Wednesday, 13 November 2019

BRAPA in ...... Stocktober Part 2/2 : Mudgie Gives us HOPE and Animal MAGNETism

Blissfully unaware that I was approaching the summit of summat called 'The Slope' (very much the Kilimanjaro of Stockport), I arrived first at today's fourth pub along with Matthew T and Matthew L.

A few had stopped at Gregg's, and had it been the more BRAPA friendly Pound Bakery, I might have joined them, but for now, the never ending morning sausage roll I'd had on the train was just about keeping me sustained ..... as long as I didn't do anything silly, like you know, Old Tom, or something like that.  Imagine(!)

No, despite the slight altitude sickness, I managed to crawl to the bar at Hope Inn (1603 / 2820) and croak that I wanted a pint of the Orkney something, for we'd been discussing Orkney on the way up so it seemed fitting to see one.  However, as the focus returned to my eyes, I realised I may have made a mistake.  "Oh gosh, was I supposed to go for a Fool Hardy ale?" I squeaked, noticing the pub was home to their beers.  The barmaid gave me a flash of her pearly whites, as if to say "you'll know for next time chum".  Little did she know, there'll never be a next time! (besides, I'd had their ales in Marple Bridge and can't remember them!)  The Gregg's Gang had done remarkably well to catch us up, but even more notably, a hushed reverence fell across the premises as Peter AKA Pub Curmudgeon had risen from his deathbed to join us at one of his locals.  The Hope Inn had a 'pubbier' feel than I'd been expecting though the layout felt a little overly 'busy', but we sat in a group like the #PubMen we were.  Now you'd think with the introduction of Mudgie, conversation may turn more highbrow, and you might be correct.  The main topic of conversation in here was the reintroduction of beavers to the UK, and not just any beaver, but chav beavers.  Don't ask, I have no idea!  A couple of important points of order followed, as Cooking Lager got to highlight the BRAPA GBG - a moment he'd correctly identify as 'one of his proudest' before I followed suit and asked Mudgie to highlight the September/October issue of 'Opening Times' underneath two of his new 'hits' 'The Beer That Dare Not Speak Its Name' b/w 'Sheep in Wolf's Clothing'.  Rock n roll, good place, onto pub five!

Me probably having an amazing time (pic courtesy of Quosh)

Capturing a historic moment - C Lager greens up the GBG

Quosh looks astounded as Mudgie autographs 'Opening Times'

Some of the gang chillin' by a pillar

My controversial ale choice

A short walk down the road, the weather now turned a bit grey and blustery for the first time as our group strode purposefully back down t'Slope towards the other Heaton Norris GBG entry, Magnet (1604 / 2821), a determined silence in the air punctuated only by the occasional Mudgie chesty cough.  It was hard not to draw comparisons to Edward the Confessor and the storms of the winter 1065/66 season.  'What on earth is he talking about?' I hear you ask.  Let's get inside the pub.

I wasn't prepared for how busy it was in the Magnet, which had a fantastic bustling community feel as I squeezed in between a few bar blockers to realise John Smith's Magnet was about the only ale not available, so I went for a 5% porter figuring I'd done quite well to limit myself to ales around the 4% mark without going rogue on a barley wine or anything!  A semi-heated outdoor area was where some of us headed, fighting our way through the crowds, but drama followed as Mudgie wasn't enjoying his ale!  A few of us tried it, and it wasn't 'off' in the traditional vinegar sense, just had a weird sweetness.  Someone retrospectively described the term for this beer type (something like pterodactyl!)  but in the moment, all we could do was ask the question any sane #PubMan could ask, 'What Would Martin Taylor Do?' so Mudgie poured it into a plant pot.  Top effort, the plant didn't immediately wilt, which was kind of sad, and I took a video which, when my WiFi stops being slow, I'll link to my YouTube 'BRAPA Outtakes Video' YouTube channel which I'm trying to get up and running but isn't quite there yet!  Before I could process the brilliance I'd just witnessed, Quosh calls me indoors to chat to this nice couple he's befriended, Alison & Anthony.  She won't know it but Alison made BRAPA history by becoming the last person to highlight the 'fake replacement GBG' before I got my original back from Denby Dale.  Strong pub this, though I still preferred the Railway on balance.

