Sunday, 29 June 2014

BRAPA - Shropshire and the 10% is up!

Good morning on an achy Sunday post-BRAPA trip to Shrewsbury and beyond.  It was one of those days where every leg of the journey seemed to be fraught with travel delays, phantom cancellations, train time changes and at one point, a bus with a broken wing mirror.  Despite that, it was a very succesful day pub-wise and once again made me sorry that John hadn't seen a better quality day in Durham.

450 - New Inn, Baschurch - It seemed to take forever but just shy of 12 noon, I finally reached my first destination in a pretty little village North of Shrewsbury, despite a silly woman telling me this pub had been closed down.  The morning I'd had, I wouldn't have been surprised!  However, it was very much open and immediately made me feel welcome.  The barmaid and locals made this stranger feel welcome, the Stonehouse Station Bitter was superb, I told them about my challenge and it captured people's imagination as you'd expect.  I felt like a regular by the time I left 45 mins later.  This was perfect BRAPA and a fitting place to achieve 10% of guide pubs.

451 - Salopian Bar, Shrewsbury - I ticked this one off first as it was near the bus station I'd come back in to, also the locals in Baschurch hadn't been so enthusiastic.  Understandably as it was more bar than pub, but the very red walls gave it a warm feel, staff good, a nice vibe and a superb pint of Dark Star Summer Solstice - and it wasn't even a particularly young crowd, more middle aged really.  I'd recommend it.

452 - Nags Head, Shrewsbury - Famous for being old and haunted like all good Shrewsbury pubs, this was a cracking place I'd once briefly visited with Dad pre-football before we really paid attention to the CAMRA guide (if you can ever believe that of me!)  Cracking staff and locals, buzzing atmosphere and a nice local pint of Hobson's, the brewery had been recommended to me in Baschurch.  I should really have checked out the outside area where you can see ancient features of the original building.  Luckily I didn't see the legendary picture of the devil which causes insanity and suicide so has to be locked away!

453 - Prince of Wales, Shrewsbury - I nearly forgot about this one as it was out of town in the Northern suburbs of the city (which feels more like a town, silly cathedral rules!)  Not initially impressed with the 'geared up for food' layout that dominated almost every table in the main room but maybe they had a function on later so will give them benefit of the doubt.  Lovely Salopian beers and the quiet atmos was a culture shock after the previous three but at least I could smuggle some of my own food from my bag!  Decent.

454 - Admiral Benbow, Shrewsbury - It was nice to finally get this monkey off my back as John and I didn't attempt it on my last trip to Shrewsbury due to a over 30's policy.  Therefore, /I was expecting a real old working man's club style atmosphere but I couldn't have been more wrong, I probably wasn't even the youngest there!  Lovely pub though, another very comfortable easy atmosphere and cracking ale.

455 - Woodman Inn, Shrewsbury - Watched first half of Brazil v Chile with an old guy and two younger ones, washed down with another lovely pint of Salopian, Oracle this time in a pub that felt very old though it had to be rebuilt when it burnt down in a 1923 fire (they say the landlady still haunts the place).  It felt quite a locals pub despite being only marginally off centre and once again, I'd recommend to anyone in Shrewsbury and would be nice to do first if i ever return so I will be less drunk!

A great day and now attentions turn to Aldbrough St John and Darlington next Saturday.  Whether I'll squeeze a Friday night BRAPA trip in is unlikely, especially with the Tour De France dominating much of that part of the week.  Hope it doesn't affect my day!  Got to be selfish haven't we?


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

BRAPA - Pub Blogger

My friend John often declares he "hates beer bloggers (apart from Roger Protz)" which always strikes me as a sweeping statement so I wonder what he makes of me, underground newbie "pub blogger"?  When I Google "pub bloggers", the majority of blogs are still more concerned with beer/real ale/craft with a bit of pub thrown in so I'd like to think one day, I may get close to cornering this niche market.

Early days of course, now on 449 pubs I'm still one off 450 which would be 10% of the guide.  I think that will be in Baschurch on Saturday, a little village in Shropshire.  I'll probably need to learn to a bit more critical but at the time, my immediate reactions to pubs are recorded on Twitter, with a limited number of characters especially if I take a nice picture!

I probably need to 'put my name out there' a bit more.  I was frustrated with the lack of reaction to any of the posts in yesterday's West Yorkshire BRAPA trip so have added local and national CAMRA societies on Twitter and deleted all the chaff!  I basically need to start whoring myself a bit more if I really want /care for the recognition.  BRAPAing alone, i love of course, but only gets lonely when you feel no-one's listening.

