Wednesday, 7 December 2016

BRAPA - More Ales, More Yorkshire Dales

"Eeee by gum" exclaimed my Dad, Bernard "Chaffeur" Everitt as we pulled into an unpromising looking eco-lodge development just outside Aysgarth on Sunday morning where a twild was hanging from a swing and a bearded young couple tried to look energetic, "I can't see this being open at 11am on a Sunday...."

I told him to trust me,  after all, both the GBG and Whatpub specified 11am opener Sunday.  But being a man of action, he'd found a reception area to the right of the bar, which was sitting in darkness.  "Is your bar open?" we asked the boss-man.  Had he replied with "11am?  On a Sunday?" he'd have had a point.  But his response was "Bar? Baaaarrrrr?  BAAARRRRR?" as though he'd been wondering for years what that long counter with drink fonts along it was all about.  We agreed to return at 12 noon.

No wonder that as we pulled up at the other Aysgarth 11am Sunday establishment, the good chauffeur had convinced himself we'd never get inside .....

963.  Aysgarth Falls Hotel

Even inside at the bar (albeit, very lowly lit with not a soul in sight). Dad spent the next five minutes muttering that this was no guarantee we'd get served, but then a nervous looking old chap appeared and soon, two pints of Isaac Poad 1863 from York's newest brewery were ours.  We sat in the warm and very Dalesy bar, and apart from spotting a backwards Old Peculiar clock, we just spent the next 20 mins as follows:
Me : "oooh nice place this isn't it?"
Dad : "mmmm decent pint isn't it?"
Me : "very cosy, the place, not the pint, which is nice too, glad we got served."
Dad: "mm hmm"
Things started to pick up when the old hubbie barman chap started being called "chef" by his various relatives, a possible sign they take food too seriously.  Then, crazy Mrs Falls Hotel appeared with the promise "I'm about to inflict some Christmas music on you both, sorry!"  Not wanting to be Christmas curmudgeons, we tried to remain positive, even in the face of Mariah Carey's background bleating.  Such positivity on our part was dismissed, Mrs FH decided we both hated Christmas, hated the music, hated the decor, probably the hotel, and were generally having a miserable time.  The harder we tried to reassure her, the worse it got - so we left.  This might be the pub where you can pay to look at a waterfall in their garden, but if I want to see running water, I'd go to the gents for free.

I hate Jam Jars, but not Christmas.

Nicer than it looks, promise.
964.  Henderson's Bistro, Aysgarth

12:02 and it was sarcastic slow handclap time for this ultra modern weird comfy contraption, they'd located the bar, and by jove, it was open!  Mrs Bistro, who'd been lurking in the shadows whilst her husband was being a "bar denier", knew we must be on some crazy pub crawl (good guess) so after some BRAPA chat, she declared she was delighted to be pub 964 on the list and we took our pints of grapefruity Semer Water to a low leather settee where, as you may expect, my emergency beer mat was required.  As there was a wildlife magazine on the "coffee table" I used a squirrel's face instead - this was the bravest BRAPA protest of 2016.  Apple air freshener was the overwhelming pub scent, the toilets were hidden from the restaurant by the kind of screens you get naked behind for your GP, but despite all this, I've had a pint in plenty worse places.  Staff were really good, though Mr Bistro was still looking perplexed every time he entered the bar, preferring to stay in the "day centre" style area.  Lunchtime couples came in, all bearded with a whiff of middle class glamping holiday about them.  The highlight was when a self-important looking woman marched out of a side room with a tiny dog under her arm, straight for the restaurant, like she was showing them the "Special of the Day".  And that sums up the Bistro.

Me at 11am, notice bar on left, looking very closed.

Take that squirrel face!
A short drive down the pretty Bishopsdale road took us to a great little village where we'd had a dubious pub-closed incident in the summer, when they were away on holiday yet still able to jet back from Ibiza to open at 6pm every evening .....

