Sunday, 15 October 2017

BRAPA - Striking it Rich in Norwich

10am Delirium Tremens and a tricky crossword could only mean one thing.  Me and Dad were with our old football friends Ben and Christine as we navigated the flat Fenlands from Peterborough to Norwich on a surprisingly warm mid-October morning.

Norwich always seems a surprisingly big city, and being famous for ale, I still had an eye-watering 19 GBG pubs to tick off - and not being Alan Winfield, was unlikely I'd get them all done today, and for once, the plan was to actually go to the football match too!

Tom appeared in Norwich station like some enchanted fairytale character from the middle ages having a had "a night on the Tube", and after a bit of a meandering walk involving a bridge across a river, pub number one was here:

The crowds gather to welcome BRAPA to town (probably)
1107 / 1859.  Murderers (Gardeners Arms)

So called because a former landlord was a murderer, I think his spirit was channelling the current incumbent, friendly yet slightly manic as he talked as through the local ales (see below pic), he even said the picture had 'slightly aroused him' which was way too much information.  The pub had a lovely old fashioned feel, a proper atmosphere, some nice wooden beams, blood red curtains, and not even the sight of Jimmy Bullard (the new Helen Chamberlain, yes they do look similar) on Soccer A.M. could ruin it.  The pub was decorated with famous murderer photos and news articles, but all a bit 'old fashioned and therefore 'safe'.  Surely Steve Wright from Ipswich or even Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr would have provided a bit more local relevance, but my fellow travellers looked at me like I was being distasteful when I suggested such a thing.  Tom revealed the latest details of his 1p accumulator, before 'handing in his lines' to Christine, as he'd used the word 'less' instead of 'fewer' in a recent message.    The gents toilets had TV's. the beer was great, this was a really strong start today, proof Norwich doesn't do bad pubs, though I'm willing to revisit that statement later on if I see fit.

'Blimey!' is the word at the Murderers

German football whilst you pee - perfect.

"I will try to be wrong on fewer occasions", genius.
Christine decided a gentle amble through the city to pub two taking in the sights and nice weather would be a good idea, but Tom hadn't quite read the script and shot off like a jack rabbit so I kept pace with him.

Ben captures the moment me and Tom disappear out of view
1108 / 1860.  Plasterers Arms, Norwich

We weren't planning on doing this pub second, but when we saw it open for business at 11:50am, 10 minutes before it's scheduled opening time, it was a no brainer to go inside, and this wasn't the only great thing about the pub which became one of my favourite pubs in Norwich so far, and that is saying something.  It was light but traditional and bare-boarded, more great ales and welcoming staff as Tom bought the round and the others caught us up and realised we'd popped in here.   We sat in a lovely little side room with a billiards table and lots of bottles, and the fact I've got nothing to say for this blog probably says something about how near pub perfection it actually was.  How boring(!)

I had to go back outside pub after buying pint for this photo due to surprise it was open

Our little side room

Tom and Dad contemplate Yorkshire Relish

I know!
Action shot of Tom buying a round 

Time for Ale in the pub of the day!

Although it wasn't a long walk to pub three, I had something troubling my mind and that was why aren't 'Leopard' and 'Leotard' pronounced in the same way.   Both should be more like 'Leotard', so with it's new pronunciation, we were at the Leo-paaard.

1109 / 1861.  Leopard, Norwich

The first thing that was very noticeable, before we even got inside, were these huge OTT candles in the windows, causing Ben to tell me "you'll be waxing lyrical about this pub, Si!"  Before I could recover from 'pun of the day', it was clear this wasn't going to be 'pub of the day' as the main bar room was light, airy but modern and lacking any kind of character that'd make you want to 'get settled'.  Having said that, we got the friendliest welcome of the day from locals, and yet another supremely helpful barman who told us the ale we'd ordered was from Tombstone in Great Yarmouth, the Uncle Roger funeral pub we never quite got to!  It was my round, and thanks to Christine, I got a nice CAMRA discount too.  I never notice these things.  The weather was glorious so we sat out in this cute little courtyard, which felt more like the pub indoors than the pub indoors, if you know what I mean!  A little dog ran past, and I was just explaining to the others it was a dog at this stage, and not a twog, when it had a ridiculous barking fit to make us all jump out of our skin.  It was quickly upgraded to Twog status.  The tables were graffitied, most notably a cock n balls in front of me rather off putting.  Tom got a pen out to add his "Allam Out" graffiti, but then moved his pen nearer my side of the table, causing me to exclaim too loudly "you are not colouring in my penis!" which echoed across the neighbourhood.  If this wasn't bad enough, our pub umbrella had a sign on it "do not erect in the wind", so the chat was quickly changed to the apostrophe  and 's' on the gents toilet which was thrilling.  Not my fave pub, but quite okay.

