Thursday 4th June 2015
Berwick is a fascinating town as it has not been influenced by other towns around it. It’s 65 miles from Newcastle and 56 miles from Edinburgh, so is quite isolated and it has developed a unique identity. It has the North Sea to the east and the valley of the River Tweed, notable for salmon fishing, to the west. To the south there is farming land and to the north there is also some farming but the scenery is a bit more rugged.
Purely geographically speaking, the town should be in Scotland as the Tweed forms the border for a considerable distance inland. Berwick has spent some time under both Scottish and English jurisdiction however it became part of England in 1482. The Act of Union with Scotland in 1707 greatly reduced most of any remaining friction. Interestingly it wasn’t until the Wales and Berwick Act of 1746 was established that English Law was applicable in Berwick (and Wales).
Back in the days of CAMRA’s formation during the early 1970s, Berwick was a great destination as it was located in the ocean of keg beer that was Northumberland. The reason was that the majority of the town’s pubs were owned by Vaux brewery of Sunderland. Because of the takeover of Lorimer & Clark’s brewery in Edinburgh back in 1946 by Vaux, the standard bitter supplied to Berwick’s pubs was cask Lorimer’s Scotch Ale from their Caledonian Brewery in Slateford, Edinburgh. It was closed in 1985, yet luckily came back to us as the independent (for a while) Caledonian Brewery.
It was impossible during that time to comprehend the wide range of beers that are available in the town’s pubs these days. The latest contribution to this scene is the Curfew. It’s named after the evening curfew that existed in the past whereby a bell tolled and all residents had to hurry back inside the walls. In an interesting aside, there now exists the Curfew Run where the object is to run around the town walls back to the start within the 13 minutes that the Curfew Bell tolls.
At the time of writing, this is the most northerly micropub in England and the UK. Although there is Rutherford’s in Kelso, the first Scottish micropub, it is further south, such are the tricks of geography. Gemma and David Cook opened the Curfew on 21st June 2014 and it proved to be popular from the start.
Linda and myself visited in the early evening and it was quite busy for a Thursday night. There is a hanging sign above the entrance on Bridge Street but that is the only indication of a pub. This is between The Market Shop (art and furniture) and a hairdressing salon. It is approached by a narrow alley that opens out into a courtyard that doubles as a beer garden in good weather. It had some bench-type seating and some upright barrels for resting pints upon. We found the pub entrance on the right of this.
Inside it is small and basic, nothing wrong with that of course. Turn left from the entrance and you find the bar which appears to be have constructed from old wooden doors. It has four hand pumps and also accommodates two cider boxes.
To the right is a fridge holding a considerable amount of bottled beers from home and abroad. There are old church pews around the walls and a few small tables and stools. On the walls there are a number of advertisements of the enamel kind promoting foreign beers, and that’s it!
From the hand pumps we had a choice of Hanging Bat (Edinburgh) Any Porter in a Storm (4.7%); Kelham Island (Sheffield) Easy Rider (4.3%); East London Brewery (Leyton, London) Pale Ale (4.0%) and Marble (Manchester) Howgate & Kemp New Zealand Pale Ale (6.4%). It is possible to order three third pint glasses of the cask beers.
For lovers of cider there was the local (nearly!) Waulkmill (Langholm, Scotland) Cyser (8.1%) and Sandford Orchard (Crediton, Devon) Shakey Bridge (6.0%)
There is a slightly more expanded menu than most micropubs although the staple pork pie is represented. Theirs are made by Foreman’s of Norham. Cheeseboards are available at weekends and a real novelty, Spanish tapas. These are delivered from the El Taperio restaurant, a few doors along Bridge Street.
I realise that most people won’t find themselves in Berwick by chance, although it does have much to offer, but maybe it should be considered as a stop-off whilst travelling to Edinburgh.
The Curfew, 46a, Bridge Street, Berwick-upon-Tweed, TD15 1AQ. Tel: 07842 912268
Open: Monday-Thursday 12.00-21.00; Friday-Sunday 12.00-23.00
The pub is to be found in the middle of the town, about ten minutes walk from the station.
Berwick is served by Virgin East Coast trains running from London to Edinburgh via York and Newcastle, and on to Aberdeen. It is also served by Cross-Country trains from the South West of England via Bristol, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, York, Newcastle and on to Edinburgh and Aberdeen.