Dad at Thoralby, and the door is open!
965.  George Inn, Thoralby

It was all very "Moneyrow Green" as the barman tried to entice us away from the chilly seat on the far side to sit on comfier seating by the bar, near the fire.  But unlike me, Dad was very quick to say no, by which he meant "I can hide in this huge settle and eat my own sandwich without you seeing me so there!" Gotta be strategic in these food orientated Yorkshire Dales pubs.  But at least it was a proper old style pub, with an outdoor loo which is a dying breed these days - York's Royal Oak went from an 8/10 to a 3/10 since it moved it's toilets indoors, though that's a different story.  Martin Taylor will be delighted to hear that Dire Straits 'Brothers in Arms' was playing, and I enjoyed EVERY minute.  Punk rock.  And when you thought the excitement couldn't get any more high octane, Dad went to the car to grab a folder containing shower designs as I'm having a bathroom refit in the new year.  Oh yes, high octane.  No wonder I forgot to take my much awaited "Oral B in Thoralby" photo and had to cheat in the Fox later on.  The Buckden Pike was a quality pint, and a reminder of where we were headed next.

The pint photo I did take

Get the bluddy fire in (don't you hate it when the logs are "for show"?)

The pint photo I should have taken.
Even by Yorkshire Dales standards, the area around Buckden was spectacular, really pretty village and one of those picture postcard pubs I found in the not too far away Arncliffe, and a couple of others - Malham's Lister Arms springs to mind.

 966.  Buck Inn, Buckden

And an above average selection of ales and two fires in probably made this pub of the day, though the lack of Dire Straits and insistence on playing any song utilised in an advert for soap or washing up liquid was a choice that only the gaggle of clucky mother hen barmaids can explain.  "Lesley" raced straight over to the far end of the room, where we'd taken our pints of Rocket Fuel, brandishing menus in our faces.  When we explained that we were just here for a drink, her heart seemed to visibly break before our eyes, like "no-one has EVER said that before in this pub."  Shades of the Guinea in Moggerhanger or the Square & Compass in North Rigton, where I was almost rugby tackled to the floor by a hopeful waitress.  However, the pub will be remembered for the conversation we witnessed next to us - and all because a young bearded couple of mountain bikers joked with the waitress "what do you do for night life round here?"  She didn't get the joke, and started trying to come up with ideas!  Despite the conversation naturally petering out, she hung around, explaining her "lack of Yorkshire accent" came from a Dortmund upbringing, whilst she now lives in Keighley  (she did have a strong Yorkshire accent)  Even when their food arrived, she STILL stayed and chatted shit.  Boundaries woman!  It was painful to watch.  One of them had to ask her to go and find some mint sauce (even though he was eating everything but lamb) to get rid of her.  On the way out I heard her asking another couple what they were doing for the rest of the day.  Stop.  Talking.

Pint action shot

When the talking stops.  In the mirror.
Back in York, we popped into the Fox as in tradition on such days where we planned strategy for our next chauffeur day encompassing three North Yorkshire pubs, two beginning with a C, one with a G.  Crikey, I might be able to finish the whole of Yorkshire before September 2017.

On the downside, work is so crazy due to that project which sent me to Oz, I may have to temporarily knock Tuesday night BRAPA on the head - at least far away ones, and concentrate on easier ones as I'm having to finish work and 5pm or 6pm for forseeable future.

I'll be back on the slightly later day of Sunday for some W based fun.

Si Ev

Monday, 5 December 2016

BRAPA - Berkshire Part X (Windsor, Moneyrow Green, Warfield, Sandhurst)

Having successfully dodged the demonic combination of Christmas shoppers and England rugby fans, I was at Windsor & Eton Central (why do they need a Riverside too, just greedy) before 11am so I had time to wander into my most frequented Windsor building, Boots, to buy some mouthwash.  This will have BRAPA relevance as we'll see in tomorrow's review .....

£3.20 for a pint of Fosters, but conditions apply.  What could they be?
958.  Acre, Windsor

It didn't look like a pub, and if it wasn't for the blackboards outside, I'm sure I'd have walked past.  Inside, it all became clear as it was definitely a club, and when I answered the inquiring looks of Mrs Acre with a request for an 11am pint, it wasn't what she was expecting (no I'm not a lost tourist, no I'm not collecting for charity).  She gathered herself and offered me a CAMRA discount and I soon sat opposite an increasingly frustrated Mr Acre, wrestling with half a Christmas tree and 50 feet worth of lights and tinsel.  I admitted I felt guilty sitting here with a pint, watching (but not guilty enough to volunteer to help). He was relieved when a tanned white tooth barmaid arrived.  "JADE, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?  I MEAN, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?"  She was reluctant to be put in charge of tree decorating, but with "Message in a Bottle" playing, it's fair to say he'd sent an S.O.S. out.  A cheeky local man with the gaunt look of East Berkshire had spied some Party Poppers in amongst the tat,  and asked Jade if he could nick one, explaining he was going to "use it on an Arsenal fan later" which sounded unnecessarily violent but as we'll see later, wholly acceptable.  Amusing little club, and surprised but pleased that parallels to Wickersley's Cricket Club could be made.