Alison does the honours

The calm before plant pot

5.3% but would it be a mistake? 

With the weather getting worse and a long walk to Blossoms quite unappealing, it was not only superb when Mudgie suggested a taxi, but he must have summoned one psychically or something, as it was parked out the front of Magnet before I could blink! 

I said farewell to Quosh & Gwyn, Matthew T too, for we were now down to the final four - myself, Matthew L, Mudgie and Cooking Lager. 

The fact that I tried to give Mudgie £4 for the taxi (as if it was £16 from Magnet to Blossoms!) perhaps showed my mental powers were deteriorating a touch .... and this was pre Old Tom.  Oh dear.

Lovely angles
But Blossoms (1605 / 2802) was worth the wait, and easy to forgive for the earlier opening time mishap.  It felt about as 'Stockport' as any pub could, with serving area, old carpets, and peaceful rooms in every direction being just the ticket at this stage of the day.  Lovely pub.  A cute little toy tiger grasped the Unicorn pump clip and I decided that was an omen that if I drank a pint of it, Hull City wouldn't have any problems winning .... which didn't really turn out like I'd hoped.  We sat in a quiet backroom and the atmosphere (not my drunkenness, honest) took over, and I could feel the day's 'moment of contentment' drifting over me in waves.  Now exactly who's bright idea it was to get a nice half of Old Tom to finish on is unclear, but I will say I refuse to talk responsibility for my own actions at this stage!   Next thing I know, one of those weird time gaps happened and I'm walking around Manchester Piccadilly station wondering where Platform 1 is.  Ooops.  I remember 'coming to' in time to realise its actually pretty obvious, but next thing I know, I've woken up with a jump and told the bloke next to me I think I need to get off the train if we are in York.  "Haha, only Manchester Victoria mate!" he says.  I explain it has been a long day.  I fall back asleep, waking properly somewhere between Huddersfield and L**ds.  I find 1/8 of an Upper Crust baguette in my pocket.  I hope I enjoyed it!  Easy to forget what good stuff that Old Tom is........

Accurate representation of me holding onto the floor by the end of the day

Matthew looks thoughtful in last pic of the day

Had been a cracker though, huge thanks to everyone who came along and all six pubs, for making me feel really part of the Stockport beer scene!  Definitely a day I'll remember, and once there are six new Stockport GBG pubs, I'll be back (and of course, I have bits n pieces like Romiley, Gorton and Whalley Range to do).  

Have a good 'un, Si

Monday, 11 November 2019

BRAPA in ...... Stocktober Beginnings (Pt 1/2) : In My Merseyway Paradise*

Mark the date, Saturday 19th October 2019, for it will go down in history, the day I finally 'completed' Stockport and achieved a record breaking number of  #PubMen on a BRAPA outing.

Fitting really, for it was Stockport that first helped my blog get noticed back in 2015, when the Arden Arms refused to let us sit down for invisible diners ('get over it Si!'), but bravely told Dad he could sit on the stairs if he liked.  And then Boar's Head was brilliant.  I like to think I was the reason it then won the local pub of the year, but that might be a bit of a stretch.

Despite the Stockportian feel good factor pumping through my veins early on, THREE things went wrong before I even got to a pub.  Firstly, my train was delayed to the point of near cancellation, and it was a wonder I made it over t'hills for a reasonable hour.  Secondly, Pub Curmudgeon had phoned in sick with a stubborn chest infection and couldn't make it, laying prostrate on his deathbed with a kind cat kneading his back to release the phlegm (well, in my mind anyway).  But he MAY recover.  And thirdly and the key point in the here and now, our 11am opener (according to every media source going), the tricky 'outlier' Blossoms, wasn't open til 12 noon!  Nooooooooo!