Graffiti I can do without

The "S" didn't seem to fit with the Gent

The gang enjoy the October sun

Tom looks mischievous as I stroke my chin
Onwards and upwards, to the pub that should've been second but was now fourth, at our furthest point from station and football ground, but we were making good time.  Me and Ben were there first.

1110 / 1862.  Cottage, Norwich

We seemed to have stumbled into a rather 'well to do' suburby area of Norwich, the type where you might expect to find quite a poncey bar, which is exactly what we did here.  No doubt it "serves the community" well as the phrase goes, but not a community embedded in reality, well not pub reality anyway.   The barmaid was a cute little black girl, friendly and smiley but I didn't get the feeling she was really in control, happier selling grazing wings and prosecco to Olivia, Jake and Jocasta, guffawing behind us and reminiscing on a Mumford & Sons gig of 2010 when Jake broke his ankle and ended up being cured by a shamanic ritual in rural Wiltshire (probably).  The pub saviour was a vocal little cat (never a twat), but when it jumped on the bar, it freaked out our barmaid like an order for four Grain ales and a blackcurrant cordial, she was presumably more a twog girl.  Nope, not for me, very much the Tilted Wig of Norwich, but actually reassuring Norwich has GBG pubs like this and they aren't all as spectacular as I'd thought!  Oh, and Tom told me off for not bringing emergency beermats so napkins (sorry, serviettes) had to do.

"Get out now son, whilst there's still time!"

"You WILL pose with me!"

"I'm watching you!"

Nice pair of pints.

Tom and his sentient arse find this pub all a bit too much

Ben had kept us disciplined in terms of drinking times, so we had time for a half way stop between here and the football ground, so we gave the chance to a pre-emptive pub we'd seen earlier on.....

St Andrews Brew House, Norwich

The barman had a full ginger beard, the clientele were young and hip, the meats were smoked, the decor was knowingly shabby chic, but now was not the time to care about such things, as Ben had located us a seat for two which I had to 'climb' to get onto it, like a kid on a climbing frame - it was great though being practically on the ceiling looking down at the pub, it made me feel like a king overseeing my subjects, all of whom probably needed the chop.  Dad, Tom and Christine had to perch along the bar, it was a busy place but had a nice feel about it, I'd rank it somewhere between Murderers (2nd) and Leopard (4th), in third place out of our five Norwich pubs today.  Beer was high quality.  I wonder if it'll get in the next GBG, we can only hope!  I'd say it is deserving on this visit.

Yes, I know.


Obligatory rubbish drunken selfie time
We then went to Carrow Road which I think it is still called.  Stewards were nice and let us stand on the back row (a first), it seemed like we were finally going to win away (last time I saw us win away was Reading, April 2016), but in the SIXTH minute of FIVE minutes injury time, long time Norwich City fan Keith Stroud who'd already sent off Meyler for breathing on someone's neck, jumped for joy as his precious little Canaries salvaged a point.

Not that I was bitter.

I got inverviewed outside the ground for a local away fans football web channel which I'll send you the link for if it gets broadcast.  I then realised we'd not have enough time to visit the Kings Arms before our train, so we had to give that a miss too.  FML as the kids say!

All was not lost, we met up with the gang again for the train journey back to Peterborough, said goodbye, and if Peterborough isn't a weird place in daylight (it is), it is positively terrifying after dark.  Despite the short walk to our final pub of the day,  I felt like I was going to get stabbed about 20 times en route.

1111 / 1863.  Bumble Inn, Peterborough

Ah, in the year of our lord 2017, a pub ticking day would not be complete without a trip to a micropub, but this one lacked anything of the charm of the two in Halifax in midweek.  The barman failed to give us the 'hail-fellow-well-met' welcome which I expect in such places, preferring to flounce around with man bun and hairy chest puffed out, generally loving himself.  We both eyed up a 'Stilton' flavoured ale but decided against it.  Like Brighouse's forest scene, this had a wall dedicated to woodland scene, perhaps this is a micro pub device to maximise the space.  The door onto the main street was open, a man with a very colourful e-cigarette and a label that needed tucking back into his t-shirt sucked on his cig and peered balefully into the middle distance of Westgate.   We bravely took on half a Stilton (to share), it was disappointingly not like a porter or Stilton, did I want it to be?