Struggling on his own, Mr Acre.

Mrs Acre and Jade's arse to the rescue
It was the greatest taxi rip-off!  I was well chuffed finding a taxi outside Windsor Castle to take me to Moneyrow Green, and the guy's sheer enthusiasm for BRAPA, hatred of Aussie sportsmen's lack of self-deprication and his Skipton relatives couldn't shake the feeling, WE WERE GOING THE WRONG WAY!  Not directly anyway, this dude lives at Bray, he must know the area.  A308 and turn left at Holyport is what I'd do, no chance, we were heading out Cranbourne way!  Utter shite,  He knew I knew and to stop the ensuing awkwardness, he turned off the meter at £20 when he actually did get lost!  Lack of meter was probably a tell-tale sign.

The left side, where I entered 

The right side, where I ended up.
959.  White Hart, Moneyrow Green

My taxi driver should have come to buy me a drink, as our barmaid was at least half Aussie and told me I'd be comfier in the right hand room where there were settees and a fire.  What she didn't tell me was this meant walking through the carpark with my pint to get there, but I kind of like pubs where you have to do this, feels proper, ya know, Tickhill style.  Her little helper seemed a quirky jolly lass too ("my family are all in showbiz, do you want to hear my Scouse/Welsh accent?" err no luv), whilst an old man kept the conversation going by stoking up Eng v Aus rugby hostilities.  Our barmaid meanwhile, told a story about realising British Airways don't do direct flights to Melbourne, so she'd complained to them that this was unacceptable, which seemed amusing to me in an arrogant way.  What with the board games, overly red decor and bar billiards, the pub only really needed a carpet and some Summer Lightning and it would have been quite Hop Leaf in Reading, but the lack of beermats meant this pub was veering perilously close to rural Berkshire blandness - managing to stay on the right side, which was nice to see as the Curridge's, Theale's and Aldermaston's of this world can get you down after a while. 

Emergency beermat gets it's first of 4 outings this weekend!

A bit spartan, but pleasingly so.

More warmth than an Ember fire

If a wife found any husband in this remote location, she deserves the house.

A 12:53 bus was on hand to only rip me off £4 to take me the few minutes to Warfield, ugh, maybe I should have walked (everywhere!) but the lack of pavements looked 'harrowing'.

960.  Plough & Harrow, Warfield

A cacophony of multi-coloured screaming tinsel hanging from every conceivable part of the ceiling was the first thing to greet me.  Next was the equally bright couple who ran the pub - it was like the whole experience had my drink spiked with "happy pills".  I was so taken unawares, I did a rare "try before you buy" on a surprisingly nice wintry Greene King guest, a poor local having to move out of my way at the bar, which he did theatrically back-stepping 5 paces to the wall, and then I made him direct me to the loos as punishment for being a martyr.  He must've hated me.  Excellent.  The bar was heaving with eggs, a nice nod towards the rural pub experience of old, though it was a bit unconvincing as the pub was full of bumbling posh upper-middle class fools.  "Oooh this is very civilised!" said the most irritating woman on a table of four near me as I hunched over a window seat trying my best to be miserable in the face of too much joy.  The table were soon arguing whether the 'venison' was in pie or sausage form, so Mr P&H appeared from nowhere to re-explain the menu to the old duffers.  He then brought them free calamari.  "Not rubbery like you were expecting IS IT?" he said accusingly.  "Our fish n chips are great - fish caught at night on 24 hour boats, actually, large vessels, the top Michelin chefs use the same as us, but WE used them before they got famous, a few delays at sea because of the weather recently".  As I spluttered "bullshit" into the remnants of my GK, I realised that I needed a brisk walk into Bracknell to clear my head of this madness.  

Tinsel and Greene King - a winning combo!

I didn't even mention the Astroturfed toilet window.

As if Bracknell wasn't a debilitating enough town to be in (despite it's 24 hour smell of baked bread which is the highpoint), the trains were all delayed and the station was heaving with lost souls.  An American tourist girl asked where the waiting room was, she was laughed out of the place.  I crossed the road for a "hopefully pre-emptive" tick called the Goose - where the Adnams Ghost Ship was excellent quality but the locals were rough A.F.  Standing room only so I stood near some guys to feign interest in the rugby, being the kind of pub where"keeping your eyes on a screen, any screen" seemed like a safe bet.  "Boo!" said one man next to me.  "Alright mate?" I replied, to which he eyeballed me and stormed off to talk a toothless chav outside the loo about his failing love life.  Weird.