Such was my air of benevolence I feel when I breathed in that (almost) fresh Davenport air, I didn't even feel angry, instead wanting to put a consoling arm around Blossoms like an American uncle in a 90's sitcom and say "hey, don't stress it buddy, if you don't wanna open til noon, you don't have to .... but just give us a bit more warning next time eh Champ.  Now you go and shoot some b-ball".

So a good 20 minute trek into Stockport centre it was.  As you probably know, I have a great fear of shopping centres, and although I didn't end up 'indoors', I was still befuddled by it and its scouse name and had to pop into McDonalds for what we'll call 'the morning push'.

By 11:55am however, I was in prime position for our first pub, a 12 noon opener.  The shutters were still down, so I lurked around a corner not trying to look desperate.  I was still discovered by Twitter's Matthew Thompson, a kindly faced tall bloke who luckily looked like his avatar so I recognised him.

Never turn your back on a pub for when I did, 11:59am, a strange whirring sound started like a 70's spacecraft taking off, and I span around to see the shutters had come up.  Like a pair of twerps, me and Matthew T remained outside peering down the street at likely BRAPee's before I said 'what the bloody 'ell we waiting out here for, let's get a pint in lad?!' (though probably not a direct quote).

Petersgate Tap (1601 / 2818) had been on my radar for a while now, so like most of the pubs today, it felt like a more worthwhile tick than many of these 'debutantes' I'd done the previous day.  Although the red carpet was only figurative, and the main folk were away on some boozy jaunt in another city I can't remember, the staff looked at me with a friendly wariness and I tried to look demure & important, which obviously didn't work.  I ordered a cracking quality Hawkshead beer called Jester, and it wasn't long before legends (not to be confused with the Stalybridge vehicle)  had descended upon us.  Wow, quite overwhelming!  We had Greenfield's favourite son Quosh, he'd brought a lovely old Welsh dude along called Gwyn (though he looked more like a Glyn to me).   We had John Clarke, getting an ale-chaser in before he disappeared off to a lager festival, though he sadly told me my fave lager Tennents wouldn't be available.  He told me Newark was his home town #AwkwardButNotReally  A bubbly smiley chap Stuart Bedford was very interested in BRAPA and made me feel at home.  A lovely Scottish guy who sometimes comments on my blog, Scott Campbell, appeared, showing he was taking his role seriously, wearing a cosy CAMRA fleece with no TWAMRA air at all.  Behind him was another Stuart who I've no idea who he was, but his cameo was Hitchcockian in its splendour.  And if I put all these chaps in Antiques terms, we can't forget the Faberge Egg of the day, Cooking Lager, so excited to meet him and what a lovely chap, the sheepskin collar helped make him appear more fluffy.  And last but never least, BRAPA veteran Matthew Lawrenson, who in the early stages, took the BRAPAesque backseat role, observing all in an amused fashion.  A record number of people,   I'd never have dreamed of a scene like this back in April 2014 when I set out to the Albion in Ampthill for tick number one!  Petersgate Tap, obviously a more modern bar in Stockport real ale terms, had a warmth and effortless friendliness (which I think I'd have felt even if all these people hadn't been here!) that shone through, but when conversation turned to 'beer', I turn to Quosh and whisper "shit, I'm in an actual grown up beer conversation!" and wondered if he had Chris Dyson on speed dial to give me some intelligent buzz words like astringent.  Quosh says "are you like a swan, serene on the surface but frantically paddling underneath?".  It made sense at the time, and summed up a very high octane start to the day.

In all the mayhem, I'd nearly forgotten to take a couple of indoor shots which explain why they look a bit rushed!  With only five remaining GBG ticks, I'd asked Mudgie for a preemptive tick that might make a future edition, and the local knowledge of those around the table told me it made sense to do it next ........