Just a few minutes down the road is the wonderful Brewery Tap, not currently GBG listed, but with wonderful Oakham ales, we nipped in for a swift half/coffee, finding it packed with Saturday night revellers so slightly less lovely than usual.  But the fact Bumble is in GBG and this isn't is symptomatic of what a fad micropubs currently are.  I wonder how many have opened and never got in?  It can't be a percentage much over 1.  My Inferno was crystal clear, and a Posh shirted Steve Evans chatted up two impressionable ladies at the bar in possibly a very fake Scottish accent.

"Did I tell you about the time I fiddled the books at Boston?"

The journey back to York was straightforward, it had been 'race day' so there were a few raceists milling around in suits trying to be drunk and threatening, but it passed easily enough.

It had been a truly wonderful day, regardless of the Hull City disappointment, 15 pubs done for the month so far means I'm a tiny bit behind schedule, but we can go into the 'mystery holiday week' fairly relaxed even if Mother BRAPA does limit my ticking, as next weekend could be a decent bonanza down in the south east.

My next blog though, won't be for at least a week so try n keep up on Twitter @StymieSi


Friday, 13 October 2017

BRAPA - Micro Mayhem in Brighouse and Halifax

11th October is, of course, "National Micropub Day"

It's not really but you are hopefully gullible enough to have believed me so on a wet Wednesday evening, I set off in search of my 5th last West Yorkshire tick in Brighouse.

I unleashed my above bingo card on the unsuspecting Twitter universe in the build up, and replies were amusing enough to make a journey devoid of any SCS style quality just about bearable.

As the night went on, I realised I'd missed a few classics from the bingo card.  Two I'd definitely add,  "Selection of retro board games", "Small paperback library acquired from local charity shop" (thanks El!) Other suggestions weren't quite specific enough to micropubs for my liking. 

Pub one was hidden just back off the main street where the huge Wetherspoons is, it looked like it had been built with small people in mind.

1104 / 1856.  Market Tavern, Brighouse

If it had a sadly normal name, it did it least claw a point back for failing to open Monday or Tuesday, meaning I had to break with my preferred Tuesday night out, but these places hold no regard for BRAPA losers like me.  As I walked through a peculiar "reception area" into the main room, I had to dodge two dogs blocking the floor space (the number would rise to a jaw-dropping FIVE) and a friendly blonde lady with the kind of hard hands which remind me I've never done an honest days labour in my life served me a pint of "Waterloo Sunset"stout, with a cartoon Kinks pumpclip which I couldn't photograph due to a crowd of bar-blockers.  Friendly lads, but still irritating. Even by micropub standards, this was an 'old' crowd, average age 77.24 - and that's a BRAPA fact.  Even worse, such "bar blocking" meant I couldn't get to the complimentary bread n dripping on the bar - torture.  There was nowhere to sit (or stand) so I had to retire to the 'reception area' where a trio of ancients were just leaving, perfect timing, after I made stilted whether conversation with one of the ladies, whilst the man left early to get them all fish n chips.  Sadly, I was cut off from "where the action was" but a forest mural with deer, a 'humourous' mouse hole, a collection of GBG's and a new couple with excitable twog reminded me I was in a micropub.   Dogs 4 and 5 (too huge for a pub like this) were being 'given an airing' by a rugged middle ager in the garden, so his bored twild son came to show me a kinder egg toy he'd acquired, thrilling bit of plastic, I nodded enthusiastically.  Twog 3 was getting much attention from visitors, most notably the local village weirdo who insulted it for 'being mucky' - "has he been swimming in t' canal?" before telling a depressing story of the cavalier he lost two years ago, hence his unwillingness to "let go" of any dog he meets, but hey, I'm not here to be the pub psychologist.

Mouse hole cos micropubs are quirky, "fun" and amusing.

Deer on unnecessary mural

GBG's and dog bowls

3 and a half legged dog being huge and terrifying

Twog that hasn't been in the canal
So that was that, I thought, as I stood on Brighouse station and waited for the train to L**ds to arrive.  However, I noticed it was on some kind of weird circular route, stopping firstly at Halifax, and eventually L**ds but only via Drabford.  50% of my remaining West Yorkshire pubs are in Halifax, ok, it was dark, cold, late and wet but would be a crime not to "whip them in" now surely?