Saying boo in the Goose
I'd been doing so well for time, and with me back on the 9pm to York, it was probably a good thing that I'd been slowed down but after more delays and confusion in Wokingham, and half a mind to abandon Sandhurst for the day, I ploughed on, revitalised after about 8 cheesestrings and a chat with a posh old lady about BRAPA (always the most baffled audience).

Dusk falls on Sandhurst, but what delights lie within? 
961.  Rose & Crown, Sandhurst

Homely warm atmosphere, lots of smiling faces, a blonde barmaid making a "frothy head" comment, I ordered an ale with a Brazilian name which I'll never remember - anyway I could see why this pub has won awards, it was worth the wait.  I turn round to locate a seat for I'd spied a raised area, but I was amazed by what I saw!  A Winter Wonderland, Tim Burton style, of skeletons, skulls, B-movie horror posters, all cocooned in blue fairy lights, snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, fake cobwebs, it was quite a sight for sore eyes.  Now whether they couldn't be arsed to take their Hallowe'en decorations down, or whether they were bored of the twee cliched Xmas decor, this certainly left an impression.  I felt like I was drinking in an enchanted forest, I'm sure an owl hooted and a black cat screeched at me.  Maybe it was too much beer.  Whatever, a twild was only three tables away but his yelps were rendered useless as the decor muffled his voice, and the lights incapacitated him.  Great stuff, can we have this kind of thing all year round in every pub in York?  

Back in London via Reading, I had more than enough time for my now traditional once a month Saturday evening disappointment.  I jumped off the Tube at Piccadilly Circus which was so busy, it was like errrm, errrm .....

Soho pubs and the Lyric theatre were nearby, so after 2 minutes stood outside composing myself, I decided to brave it....

962.  Lyric, Soho

After seeing some stereotypical hipsters gently remonstrating with a doorman and eventually being convinced they were far too fragile for such a busy pub environment, I had a similar conversation with him, and he let me in "as a Christmas present".  Gosh, I hope it isn't the nicest prezzie I get this year!  No, to be fair, this was a rare positive experience.  The crowds, like doorman, seemed to be very accommodating in "pushing me to the bar", like how life would be if BRAPA was famous!  You could've been in an outer Bradford village for the attitude that the punters showed "eeee, get in there lad!"  I even had time to break off to help take the piss out of a student with the most horrendous pure nylon Christmas shirt that has ever been witnessed, I even gave it a stroke!  He was hounded out of the pub / or left of his own accord, am sure sparks were flying from everything he came into contact with.  My ale, Solaris Pale something bollocks was actually my favourite pint of the day, shame you couldn't swing a kitten in here.  I managed to perch between two stools near a screen showing West Ham v Arsenal.  No one was in the least bit interested until Arsenal scored 3 in 3 minutes and then every bearded tit starting "fan-girling" over Alexis Sanchez and I really really wished I'd picked up a few Party Poppers back in Windsor ....... everyone knows the Hammers defence is leakier than my bladder after 6 pints.

Pushed to the bar!

Moody shot of me getting annoyed by plastic Gooners.
I had ages to wait at Kings Cross but with a 'North Yorks Chauffeur' day on Sunday, I had to be steady - and Parcel Yard was four deep at the bar anyway and it is quite rubbish sometimes so I got coffee, got on train early, tried to work out if the weirdo near me was from North Lincolnshire, played a train bingo game like my Ember Inns one, and was home for 11pm.

Only SIX Berkshire pubs to do, and most of them are in Reading!  Hooray, see you back there in the New Year.


Thursday, 1 December 2016

BRAPA - November Review / December Preview

Ho ho ho!  We are approaching that magical time of year where people go to pubs in silly jumpers, act like idiots, stand at the bar, and generally make you crave miserable January pubbing.  But it won't stop the well-oiled machine called BRAPA from turning over for one final push in 2016......

November Review

I'd aimed for 25, I achieved 30 new GBG pubs and one excellent pre-emptive (Wath Tap) but I did really push myself quite hard all month after the terrible October.  So a good outcome and should be back in striking distance of the 1,000 come the New Year (on 957 as I write this).

