Monday, 26 October 2015

BRAPA : the archives (341-350)

Evening all!  Welcome back to the now official Monday night archives slot, though we probably only have four or five sessions left in truth.  Are you getting teary eyed?

Here's some more as we travel to counties like Durham, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Lancs and Lincolnshire where I visited pubs yesteryear, before BRAPA was a seedling in my addled brain.

341.  Head of Steam, Durham

Probably somewhere between Newcastle's scuzzy gig Head of Steam, and the grand but sometimes foody Huddersfield version, JW2 thought that despite it being by no means a Durham GBG regular, he should bring me here before my train back home on my July 2011 visit.  Good pre-emptive work JW2!  I remember walking in to quite a young clientele, and smiley young female bar staff who seemed keen to impress but weren't really so comfortable when the subject of cask ale came up.  Can't quite remember the details but something didn't quite go according to plan!  I was most enthralled however by an interesting collection of Live Aid 1985 photos on the wall which must have been taken by someone who was at the front for all the bands - I'd just seen a programme on TV and wondered what it must have been like, Bob Geldof and Bono aside of course!   I remember telling JW2 I personally thought it was, all things considered, a pub worthy of a place in the GBG.  Now Camerons owned I believe, which seems to have been a change for the better.

342.  Prince of Wales, Westbury-on-Trym

Westbury was mine and Dad's Bristol suburb of choice for those Bristol Rovers games after we started using the GBG to help us pick a pub.  It even remained so after Dad read about a brutal murder, which surprised me cos it seemed a place full of poshos.  I'm going to stick my neck out here (not so I can be executed) but because I think my main reason for choosing this was it was an 11am opener on 13th April 2002, before we discovered the brilliant (but presumably no more) Post Office Tavern and it's invisible pizza menu and olympic athlete barmaid.  I digress.  This pub had a welcoming but very well to do feel to it, enhanced by incredibly posh Mum and student daughter demanding lunch just a few tables away, where Newcastle silently played someone in the lunchtime kick off.  The pub was almost too nice and I felt I was too northern and dirty to fit in here!

343.  Pembroke, Old Portsmouth

Friday 19th March 2010 and I'd finished my tour of HMS Victory and 'enjoyed' a pint in the not very pre-emptive Lord Nelson with a nice young chap who was actually a West Ham fan who was in Jimmy Bullard's class at school and loved dressing in a suit when he played Football Manager!  So it was off to get some proper GBG pubs ticked off and first on my list was here, a real old school pub with lots of old men with carrier bags of tripe, old women cackling with one tooth, and aggresive darts players.  I squashed in a corner with a pint of Bass and tried to look relaxed!  The people were nice really, just very characterful.   I must have thought it was ok, for I brought Tom and Dad back here a couple of years later after another HMS Victory walk around.  I think I went for the Greene King Abbot this time, sat even further in the corner, the pub felt very similar, like the type you'd find if you were on shore leave.  Understated but a bit of salty star quality!

344.  Dog & Gun, Aughton

14th September 2013 saw me and Krzb have a very enjoyable day in Ormskirk.  We combined it by geting on a very interesting Metro link which I didn't know existed to Aughton Park, from where we walked to this pub.  Two cosy roomed Marstons, it might have had a certain charm, but the menagerie of animals and birds was ridiculous.  I've never seen so many things flitting and running around a pub, not to mention the donkey in the garden or the rabbits.  I think at the time they were also doing 'light snacks', but who'd eat here?  It smelt unhygenic and the final straw had to be when I reached into the leaflet holder to get a local CAMRA mag.  Not only was it empty but a huge snail was inside!  "Inform your local CAMRA branch if this is empty" said the slogan.  But it technically wasn't empty, so I couldn't tell CAMRA anything!  It was time to leave, after a very quick glimpse of the donkey at the bank.  To be back in the GBG, I can only assume a full fumigation has taken place.

Arriving at the animal-tastic Dog & Gun

345.  Rose & Crown, Blackpool

Well, well.  I never thought this would be a pre pre-emptive BRAPA tick, not in my wildest imagination.  Not even this August just gone when Andy Dunn regaled me with stories of how scientific invention can change the world, whilst Lu rolled her eyes Jig got pegged after I gave a punk permission to do so.  Krzb then pegged me as pay back.  Still, I should have known something was afoot.  For the first time since my first visit here (probably Aug 2007), we were NOT drinking Wells Bombardier from a Polycarbonate glass.  We were in fact drinking a top quality pint of White Witch by Moorhouses.  Still, the word 'BRAPA pre-emptive' was a far from my mind as anything.  Over the years, this pub has almost become the official "punk" pub outside Winter Gardens.  It's normally packed and plays a spirited selection of old and new punk music at all times.  Although it's never been our favourite, it is tradition to come at least once every year (though we didn't in 2014) and has a great hubbub.  My highlights include when they made Lu a great vegan meal from scratch cos she was bored of jacket and beans.  Another good time was when a punk lady took a great photo of all of us on my little lime green camera.  This was when we were winding down, having witnessed the London riots on a TV through the window, we'd been sat in the outdoor area where Pet Shop Boys were being piped into the street.  Don't blame the punx, we were all in Blackpool! 

Lu and Jig enjoy a surprisingly top quality pint in the Rose & Crown!
346.  Pump & Truncheon, Blackpool

And on the other side of the Blackpool coin, "it's about time!" is all I can say about finally seeing this gem back in the GBG, though to be fair standards had slipped around the 2011-13 period and I know because I've had enough pints in here over the years to feel informed enough to say!  It feels strange looking back to say that my first visit was with football in mind, Boxing Day 2004 before Stuart Elliott tore those poor Seasiders apart.  I fell in love with it straight away, with it's strange almost courtroom feel as we sat around the perimeter with bannisters in our way.  On trail were England Cricket team, playing an Ashes test and it felt hard to get passionate about cricket on Boxing Day.  Shame the locals couldn't put the same passion into supporting their football team that day.  It's done us well for football a couple of times since, notably New Years Day 2013 when it won massive brownie points for being open 10am and having three perfectly well kept ales on!  That never happens on NYD.  But it's of course the punk festival I know it best for, having introduced it to my friends the first time we came to the Punk Fest after that 26.12.14 day (2007), it has been our safe-haven, regular pub and we all love it.   Even the harder to please members of the group and believe me, they can be hard to please!  In 2015 especially, I noted an upturn of beer range and quality and with a "punk wedding" on in the background, it felt like it was trying to compete with Rose & Crown for the punk errrm crown.  A toastie, a game of pool, and a listen to the 16 song muscial loop is always a joy.   Wonderful place.

Me, Lisa and Lu - not at all drunk in the Pump, 7.8.15
347.  Buffer Stops, Rawtenstall

27th July 2013 and our annual Welly day out took us to the East Lancs railway.  Some bright spark had learnt of a new pub opening the very day we were there, and I just remember sitting on some very new picnic benches (looked like they'd arrived from B&Q 10 minutes before) right at the bottom of the beer garden (outdoor area) in the summer sun.  Next thing I know, Christine's come back with a round and exclaims she's just been served by no other than Lancs steam train and shit pop music impresario Pete Waterman, who the internet confirms did do the grand opening of this pub on this day though Christine had stalked him sufficiently to get a photo to prove it.  This must be a BRAPA record for visiting a pub after it's opened, though I am determined to beat it one day.  Also probably the most famous person to serve me a BRAPA pint, though again, this will be beaten one day when Super Kevin Francis opens a micro pub in Hednesford.  

Cheers for the ale Pete, but not for the 80's dross! 
348.  Butcher & Beast, Heighington

By the time me and Dad went to watch Hull City away at Lincoln on 9th November 2002, we'd learnt two things.  Firstly, we'd be using the Good Beer Guide to select away match pubs for near on 11 months and we could finally do this for Lincoln.  Secondly, Lincoln away is one of the scariest, aggravational police ridden hooligan ridden places for an away day.  I think these two factors were the reason behind our decision to go to the nearest village to the centre.  I don't remember much about it apart from it being I think black and white beamed, very traditional inside, hanging baskets outside, a bit of food going on, and as it was a Bateman's pub as it is now, was this perhaps my introduction to this famous brewery's ales.  There was still something of a novelty factor pubs of visiting a GBG pub at this time, the standard overall seemed that much higher.  This was never a contender for the 2002/3 pub of the year, but a good one nonetheless.