So I 'alighted' at the 'Fax where a gaggle of enthusiastic dudes in red jackets gave me a huge 1.5 litre bottle of Coke Zero.  I'm used to free tasters / samples in L**ds in the morning, but I now had to wrestle this into my rucksack and lug it around Halifax! 

My next pub eventually appeared through the murk after a homeless punk rocker had shouted in my face.  Had it been free cider instead of coke, I'd have happily given him it.

1105 / 1857.  Grayston Unity, Halifax

An immediate point for the name, probably the pub that sounds most like a call to arms for disenchanted Sunderland AFC fans than any other in the country.  A tiny one room greeted me, two expectant blokes sat along a bench, and a landlord perched at the bar nodded nervously at me (I had my hat on so probably looked that 1% bit more threatening than your local micro really allows).  I had a crisis of confidence thinking I only had about £1.60 left and would struggle even to get a half, but then remembered I'd drawn £20 out, and panic was averted, but not before I'd told the landlord and made a fool of myself.  One of the two blokes says to the landlord "personal question, how old are you?"  "50!" he barks.  End of conversation.  Gotta love that sharp micro banter.  So where to sit?  Despite only 2 customers, the room was almost full.  First I saw a bench near the loos in a side bit, but to my relief, a back room, cosy, decorated, a fake dog, board games, chandelier, acoustic guitar, charity shop books, low flung settee, and one anti-social man in the window scowling to dare enter "his room".  Soul music played steadily, but after 15 minutes of peace, a vortex of Halifax Evening Alcoholic Desparadoes (HEADS) appeared to shatter the calm.  One man randomly played the green guitar on the wall, just because he could, and a trio (probably swingers) who I described as "awkward, bubbly and randy"  boasted about their band's 'world tour'.  "We are only playing three dates .... Glasgow, Bristol and ..... Holmfirth!"  Classic.  I liked this place, it really is all about circumstances, and unlike Brighouse, I probably got the best seat in the pub.

The kind of dog I can deal with

Has he seen my bingo card?

Quality toilet decor

Get a leg up with Lee

Just back from the charity book shop, now all we need is a shelf

And just around the corner, we came to my final pub of the night .....

Est 2016, micropub definition etched on window, let's go in!
1106 / 1858.  Pump Room Micropub, Halifax

So I wander in to this deeper main room, and despite a smattering of relaxed drinkers, there was actually space to swing a cat (well, swing a twild cos cats are too lovely to be cruel to).  From the off, there was a lovely atmosphere about the place, calming with a faint buzz (but I guess that could've just been the extractor fan), and I think that's why I'd rate it most highly of the evening.  After a friendly but not overbearing greeting from Mrs Pump, a friendly bloke at the bar commented on my Adidas Gazelles.  "Best type of shoe", we both agreed.  And soon we were chatting pubs n stuff, and when I got onto BRAPA, he looked horrified cos he has a friend (called Rob Pole or something) who is doing EXACTLY the same thing!  So that's at least 4 of us.  This bloke hates social media, and although a Yorkshireman, moved to Wilmslow which he HATES with a passion.  A wise, if slightly masochistic sounding man.  I had a rant about Halifax being one of the best underrated pub towns out there, which Mrs Pump seemed to love (it's true, I wasn't just saying it) and I learnt about TWO MORE micropubs (the Alexandra and the something else with weird name) which are just too new to be in GBG - jeez, at this rate, I may as well book myself into the nearby Premier Inn!  I got a sip of a new Vocation beer coming on, noticed some weird pricing (it was about £3.30 a pint, bit steep for Halifax but the taps behind the bar selling colder fizzier beer were like £4.50 - £5 (I think for a half!) - madness! Maybe I was mistaken.  Paul was a recent convert to ale, having been a lager man.  As a nice postscript, a bloke randomly walks up to the bar with Gazelles on and says to me "you should've phoned me to tell me what shoes you were wearing - haha" but his were burgundy, mine proper red.  So the three of us chatted Gazelles.  This pub really needs to be renamed the Micro Gazelle.  Mrs Pump might have to leave though. 

A laptop, a jamjar and a Cornish ale in 'Fax (how very micro)

The Pump crowd being relaxed and mellow
So that was a bonus wasn't it?  Only TWO West Yorkshire pubs to do.  I'm on holiday next week so it'll be a week on Tuesday for the next one, opening hours permitting.  

It was late by the time I reached York, getting on for 11pm after a Big Mac meal in L**ds station and a slight delay.  Norwich tomorrow, early start, must dash.


Iconic #DrunkElly off Neighbours reads the micropub definition with disgust.