Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

Sunderland v Blackpool: Sunderland Pubs

I’ve never properly explored Sunderland, so today will be mainly dedicated to exploring its pubbage. There’s a match later on but I’m trying not to think about that, recent form considered. Today is going to be A Good Day in terms of anything I can control.

It’s £83.30 for an Anytime Day Single from Blackpool to Sunderland. That’s expensive but it is a long way away. It would have been £134 for a return – plus the cost of a hotel. I resolve to travel back on the supporters coach. I have packed sleeping tablets.

I board the 0621 from Blackpool North to York. I’ll be on this train until 9am, so I can settle back and relax for a while. I tuck into my packed lunch breakfast of 2 x Alpen Light Jaffa Cake bars, grapes, cherry tomatoes, chunks of honey roast ham and a hard boiled egg. If you’re close enough to smell my egg, back off and put your mask back on. I’ve also brought a flask of Sainsburys Coconut Cocoa Rooibos Tea because it’s a bit nippy this morning.

Having received feedback on the first draft of my cyberpunk script, I set to work preparing for the full half-hour script for my End of Module Assessment. I revise my step outline and work on some additional scenes. Once again, I am intrigued as to how my characters come alive and develop through their dialogue with seemingly no input from me. It’s as if my conscious mind switches off and the characters are channeled via my subconscious. The more I write, the more this happens. It’s all rather odd – but welcome, as it saves me the job of writing my own assignment (although I will have to edit it).

‘We will shortly be arriving at York. Thank you for travelling with Northern Rail. Please check you have all your personal belongings with you before leaving the train.’

No way we’re here already! I hastily bundle together my personal belongings and head off in search of the 0922 to Newcastle. I’ll be an hour on this leg of the journey. As I’ve pretty much completed my next draft of my script (and have a week off to get it polished), I decide to treat myself to some quality time with my Kindle. I’m enjoying The Kingdom by Jo Nesbo at the moment, so I am soon transported off to a remote village in Norway.

At Newcastle, I have 20 minutes to find my connection to Sunderland. I board the 1040 for the 20-minute hop from Tyneside to Wearside. I’m pretty tired now after the early start and the long time sitting down, writing and reading. I rotate my ankles in circles to get the circulation going in my feet. I have a lot of exploring to do this afternoon. I’m really excited because I have no idea what is to come.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I have an agenda, courtesy of Shaun of SAFC Blog fame, who has recommended some pubs and areas to visit. So I’m following a set route today – although have sprinkled in a few pubs points of interest of my own and have gone off track a little.


There is a ‘chart room’ in this pub, which I expect was much better in the 80s. There are regular Meet The Brewer nights and they have an ‘exclusive Real Ale Club’. I am therefore hopeful for a good ale selection here today. I also love that it is ‘Child Friendly (During Food Service)’. I love the specificity of this. Do they start giving children Chinese burns as soon as they stop serving food?

Recent Untappd checkins include:

  • Cullercoats Lovely Nelly (EPA)
  • Anarchy Blonde Star
  • Durham El Dorado (golden)
  • Roosters Yankee (APA)
  • Crafty Monkey Telegraph IPA
  • Titanic Plum Porter
  • Durham Magus (EPA)
  • Maxim Maximus (strong ale)
  • Consett Ale Works Red Dust
  • Big Lamp Prince Bishop (golden)
  • Durham Press Paws (EPA)

I opt for the Consett Ale Works Red Dust and make further enquiries about this brewery, which I’m not overly familiar with. I’m confused by a photograph of Blackpool Tower on their website but further digging reveals that the tower was made from Consett steel. The Red Dust that I am drinking is am homage to ‘the infamous blanket of iron oxide that settled over the whole of Consett’. I don’t spend enough time researching the names of beers and I really ought to, because (a) it’s interesting; and (b) it’s good mindfulness practice.

I see no sign of a menu here, so sup up and head off to find the next pub. I have a lot to get through today.

The Dun Cow

Gah! This pub doesn’t open until 5pm Mon-Weds. Happily, though, just as I’m passing, a staff member is entering the pub. I mention how far I’ve come just to see this pub (honest) and I am allowed in to have a sneak peek of this pub’s stunning interior, which is being restored to how it looked in 1901.

There is food, cask ale and good music promised here.

The most recent beers checked in on Untapped are:

  • Anarchy Cult Leader (APA)
  • Maxim Sour Cherry Chocolate Stout
  • Maxim Double Maxim (brown ale)
  • Anarchy Skin Deep (pale)
  • Wylam Jakehead (IPA)
  • Great North Eastern Hopnicity (APA)

There are a lot of local breweries on display here already. I have to look further into Maxim, not least because I want that Sour Cherry Chocolate Stout. They are based in Houghton-le-Spring, which sounds like it ought to be in Lancashire but is, in fact, in Sunderland. I’d tell you more about them, but their website is so annoying and I have to input my date of birth every time I want to visit a different section of their website – and I really need a drink now – so that’s all you’re getting. I can, however, tell you there is an annual ten-day feast in Houghton which, according to Wikipedia, ‘typically features a fairground, carnival, fireworks and an ox-roasting event in commemoration of Rector Bernard Gilpin’s feeding of the poor.

