop-influenced ale with a hint of citrus, to the more experimental craft keg. Vegan-friendly Club of Slaughters (8.8% abv) is a stout through which drift flavours of black cardamom, cocoa, espresso and port wine. Jakehead IPA (6.3% abv) waits in the wings with its complex hoppy bittersweetness, to which I invariably succumb. Fourteen keg taps jut from the tiled wall behind the march of handpulls on the bar, 10 of them Wylam reared, with the remainder given over to “our friends and family from the brewing community”. The Tap’s menu is apt to change daily. Apparently the chef has been foraging this morning, so we’ll test the mushrooms he’s gathered to complement roast celeriac, hazelnuts and blue cheese – although beer-battered Lindisfarne oysters are a sweet temptation after a walk in the park. Bypassing chunky leather upholstery for my window seat, I pick up a selection of paperbacks from one of several neat stacks. Madame Bovary is a bit bleak for a sunny lunchtime; War and Peace a touch long. Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age – aye, go on then. A peaceful terrace offers views of Town Moor in one direction, and the university’s stately neo-Gothic courts in the other. The pastoral location has made nature experts of the staff: “We’ve got close to all the wildlife now,” says one. “We can tell you all the migration and mating patterns.” The springer has shaken itself off and is off on the trail of something else. I take it as a sign from nature and order a malty, rubyhued Red Kite (4.5% abv).
Palace of Arts, Exhibition Park, Newcastle NE2 4PZ 0191 650 0651; wylambrewery.co.uk (open Thur-Sun)