349.  Blue Bell, Scunthorpe

Now I'm not going to claim that I was ignorant of the 'chain' of Wetherspoons when we visited here on 15th Feb 2003 but it's fair to say we hadn't really done our homework as it felt like Dad's car stumbled upon it more than anything.  No Autoroute map had been made, and I obviously hadn't read the description, so maybe it was more of a "bonus pub" than anything else.  Dad quickly pulled into the large car park with a "ey up, Blue Bell, is this one you wanted?" and I replied with an "errrm I think so".  We both found it a massive bonus to find a pub open to us well before 12 noon and the two bouncers didn't put us off as we pretended to have nothing to do with football (the town had been teeming with a sense of dread, as Scunthorpe often does anyway).  About 20 minutes in as we took our drinks to a raised area to the right of the bar, I read a menu and it twigged "aaaah it's a Wetherspoons, this explains everything".  It probably also explained how the previously empty car park was suddenly a hive of riot police, but they wished us a cheery good bye as we fought our way back to the car, with Dad muttering at them if THIS was really all necessary.  Off to Ashby High St. for a bit of peace and quiet(!)

350.  Magpie, Liverpool Street, London

Me, Dad, Christine and Ben had checked into our respective Travelodge accomodation and enjoyed three wonderful pubs close to the city before two of our group's birthday night on 28th Jan 2009 - the East India Arms being the highlight.   What could possibly go wrong in three words?  Chris Irvin Syndrome - that's what.  This apparently wonderful pub was a bad choice for a midweek night, being so close to Liverpool Street station.  Stressed staff, beers going off, nowhere to sit, dirty plates not cleared away, chaotic food ordering - oh dear, it was almost a blueprint for my forthcoming special BRAPA feature on the 'don'ts' of pubs.  Probably similar to fellow nearby Nicholson's Woodin Shades, I guess it is also a tourist trap but may be best visited 11am on a Saturday, though even this can't guarantee quietness as Woodin showed earlier this year.  I'd like to think it's re-emergence in the Guide proves it's quality, but in Central London even I admit you have to take it with a pinch of salt.

So, on that rather unsavoury note, I will bid you good night until next time (if not next Monday, definitely the one after) where we will be exploring East London, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and many more ......


Sunday, 25 October 2015

BRAPA - Bedfordshire Part VIII : North of Bedford

Autumnal walk from Souldrop to Sharnbrook

Henry VIII of course had six wives, but Bedfordshire VIII had only five pubs as my plans to go to Renhold / Salph End were both divorced and beheaded as my bladder lacked the strength of a heroic monarch when I arrived back in Bedford late afternoon.

Enough of this questionable Tudor theme, I was already past Peterborough when I devised a third strategy which meant going to the village of Riseley first.  This pub was never on the agenda until I realised that there was both a sensible bus service, and a pre-noon pub opening time.

Having almost remortgaged my flat to allow me to pay for a black pudding floury bap and freshly squeezed orange juice at Kings Cross, I was in a Bedford pound shop at 11am buying a hat as it had started raining quite steadily.  

As typical of Bedford's locals, comments suggested a total lack of faith in local bus services and there was almost a standing ovation as the 28 turned up only 2 minutes late, the driver having had a quick coffee break was by the far the jolliest Bedford bus driver ever.  Well done to him,

715.  Fox and Hounds, Riseley

In a village a few miles North and quite rural, I was not too surprised to see elements of the old 'gastro pub' rearing their ugly head.  A side room with knives and forks and placemats to the right, and a 'butchers counter' to the left.  It took a while to find a member of staff, and when he did, he came from the butchers bit and looked a lot more like one than a beer seller!  I found a surprisingly good ale, 'Thirst Blood' (it's that time of year) all the way from Hartlepool and it had travelled well, a very bitter red rye ale.  Despite foody elements, this pub had a low roof, creaking floorboards, a nice beamed interior, and therefore I could forgive it.  Besides, pubs in these parts are always going to struggle on "wet sales" alone and with beer in perfect condition, I had to commend it.  I sat by the front window and noticed as we got to 12 noon, hungry diners started to turn up quite regularly looking for slabs of raw meat (presumably) to sate their ritualistic village urges.  I'd been playing one of my fave pub games "Where are the gents?" not realising the door was right behind me which was typical of my pub toilet luck over the years!  At least the landlady found it amusing.  I'd rung for a taxi deciding a bus back to Bedford to come 3 miles west of where I already was didn't make much sense.

About to enter first pub of the day, note the "pub & grill" sign (I sat in bottom right window)
And what a good taxi it was too, GPS Taxis of Rushden deserve a plug.  The lady on the phone told me I'd have to pay for the call out too, they stuck to the cost quoted, and the driver was a very nice chap even if he did once see Madonna in Roudhay Park (performing on stage, I think).  

716.  Bedford Arms, Souldrop

If I thought Riseley was quite remote, Souldrop was incredibly so.  The rain was pouring down by now but I entered a much more basic pub to a welcoming smell of a sooty coal fire.  Is there a better pub smell?  There were a fair few customers at the bar, and the young landlord insisted on giving me a try of 'Trench Dog' even though I told him I'd risk it!  I'm not sure if this was to try and win staff points or because he thought it was disgusting.  Anyway, it seemed like a solid English bitter which was my first try of a beer from Kettering's Thirsty Kite brewery.  Rushden taxi?  Kettering brew?  I'm so North Western, I'm practically Northants!  The fire looked inviting but two women were sat there annoyingly, but I smiled at them and tried to look wet and uncomfortable and within two minutes, they'd moved.  Result!  The pub may well have had a nice garden and conservatory, but this was surely the only place to be on a grey October lunchtime, any food element was not as 'in your face' as in the last pub.  Before long, I was joined by John and Diane - two members of a walking, adventuring group not taking part today due to John's bad back.  After their obligatory lesson in BRAPA, John felt guilty for drinking Nastro Azzuro and I couldn't hide my disappointment, shareholder or not!  They do things like abseiling which is impressive, though give me pub trekking any day.  As the walkers started to arrive, it was time for me to brave the rain for pub three.....

A pint of Kettering's finest in front of the fire in the Bedford Arms
The pound shop hat proved to be the best pound spent of the day as I walked 2 miles to Sharnbrook, it didn't take too long along typically dodgy country roads and the sun had even come out by the time I arrived.  My soul had been lifted by Souldrop and I was expecting big things....

717.  Swan with Two Nicks, Sharnbrook

I was glad to see this pub added to the 2016 GBG as it linked up Souldrop and Felmersham in my mind.  But it lacked a traditional pub homeliness of the last two, lighter and airier with the main problem being a table of ten studenty geeks who seemed to specialise in science, maths and technology.  It was a bit like listening to an English pilot remake of the Big Bang Theory but without the humour.  One bit that made me laugh, one girl said "they say you should be nice to the techhy geeks in your class because they're the ones who'll be your bosses one day!"  Everyone laughed in agreement but with no sense of the fact that they were in fact, these future bosses.  Of course, none of this was the pub's fault, and the barman who served me was friendly and very good, whilst other staff buzzed around clearing away plates and stuff.  The beer range was a bit disappointing, but a Charles Wells Eagle IPA at least gave me opportunity to but into action an Untappd check-in I'd been rehearsing on the train journey.  By the time a young smart waistcoated man came in and started stressing out on his mobile phone, I realised by set expression in here was a scowl.  I tried to relax but I couldn't even get a phone signal to switch off from what was happening around me.  

Bidding farewell to Sharnbrook as I set about walking to Felmersham
The key to the next leg of my journey was a quick march along more country lanes to my next village so I had 30 mins in the pub and time to get the 15:01 bus back to Bedford.  It worked out well.

718.  Sun Inn, Felmersham

A recent pub of the year winner, I recognised the young landlady and hubbie from the pictures of them winning awards on the North Beds CAMRA website, and I was served a magnificent pint Hart No 9 from somewhere in Northamptonshire.  Grapefruit tastic.  The pub had a thatched roof which was a nice quirk and to show my limited knowledge of thatched roofs, I was worried the rain might be a problem!  It wasn't of course.  Anyway, this pub was all about the skittles!  I'd seen an ancient 'hood' skittles table in Souldrop, I'd seen one in Broom a few months ago, both looking a bit lonely, so it was nice to see the entire pub giving this one a bit of hammer!  I sat in the corner, behind the arm of the 'thrower' and I got thoroughly engrossed in it - glad no one asked me to have a go.  The pub dog did fence me in by laying across the floor, so my hopes of having a snack from my bag were a no go.  The best player from what I could see was the oldest man in the pub, I think he's probably been playing it for about 100 years and there was lots of 'banter' about his age but it didn't put him off.  Christine had text me from pre-match Hull City to say she used to compete in this pub's skittles league in 1982, my fun quirky fact for the day.  And as I watched, I figured this free entertainment was better than watching Hull City v Birmingham.  And I still remembered to catch my bus.