So, that was all boring.  Here's the latest pubs ticked off:

446 - Lord Collingwood, Poppleton - Finally, finally, been meaning to get here for ages and immaculate beer garden and great quality ale (and it's one of those tied Marstons houses) meant it really did live up to the hype I'd had to put up with for the past year.  I'd been at a beer festival so the only minus point was being a bit too drunk to totally, fully appreciate it's many charms.

447 - Bowling Green, Otley - A Wetherspoons, a nice smart one at that with a typically Wethers crowd if that doesn't sound too snobby!  I was lucky a real ale man stood at the bar warned me against getting the ale i wanted (it was cloudy and going off), barman admitted they were having problems keeping them in this heat!  So does it deserve it's guide place?  Well, my pint of Naylor's was fine and felt nicely sunburnt in the large suntrap front area.  But questions have to be asked.

448 - Hunters Inn, Pool in Wharfedale - Spiced up the midweek BRAPA by adding this pub, technically in North Yorks because North of the river Wharfe.  After a bus and traumatic country walk, I was rewarded with a beautiful pint of Black Rat in a lovely pub that might have recently had an extension.  Nice pub with great views and outdoor front area despite busy main road location.

449 - Junction, Otley - My manager at work isn't a fan, her husband is.  I sided with him, really liked the old fashioned beamed interior and was happier indoors than out.  Good interesting beers, friendly community feel despite central location and even got fleeced by some dodgy raffle where the winner then had to pick the right set of keys out of an envelope to properly win.  No surprise they didn't, rollover for about the 100th week in a row, hmmm.

So a good night and use of taxi on my own made me realise how valuable (but expensive) a means of transport this can be.  Back from Hunters, there was no way I was walking back into Pool down THAT road again.

The nearest place in that West Yorkshire North/Central corridor now is Bradford.  Loads of pubs to tick off, so thinking about the 3 beginning with a C next week.  Not sure which day because Grandma is visiting but knowing me I'll squeeze it in.

We are well above our June quotas, with more to come in Shropshire on Saturday.  Cannae wait for that, despite the early start and long wait for pub openings!


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

BRAPA - burning the candle at both ends

I'm halfway through a working week of Detox, meaning no midweek WY BRAPA, no dice nights and no cheeky World Cup bottles, even when England are playing.  It all came about after my weekend double header left me feeling, well, less than healthy come Monday morning.

Still, on the plus side, 14 (count 'em) pub ticks including last weeks midweek event.  That started in a Tuesday evening rainstorm in Baildon, where I visited the Junction (432), one of best pubs I could hope to visit with their own beer brewed on site, soured only slightly by barman short changing which I couldn't be sure was 100% honest.  I then walked into Shipley where I drank a can of craft ale (kill me!) in Sir Norman Rae (433) Wetherspoons - been in better and worse ones - before finishing at the very no nonsense Ring o'Bells (434) which was local, uncomplicated, good but lacking star quality.

So, onto Saturday and I was more sad for my travelling companion John Watson II that back in his homeland, this return to Durham didn't really garner great beer range or particularly outstanding boozers.  A nice Wetherspoons brekkie and best range of the day was found at the Waterhouse (435) but a noisy fan and lively atmosphere meant it was never going to be a classic.  A bus to Witton Gilbert soon found as at the Travellers Arms (436), a real disappointment as one of only 3 boring ales went off and my Theakstons was bland as predicted.  The pub had some decent features but wasn't great.  Still in Witton Gilbert, the Glendenning Arms was a bit of an improvement (pub 437), it felt nicer and the old Vaux handpumps were a good touch but with the locals all focused on the horse racing and another disappointing range, you couldn't help but feel Durham villages like this are a bit out of touch.  We were soon back in Durham via a quick bus journey at the John Duck (438).  Now this used to be O'Neil's but my John (Watson, not Duck) was pleased with the improvement.  It felt a bit like an upmarket gig venue in places but had a nice feel around the bar even if we did opt to sit outside.  Some good beers too made it one of the highlights of the day.  My final pub tick was the Durham Rugby Club (439) and I was sure John would be pleasantly surprised at the improvement since he last went over 15 years ago.  Sadly, it was exactly as he remembered with well kept Tim Taylor Landlord and Black Sheep only.  Quality is more important than quantity and it was a good pint, great comfort, but felt very much like a sports club bar!  We ended in Half Moon, one of several Durham pubs I'd already 'ticked' off years ago and this reminded me what great pubs there are in Durham.