Gwyn, Matthew L, Quosh, Cookie, Matthew T and John at pub two

The chosen pub Angel Inn, definitely has GBG potential, no doubt about it.  It was an old pub, if you see the font in the above photo, that's a throwback to its previous incarnation - it has been closed 69 years or something crazy, a bit like a micropub in Pocklington!  (that was Yorkshire pub humour, I don't expect you to get it).  The beer was cloudy, but it was supposed to be.  When she told me, I held it up to light, squinted and nodded.  It seemed the right thing to do  The staff were perhaps looking at us even more expectantly than in the last place, had they had a tip off about my visit?  Think I was getting paranoid, or perhaps big-headed!  Oh dear.  Well, we all stood around the main bar, like the kind of groups of men I detest when I'm on a BRAPA trip, admiring wood panelling and the decent mix of old and new, but when John asked me if I loved it, I told him "hmmm, can't help but feel something's missing!" so he shows me into this cosy back snug with bench seating, might've had a fire etc. and it wasn't even so he could murder me on the sly for recent pub crimes.  Why hadn't we come straight to this room?  Easily the best part, the beer tasted better in here too, get it in the GBG soon, and on the way out, the staff told us how much it'd mean to them to get in the next edition, which is always great to hear amongst the more common "oh, THAT book, we're in it are we? (yawn)". 

A nice bit of feature

EU flag,  ey up lads, we're not in Cheam now!

Bit o' Frank

John tries me for offences in his home town

Crouchie reminds me I've not been to Greggs 

We continued to walk away from town, into this mystical area called Portwood which you've probably never heard of (I hadn't) for pub number three .......

My favourite pub of the day, Railway (1602 / 2819) really hit the ground running from the moment I stepped inside with one of my fave beers, Oracle, and immediately a gnarly nosed old local turns to me, about an inch from my face, nose practically touching mine, and told me Salopian were a top brewery.  Almost romantic.  The pub had a wonderful old no-frills bric-a-braccy feel and those of the group who'd got here before me were all lounging around like they were on their 15th pint (thought what'd gone on in Stockport 'Spoons earlier, we can only imagine).  A bit like the Hollywood handshake on Bake-off, you know a good pub when the staff get to highlight the GBG this early on in proceedings, and Ebony highlighted with panache, leaving me to wonder why it had all gone so wrong for me in Sidcup!  A couple of us looked with suspicion at a worn bar billiards table, and then a friendly Viking came over to tell me about his ale bar, Vinabod (or 'Number 31', for those of you have memorised the Stockport Beer Town leaflet, like me, maybe).  Almost a wrench to leave, though those who stayed told me there was further drama involving another crazy guy, though I can't remember the details so please comment below!  

John, Matthew T and Quosh look like proud parents as CL tries 'real ale'

Ebony joins the exclusive 'highlighted the replacement GBG' club

Beers n shit

So, halfway through the day.  Longest walk coming up.  Some said farewell to us here like John (lager festival) and Scott C, some went to Greggs, but me and Matthew T strode outwards towards this brave new land called Heaton Norris.

More on that in part two on Wednesday night.  Hope you enjoyed it, sorry if I forgot loads of details!


*Thx Quosh!


Sunday, 10 November 2019

BRAPA is ..... Well Past My Selby Date (Drax Kellington Pt 2/2)

The most stressful part of writing a pub blog has to be coming up with an amusing, catchy title.

LifeafterFootball is one of the best, getting much love for his recent Wyatt Riot, not forgetting Ooh Aah Everards amongst others, whilst RetiredMartin is always wowing the crowds with Perthfection, Carrbridge Over Untroubled Waters and Maiden (Giving) Head though I may've made the last one up. 

So when I visit Drax and Kellington in the same day in the run up to Hallowe'en and my brain realises how much it sounds like Jack Skellington, of Nightmare Before Christmas fame, I'm giving myself a massive pat on the back and expecting all the plaudits.  Alas, no.  Say 'Burton' to the majority of my ageing readership and they're not so much thinking Quirky Dark Gothic Horror film makers called Tim, as towns in Staffordshire with funny red triangles on their beer. 