Skittle action at the Sun in Felmersham.
The bus was delayed, and arrived at a different part of the bus station to what I was expecting so I might not have made the Renhold connection anyway, not that I was really looking for it by this stage.  After a quick nip to the loo in Bedford Arms (the Bedford version with live music going on!), I walked up Newnham Street way where I'd stayed overnight on my inaugural BRAPA trip in April 2014.  

719.  Castle, Bedford

And it was nice to be back to in the town where it all officially began, this pub winning one of those 'most improved pubs of the year' awards which I suspect, as a wise person once said, all depends what standard you are improving from!  As it was, it felt like a suitable dark and dingy (in a good way) street corner local with low ceiling, three Young's ales (I went for the 'Special' just to knock me out) and nice townie hubbub.  In fact, an egg-chasing semi-final was on so the locals were around it like cat-nip to a moggy.  With all the focus on this, I finally felt comfortable enough to tuck into my eclectic selection of food I'd brought (ever eaten half an avocado with a spoon in a pub before, I have) and I dozed gently whilst people got excited about all these New Zealand and South African's chasing an egg around and pretended I was semi interested, Bedford really is a Rugby Union town.  The staff were good, even looking expectantly at me as if I might order another drink.  A solid addition to the Bedford real ale scene though.

As it was, I decided to give up on any vague Renhold hopes and get back into London early having had bad experiences in the past!  Time had marched on anyway and the sun was setting on what had been a classic BRAPA day.  I shunned a Parcel Yard pint in favour of a sandwich and drink, and didn't even call in at York Tap/Maltings/Brigantes so must have been in disciplined mood.

Leaving Bedford as the sun goes down.
Coming Next

Just the one pub off my 720 target by the end of October so I'll achieve that easily barring some kind of mathematical tragedy.  Knottingley on Wednesday is having to be shelved however, but it's all go for my Hallowe'en BRAPA special on Thursday, plus a trip to Milton Keynes on Saturday to end a productive October with hopefully three new pub ticks. 

Bedfordshire (42) meanwhile, has gone back above East Yorkshire (39) into 3rd place in the BRAPA league table, I think only three more trips are needed and I'm looking to finish it in January.  This means that I should be able to start on Berkshire in Feb 2016 with a trip to the highly anticipated heritage pub at Aldworth, plus a few others west of Reading. 

My main other focus will be ploughing on with North Yorkshire (Saturdays) and West Yorkshire (Tuesdays) but in the winter, random trips to Mansfield, Chorlton cum Hardy and somewhere in the North East are also on my radar.

Keep on BRAPping, Si

Monday, 19 October 2015

BRAPA : the archives (331-340)

"It's Monday night, it's archive night, it's Simey's break from ale!" as a brilliant 'live' album by the now defunct Amazing Royal Crowns almost started off.  These next ten pubs see more reminiscing from Wakefield before trips to places like Derby, Plymouth and Durham.  Stay tuned!

331.  Hop, Wakefield

One of the modern clutch of Ossett pubs with a pleasing smattering of Rat beer to boot, but lacking the warm pubby hubbub of some of the more traditional pubs (Three Pigeons, Fox in York etc) that they take on.  Still, for a fourth pub of the day, me and Jig were well in our stride when we came here on 30.1.14 and probably at our peak, so very pleased with the ales and thin bricked interior down a little cobbled lane.  It certainly had a bit more character than the Sheffield version, Live music seemed to be the order of the day, with bands setting up and sound-checking even in this mid afternoon weekday setting.  I was quite hoping we'd be treated to an impromptu gig.  I chose a very nice guest ale, Cascade by Liverpool Organic and had a rant about Scousers always being 'victims' which less face it, is often the case.  Though I love that city for ale even more than Wakey!  Sister Lu and her Wakey-boyf Andy Dunn have seen live music here, had nights out, and Andy even saw Leatherface play here were the compere mischievously referred to them as a band from "Newcastle" just to wind up Frankie Stubbs, which is brave to say the least.  I'd come back here.

332.  Harry's Bar, Wakefield

A bit like Bull & Fairhouse, my memories of our visit here are a bit hazy but Jig, in his proudest pre-BRAPA moment, read in a local CAMRA mag about a 'pre-emptive' tick called the Old Print Works which was down the same alleyway as this pub, so we did both together.  There was a post-work hustle and bustle here and it was quite a tight squeeze in the small bar area, where I had an Acorn guest called Drop Kick which Jig described as a "caramel pale" but I can't remember.  To put a bit more 'meat on the bones' of this archive entry, I visited here Tuesday just gone 6th October 2015 and the interior came flooding back, with a nice brick and wood feel, a real fire, lots of ales and reasonably helpful staff.  It also apparently has a great view of a famous 99-arch railway viaduct.  It does have an underlying "unfriendly local" feel though, and though it was quieter, the only good seat meant I had to squeeze past this old man.  I did so with typical BRAPA good humour "oooh, don't mind me, I'll not disturb you" but got nothing back at all!  And then his friend arrived and they talked about farming equipment so I glared at them in a pitiful way.  However, I couldn't stay mad, my Five Towns ale was, despite the unprepossessing pump clip and name, one of the most delightful citrus beers I've ever tried.  I used to think I was loyal to this brewery due to their connection to family friend Charlie, but the past year has told me they are brilliant, though careful because they specialise in plus 6% beers I notice.

Return visit to Harry's on 6.10.15
333.  Brewery Tap, Peterborough

19th Jan 2013 and on that snowy lunchtime where the game was amazingly ON, me and Dad (buoyed by an excellent morning pub session in the Ostrich) made our apologies to our Welly gang friends and headed to the Brewery Tap,  After all, we both dislike the Barge but others insisted on going, but I was intrigued to see where my possible favourite brewery Oakham brews it's ales.  We were a bit skepitcal at first as the building in like a huge warehouse and in temperatures like this, we thought it'd be a case of keeping coats and scarves on.  However, our first abiding memory was not so much the great ales but the fact the radiators around us generated enough heat to get comfy!  It's the little things.  Now don't ask me if I want Thai food, my one Oakham turn off.  We must've loved it as we were in here after the match briefly too!  However, our favourite time came before a pre-season friendly in July of the same year, where Manny Figueroa scored one of the best Hull City goals ever!  Pre-match was equally amazing, we pretty much had the huge place to ourselves as I worked my way up through the pre-season gears - which went something like 'JHB', 'Citra', 'Scarlet Macaw', 'Inferno', 'Bishops Farewell'.  Whenever passing through Peterborough station, we always can see the brew pub from the train and wonder if we have time to jump out for a quick pint! 

"I'll drink on my owwwwn, I'll drink on my owwwwn, I'm Simey Everitt, I'll drink on my owwwwn"

334.  Hole in the Wall, Torquay

After many seasons of "love" for Babbacombe, the Crown & Sceptre, and crusty bread and Bel Paese cheese out on the seafront, admiring some of Agatha Christie's inspiration points, me and Dad took the brave step to do a "Torquay proper" day on our trip there on 18th Oct 2003.  It was a mixed experience, the pub being the plus.  After a nice walk round the harbour where we saw a Hull City fan (Spit!  How dare he?), we went to my ancient (1540) designated GBG pub.  I can remember it very clearly despite the passing of time.  The floor was cobbled and uneven, the first time I'd seen such a weird floor in a pub.  The landlord was a friendly chap, very impressed when he refused to give us our pints because it was the end of the barrel!  None of this "try it and let me know" or the "the last pint isn't always bad" bollocks we got off the barmaid in York's Red Lion.  Sad, 12 years into the future of a so-called real ale revolution and this 2003 experience still remains the best example.  Being pre-smoking ban, we found a nice "Roy Castle Clean Air" room to sit in, with a model of a toilet that you had to put coins in and 'flush' if anyone smoked or swore or something!  It was quite quirky,  Then the CLF (Canadian Lesbian Front) came in looking for lunch and a quaint British pub but they didn't disturb us much.  Nice pub, but we still reverted to our Babbacombe roots the following season.  

