October 22, 2015 Beer, Newcastle 1 Comment



Our Beer Man’s Verdict

What combination of elements – that peculiar alchemy – makes the perfect pub?

On paper, everything can seem perfect – with every single ingredient present and correct – but it just doesn’t work.

It’s usually an instant gut reaction, although it can sometimes be a slower burn.

So what are we to make of a pub with manky toilets and shabby décor which is located in an ‘unfashionable’ location? Well, perhaps predictably, it’s magical.free trade 4

I first encountered the legendary Free Trade Inn on a stag do in Newcastle a few years ago and it was love at first pint. I’ve visited a few times since, and it never fails to charm.

It also allegedly charmed Jimi Hendrix – no, really – and it’s even claimed he wrote Stone Free on the premises.

It’s situated a 20 minute walk from the centre of town at the top of a hill – with an absolutely magnificent view over the Tyne – near Byker.free trade 1

It’s nothing special from the outside: a pale, functional corner building with a big bright sign.

And it’s nothing special inside, either. Just a slightly shabby traditional old boozer, with lots of old wood. A main bar dominates, with sitting areas off to each side.

I’ll gloss over the loos, apart from a word of advice: it may be worth spending a penny before you arrive, or holding in until you leave.

But somehow it works spectacularly well. It feels the way you wish your local did: relaxed, informal and comfortable. I try to avoid starting my trips to Newcastle here because I invariably never want to go anywhere else (although the nearby Cumberland Arms is also magnificent).free trade 5

Indeed, all my fellow patrons feel like they’re here for the night, comfortably settled at the bar enjoying a pint or sitting at the windows enjoying that splendid view as the sun sets.

The beer selection – perhaps slightly incongruously given the surroundings and location – is excellent.

There’s a perfect selection in the fridge, including timeless Belgian classics like Cantillon, Orval and Rodenbach.

On the taps, we have the best of British. Oddly – having travelled over the border to Tyneside – the draught offering is very Scottish-centric and dominated by Fyne. So there’s a raspberry Berliner weisse, the ever dependable Jarl and, amazingly, Ragnarok – the ramped-up double Jarl – on keg and cask.free trade 3

Everything on offer looks tempting – and, as always, keenly priced – but I settle for the Kaffir from Box Social Brewing (£3 a pint) and it’s pleasant, with subtle Asian spicing.

The Echelon (£3.20 a pint) from local brewery Almasty is next: a magnificent fruity, refreshing pale ale I could easily drink all night.

Like the famous pub cat Craig David, I could stay here indefinitely – but I don’t.

There are other places to go and see – many good, some great, but none a patch on the mighty Free Trade Inn.

5 stars 2

Free Trade Inn, St Lawrence Rd, Newcastle upon Tyne NE6 1AP

Written by BKR