Pub 21. Old Bull’s Head, Newcastle. 18/04/18
In attendance – DJT, Po, Pete Cotton, Lottie, Hannah, Random ADHD Guy
Surprisingly, this was the first occasion that the tour had taken us into the centre of Newcastle. Fortunately, we were lucky to draw out a proper pub as opposed to a Yates Wine lodge or Revolution Bar. The sun has made a rare appearance so I was hopeful for a nice refreshing choice of beer and decent beer garden. My previous experiences of this pub are from when I was a young whippersnapper in the late 90’s taking the first steps in my beer drinking life, and popping in at lunch whilst on college. Back then, it was called “Scruffy Murphy’s” and was an Irish themed pub, featuring what was at the time, a fairly nice pint of Kilkenny.
Fast forward twenty something years, and it’ now called The Old Bull’s Head, and is ran by the Joules Brewery, which also runs one of my local pubs (The Glebe in Stoke) Hopefully with a similar beer choice and vibe. From the outside, it does look like a pleasant establishment, and you can tell that it is an old building. The exterior is painted white with large black writing on the walls so you’re in no doubt that you’d be able to procure yourself some liquid refreshment inside.
As you enter, you are again reminded that it is an old building, with nice wooden floors, quite a low ceiling and wooden beams that you have to duck to avoid (if you are 6’ or above). The toilets and a fruit machine are directly in from of you and you turn left to access the wooden bar, which is then to your right and has the obligatory bar stools in situ. There are various seats during this area, mainly wooden benches and stools. It all gives the impression of a pretty decent place to have a scoop. The pub wasn’t particularly buy at this point, however almost as soon as we were inside, an old man asked whether this was “the beard club”. I misheard this as “the beer club”, which in a way, it is. I’m fairly sure that he isn’t able to access the internet on his typewriter though, so I think I’m safe. We sat in the smaller area to the right which is almost like a “snug”, featuring church pew seats, leather benches and a rug. There is also a coal range type fire which wasn’t on during our visit due to the unseasonably nice weather. There isn’t a pool table or dart board, and I didn’t see any bar games although you can vape inside but I don’t think they do food. There were certainly no menus around.
Beer choice is good, as you’d impress with a Joules pub. They have their own Pale Ale, Blonde, and various others. For lager drinkers, you can choose Carling, Staropramen and Green Monkey. Fruli is not available. Otherwise, there is Guinness if you want to relive the Irish era of the pub, however Kilkenny is absent. Cider drinkers can have either a Stowford Press or if you’re feeling brave an Old Rosie which (from experience) I rocket fuel. With this in mind, I resisted the temptation of having an Old Rosie and opted for a pint of Blonde which retailed at £3 a pint, and as expected was a really good pint of beer. The range of pork scratchings is impressive, with a choice of Black Country Pork Scratchings retailing at £1, but also Mr Porky and a range of flavoured Mr Tubs pork crunch costing 90p. High scores on the Swine rating then. There is a small beer garden at the back of the pub, up a few steps. When I say small, there is 1 park-style bench and another fixed bench made of decking, although there are no heaters. Service was good and friendly throughout our visit. The gents toilets aren’t bad, there’s a metal trough urinal and two sinks, with one cubicle. The area features black & white tiles on the floor, old pictures on the walls and was generally clean. The no-brand hand dryer was very good, although you could hear everything going on in the beer garden from in the toilet, hopefully it wasn’t the same the other way round!
So, this was the 21st pub we’ve been, and it was the first pub where there has been a bit of an edge, which was actually unexpected. This was provided by a number of drunken people entering the pub. At first they weren’t being too rowdy, but it was certainly too loud for a Wednesday. However, as time went on the arguments started, mainly between a man and a women. I’m not sure if they were currently in a relationship, but they probably had been at some point. At one stage, it did feel like the pub was on the verge of a brawl, to be fair the landlady handled the situation pretty well and once they had left it turned back into a normal pub. Whilst out in the beer garden, the landlady asked if we were starting a fire. It turned out that a tramp had set up his tent in the area behind the pub, and it had inexplicably been set on fire which prompted the random dude with ADHD to jump over the wall and attempt to put it out with his feet. A worthy, and equally bizarre end to what turned out to be quite a strange evening, where two pint perspective turned fairly easily into six pint perspective. Which kind of says it all about the establishment we were in. Apart from some questionable customers, it’s a pretty decent boozer.
Beer choice/range – 4/5
Ambience – 3/5
Facilities – 1/5
Location – 5/5
Locals/Safeness – 2/5
Pork scratchings – 5/5
Fruli – 0/1
Toilets – 3/5
Other – 2.5/5
Overall – 25.5/41
Random Attendee Comments –
“A surprising mix of a 400 year old building, arguing middle-aged ruffians, an incredible range of pork scratchings and arson involving a tramps tent. Edge” – Po