Some great days were had, enjoyed getting back into the South Yorkshire Tuesday night swing.  The Dobcross/Stalybridge day was a great bonus.  The quality was high on the Winter Woollen trail.  Berkshire was, well, worthwhile, and though I felt ill on Greater Manchester day, enjoyed some of the pubs.  Finishing East Yorkshire (again) was a highlight.

The general pub standard of the month was not the most fantastic ever, but I've picked three that I'm sure any proper pubber would enjoy:

1.  Gundog, Halifax
2. Swan Inn (Top House), Dobcross
3.  Swan, Three Mile Cross

So they go into the mix for "BRAPA Pub of the Year" award.

December Preview

Of course Christmas parties and nights out can distract me from BRAPA duties so I am determined to be single-minded, well as much as possible without becoming a festive pariah.

And it all starts in style with a weekend double header.  An East Berkshire mop-up on Saturday (key pub at Moneyrow Green, four of my remaining ten in this county) and then a North Yorkshire Dales chauffeur day on Sunday (key pubs, two at Aysgarth).

The following week sees me doing BRAPA on Sunday rather than Saturday and I may get myself out Cheshire way again if feeling more adventurous than Greater Manchester!  Alphabetically, Cheshire is my first "local" county.

On the 17th, it is my monthly Hull City outing as we make our first trip to West Ham's new Olympic monstrosity.  Re pubs, I know Tom has "irons" in the fire so am willing to listen to his proposals before making a final decision as I know he can be a bit over adventurous at times on match days.

Christmas Eve irritatingly falls on a Saturday, and as it is my Mum's birthday, I will be spending the day with Wales' favourite ankle victim rather than jetting around the UK.

New Year's Eve is also a Saturday therefore, a bit annoying too but reckon I can have day out somewhere pre-party but can only imagine what the pubs will be like - or do people stay in and be sensible until about 7 or 8pm?  Hmmmm, it's a new world to me, NYE daytime drinking.

Excitingly, on Tuesday nights, I am only two pubs away from completing South Yorkshire so assuming I can do that before Christmas, I am going to "mop up" any North Yorkshire pubs I can do on evenings before focussing on West Yorkshire in the new year.  These could include Skipton (may need to be a Friday), Scarborough (bit outlandish but hey ho), Thirsk and West Haddlesey (if I can work out a bus).  I think Coxwold may be too much but will look into it just in case.

Happy festive season, keep on pubbing and remember a pub is for life, not just for Christmas.


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

BRAPA - Whiston 2-1 Wickersley*

Using a BRAPA card as a beermat is always a last resort (Chequers, Pub 955)
* Wickersley wins on the away "good club" rule.

The heaving 16:48 from L**ds to Rotherham should have been more than a two carriage train, as it couldn't fit everyone on despite the "move down the carriage!" pleas.  By Wakefield, we were ten minutes late and as a consequence, I had to catch a bus that dropped me on a busy main road between the two pubs, instead of just outside (bus driver was new and didn't have a clue).

When is a bus twild not a twild?  When the parents are twarents.  With a Dad (played by a chav Frank Spencer "oooh Betty it won't stop crying"), and Mum (an unmotivated Rose West), what chance did this poor little bastard have?  Horrific earring or not, at the age of about 4.  Only in outer Rotherham.

Both Whiston pubs were, in Halifax tradition, not where the GBG App pushpin stated .......

Just like Croatia (or Leyton Orient)

955.  Chequers, Whiston

It was a seriously freezing evening and it must've been etched all over my face, for the old local who turned round said "cold enough for you out there, lad?!"  That was as "real" as the pub got in became quite a sterile experience, despite a wonderful pint of Moonshine.  Okay, so I located "the best seat in the house", in an armchair of relative comfort, between Christmas tree and tiny fake fire which was warming.  There were no beermats and I'd forgotten my emergency one!  The barmaid had "danger" written all over her (not literally, I don't think, well I don't know) but she was the type you'd want to elope with if you just sat there drinking and staring all night.  No time for that though today - I think the pub was incredibly proud (surprised?) of being in the Good Beer Guide as there were signs everywhere.  Another sign "we don't serve fast food, we serve good food fast!" kind of summed up it's limited charm.   To give the pub credit, the "foodie" area was very well hidden out to the right, to the extent where you could happily forget their meaningless existence.  A woman with a fat arse seemed to trying to feel heat from "my" fire, her boyfriend looked a dullard too, and the second I started buttoning my jacket to leave, she was STRAIGHT in my seat.  I even tried to make a joke out of it, but she wasn't the most quick witted creature, and that kinda summed up the pub.