335.  Brunswick Inn, Derby

This was war!  Me and Dad had fallen in love with the Flowerpot pub in April 2006 having met the Irvin's there for some amazing ale and scran, and let's be honest, why would we want to go anywhere else?  However, people with a surname that rhymes with "Bandroo" then insisted on putting constant pressure on us to get ourselves to the supposedly even more wonderful Brunswick.  Dad and me are of the same ilk, the more someone insists, the more we'll resist, especially when a nice Flowerpot man (not Bill or Ben) with a Morris Minor fetish told us the Brunswick was in decline.  "Hah, take that Bandroos!"   And sure enough, it was soon out of the GBG.  But you can't avoid these places for ever, and after other pubs had been trialed and the hoo-hah had died down, we were probably more open to the idea of going.  Especially as 21st December 2012 (a Friday night game before Christmas on Doomsday where my morning train hit a horse!) was one of the most impractical days for a football match ever.  Work wouldn't let me leave early so I hot-footed it to Derby on a packed train with my selection of Morrison's bottles, frantically texting Dad.  We had no time to stray too far from the station, and I was shocked when he told me he'd been up at Brunswick with Jarvo and the full quota of Gooligans!  Luckily, he'd discovered a quiet upstairs bar where we returned for two lovely pints before kick off.  It was like a working man's club, Big Dave came in and sat with us for a bit, totally shocked of course to hear we'd never been before!  We won 2-1, a just reward for a traumatic day and one of the proudest Hull City performances I have ever witnessed against a very good Derby side.  A tough but memorable experience.

336.  Silk Mill Cider and Ale House, Derby

22nd Feb 2011 and Dad parked in the dodgiest public car park ever on this Tuesday afternoon (the man kept calling us "duck" (obviously) and admitted our car still might get stolen!).  As we crossed the road, we saw a huge banner stuck on the front of this pub with slogans like "we are a fantastic real ale pub selling tonnes of ales and we are brilliant so please visit us now as we'll get in the GBG one day".  Not quite that, but it was enough for me and Dad to be convinced to tentatively step inside.  It was quite a spartan, bare boarded set up, it felt like a recently opened huge micro pub but the beers were very impressive!  Sadly, we left to stick to my pre-match plan which involved 3 or 4 pubs which weren't quite this good.  We returned the following season for a couple on a busy 19th November 2012 with some of the Welly gang, it now was carpetted, light and airy and had a much warmer feel.  The beers were still dispensed from huge casks like some crazy mini beer fest, and Dad felt the effect of the Thornbridge Jaipur but was it the beer that was off or the fact it was 5.9% Hmmm, I know my theory on the matter.  Again we moved on to a heaving Brewery Tap, again we would have been better staying here.  Best pre-match football pub I've done in this amazing ale town.

337.  Thistle Park Tavern, Plymouth

If I could locate my little notepad which, in December 2006 only, I recorded my pub experiences in what I suppose was a prehistoric version of this blog(!), I could tell you what I drank here and exactly what my views were.  It was definitely some locale and although my Friday night walk around town had started slowly, the pubs got better and this was my favourite of the night.  A local woman at the bar even felt my cheeks (not my bum) when I walked in to test the outdoor temperature.  I was soon chatting to her, the staff and a former Bristol Rovers player, who seemed interested in BRAPA even if it was 8 years too early!  We got talking on local pubs in Plymouth real ales and it was all very jolly, in a tiny intimate little basic place.  I'm not even sure it was GBG listed, I think I made the decision as a result of that "football grounds and real ale away days" book that lasted for 2 happy seasons.  I was conscious of the need to leave before 9:30pm though, before the Barbican swing bridge closed and I presumably would have been stranded for ever (not really, you just walk around it!)

338.  Plume of Feathers Inn, Princetown

27th August 2005 and it was Hound of the Baskervilles-tastic as we stayed overnight high up on Dartmoor opposite the jail following a brilliant Stuart Elliot winner.  We sat in a cosy stone built lounge bar and had our evening meal and a few pints of ales from Dartmoor, Otter etc etc, it felt pretty much like our own private room.  Briefly, the landlord brought a bus load of American tourists in who he was telling ghost stories to.  When the bus drove off, he came in to join us, fag in hand, saying "hah, you can tell them anything!" and then proceeded to tell us a dodgy long winded joke about a naked man who got locked out of his window in the rain but was waterproof cos he had a condom on.  I wondered if it was Andy Payton.  Anyway, joke aside, a great pub as we crossed the car park in the fog to our accommodation wondering if a devil dog was going to murder us.  The cold air meant I'd developed a chest infection by the time we got back to York, and I had a week off work, so I have quite happy memories about this pub!

339.  Colpitts Hotel, Durham

Even though they are evil feudal bastards who act like Victorian landowners, I have a real soft spot for Sam Smith's and am always happy to see their pubs in the GBG, because although the beer range may be predictable, they own/refurb some cracking buildings.  And this is one of the best.  I first came in on my first real ale Durham trip with JW2 (June 2002?) and it was dark so later in the day as we saw a University lecturer slumped across a table asleep whilst some students tried not to look embarrassed.  The pub has a really old feel, and a strange shaped room, perhaps a fire, but it left an impression on me.  When I had a more recent JW2 Durham trip, on the same day my sister moved into her dodgy flat with the dribbly shower, so am saying perhaps July 2011, it was our second pub of the day and it seemed unchanged in the last 9 years, which made sense as it probably isn't much changed in 100!  I actually can't remember the details as clearly here, maybe feeling it had more atmosphere on a dark evening - but you can bet I probably drank OBB!

340.  New Inn, Durham

Wow, there are times when I am ticking off the GBG pubs for the new year and an entry makes my eyebrows raise with surprise.  This was the joint winner of the 'eyebrow' category for the 2016 GBG (other winner to be reviewed in our next edition).  When I first went to stay with JW2 at his homestead in High Shincliffe, we walked into Durham with the main intent on going to 'rock' pub, the Angel (fizzy Theakstons but pool and great jukebox - we had no standards in those days!)  This pre-dated our love or even knowledge of real ale of course, so I'm putting a reserve estimate of July 2000 on this, thinking it might have been my North East return after we'd finished Uni.  The walk in to Durham took us past a pub John knew well, it had been better in the past and he was making apologies for it before we'd even entered!  It was now a "yellow card" "Scream" student pub, where better to get a pint of cold flavourless Guinness?  It had a good atmosphere nonetheless, and i think we got a game of pool and perhaps a go on a quiz machine.  On my other visit here, more of a lunchtime setting in the sun, we found it even more studenty with egg chasing toffs having taken over the place - what was worse, the pool table was covered over so they could use it for their bloody mass of sandwiches and other post-rugby snacks they didn't deserve!  Grrr, we sat in the corner and shuddered.  I may need a return visit to experience it from an ale point of view (see also Ivy House, Sunderland).

So there we have it, some top memories there.  Still about 30/40 to go before we start logging them in a spreadsheet so we can put them in date order.

See you next Monday, Si  

Sunday, 18 October 2015

BRAPA - Loxley, Sheffield North, Mexborough and Consibrough

South Yorkshire maintained it's 6th placed position in the BRAPA league table after a great five pub day.  I managed to achieve some 'ticks' I've been after for years, there was a 'brewpub' theme, and I got a couple of pub shaped monkey's off my back at the same time.

It started in a drizzly Sheffield station, where I learnt the tram stop has it's own opposite exit and soon with Dad and BRAPA transport aficionado Tom, we'd bussed and trammed through some of the more 'third world' areas of the city (yes I am a snob) and were in beautiful Loxley countryside, with it's walking and angling meaning the pub was a 10am opener, yes!

710.  Nag's Head Inn, Loxley

In Stacey Bank and not really Loxley if you were to be pedantic, Dad was a bit concerned whether they'd stick to the opening time, it was a relief to see a jolly woman (landlady?) sweeping up Autumn leaves outside as she accidentally photobombed the inaugural BRAPA shot of the day.  We entered and I was amazed to see the pub so similar to the view in my mind's eye, wooden farmhousy, basic but with comfy bits further back.  It was great to see the superb Bradfield ales on, a huge range so I plumped for a Jack O'Lantern, my first Hallowe'en beer of the season.  Quality stuff.  And was glad I'd recommended the Farmers Blonde to Dad.  Prices were dirt cheap.  The barmaid was a young, croaky mare, but once other staff and locals were on the scene, she managed to overcome any vocal chord incompetence and soon we were back in the unnecessary SHOUTING match that had plagued us at Pollington, but even more out of place as here was so intimate and down to earth (can I get a shouty first pub of the day hattrick next week in Bedfordshire?).  Barmaid did redeem herself for lighting the fire next to us.  Dad then cracked under the pressure of seeing a father & son with cooked breakfast and soon were all on 'em.  We had more time in here than your average BRAPA pub, so gave us a chance to savour it and do the kind of things you wouldn't normally get to do in a BRAPA pub, for example pick 5 celebrities you think are most likely to die!  As I desperately tried to hoover up the last of my mushrooms, the bus was 4 minutes away and we sadly had to leave.  If I was a Sheff Wed season ticket holder, I know where I'd go pre-match!

