The Berwick Food and Beer Festival is starting to become a bit of a tradition for us. Well, as far as going to something two years in a row can be called a tradition. If you live, or have ever spent a meaningful amount of time in the Scottish Borders, you’ll know there isn’t all that much to do, so you have to take the chance to do something interesting when you get it. Fortunately for the organisers and exhibitors, lots of other people in the area seem to have the same idea.
As food bloggers, and all round greedy humans, Charles and I jump at the chance to go to any event involving food. We’re not hugely keen on crowds so there aren’t that many that will actually make our day. I’m still trying to justify making a trip down to The Big Feastival (an annual food and music festival at Alex James’ farm – Alex James being the former frontman of Blur turned epic cheesemaker) but it would almost certainly be far too busy and overpriced, which would make us very cross indeed. They do say never meet your heroes and I have a feeling that biting the bullet on this one would be the food festival equivalent (but watch this space). As ever, I digress.
So, Berwick Food and Beer Festival. It’s held at the Berwick on Tweed Barracks every year, which is less impressive than it sounds, but it’s plenty big and might just have a couple of men in uniform floating around. Berwick upon Tweed has some pretty places, but not all that many, and there’s not very much to do there either, so when the festival’s in town, it gets mighty busy.
That said, it does have some pretty special restaurants (Magna Tandoori for a wicked curry and Upper West Street for lunch) and and one heck of a chocolate shop – Cocoature (they deliver, by the way – you’re welcome). Northumberland itself is both twee and pretty, so it’s worth the drive up or down (as long as you don’t get stuck behind as many farm vehicles as we did).
If you have a well-behaved dog, you can take it along, or if you have a moderately well-behaved dog that you wish was very well-behaved like our naughty Cress, you can take her along too. Just don’t expect your experience to be quite as plain sailing. There was a maverick old Border Terrier just pottering around off his lead, peeing on the recycling bins – we enjoyed that little guy immensely.
Pro tip: go when you’re hungry. Ideally right before lunch. That way you can make the most of the numerous street food style stalls they have on offer. My big problem with these situations is that I immediately want to try everything, so it’s pretty difficult to decide what to have for lunch. Charles made a very sensible suggestion which I took him up on – let’s get two things and share.
That seemed epic to start with as we immediately joined the long-but-worth-it queue for wonderful wood fired chorizo and red onion pizza from Earth & Fire, but the pulled pork Yorkshire pudding wraps we picked up as we were leaving were a huge disappointment. Not only did they get our order wrong which left us an extra quid out of pocket (and one portion of roast potatoes still would have been too much as they weren’t good at all) but what we did get was a real let down. The pulled pork was tender enough, but it was served up in a Yorkshire from a packet with a dollop of wholesale apple sauce. It needed a couple of scoops of good sage and onion stuffing and a couple of cracks of black pepper. You can’t win them all.
I suppose the really disappointing thing was how few local exhibitors were there compared with the number of exhibitors making a career out of attending festivals. Funnily enough, our favourites (and those who got us to empty our wallets onto their tables) were almost all local food superheroes. Two of which we specifically made a point of returning to after loving their produce last year.
Northern Edge Coffee – a local coffee roaster who was selling whole beans, ground beans and wonderful takeaway coffees and hot chocolates (this one always confuses people as I drink coffee as black as it can get whereas Charles orders the girlies, frothiest hot chocolate available). I chuckled at the irony of two ladies joining the festival queue with Costa cups in their hands.
The Geordie Banger Company – a sausage and occasional burger maker based in North Shields. These are quality sausages available in variety of different flavours, such as Newcastle Brown Ale, Bourbon and Hog Roast. The chap at the stall was the salt of the earth. When I made a point of telling him we’d come back specially for his sausages he even gave us a quick little recipe if we got bored of eating them just as sausages. He clearly doesn’t appreciate how many sausages we eat.
The Brownie Bar – sells all different types of brownies and cookies with brownies in the middle (I know) – really pleasant chap behind he counter but I wasn’t all that impressed by the brownies themselves. They were lovely and fudgey but a bit too sugary and buttery for my taste – they could have done with a bigger chocolate hit.
Le Mini Macaron – There was a very similar little business back home in Perth, and to be fair, who can be bothered to make their own macarons? Very pretty little confections in a variety of flavours and they’re relatively local (based in Jesmond, Newcastle).
The Northumbrian Bakehouse – tasty roasted cashews and little biscuits.
The Chirnells Farmhouse Kitchen – this lady was at Kelso farmers’ market last week and has a table heaving with beautiful home baked cakes, cookies, tarts and scones. It’s how I’d like my stall to look if I ever had the courage to bake for a living.
Earth & Fire – The aforementioned excellent pizza makers. They tow their oven around on a little concrete lined trailer and it turns out that they also offer their services to build a similar oven for you in your very own garden. Might just have to enquire about that one…..
- The live music was too loud and pretty off-putting to be frank – I’m not convinced any of them actually had to audition. That or the sound production was really, really bad.
- The Yorkshire pudding wraps.
- Having to queue for about 20 minutes, only to be given the wrong change when paying, and getting our wristbands was fairly disorganised.
- Having to pay to get in, despite basically emptying our wallets at the first stall we got to.
Oh, and we didn’t try any of the beers – I’m sure they were very good but it’s not my bag and Charles was driving. We also missed the demo kitchen, but had sort of forgotten about that element when we decided to take the dog with us!
Anyway, we’ll be back next year. Hope you had a great time if you’ve been, and have a brilliant day if you’re going tomorrow!