My gravestone will ultimately read "A Wasted Talent", but people probably won't get that either.  At least Andrea Bocelli has named his new album 'Si Forever'.  Nice to see someone cares. 

Now I've nicely worked myself up into a persecuted mindset, let's get to an utter shit pub shall we? 

The Sandbags but definitely not the Gladrags
Every year, the GBG pukes out at the least one pub where all you can really think is "What the bloody hell were the local TWAMRA doing putting this one in the Guide?"  They are usually in East Yorkshire, and I nearly always visit them with Dad on 'car' days.  So at least Selby bucked the trend by being North Yorks, a town which has never really done real ale very well in my experience.  When I visited their local 'Spoons, the Giant Bellend, a few years back, my beer was close to vinegar.  And same here at the Nelson Inn (1599 / 2816) .  I'd never criticise a pub for being full of lager drinking scroats in tracksuits, as it is 'real life' (and preferable to the southern dining pub), but a weird blue seating colour scheme, neon screens 'showing' magic radio, shit beer and weak staff is not a great combination.  As in Kellington, two ales were on, one of these was White Dragon by Brown Cow which we'd just had before so we went for it and immediately obvious it was on the turn.  Dad went to take it back but she just hid behind the pillar, hoping he'd go away!  He had to go round to her side and say 'excuse me!' and even then, she was very reluctant to change it, claiming it was new on - begging the question, well how long had it been sitting there like a random piles of logs not doing anything.  This sure wasn't an ale drinkers gaff!  I had to 'go up' to add weight to Dad's argument before she agreed to pull us a replacement Theakstons, warm tepid liquefied human organ in style, but drinkable.  And of course, the pump wasn't turned around.  Dreadful again from Selby, they should get that Cricketers Sam Smiths in the GBG and stop messing around!

At least we could end the trip on a high, and having been to a pub in the shadow of Eggborough Power Station, we got to go to Drax (oh, and I'd like to thank the Twitterer who pointed out I was wrong to say Ferrybridge has been knocked down, because there are actually still three cooling towers standing .... top P.S. info there). 

Drax Sports & Social Club (1600 / 2817) has been knocking on the GBG door for a couple of years now, not that I made it as a preemptive, but certainly worth the wait.  It felt as though the Five Miles From Anywhere in the Fens rang the Clowne Club in Derbyshire and said 'let's combine our styles to produce a super club, but it has to have the biggest car park in living memory, stupidly generous opening hours and about a million events planned, oh, and it has to be in the shadow of a power station'.  You can tell a decent 'tick' when Dad repeats about five times, the now classic BRAPA phrase "I could bring yer mother 'ere" and he could, and should.  'Simpliciter Optimus' is their Latin slogan (it was Shittilier Maximus in Selby), and some quality ales, snooker tables galore, some nice but non pretentious food, a Gary Barlow tribute, gym, golf course and Twild area were just some of the things I witnessed in this incredible complex.  As if the GBG lists 'no symbols' as a few people have pointed out, it probably needs pretty much the full set! 

Blokes forget where the snooker tables are

Had they sold Bass, Drax Bass could've been a better title

I'm good, where is my free ice cream?  

So there we go, best not push myself any harder as I had an epic day in Stockport planned for tomorrow which I'll tell you all about in two parts coming next, not that I can remember what happened.  But I always seem to say that!


Thursday, 7 November 2019

BRAPA in ..... Drax Kellington : Pocklington Nightmare Before Christmas (Pt 1 / 2)

The last time Pocklington had a pub in the Good Beer Guide, according to official CAMRA statistics, was in the oft overlooked 1971 edition.  You've probably never heard of it.  In fact, it was printed on a folded piece of kitchen roll, only seven copies were made in exclusively green fluorescent ink, and featured only ten pubs can you believe?  Seven of them were in Henley on Thames, two in Marlow and one in Pocklington.

