BEER pumps stretching the length of the bar in the Ship Isis is a pleasant sight for the discerning drinker, tired of the soulless feel of the city centre.
The Isis is the latest addition to Sunderland’s real ale pub circuit, and despite being derided by one colleague as “an old man’s pub”, it was buzzing with a mixed crowd as I stepped through the door on its first Saturday night.
The historic pub has been restored to its former glory by The Jarrow Brewery, making it the third pub opened by the chain’s owners Jess and Alison McConnell.
The couple started up in The Robin Hood pub in Jarrow in 2002, and have since opened The Maltings in South Shields, where the company’s beers are brewed in the former Co-op dairy beneath the bar.
The firm’s favourites are joined on tap by a selection of regular imports and guest beers.
Fans of cider and perry will also be pleased, beware – don’t expect it all to be crisp and sweet ala Magners and Kopparberg. Proper, sour, murky liquids are served here too.
It being the spooky season at the time of my visit, I plumped for the Pumpkin Ale – brewed by Ouseburn Valley.
Basically, the starchy-sweet, squash-like flavours of the orange fruit in beer form. Pumpkin pie in a glass.
Of the brewery’s own concoctions, the multi-award-winning Rivet Catcher is probably the best known, named in honour of the North East’s shipbuilding history.
Perhaps a particularly pertinent brew to drink in the Isis. Smooth, light and tasty it’s a comforting drink on a dark, cold night.
There’s even a beer bearing the name of the pub, which won Gold in this year’s SIBA Northern Beer Festival.
Offerings from the Bull Lane Brewery in the East End and Maxim beers from Houghton are also on tap
For fans of a less viscous intake than that provided by real ale, the Isis also has an interesting range of lagers and other beverages, and the new-look (or should that be old-look?) interior means its not just real ale drinkers who’ll be happy by the latest incarnation of the 125-year-old pub.
The brewery has tried to return the Grade II-listed building to its original internal layout, keeping and restoring the original features as much as possible.
It now has its original, multi-roomed layout and original fireplaces.
The Isis’s location also makes it a perfect first stepping stone from the city centre on to the already established real ale route, which previously started slightly up the bank at the Museum Vaults, before tumbling down into Deptford, taking in the Kings Arms and the Saltgrass.
A quiz takes place in the Isis on Monday nights, and the pub also screens regular live football.
Recent attempts to revive the Isis’s fortunes have had limited success, and the watering hole has previously sat unused since 2009.
But the fact there was standing-huddled-by-the-door room only on my visit made me think its future looks promising under the Jarrow Brewery flag.