Me arriving at the Nag's Head, note sweepy woman behind car.....
After a classic bit of Tom bus/tram manoeuvering to help us beat the football traffic, we were at our next pub though we nearly walked past!

711.  Hillsborough Hotel, Sheffield

I'd been itching to come here since 2004 when we tried but found it shut before the midweek 2-4 victory.  Again, I'd built up an image in my mind but it wasn't quite the red carpetted one roomer with horseshoe bar I'd expected!  The place was in a state of chaos when we entered, not through football fans trying to have a quick drink or just the usual 'opened this minute but not ready for customers' scenario, but there seemed some bigger change had taken place, change of ownership Tom thought, but am not sure we had any evidence of that.  What was strange however, was in a Bradfield/Loxley way, we were expecting to see lots of Wood Street beers but instead 4 of the 6 were from another Sheffield brewery, Exit 33.   The barmaid was new, didn't know where anything was, and was a QPR season ticket holder, but we tried not to hold that against her as she chatted to us whilst we waited.  I'm not sure the man on my right can have been so impressed, him and his wife had to wait an eternity to get served, and when they did, they realised they were in the wrong pub, having wanted the Hillsborough Tap!  Dad had controversially gone to sit in an incredibly light and modern conservatory area, it was almost like being outside and didn't do much for the atmosphere.  Having said that, the place was comfy enough and my Exit 33 IPA was perhaps even more delicious than the Bradfield ales earlier.  Quite a good pub, will be interesting to see how the changes bed in. 

Me in my Hillsborough Hotel camouflage jacket
Our original plan had been to get a 'tick' on the way back to Sheffield station, whether it be in the Kelham Island area or more central, but as it was we played safe and headed straight for station,  However, with 20 mins to spare and full bladders, we nipped into Sheffield Tap for a very swift half though Tom correctly pointed out this broke BRAPA policy!  Dad then did his usual ST ritual "I hate this place, I hate this place, I really hate this place, oh I've been served, oh look, a nice quiet side room, oh this place isn't quite so bad!" 

Anyway, a short train journey followed and we were in the wonderfully stereotypical South Yorkshire town of Mexborough.

712.  Concertina Band Club, Mexborough

Another pub (club) I've had on my hit list for many years pre-BRAPA, me and Dad were a bit anxious on entering because (a) it is a club and sometimes they can be a bit funny about non-members and (b) they were due to close at 3pm and we were pushing it with time.  Tom, having been before, was more confident and we needn't worry as the friendly welcome we'd hoped for ensued, in fact they barely batted an eyelid at our presence, what a relief!  The theme of home-brews continued with their own Concertina ales, so I went for the award winning Bengal Tiger and it was very nice indeed, take that Sixpoint brewery of America who sell cans to Wetherspoons with a very similar name.  The main band room was huge and splendid, but I sat us in the games room mainly because if there was an end of year BRAPA award for 'worst coloured table of the year', this hideous sepia yellow example would have won hands down!  Okay so it wasn't the cosiest pub of the day, but the sheer down to earth, no nonsense brilliance of it shone through.  A cracker, and for once, CIS (Chris Irvin Syndrome) did not take hold!  And what happened to the 3pm closing? 

Dad points, but Tom is straight in - at the Concertina Band Club
It was great Dad had come to Mexborough with us but we went our separate ways now as he got a train back to York via Donny.  Me and Tom remained the hardcore two, pushing on to the next pub....

713.  Imperial Brewery Tap, Mexborough

Hiding down the edge of an industrial estate, we found our next pub, the home of Imperial brewing you won't be surprised to know.  We hadn't planned today like this, honestly!  It reminded me very much of the Cock o' the North pub I went to in Hipperholme with the Halifax Steam beers in an huge industrial style converted into something lounge like and comfortable.  As we trekked over the swathes of blue carpet to the bar, we found not only their own ales but plenty of interesting Locales too but it was only polite to go for one of theirs, a Blonde of top quality.  We sat to the right and the place was quite busy with mainly middle aged drinkers as I gave Tom his highly anticipated learning module of Untappd check ins (though he did encourage me to be abusive about Sixpoint brewery!), his next module is on Instagram.  Just to show I haven't learnt anything from my Leighton Buzzard day, I soon found myself dropping off - a combination of the comfy surroundings, the fact I forget to get the Corned Beef sandwich off Dad, the Loxley breakfast and the colour blue being calming.  Nothing beer related HONEST!  Anyway, Tom who'd been buoyed by finding a bottle of Farmers Stout to buy earlier, now managed to buy an Imperial bottle from their fridge.  A good result after my Twitter contact with them last week.  

Arriving at the quite unique (Hipperholme aside) home of Imperial brewing.
Next, we took one stop on the train to Consibrough, we then had a bit of a walk before boarding the X78 which took us towards the pub, even if the miserable bus drivers weren't a fan of our PlusBus ticket!  Having Dad's senior one by mistake probably didn't help things.

714.  Hilltop Hotel, Consibrough

But it was worth the effort - as we entered the left hand side of this cosy two roomer, and I kept my record up of accidentally selecting the room with the fewest amount of locals and hubbub!  It didn't matter though, we were soon chatting to the friendly couple who ran the pub.  I managed to get a bit of BRAPA chat going, and Tom then earned us maximum brownie points by telling them about '2' for 1 rail ticket offers for their trips to York - we'd been lamenting ridiculous beer prices in the city in comparison to say, this pub for example!  The range of ales was again an impressive cornucopia of micro brews from the South Yorkshire area and I had a brilliant 'Original Blonde' by White Rose - a Sheffield brewery I'd not even heard of.  Just when we thought we'd finally found a pub without their own brewery attached, the landlord pointed out of a window to show where they would soon be brewing their own ales!  Well, when Custom & Excise give them the go ahead apparently.  We had an even longer walk back to Consisbrough station after the bus but never mind, this was probably but second favourite pub of the day, well worth a visit.  

Tom favoured the "action shot of walking into a pub" photo style.

So there we go, I wished Tom bon voyage as we headed in separate directions.  I had a bit of wait both in Consibrough and Donny where I had a shortbread and lemon n lime drink in a half closed cafe.  I avoided York Tap too and was home for about 20:30, a successful day indeed!

Just to remind you, no BRAPA this midweek but archives will be out Monday and a "Special feature" later in the week if I've got time.  Then Bedfordshire next Saturday.  The feature will be about 'BRAPA pub do's and don'ts for any prospective pub landlords reading.  Well, I can hope.



Thursday, 15 October 2015

BRAPA - Ilkley

After a straightforwardly boring train journey from Leeds - Ilkley (just the way I like them), I crossed between rush hour traffic to find this pub, sunken into the ground so you were actually kind of underground when you entered.

I nearly came here on 2nd August 2014 when I bumped into Alex from work and his friends (who helped me celebrate my inaugural 500th 'tick') and they told me they were finishing here after their walk.  I knew it had pre-emptive potential but I'd had a long enough day as it was.

709.  Flying Duck, Ilkley

The pub building dates from 1709 and you probably wouldn't know that from the 2013 refurb, though the exposed stone plus cosy ambiance (made even better when the wood burner was put in) made for a very nice pub atmosphere indeed, just the calming sensation I needed after a fraught day at work.  This is the Wharfedale brewery tap, with the brewery out the back, so it would have been rude not to try one of their ales - a Wharfedale Black was an excellent mild, normally can be quite a disappointing beer type.  There was only one other customer (long haired man at the bar) but any hopes of a BRAPA chat never quite materialised as he and barman were quite reserved, and I don't like to force my religion on people!  It seemed wrong to come to such a nice pub (and pay almost £10 for a train ticket) and just stay for one, so I went big with a 6.7% Black Magik from the always great Abbeydale Brewery,  A local couple had come in and been sampling it, so it allowed for a brief bit of human interaction!  However, the peace was shattered when another couple brought in two crazed dogs, Marley and Chester and if ever there were dogs trying to win a "worst pub pet of the year" award, it was these two.  To be fair, the owners did as good a job as possible keeping them in control (save from bringing them in in the first place!) and when one poor old woman walked down the stairs, Chester went bat shit mental - apparently confused thinking she was a burglar and he was at home!  They stunk too, and I could see the rest of the dogless drinkers expressions, they were about as impressed as me.  Any hopes of a third and final Abbeydale pint evaporated in my mind at this point.  Time to go.  So off I went.

