"It's full of chocolate malts... I'm getting raspberries on the nose... there's not much mouthfeel..."

Just some of the comments on the judges' tables at Newcastle Beer Festival's annual Battle of the Beers competition this week.

The judges were sampling a range of dark beers brewed specially for the occasion by more than 20 local breweries, including three from Tynedale.

Hexham's fledgling brewery, Grounding Angels brewed a 5.8 per cent Black IPA, while Hexhamshire, based at the Dipton Mill Inn, created a rum and raisin-infused stout called Rest & Relaxation.

But it was Twice Brewed's 5.3 per cent ale, christened Nox, which proved to be one of the judges' favourites, taking second place in the porter category. Made with Morello cherries and described as Black Forest gateau in a glass, the beer shared the second place position with Newcastle Stu Brew's Exam Room Tears.

First in the category was Firebrick's Sugar Spun Stout, while taking the first and second place in the dark IPA category were Great North Eastern's Graphite Black IPA and Redhouse Brewery's Edge of Darkness.

Newcastle Beer Festival opened on Wednesday and runs until Saturday. It is run by volunteers from the Tyneside & Northumberland branch of the Campaign for Real Ale.