A Pilgrimage – An evening at The North Riding Brewpub

Being someone who has perfected the art of professional mediocrity, I am drawn to those with talent. And the ability to extract the most from that talent.

Which is – in my usual rambling and roundabout way – how I found myself, on a Friday evening, in Scarbados. At The North Riding Brewpub.

If I may explain…

I first met Stuart Neilson about 5 years ago one afternoon in Snaith, at Yorkshire Ales. I was there to buy some Yorkshire beers, an abiding passion. Stuart was there launching one – something to do with Hearts football club if memory serves. At that time, I knew nothing about North Riding Brewpub. That was to swiftly change.

I did some catching up. Damn fine beer.

Then, in 2015, Stuart took the plunge. And invested in a 10bbl brewkit, installed in a unit outside Scarborough, at East Ayton. And went from strength to strength. Me and others mithered to get his beers over here (Manchester).

And then people got the point.

Others started raving about his beers. Good beer sells. And Stuart Neilson brews good beer. If you’ve had it, you know. I can’t stand Untappd & Ratebeer, but rating North Riding as one of the UKs top breweries, at least we agree on one thing.

And having upscaled to that bigger kit, the Brewpub kit was left in the capable hands of Stu’s stepson. And the beers didn’t miss a beat.

So. I’d had the beers in bottle from both the Brewpub & the Brewery (self-deprecatingly nicknamed “The Factory”). I’d had beers on draught from both too (we’ve had North Riding at each of the ISBF bashes). But there was a gap.

I hadn’t been to The North Riding Brewpub.

It became an obsession.

I finally got to go in 2015 when Stuart agreed to “collab” on a beer for #ISBF2016. Red Citra. If was stunning. But the night before – in the pub – was even better, with a beer list on cask and keg that was a succession of Beergasms. No filler. Just fabulous beers.

I’d been a couple of times since. And it just felt like a place to belong. So when The Lovely One & I wondered what to do on New Year’s Eve, I put a call in. And we stayed the night.

It goes without saying, it knocked the living shite out of a night of bottles and Jools.

Because – and here’s the thing – it feels like a combination of Destination Pub and Local. Somewhere you go for the exceptional beer, but end up feeling like Norm from Cheers. It had Superb North Riding beers from both. Cannonball on keg.

It even has a permanent Kernel line!

Then, that evening, Stu dropped some news. A Magic Rock Tap Takeover. On 9th Feb. Complete with collab beer launch. So, next morning, I asked about rooms at the pub.

They’d all been taken. By people coming to the TTO.

I had a word with some of my regular accomplices. Arrangements were made for a team outing “over the hills”. They were excited, not just for the TTO – as ace as Magic Rock beers are – but to visit the pub. And drink North Riding at source.

After a 3 hour drive, I couldn’t wait to get sat down and get some of that there Stu’s Company (Stuart Neilson & Stuart Ross – see what they did there?). Sit down? If was absolutely RAMMED.

The beers? Let me just say, that the “Stu’s Company” collab is stunning. 4.5%. Totally sessionable. Hopped up. Cryo hopped with Chinook. Just WOW. 2 Casks sold out before closing.

Karen knows how to look after beer. That much I already know. But that Ringmaster. Oh my.

I haven’t really enjoyed Ringmaster since its name changed from Curious. Just never seemed as sharp. But Sweet Baby Jesus it was stunning in the NRB on Friday night.

As much as we love Magic Rock, I – and others – were gutted, on initial view, to find no North Riding on the bar. But a little nip to the other room revealed Doomguy. The Chocolate Orange Porter that we had at #ISBF4. We hit it. Some of us hard. Yes Barbara, I’m talking about you…. Again. Stunning.

The beers were flying. As the Magic Rock casks ran out, North Riding went on. Mosaic Pale. Again, stunning.

I could go on. And frequently do.

But, for me, this was never about the TTO, undoubtedly excellent that the beers were. Especially Stu’s Company. It’s the pub.

Stuart and Karen bought the pub in 2005, installing the brewkit (2bbl) in part of the capacious cellar in 2011. And good beer flowed, building a reputation. One that encouraged the move to a bigger premises with greater capacity in 2015.

These beers have a dedicated following from both pubs and drinkers

From the first moment I walked in two years ago. I felt it. That thing I crave more than anything else. Soul.

I’ve felt welcome from the first steps through the door. A real and fundamental warmth. Welcome. Local Heart & Soul. Chatter, laughter.

You’ve got a skilled landlady in Karen. Someone who makes you realise that with a little care & attention (and no little skill) Cask conditioned beer can rock your world. The right product. In the right hands. Rocket science it ain’t.

We had a little mini tour of the mini brewery. Where the original Magic Spanner was discovered – and we feared for Magic Rock’s Lewis….

Of course, the company makes the evening. I’d arranged a chat with Malcolm to discuss East West. But, you know, too much fun was being had to deal with that. Although I was privy to some seriously ludicrous info about one or two beers coming to The Red Shed.

Bloody hell! Is it EVER going to be an ace bash!

There was great beer. There was warmth. Soul. There was great company. It’s quite simply a great pub. My favourite.

Enormous thanks for the company. I’m thrilled that James, Steve & Jock had a great time and loved the pub – I knew they would. The best of company.

It was lovely to meet and chat with Lewis, a young man “Living The Dream” (Stu’s words) brewing at Magic Rock. Great to meet Rich (I hope you made shed loads of cash for Surfers Against Sewage).

Great to see Graham and Ann again. Lovely people. I “nicked” Grahams raffle prize, I’ll bring him something special next time I’m over! (Sorry Graham!)

Stu & Karen. You know MY thoughts already. This is my favourite pub. It has it all. Simply the best kept cask beer. Brilliant keg lines. Heart, Soul, great beer, somewhere to sleep it off.

Each time feels like a tick on my bucket list. It should be on yours too.

If I was religious, I’d say it was my Santiago de Compostela.

And this was my pilgrimage.