Flying Duck - the calm before the doggy storm! 
I then had a 'farce' trying to get back all self inflicted.  First I missed the train I was aiming for as I tried to take a short cut down Railway Road which didn't work out for me (not for the platform I needed in time anyway), and I then wrote down the next time as 19:49 instead of 19:43 so missed another one!  And then back in Leeds, I missed two by a minute and had to get a slower stopper back to York.  Maybe I was being punished for ordering a MaccyD's.  Anyway, the Ilkley kerfuffle at least allowed a very swift half of 'Chop & Change' in the excellent but posho food-smelling Crescent.

Chop & Change, whilst Cellino is "confident" over his court case - apt! 
Social Media Improvements

It's long been recongised that I have not been doing enough in BRAPA to promote my challenge, but recent positive Twitter experiences at Horbury Bridge and with the Imperial in Mexborough mean I have made it a fundamental rule to 'tweet' the pub if they have an account.  I did this after Whelans of Asselby with no comeback sadly, but tried the same at Flying Duck in Ilkley and 48 hours later I got retweeted and 'added' by them.  

What this means in the real concrete world is a win-win situation where their pub gets a bit of free advertising and I get BRAPA out there too.  This is the way forward, though recently forgetting to leave my cards in pubs has been a schoolboy error I need to rectify.

Dunn's Law

As suggested by one my newest BRAPA enthusiasts, Andy Dunn, I am going to try and stick to set release days for my blog.

Monday - Archives
Wednesday - Write up of Midweek BRAPA trip
Sunday - Write up of Saturday BRAPA trip.

Special reports will be released on any given day.

He even suggested I put set times on these releases, but as you can see from this blog, sticking to the day is going to be hard enough to maintain!  A good idea though. 

Coming Soon (the rest of October)

Saturday is Sheffield day, or to be exact, Loxley, North Sheffield, Mexborough and potential Conisbrough. 

Next midweek is a no go for West Yorkshire BRAPA as Dad is hijacking me for Hull City purposes.

The following Saturday sees a return to Bedfordshire (part VIII).  This is a key day which will require some serious planning. I have my first new Bedford tick since BRAPA began and this will be my 'base'.  I then want to get out on the bus route which covers Felmersham, Souldrop and Sharnbrook.  And hopefully, with time permitting, another bus to Renhold or Riseley (or both).  

The following midweek again sees Dad hijacking me, but as I'm off work Thursday and Friday, I think switching midweek WY BRAPA to Wednesday is do-able, Knottingley will get it's BRAPA debut and it even has a railway station - hurrah!  

The next day, I have my mystery BRAPA Hallowe'en Special (4 pubs likely).  

And the month ends in just as spooky fashion at town planners wet dream, Milton Keynes, with three pubs on my agenda as I've decided to try and keep it fairly simple (Dad was happy for me to stop anywhere on the Euston-MK line but this season at least, we'll do what's nearest MK).

So, plenty to keep us going, am looking to get past 720 before month end which judging by the above, should be a cake walk, but with 750 needed by 31st December, am not resting on my laurels yet because I know how the Christmas season can limit BRAPA from past experience.

See you soon, Si

Monday, 12 October 2015

BRAPA : the archives (321-330)

Monday night is now officially archive night, and we're going to finish our tour of "lovely" Leeds, my place of work, before delving a little bit deeper into West Yorkshire, ending up in "wonderful" Wakefield.

321.  Tapped, Leeds

Imagine if aliens took over and opened their own real ale bar.  It would probably look like this.  Cold, metallic, uncharacterful, robotic.  I'd already heard a few negative murmurings from work friend Carol P and her chap Steven, before I decided to try it out for myself.  It was 20th April 2014 and me and sister Lu had 'landed' in Leeds ready for a drink before a Rezillos gig at Brudenell.  What is weird now is that BRAPA was officially 15 days old but I never considered this a pre-emptive tick at any stage.  Maybe I was fooled by the fact that keg seemed to be king, with the cask ales hidden behind and due to the sterile dispense display, it was hard to tell which was which.  Luckily, a friendly barman assisted and I was drinking a beautiful Marble Spring from the great Manchester brewery,  Lu may have had the same.  We may have chosen this because the brewery is vegan.  Anyway, we rested on a cold metal bench and had a deep conversation about being "still" whilst life buzzed around us.  I almost came back here once with Emily on the way from Crowd of Favours to Friends of Ham, but it was about 4 deep at the bar.  Did I care?  No.  Not a patch on the York, Sheffield or Euston versions of the same chain.

322.  Templar, Leeds

Friday 10th October 2008 was a memorable night out for the all wrong reasons, but before Jig got wiped out by a Nissan Micra, I did what I do best and got the whole birthday group on an ambitious pub crawl of Leeds.  This was our second pub though I was a bit drunk, having spent about 3 hours waiting for them all in North Bar.  The reason for the sudden visit of this famous, old Leeds pub was that I had, for the first time, seen it in the GBG and despite the birthday group containing people I#d never met before(!), I still marched them here.  It was a bit poor, I drank Tetley's which was about the only ale on, it was corridor standing room only and the highlight was me picking up a free pissy Argos pen from the toilets and carrying it around with me all night - urrgghh!  Due to it's association to "10/11", it took me a few years to return but have done 3 or 4 times since and have been incredibly impressed.  Beautiful building, great ales, the only problem being the clientele.  Very rough men!  Having said that, the only time I've been brave enough to listen in to a conversation of these tattooed rugged old toothless scummers, it was about Uncle Phil's role in Fresh Prince of Bel Air and I smiled kindly at them.  My most recent visit was 10th Oct 2014 (my 6th anniversary) as I waited for Bob's surprise birthday to start, the locals were livelier than ever but I was safe in the snug to enjoy a delightful Kirkstall Three Swords.  This pub is constantly under development threat, may not be here much longer, enjoy it while you can, I certainly will!

A classic Three Swords in the Templar, 10th Oct 2014
323.  Veritas Ale & Wine Bar, Leeds

I did my usual "wait for ages to see how this peculiar new bar settles in" before I came here on a rare Monday lunchtime with Emily 27th Feb 2012 and was a bit disconcerted to see cake displays and coffee machines on the bar entrance.  You have to walk a bit round the corner to find the ales.  Now surely that isn't right?  Staff were good, the ale was good, but I can't help feeling that awful term "female friendly" is designed for bars like this.  In fact, every time I've been it's with females, whether it is Emily, Rebecca or a girl called Jo's leaving do.  It's true my workplace's ale aficionado Bryan brings "his girls" here as well if that doesn't sound too dodgy.  My most recent visit was as long ago as Hull City's promotion day 2-2 with Cardiff where we went out for a join (i.e. my sister's) birthday do on the evening.  Despite being a Saturday 8pm, it was as dead and chilled as ever.  After the trauma of that day, I was happy to stay, but she swiftly moved us on to the now defunct Fab Cafe.  Oh, but it's a Market Town Taverns so another one off the list! 

324.  Victoria Family & Commercial Hotel, Leeds

Wow, don't ask me when I first came here but judging by it's "Inn Brief" entry in the 2002 GBG, I'm going to put the conservative October 2003 estimate on it as I did with Duck & Drake and Palace.  Up until about 2009, it was easily my most visited pub in Leeds.  Dad would meet me lunches here if he had a pensions meeting.  I had countless LLAC sessions with the likes of Mark Dobson and Dan Midwood here.  Even Bob, not really a pub or beer fan, loved it when I took him here after years of Stick & Twisting!  We even had a work Christmas do here once in a side room but my roast dinner was AWFUL, but the ale made up for it.  We were here on Jig's fateful birthday night where I tried chatting up a Canadian girl, and sister Lu told two lads how to carry three pints at once which was highly amusing.  I have met John Watson II on several of our nights out here, cos trying to save one of those big booths is a challenge on a Friday evening, let me tell you!  But what a wonderful pub, let me tell you - Nicholson's are very lucky to have it in their portfolio and well done to them, though I personally think that like the Scarbrough, the ale has suffered since it changed to their hands.  In fact, it went through a terrible spell of vinegary pints probably around 2008/9 and it is one of only two pubs I've had to report to CAMRA for consistent shite quality.  Same staff for years so god knows what happened.  My favourite time was during a chaotic December weekend evening, we were off to watch the Saw Doctors and I turned up in my welly boots terrified of ice!  I ended up drinking a woman's white wine and pretending my boots were some statement of my love for the Saw Doctors song "Hay Wrap".  A pub with loads of memories for me.  