The Ship Isis

This Camerons Brewery pub is named after an Egyptian goddess, apparently, which is somewhat reassuring. She was the goddess of the moon who protected women and children (as opposed to giving them Chinese burns) and healed the sick. She sounds like a nice goddess and I know I’m going to feel at home in this pub.

Recent checkins on Untappd are:

  • DEYA Magazine Cover (IPA)
  • Nomadic GeeGee (pale)
  • Alpha Delta Apollo (IPA)
  • Alpha Delta Hera (pale)
  • Two By Two IPA Sabro X Mosaic X Idaho 7 (IPA)
  • Nomadic Jester (EPA)
  • Ossett Butterley (bitter)
  • Elusive Cottonwood (pale)
  • Play Raspberry And Milk Sticky Lolly Pale Ale (milkshake pale)
  • Liquid Light Cosmic Debris (fruited gose sour)

I’m having the milkshake pale, of course.

This is a dog friendly pub.

The Saltgrass

This pub has the type of reviews that make me want to go there.

I particularly love the terms ‘off their trumpets’ and ‘curbside trash’.

I haven’t seen anything but pizza anywhere today and wonder if there is anything else to eat in the whole of Sunderland. Much as I am looking forward to a nice Chicken Balti Pie at the ground tonight (one of my favourites from last season, albeit there wasn’t much competition [only Oxford]), I would like to have something else to eat before I get there.

Recent beer checkins here include:

  • Tiny Rebel Hello Goodbye (NEIPA)
  • Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen
  • Arbor Mosaic Gluten Free
  • Garage OCATA (IPA)
  • Delirium Bavo Pils
  • Mill Street Stargazer Summer Ale

Darwin Brewery

Darwin Brewery was established in 1997 at the University of Sunderland, before relocating to Crook, County Durham, then returning to Sunderland following the demise of Vaux Brewery.

Beers available to buy from their online shop are:

  • Plum Harvest Porter
  • Beagle Blonde
  • Evolution (bitter)
  • Expedition (fruity pale)
  • Tall Ship (craft lager)
  • Jaffa Jolt (coffee and orange ruby)
  • Rolling Hitch (amarillo hopped IPA)
  • Galapagos (chocolate stout)
  • Extinction (barley wine)
  • Flag Porter
  • Birra Brigante (saison)
  • Wearside Monk (trappist)
  • Richmond Ale (brown)

I’m particularly interested in the Jaffa Jolt and Galapagos. Alas my diet does not permit much beer and I am still tied in to a couple of beer subscriptions. I have tried and failed twice to cancel my Beer52 subscription, but the man on the phone is so nice and he keeps persuading me to buy more beer. I must ask Lee to phone instead next time.

Vaux Brewery

I can’t not visit Blackpool’s former iconic shirt sponsors.

I am, however, confused because I have only just learned that Vaux became defunct in 2000, when it was acquired by Whitbread and the head brewer founded Maxim Brewery. So how is it still here? Is it a ghost brewery? Well, no. The brand has been resurrected, with the opening of a new brewery and tap.

Beers offered are:

  • A Hazy Shade of Sabro (DDH pale)
  • Monk St Brown (American brown)
  • Black Wave (oatmeal stout)
  • Don’t Hold Back (IPA)

The tap house is in a prime position for the Stadium of Light and will likely be heaving later. Meanwhile I borrow their horse for the next leg of the journey up to Whitburn. I manage to wangle this by offering to deliver some of their beers and merch to the rest of the pubs on my crawl.

Blue’s Micro Pub

I manage to get here without falling off the horse, which is amazing considering I’ve never ridden one before (not that I told the lads at Vaux anything of the sort).

Recent checkins on Untappd include:

  • Duvel
  • Tempest Mexicake (chilli chocolate imperial stout)
  • Wilde Child 4 Dimensional Manifold (vanilla imperial stout)
  • Vault City Piñazo Sour (pina colada sour)
  • Freedom Helles
  • Allendale Wagtail (bitter)
  • Pollys Simply The Manifest (APA)
  • Phantom Curbside Luau (fruited sour)

I’d much rather a Curbside Luau than curbside trash. It’s an Hawaiian Fruit Punch Sour. Oh yeah. Obvs I can’t resist the Mexicake either, so I send the horse on his way with a local who was just leaving in the direction of Vaux Brewery.

I soon realise I have made a huge mistake in coming here. The beers are simply too exciting. On my way out, I spot this Brew By Numbers Cherry Trifle Imperial Stout.