Proud of being in the GBG

I skidded around the corner onto the main drag and 10 minutes later, I found myself seeing not the name of the pub, but that most worrying of signs .... "Ember Inn!" 

...because the Ember photo didn't come out very well

956.  Hind, Whiston

But after a bad experience in Redcar, I've learnt to cope by inventing "Ember Bingo".  And I ticked off the vast majority on my imaginary "card".  It was actually "above average" in that I got a great pint of something unusual (Bread & Butter by Vocation), there were no crumbs or food debris on floor or table, it was comfy, and the clientele didn't act like people who'd never been to a pub before.  I count that as 4 "fails".  But these are the things I did tick .....

  • Situated on busy and soulless main road drag in middle of nowhere
  • You see the Ember sign before the pub name
  • Full of middle aged women eating
  • Christmas tree with tacky blue lights (seasonal bonus)
  • Barman with irritating name (Charlie in this case) who doesn't give a shit
  • Roaring fire giving off absolutely zero heat
  • Empty glasses and plates cluttering tables, should've been cleared away hours ago
  • Mismatched furniture which doesn't belong in a pub
  • Inappropriate shitty lager beermat (Carling in this case)
So as you can imagine, I quite enjoyed the misery!

The scene so typically Ember
Despite the lateness of the hour, I was too near to Wickersley to ignore it, especially as alphabetically it was next on the list anyway, and I'm not sure I can face another visit to Rotherham this year.  A short bus ride (when it finally appeared), a swift left turn at a huge corner pub, past the cricket pitch, down a lane, and I was there.

I'm always anxious pre-club in the GBG.  You just don't know what type of reception you are going to get.  The GBG tells you to show your CAMRA card or the book itself, but what is the truth.  I've categorised clubs into three levels of welcome.

1.  Relaxed - "stop waving your card and book around like a ponce, come in, settle down and have a pint and stop making an exhibition of yourself" (see Bolton Ukranian Social Club)
2.  Firm but Fair - "we'll welcome you with open arms but here's the rules - you have to engage with us fully, you have to show us your card, you have to sign the guest book, you have to leave a nice comment - then everyone's happy!" (see Hungerford Club)
3.  Danger Danger "we've told your sort you're not welcome here you CAMRA scum" (Penistone).

957.  Wickersley Old Village Cricket Club

Luckily, this was about a 1.5 on the scale.  She did allude to be being a club member, but when I said I was in CAMRA, her eyes flickered in recognition of such an organisation and she didn't even want to see my card, simply warning me my beer wasn't quite as cheap as it would've been.  It would've been cruel to chuck me out, I'd already had to ask three burly smokers where the entrance door was - it was a bit ski lodge from the outside, proper sweeping loungey pub on the inside.  And she'd already had a chat with me on (what else), the freezing night.  "I've turned mi heating off and am not sure it was a good idea!" she declared ruefully.  I sat adjacent to a large TV but started itching and coming out in a rash when I noticed those two most obnoxious of football teams, L**ds and Liverpool.  A group of men watched, two sat and three stood behind forming a kind of tiered stand which amused me.  There was a young family in and the two daughters were displaying over excitable Twild like behaviour, but like on the bus, I let it slide as they were bored shitless as any 8 year old girl would be forced to watch Mum and Dad drink Fosters in a place like this.  Though I loved it.  On the way out, everyone said bye, even people I didn't even know were in here, lurking in corners.  My faith in the GBG club is restored - for now at least!

Great pint of Chantry but is Martin Taylor right, is the man on the lower left crying?
After the bus back to Rotherham "Interchange" (sorry but it's just a lame bus station not even attached to the railway station) I had 35 mins before a train to L**ds so time to revisit the Bridge. 

And what a pub this is as me and Tom discovered last December.  People talk about Cutlers and New York Tavern a lot, but this is perhaps the best of three crackers.  Barman asked how I was and where I'd been, called everyone "luv" (male and female), was a proper burly guy and when he heard Billy Sharp had missed a penalty for Sheffield Utd and they'd lost at home to Walsall, his reaction and language re the Blades was worth the admission price alone!  A man came in because his wife was caught short needing a wee.  A beautiful exchange followed between barman and hubbie.  Hubbie saying etiquette states you should always buy a half in such a situation, barman telling him as a guy with a weak bladder, he wouldn't dream of enforcing this rule.  But hubbie was adamant he should behave in the correct manner.   Then Liverpool scored twice and all was well with the world.  Only downside, perhaps the worst pint glass I've seen this year outside Scottish Stores....