325.  Whitelock's Ale House, Leeds

Another old classic, cor even my Mum used to drink in here when she was a teenager so probably about 1715 hahaha but seriously, it is little changed since  and it truly is the heart of Leeds, as some famous person said.  I will again put my conservative estimate of Oct 2003 on it but it's always seemed to be in the GBG and was certainly mine and John Watson's fave on our early Leeds pub crawls.  Great entrance, down a little narrow ginnel between two main shopping thoroughfares, and easily the best of the four pubs that have this set up.  I've been a fair few times but not as often as I should have done, and certainly not at all often in the last 5 years.  Highlights include when me and Piper got ID'd and then exclaimed to the pub that our combined age was actually 63!  Once, I sat outside and a water spout suddenly shot out of the side wall and drenched me.  On another occasion, JW2 had an internet date here with a Norwich girl  and I was the perfect, but invited, gooseberry,  My fave indoor times were once when I had a hot roast beef sandwich and then made a gothic couple jealous because I was going to a Misfits gig they weren't aware of!  And once when me, JW2 and Lu sat inside on another reasonable quiet afternoon birthday Leeds crawl - such a wonderful atmosphere.  You know this makes me want to go tomorrow.  24/1/14 my last visit at time of writing.

326.  Old Cock, Otley

The most valuable thing my Team Leader at work has ever said to me was the story of how this, one of her favourite Otley pubs, got it's name.  A local couple loved visiting Fanny's in Saltaire (see pub 327) so much that they opened their own in Otley with the same design and gave it this cheeky equivalent name!  On a perfectly sunny day, 6th May 2013, my birthday crawl of Otley eventually brought us here and I have to say it was, as predicted by my boss, pub of the day.  I hadn't been to Fanny's Ale House yet so it actually reminded me of Blind Jack's in Knaresborough, with proper old boards and the feeling that you had to breathe in and apologise to everyone as you walked forward to the bar.  The difference was that we did find a side room to sit in, but Jig was having a crisis of confidence because he thought the guy who served us used to work with him at the railway station Wetherspoons in Leeds. He eventually plucked up courage to confirm it with him, and that's the only concrete memory I have if this cracking little pub, which I'm shocked to learn, didn't open til 2010.  I'd have guessed 1756 if you'd forced me to.  

327.  Fanny's Ale & Cider House, Saltaire

Having recovered from the most traumatic work night out ever on Friday 6th December 2013, I was ready to do my "S is for Saltaire" A-Z day on the Sunday, 8th December and arrived into a grey Saltaire and hung around outside til 12 noon trying not to look like an alcoholic on the main road.  Multi roomed, real fires, different levels, wooden, just beer, beer and more beer, wow this was the perfect tonic to a miserable last two days!  I got chatting to the friendly barman, all big hair, bearded, tattooed, he must have been in a metal band surely.  We chatted on Fernandes brewery and York pubs and he told me a few facts about this place, which I can't remember.  I drank a "Blue Lady" by Fernandes which he recommended, then an Ossett Treacle Stout cos let's face it, pubs like this don't come around every day and I was recovering from a David Hockney art exhibtion, a man who I'm sure doesn't like Fanny's!  (sorry). 

The sign didn't lie at Fanny's in Saltaire
328.  Staff of Life, Todmorden

With the BRAPA seedling having started forming in my mind a couple of weeks earlier, I suddenly was impatient about finishing the A-Z so squeezed in Todmorden on Sunday 26th January 2014. A silly idea as replacement bus services made the day twice as difficult and I arrived in near darkness after 4pm.  The people in Tod are so friendly, I just have to squeeze that in, but I was still scared walking the 2 mile trek towards Burnley as Eagle's Crag loomed large and water flooded down from the gorge, crashing on either side of me.  But the real reason I was scared cos I'd just read a man was abducted by aliens here in 1980 and I could feel those little green men, getting ideas for opening the Tapped in Leeds (see pub 321) hovering above me.  It was with some relief that I arrived at this cosy narrow pub, not the best time as people were looking very bloated following 5 course Sunday lunches.  My presence, a stranger wanting beer, confused most, but I got the friendly "poor lad, we've stopped doing food and he has to make do with beer" look which is sadly common on my BRAPA trips.  I sat near a load of pub games on a multi cushioned seat and decided my pint of Salamander was actually quite poor!  I blamed brewery at the time, not pub.  I scowled at a few families who were overstaying their welcome, but didn't pluck up courage to ask staff about the legendary "White Doe" tale as instructed by the GBG.

Remote Crag side walk to the Staff of Life. Todmorden
329.  Black Rock, Wakefield

And speaking of the A-Z, I was soon with Jig on a freezing Thursday morning 30th Jan 2014 to be precise, having done U and V before T - I think I was losing A-Z discipline by this stage!  We'd done the "culture" of Wakey, and it was time to get out of the cold and hit the pubs.  This was one of the few to open before 4pm midweek so we started here (1:48pm) and were surprised by the sheer volume of scroungers (sorry, I mean retired people definitely pensioned and NOT claiming benefits).  But it was a happy atmosphere in a proper dark old pub.  Lovely exterior too, and almost everything else in the centre of town has become a crummy bar.  The 4 ales were all quite standard considering I'd read the locals are supposed to help choose what they want!  Having said that, I loved my Morland Golden Hen, and everytime I've had it since, it has been nowhere near this quality.  Of all the pubs I mentioned to my Wakefield friend Rebecca, this was the one she most despised but then, it isn't designed for young women, and surely that is a good thing in pubs, right?!  

Arched tiled facade, proper great old man pub - yes! 

330.  Bull & Fairhouse, Wakefield

And later on in our "W is for Wakefield" day, the worse for wear duo of me and Jig entered this former cattle market and fairground, approx 5:15pm.  This was probably my haziest pub memory of the day, and it always feels like I'm at my drunkest when Jig is my fellow BRAPster, though to claim being 'easily led' by Jig would be a very lame excuse, I'm sure he'd agree.  But very much like our Cambridge day, I had a bit of a mid-session wobble.  So much so that I it's only now that I read that it is the brewery tap for the wonderful Great Heck brewery, so our decision to both have Ossett Silver King (nice but quite common) says a lot for our mental state at the time!  We sat on a raised seating area and Sky Sports News was in, it was quite a traditional pub and I felt like I spent most of the time on my own - so either Jig had a long loo session or just zoned out completely.  Should probably re-visit!

So there we go,  we'll finish off in Wakey next time and then get started on the pubs which I had visited pre-BRAPA and are in the new 2016 GBG but weren't in the 2015 GBG, or I'd forgotten that I'd been to them!

See you soon, Si


Sunday, 11 October 2015

BRAPA - Pollington & Asselby

Back on the East Yorkshire BRAPA trail with chauffeur and GBG pub lucky charm Bernard Ev on Saturday lunchtime.

I thought I'd 'finished' this county back in August after a celebratory trip to Hull's New Adelphi Club, but Mark Bainton and his EY CAMRA cronies stuck 5 new pubs in the 2016 GBG just to remind me how frustrating this 'cross-ticking' challenge can be.

As we drove out to Pollington, we passed places like Burn and Great Heck and hope my 'south of York' expert Krzb Britain wasn't too upset I was not consulting him on such a place.