You know what I said above about not being able to order any more beers? Forget that! This is one of those beers that I simply have to try. I have no capacity now (I still haven’t eaten since the train), so I place an order for six of these beauties to be delivered so I can enjoy them at home. I’m sooooooo excited about this!

I decide I need some fresh air after all this beer, so I stroll the two miles along the beachfront to the next micropub.

The Lighthouse

I think it’s safe to say this is a dog friendly pub.


The Lighthouse isn’t really open until 17th May when hopefully things will resemble some sort of normal in the world of pubbage.

Recent checkins on Untappd include:

  • Castle Eden Scorpion Lager
  • Maxim Raspberry Porter

It is here that I learn that there is a pier with a lighthouse at the end of it very close by. This is incredibly exciting and I gulp down my Raspberry Porter far quicker than I ought to.

Roker Pier & Lighthouse

Come to think of it, I think I do remember seeing this on Sunderland Til I Die (well worth a watch on Netflix, if you haven’t seen it; don’t worry, Larry doesn’t last long).

I can’t believe I’ve never explored Sunderland before. Look what I’ve been missing out on. There are 90-120 minute tours available of Roker Pier & Lighthouse – taking you to the top of the lighthouse – and I only wish I had the time to fit this into my schedule today. Whilst I may have mastered virtual trips, redesigning train stations and horse riding in this blog in recent months, I am not yet proficient in time travel. Hopefully next time we visit (whenever that may be) it will be on a weekend and I can make a weekend of it and visit everything I want to.

Harbour View

Well that was a lovely and unexpected interlude – but I must get back to the pubbing, because it is getting close to kick off now.

Recent Untappd checkins include:

  • Durham White Gold
  • Titanic Plum Porter
  • Ossett Silver King (pale)
  • Two By Two Donkey Limbo Pale
  • Oakham Inferno (golden)
  • North Riding Citra Pale
  • Two By Two Snake Eyes Pale
  • Two By Two NEIPA

It is now time to look deeper into Two By Two Brewery because I’ve seen a bit of them up here and I am not familiar with them. Established in 2014, they’re a ‘seasonal craft brewery’ based in Wallsend. Their artwork is provided by La Huevo.

The Avenue

This pub has six handpulls and is in the 2021 Good Beer Guide. There’s poker, bingo, pool, dominoes and a quiz night.

Recent Untappd checkins include:

  • Two By Two NEIPA
  • Two By Two New England Simcoe
  • Lords Silver Spur Pale Ale
  • Two By Two Citra Simcoe Ekuanot IPA
  • Marble Lagonda (pale)
  • Thornbridge Brother Rabbit (golden)
  • Wensleydate Poacher IPA
  • Grey Trees Mosaic Pale Ale
  • Two By Two Sabro Amarillo

I stuff some black pudding into my face before taking a leisurely ten-minute stroll to the home of the Black Cats. I still don’t know why they’re called that. Anyone? I do pass a dog wearing a Sunderland shirt on my walk to the ground, which makes me smile a lot.

Sunderland v Blackpool

I am still ravenous by the time I get to the ground, so I head straight to the refreshment kiosk and order two Chicken Balti pies. I do leave much of the pastry, so I’m not really being as greedy as all that. They are every bit as good as I remember.

As I take my seat, I am not as nervous or as excited as I was ahead of the reverse fixture ten days previously. I am feeling deflated after the last couple of drab defeats.

Sunderland attack us from the off and look very lively. Surely they can’t keep that up? As the half progresses, we settle into the game and manage to make it to half time goalless. I think that’s a good thing. Both sides appear lacking in confidence after recent disappointing results.

But the second half, dear reader. Phew! Kaikai almost breaks the net with a piledriver to put Blackpool into the lead. Oh boy oh boy. We are for it now! And on came the onslaught. Sunderland were desperate to salvage something from this game and threw the kitchen sink at us. Their keeper was up for corners and everything. But oh captain my captain Chris Maxwell delivered wondersave after wondersave (quite how he is playing in League One, I have no idea, but I am not complaining); and our defenders repeatedly hurled themselves in front of the ball.

Thou shalt not pass!

Dear reader, we survived the onslaught, making it two wins over Sunderland in 10 days – with every chance of facing them in the play-offs very soon as well. We would certainly have the psychological edge if we were to play them again.

It was such a buzz to win this match – and joyful to witness such fight from the players. We had a good crowd in our livestream for the watchalong. You can watch us tearing our hair out here.

And you can watch the highlights of the match here.

And thus our hope is renewed in what is proving to be a proper rollercoaster of a season. Can we do this? Are we good enough? Do we want it enough? All will be revealed in the next couple of weeks.


NB Pics above are taken from the websites referenced, as this was a virtual trip. 

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