Back on the train, I half considered a "live" periscope update but didn't want the world to suffer anymore so just kept warm, got tea in L**ds, and was home 11:45pm.  Three down, two to go,


Sunday, 27 November 2016

BRAPA - Winter Woollen Adventure in West Yorkshire

Feezing Frog at York Station
It was time for the half yearly BRAPA day out with those brave folk from work who are willing to trek from pub to pub to help me in my quest.  Regulars Rich Ellis (drinking lime and soda for alternate pints as part of a health drive) and Jason "Mr Angry" Garrett were with me, and we were joined by the reassuring presence of Piper, though four people were unable to attend which was disappointing but not unexpected! 

After meeting at L**ds and getting train to the wondrous town of Halifax (one of my favourite pub towns in the UK), my GBG app decided to make a fool of me in front of other people by having our first pub plotted in the wrong place, just as did with the Barum Top when I came here a year or two ago. Finally, I found it hidden behind a theatre.  

Caught in the rainbow vortex of Halifax
 950.  Victorian Craft Beer Cafe, Halifax

The scouse landlord was smoking outside when we went in, and having explained BRAPA, he gave us a run down of the highlights of this self-proclaimed "best pub in Halifax" which was obviously (a) a bar and (b) not quite as good as three other pubs in town I can think of.  Having said that, it was excellent and the line "you'll be impressed with our toilets" is one I'd like to hear more.  In this case, it was a reference to 1920's nudey lady pictures.  Very North Rigton or Phoenix in York.  "They are 90 years old but the girls still look great!" declared the bald customer who'd perhaps had one too many fizzy keg ales from the taps at the end.  I was excited to see Cloudwater cask "yes, your eyes do not deceive you" said the barman.  Cloudwater are a brewery I always unfairly slag off for being the face of "craft" so a bit ironic I first see it on cask in a bar with "craft" in the title.  It was beautiful and we took it up these mini stairs full of board games and weird instruments to a hidden side room, with tiling which made you feel you were in a chilly fish & chip shop.  Another point to the barman was that he gave us complimentary pub beermats as souvenirs.  CAMRA should enforce this as policy.  Though his slagging off Barum Top 'Spoons for getting in the GBG was something I couldn't fully agree with as I thought it was pretty decent.  What happened to pub unity?  However, all in all a cracking little place and a good start to the day.  

A few minutes walk away, I accidentally navigated to the back of the next pub which was almost traumatic as a Dad was teaching his 6 year old boy to drive, almost with disastrous consequences for BRAPA as we had the inaugural pub photo.  It all looked a bit seedy and industrially estatey.  

951.  Gundog, Halifax

I got the barman to confirm that we hadn't used the main entrance, but not to worry as this pub was a rival to the likes of Big Six and Three Pigeons for pure Halifax pub joy.  The central corridor area where we were served, rooms off left and right.  I briefly tried to explain bar billiards to the gang - none of them had even seen a table before (I may have to send them to Reading for a lesson), though I refused to sit in here on account of the bookcase wallpaper!  Rich checked in on Facebook, which also must have been confused by the pubs gloriousness, as it asked him "is it good for dancing?"  I suppose at this time, with no customers, you could pirouette from room to room.  I was meanwhile like a pub tourist, snapping away like David Bailey (if that is a real person) for you don't get pubs as photogenic as this very often.   We sat in perhaps the nicest room off to the right, where some unconvincing but admirable local artwork was on sale, and almost regrettably, nothing weird or upsetting happened until we left, possibly because I wasn't concentrating.

I managed to flag us down a taxi and despite the friendly taxi driver not seeming very confident where Scholes was, he took us there pretty directly, missed the turning, and ditched us in a lay-by.  It was rural up here, and the mist had returned. 