I'd barely had time to rest, watch England lose, and improbably stay up for Ivory Coast v Japan which finished 4am, before I was in West Riding Refreshment Rooms, Dewsbury for my first weekend West Yorkshire BRAPA jaunt with Jason and Richard from work.  What a cracker the WRRR is, shame it wasn't a pub tick but i can understand the "i missed the" slogan and sympathise with all who have!  A short taxi ride later, we were at Leggers (440) in what must be "pretty Dewsbury", next to a canal and it was a lovely almost 'lodge' like building that felt enough like a pub and had a great Kelham Island on.  It also had an immaculate pool table, which are normally only found in dives in my experience (such a snob!)  Another taxi followed and today taught me how easy and useful taxis can be for BRAPA.  We were in Liversedge, a small place but has 3 pubs in the guide so I was quids in.  Firstly, Shears (441) the furthest up the hill and not on top form as there was a christening do happening.  Still, I got a Moorhouses Luddites brewed specially for the pub due to previous Luddite connections and it was good, as were the friendly staff and clientele. Black Bull (442) was next and this stood out to me and Jason as pub of the day.  A refurbished Ossett house, but with more pub hubbub than the likes of York and Leeds new Hop pubs.  Great beers went without saying.  Cracking place I'd recommend to anyone.  New Inn (443) is a former champion West Yorkshire pub and was good apart from their annoying foody policy.  They had locally brewed ales and I had the World Cup themed "Hand of Bob", very nice.  I was getting a bit worse for wear by now but not enough to realise what a great proper pub the Horse and Jockey (444) was.  Great jukebox, great hubbub, great beer, you couldn't ask for more, even bumped into Sarah from work's parents.  The final pub was Taproom in Batley (445) where Richard met his returning Batley Rugby League fans who'd won.  I felt it was a bit airy and like a Wild West saloon but I was drunk by this stage so maybe should give it the benefit of the doubt, the beer certainly wasn't a problem!

So as you can see, a productive time but at a cost to the old liver but I'm thoroughly enjoying the detox at the moment!  I'm well up for the month of June with 17 pub ticks and more to come next week.

I'm looking at the final Otley 2 for my next WY BRAPA meet one day next midweek but not Tuesday as England play in the World Cup.

The following Saturday brings a trip to Shropshire on Saturday (it was due to be Aberystwyth and Aberaeron but decided in the current climate, it was a step too far). I'm visiting Shrewsbury where I have 3 but have 5 still to do, including over 30's haunt Admiral Benbow.  Please let me in!  Maybe this could be my 450th, 10% of pubs done will be a landmark!  I'm also heading to the village of Baschurch because it is the first Shrops pub in the guide and will slow me down a bit.

Then onto July and hopefully, just hopefully, we can get cracking on the North Yorkshire trail.


Wednesday, 4 June 2014

BRAPA - 4 more ticks!

So, back from Barca nearly a week and after some great bars and 'craft' ale as the trendy bearded overly hopped kids call it, a very warm Sunday afternoon was the perfect opportunity to get back to BRAPA with a couple of 'quick wins' I've been wanting to tick off for a while.

428 - Boot n Shoe, Barkston Ash - Fair walk from Church Fenton but worth it in nice heat (to top up the non-existent tan I got in Barcelona).  Friendly, interesting range as it is a free house, and sat outside to 'boot' so apart from my average pint (brewery fault, not the pub), it was a great experience.

429 - Fenton Flyer, Church Fenton - Another surprisingly long walk, nice outdoor experience and friendly community feel made me realise why this pub is so highly regarded by York CAMRA.  Overall, a very good low key Sunday effort.

430 - Factory Workers Club, Guiseley - Tuesday saw a return to my West Yorkshire midweek challenge and Guiseley was a town that started a bit threateningly and soon seemed ultra friendly!  Possibly the beer but this was a challenging start in a proper old school club.  Didn't have to show my card but there was an air of 'what's he doing in our club?' but soon got friendly once I bonded over cricket and Sri Lanka v England.  My pint was a bit lame, hard to know if it was pub or brewery.

431 - Coopers, Guiseley - A Market Town tavern which is basically quality guaranteed as far as I can see.  Here was no different, friendly clean bar like vibe, a man told me his cigarettes had once belonged to a now dead American!  Food looked lovely, should think about tea one of these days.  Great pint of a new Black Sheep Yorkshire cycling themed ale.

So where next?  Well, this weekend is a write off so we are probably looking Tuesday WY trip with Baildon n Shipley 3 pubs high on the agenda.  Failing that, Otley and Bradford pt 1 need doing soon.

A week on Saturday sees Durham which is now filling me with less excitement than when we rolled it back in those heady April days before I decided Yorkshire is where it's at and just want to get June done now so we can crack on with rural North Yorkshire to compliment the West Yorkshire midweeks.  And the pub ticks will soon be rolling in!