707.  King's Head, Pollington

We parked up at 11:59am, pleased to see the pub already open and a jolly smoker with five smoking friends waved at me from a covered smoking area out the back - it looked like the piss-up had started admirably early!  We entered through the front to be greeted by one of those ultimate BRAPA turn offs, tables laid out with knives, forks and place mats.  4 ales were on, two from the very Locale Great Heck brewery and their 'blonde' ale was brilliant and easily the highlight of my experience here.  A woman (presumably from the smoking area) came in, and strewth, if there was a BRAPA award for "unnecessarily loud speaking person of the year", she'd have won by a country mile!!  This was felt even greater when two men joined her (including jolly smoker) and she screamed 2cm from their faces "HOW ARE YOU BOTH TODAY?!"  The gang soon returned to where they had come and Dad debated whether food was on, or was it all just laid out for the evening?  The barmaid who was a bit of a non-entity wasn't going to help us out, so it was left for old man with his Filipino mail-order bride (who spoke no English) to be presented with two menus.  It was too late for us anyway, my second Great Heck ale, the Navigator, wasn't well kept and it was time to move on.  I still had time to spy a strange pantry set-up selling everything from Bisto gravy to Gilette razors, but the jury is still out on this particular pub.

A bit of a mixed bag in Pollington.
We felt like we'd both heard of Asselby, and were imagining it to be out the back of Howden, somewhere Spaldington or Barnes Wallis type area.  So we were surprised when the turning was just along the road we always take towards Hull for home games, and have done for so many years!

708.  Whelans, Asselby

Sometimes you walk into a pub and you just know it is going to do well for you.  Ignoring their pretensions of being an "Irish Pub" would be a good place to start, to me, this is a synonym for 'shit hole' and does a pub as great as this no favours at all.  The landlord was a friendly chap with an air of the "reformed Gooligan" about him, he presided over great ales from 'Bird Brain' in Howden, 'Chantry' from Rotherham, 'Atom' Hull and most brilliantly, 'Half Moon' Ellerton's 100th brew which was citrus heaven and Dad declared (as he often does on a BRAPA day), his definitive beer of the year!  The pub had a great old wooden country pub feel, and we settled behind a pillar to some magnificent food (we made sure we asked outright if food was on this time!) and my chilli con carne was the best I've ever had in a pub, even better than the Greyhound in Riccall and that does good food.  I wasn't even that hungry and ate the whole thing!  As Dad paid the tab, we got talking to Mrs Whelan's too so I made sure got a customary BRAPA mention in, and gave them a Twitter shout out.

Another "Dad + Rural East Yorks pub = Success" equation


When cross-ticking every other county in the GBG, the decision making re what had been taken out and what had been left in made total sense.  But what 'Beefy' and co were playing at in EY, I just cannot comprehend.  

Dad's theory is that all CAMRA inspections took place in a drunken state and no-one had a hope of making a well judged informed decision.  This certainly supports the anecdote where they invaded and claimed the Goodmanham Arms as their own, and then wondered why the locals were peed off! 

How can you account for Ellerton's "Boot & Shoe" being taken out, certainly a strong candidate for my BRAPA pub of the year?

How can Beverley's Tiger Inn still be in?  I've never known such a tired beer effort, even if it was friendly & ancient, when they are de-guiding the Cornerhouse which seemed to me, impressive and buzzing with life.

Brid's Telegraph AND Marine Bar still going strong?  What's next, Seabirds?  Especially as nearby Skipsea's Board Inn has been ejected, despite being superior to both in every category from what I could tell from my visit.

Let's look at Cottingham.  Ok, maybe the Blue Bell is a bit namby pamby but beer was quality both times for a Marston's, it's clean and comfy,  and the Railway?  Well maybe we didn't catch at the right time, but it didn't scream GBG shoe-in at any point, though the staff were superbly fast workers.

And don't get me started on the de-listing of poor Great Kelk.  If any pub needs the encouragement that their hard work of establishing themselves deserves, it is here.  A real kick in the beer gut.  All the more galling when Hedon's Haven Arms with it's terrible pear flavoured vinegar remains in.

And Hull, oh dear?!  Admiral of the Humber?  Hop & Vine?  Larkins?  St John's Hotel?  Sailmakers?  Really?!  I think someone has quotas to fill.  You may as will give the Burlington's it's debut.  At least it's great to see all 3 Scale Laners in together.

And what about Driffield's cracking little micro pub, Butcher's Dog,  don't tell me it hasn't been opened long enough cos I know it has.  

Come on EY CAMRA, shape up! 



Wednesday, 7 October 2015

BRAPA - Middlestown & Horbury Bridge (Wet West of Wakefield!)

Brian the dog and a real fire - see pub 705
If it hadn't been for the local knowledge of Bryan from work, Tuesday night may have taken a long time to get off the ground.  The 16:40 from Leeds was delayed but a 16:45 to London Kings Cross had me in Wakefield at 16:57, and I didn't have to walk to the bus station as the bus stopped on Westgate.  Cheers Bry.

It was a leaden grey and drizzly day, perfick Wakefield conditions, but bus 232 soon had me at Middlestown a few miles to the west for 17:36 precisely.

705.  Little Bull, Middlestown

This was a very local pub, with three men and a young barmaid all looking nervously at me as I ordered a Scrummy Blonde from the usually disappointing (but not on this occasion) Wentworth brewery.  There was more friendliness on display from a Dad who waited patiently with a pint whilst his teenage son finished off some homework on a 'tablet'.  The youth of today eh?!  The other barmaid with stars on her neck and a cheery smile also seemed more of a people person than the squat Nick Barmby-esque girl who served me.  The ceiling was low but the lack of phone signal seemed to not be an issue as there was a blackboard giving the free wi-fi password, but could I get it working?  Not a chance!  The fact that the first letter was either "G" or "C" and the "J" might have been a "T" meant I soon gave up.  The locals at the bar started moaning about politics, radio stations and typical West Yorks barfly topics.  A smell of home cooking and a lot of floorboard creaking from above was soon taking over but I'm not sure if it was a ghost making tea or not.  In summary, lovely old pub, routine experience, lacked a bit of 'wow' factor.

About to cross the road to the impressive Little Bull, Middlestown.
The rain was still spitting so the 20 minute walk to Horbury Bridge made sense as there wasn't another bus due for a while.  10 minutes later, it made less sense as the sky had gone black, the rain was torrential, and I was "enjoying" the best thunder & lightning on a BRAPA day since Doncaster in July 2014.  

The fact the pub was across the road on a bridge over the River Calder only added to the precarious feel, but the traffic eventually took pity on my soaked state and let me cross ......

705.  Bingley Arms, Horbury Bridge

It was one of those "choose which of the two rooms to enter" and despite choosing 'left' this time, my uncanny knack for choosing the room with "nothing going on" prevailed.  So this time, I moved on in with the locals!  And I'm glad I did as I entered a bustling little bar with good ales and the first roaring fire of the autumn.  A crazy old chap started chatting to me but he was a bit edgy and told me everyone else in the pub was a "nob 'ead" so I sidestepped away with my gorgeous pint of Abbeydale Moonshine as another lightning strike crashed down and Keeley Donovan issued a warning from the TV at the end of the room.  I dried myself in front of the fire but was swiftly joined by Brian the dog who had the same idea as me.  He was attached to "Ossett Lizzie", so called because she worked for Ossett brewery and was called Lizzie.  I think.  Brian was a great dog and went to sleep on my foot in front of the fire for the duration of my stay, a blatant attempt to win "Pub Pet of the Year",  Ossett Lizzie loved BRAPA and we spoke on Ossett pubs at length and acknowledged each other on social media, though the locals at the bar seemed less enthralled!  Mr Ossett was a bit quieter but perked up when we spoke to Rat brewery and his great pump clip illustrations/t-shirts.   Still, it was great networking and that fire was roasting me alive (thanks a lot Brian!)  By the time I left (only JUST in time for the bus to Wakey as it turned out - I was lucky), I said a cheery bye and have to say, it was one of the top positive BRAPA experiences of the year, particularly on a midweek.  Wonderful pub.

Torrential rain as I cross the road to the magnificent Bingley Arms
The rain was still ridiculous so I popped into Harry's Bar in Wakefield for a return visit (I was quite drunk the first time) and I will be reviewing it my archives soon so keep an eye out for that.

Finally back in York, I got a Burger King on the way home but with the rain worse than ever, my chips disappeared through a hole in the soaked bag.  Ooops.  I saw them on the way to work this morning and considered retrieving them for breakfast (I'm joking).  

Coming Soon in BRAPA  

Things settle down a bit over the next week, a sedate return to East Yorkshire ticking on Saturday with Dad as I do two of my remaining five.  Next Tuesday, we are back in Ilkley for a pub I always knew I should've made pre-emptive.  And then Sheffield on the following Saturday which I'll be fine-tuning.  I've nearly finished the next lot of archived pubs too.

See you soon, Si