 952. Stafford Arms, Scholes

Proper crazy pub full of mad staff and locals, this is exactly why I'd say (so far) that West Yorkshire is the strongest county I've been to in BRAPA so far.  The barmaid had strange glint in her eye, and when she told us "it was a cold day to be walking around these parts", I admitted we'd cheated and got a taxi.  "Oooh hoh, cheating is allowed in here" she replied with an exaggerated wink at several of the chaps propping up the bar, who suddenly looked a bit sheepish.  The buzz word of the pub was "black" though, hard to tell why they found the word so funny, but they did.  Whether they were doing impressions of the artist in the Fast Show who paints in black, or the never-ending discussion about local liquorice which sounded like some kind of euphemism I couldn't quite get.  We sat round the corner in a cosy lounge of this Tim Taylor's pub and Rich decided everyone was probably swingers.  I went to get her to phone a taxi which was another strange but funny foray into their lair, but a communication breakdown meant the others didn't know I'd booked it, so when it arrived sharpish, we had to neck our beers and run off, which is a good way to leave this classic pub.

Another short taxi ride found us in Cleckheaton, to a pub I'd been 'warned' might get in the GBG soon but I kind of took it with a pinch of salt because Cleckheaton isn't the kind of place you'd come to for a pre-emptive.  

I've all gone a bit Dr Who at the Rose & Crown.
953.  Rose & Crown, Cleckheaton

Warm and close-knit with a bustling throng of couples who seemed to be combining speed-dating with eating meals, for during the 35 minutes or so we were there, THREE different couples/groups started and finished a meal on the table next to us, each one consisting of beef, gravy and stewed veg.  Talk about faces in the nosebags, but how romantic such a rushed meal can be is unclear.  One thing was clear, this must be a candidate for the happiest pub in the UK.  Everything provoked uproarious laughter, with a jolly little baldie man at the bar the main ring leader, like some hyperactive West Yorkshire Dalai Lama.  If you ordered three pints of "Old Tosser" in York and said "three old tossers because we're three old tossers", people would roll their eyes in a "ugh, CAMRA twats are so unfunny" kind of a way.  But here, they almost had to get paper bags out to control their breathing they were laughing so hard.  One middle aged woman who I'd suspected hadn't appreciated some of our more colourful language, turned to us, and said "I hope you enjoy the rest of ya pints lads (and lass)", whilst a hi-vis new arrival swarmed the bar and seemed to be doing a constant jig, or he may have had a nervous twitch,  What everyone was on, I couldn't say.  

Hi-vis man struggling to stay still 

Rich used his "local knowledge" to locate a taxi rank in the middle of town, and soon we were Norristhorpe bound, a place I assumed had been made up by the GBG compilers as a practical joke to send pub tickers on a wild goose chase, but just like Kirkheaton and Altofts, it is actually real! 

Jason, me and Pipes, at the final tick of the day
954.  Rising Sun, Norristhorpe

With the sun setting over outer Dewsbury, it seemed a fitting time to go to a Rising Sun pub, and in true Heavy Woollen tradition, there has to be one pub of which my memories are slightly hazy, just as in the the Taproom Batley (2014), Reindeer at Overton (summer 2015) or the King William IV in Greenfield (summer 2016).  However, we had some early controversy as my Hawkshead Brodie's Prime (I was the only one on the dark ale still, cos I'm, hardcore obviously) was pinched by a woman who sped off to an elevated crowded drinking area.  When I finally tracked her down, she said "that's your pint isn't it?" in a very weary voice, which made me think she has a habit of doing this.  I think "grrr gimme gimme" was my slightly sozzled reply.  Despite the pub having been refurbished over a year ago now, the paint smell was in evidence and although my buddies commented on how nice the pub was, I couldn't help but feel it wasn't quite in the same league as the others today, though come here on a hot summer's day with the amazing views and location, and I bet it's a cracking outdoor drinking experience.  The music was notable in it's wonderful 80's shitness, so bad that it was good, I'd never even heard of Climie Fisher until today! 

A beer that is about to cause much controversy.
Back in Dewsbury, it wouldn't be right not to finish at the West Riding Refreshment Rooms - and anyone who had the misfortune to witness by "Periscope Debut" via Twitter will know I was rather drunk at the time!  When I get back up to 1,000 pubs, I'm going to do a "Top Twenty BRAPA Pubs so far" (unless Martin Taylor sues me as he has a famous top 100 feature) and it is fair to say the WRRR must have a great chance of making the final cut.

Me and Piper left AFTER Richard and Jason (a first for any work-based day or night out, anywhere ever) and after a dreadful KFC, I was in bed by 9pm!!  Superb day, and I'll see you all in South Yorkshire on Tuesday night for more outer Rotherham based fun beginning with a W.  And that's not a sentence you hear every day.