July Pub of the Month

Back in the mist-enshrouded days of early 2010, Newcastle was a different beast than it is today, not well-known for its real ale; if the thirsty imbiber wanted anything in the way of the unusual, he (or, indeed, she) had to venture into the old post office at the bottom of the Ironmarket. Other hostelries served real ale, of course, but this was very much real ale along the lines of what certain CAMRA members rather sneeringly refer to as The Usual Suspects, your Greene King Ales and your Marston’s beers and suchlike.

One such pub that toed this line was The Duke of York on Liverpool Road, opposite Newcastle College; then, one bright morning in August of 2010, something rather interesting happened. Not only did the college disappear, but the Duke of York did, too. While the college teleported around the corner, the Duke of York did not have to make such a Herculean effort, merely reinventing itself and changing its name. In the early days, Greene King and Marston’s ales were still present and correct on the bar, but, crucially, they were supplemented by a guest beer, usually from an unusual brewery. And thus, phoenix-like, The Freebird began it’s slow growth into the real ale pub it is today.

I received an email. This email proffered the information that a pub on the outskirts of my home town was serving Fuzzy Duck beers. Fuzzy Duck in Newcastle? This had to be investigated with undue haste.

The Freebird threw open its doors in August of 2010; at this point, a couple of managers were employed to run the pub, meaning that the real brains behind the enterprise remained a mysterious figure in the background, too shy to show his face to the real ale drinking community at large. However, as time progressed, his confidence grew and, with increasingly regularity, he could be sighted behind the bar; it turned out that he knew a thing or two about real ale, having run various pubs around town in his time, most famously The Rigger on George Street. This shy and self-effacing character even had a name, but no-one calls him by it. He is known to the world at large simply as Buff; no-one dares ask why.

As the number of hand-pumps on the bar slowly grew, so the reputation of The Freebird grew with them; the Bass and the Abbot quickly disappeared, to be replaced by an ever-changing range of guest ales, usually from the smaller and more obscure breweries that the United Kingdom can supply. The pub changed too, with a significant refurbishment taking place, giving the place a purple hue, while spaceships and other memorabilia appeared on the walls. The awards began to roll in, with Buff twice winning CAMRA Potteries Pub of the Month and hovering around the Top Ten in the Pub of the Year stakes.

Apart from real ale, The Freebird has a well-earned reputation as a music pub and a biker’s pub, with all three facets conjoining on certain weekends of the year, when the biker’s can drink real ale and listen to the music; but it is the real ale that occupies the attention of this article, meaning that, for the third time, we will be presenting our Pub of the Month barrel on Thursday, 4th July at 7.30pm. So why not come along and see Buff in all his shy and retiring glory? And Steph, of course; a Freebird article that fails to mention Steph is no Freebird article at all…

Martin Perry
96 Liverpool Road, Newcastle, ST5 2AX

Opening Hours:
Monday – Thursday 5pm – Midnight; Friday 5pm – 1am; Saturday 2pm – 1am; Sunday 2am – 11.30pm