Review: The Durham Beer Off, Lumley Castle

Last year we were invited to the inaugural Geordie Beer Off held in Newcastle Castle and such a success it was that it’s spawned the bigger (and some would argue, better) Durham Beer Off. From one iconic venue to another, the Durham Beer off was held in Lumley Castle in Chester-le-Street which provided much more space to enable an impressive 9 local breweries to showcase their wares and be judged. And if there’s too things I love; it’s booze and being judgemental.


Dave and my dad came along with me and acted as official judges and they took their roles very seriously, making sure we got tasters of the 18 beers on offer and trying them all first before decided which ones we wanted pints or halves of. An between the four of us (my mum came along for the ride too) we all have some pretty different tastes. Dave’s an IPA fan, my dad likes a good session lager, my mum prefers and porter and I’m all about the fruity beers.

So with that in mind, my favourite of the day wasn’t actually one that was being judged, but a can of lemon beer from Tooth and Claw which was so refreshing and in an over saturated market of pineapple and mango flavours, I feel like you don’t see lemon all that often so was a real standout taste wise! Mum liked the Dark Side of the Moo from Brew Farm and Dave really loved the Fire Water again from Tooth and Claw – which was infused with almond and smelt just like a Bakewell Tart.

And that’s the beauty of beer festivals, there’s something for everyone, and, for this beer philistine, you were also able to use the hotel bars to get some wine or any other non beer related beverages. Also on offer was a hog roast, which, when you’ve been drinking beer the majority of the after, and have it with some sage an onion stuffing and gravy, is the absolute perfect beer soaking up food.

Again it was a token based system that you buy as many as you like and use as cash which makes it easier for the vendors not have to faff around with card machines or cash. Prices ranged between £1.50 – £3 for a half and of course double for a pint apart from some of the more specialist like Steam Machine’s Rackham’s Return which was infused with rum and 11% – so that was, understandably, £6 for a half.

We made a weekend of it in the end and stayed over at the castle which meant we were able to stick around and listen to the entertainment – a really sweet female singer called Annabel Pattinson who performed a variety of rock an rock covers an then see the final overall winner of the competition, which went to the afore mentioned Steam Machine’s rum beer. Might not have been my top choice, with it being so strong and really quite specialist, but I guess that’s what enamoured it to the official Durham Beer Off judges.

Beer festivals can be bit of a saturated market, especially in the summer months, but I think it’s the competition element that sets the Beers Offs apart from other festivals. At both Beer Offs we’ve been to now, the clientele has been spot on; no one gets too drunk, no one acts like a dickhead, everyone just has a good time enjoying good beer. Rumour has it Northumberland and a region wide Beer Off are on the cards – both of which I’ll personally be really excited for! You never know, one of these days I may even pick the winning beer!


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