So anticipation was high at high noon on a sunny Friday as Father BRAPA drove us into the busy market place in search of their 'exciting' new micro.  Impossible to park the BRAP-mobile, Dad selflessly dropped me off and said he'd join me in a bit.

Problem was, no sign of life in this already dreary characterless looking place named the Market Tap.  Whatpub, their Facebook and the GBG all agreed 12 noon Friday.  Chris 'famous for being the father of Tom but legend in his own right' Irvin told me to expect as much, but I didn't think that extended to a Friday.  A sign AND a menu in the window both also said 12 noon.

And it was in a central location, bustling, almost Chorltonian in its 'al fresco pregnant women drinking oat milk lattes out of paper straws to save the turtles planet' vibe about the market place.    You are not telling me the custom wasn't there!   Luckily, Twitter legend Brad Wight scanned Twitter where he resides, to do a bit of research, getting a feel from recent tweetie comments that the place might be struggling.  Someone went and there was no beer on!  And the hours seemed to change by the week.  Ugh.  You don't get this in Cumbria (yet.....)

It's enough to make you lose your hair, but at least Pocklington has a solution

This put my on edge as we headed to a very different kettle of fish, Goole (insert screaming faced emoji here) for the second pub, also a micro.  I felt bad for Dad who'd had to faff around with parking and an ultimately pointless lengthy drive, but he seemed happy enough.

Took us a while to locate the pub amongst Albanian kebab shops, electrical repair stores and taxi companies, but there it was, and open - phewwwwww!

Not this one! (but a preemptive micro for next year)

Here we go! 
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, but the reason Tom Pudding (1597 / 2814) works so much more effectively than your average micropub is actually the fact that it is in a town like Goole.  Say what you like about it, and the 'Gooligans' who attend Hull City matches are a little bit 'extra', but it is a down to earth, no nonsense town, where people are honest, straightforward and will look a stranger in the eye, and not necessarily because they want to eat you.  Mine host and his bar blocking locals greeted us in that friendly 'why would strangers come to Goole?' curious style, and as our gorgeous bubbly pints of £2.50 Flummoxed Farmer were a bit too lively, a local commented it'd be the Yorkshire Blonde you'd expect to be the lively one!  'Waheyyyy' said the others in appreciation, before the owner gave a cautionary tale of marrying any woman who was blonde.  It was the kind of pub chat you wouldn't get down in Hackney Wick, that was for sure.  Speaking of which, a man with a suspiciously southern accent entered, and seemed to be asking if he could get some eggs, bread and milk.  Had he taken a wrong turning?  A really great pub this, perfect way to release those Pocklington shackles and get back on track. 

Mine host pulls some lively ales

A clock for the Beer Twitter purists

View to the bar

Dad becomes one of a select few to highlight the 'replacement' GBG before the original is returned
With three pubs left on the agenda for Friday afternoon, Dad thought it wise to get the furthest outlier done next.

It was in a small village, not far from that evil pub in West Haddlesey which turned off all the lights and 'played dead' when it saw me approaching three years ago, late at night but well before last orders!  It was also next to  Eggborough Power Station, one of two we'd get very close to today (and the third, Ferrybridge, has been demolished so in a way, we had a 100% Power Station record).

The pub when we found it was a very long old coaching inn (presumably) with a big car park.  We arrived five minutes before the advertised Friday opening of 2pm (3pm rest of the week) and were a bit nervous as we took the photo as there was absolutely zero sign of life .....

..... but just as we were beginning to lose hope, a little car tootled up and a lady jumps out and says 'ey up, you waiting for me to open?' and we are like 'aye lass' and she's telling us she's surprised as they don't normally get customer's til 3pm so she doesn't usually have to be this prompt, so I'm all like 'well, BRAPA waits for no man, or woman, or trans fatty acid' (I didn't really say that) and we try not to look in any way desperate for a pint of their glorious crystal clear White Dragon by the local Brown Cow brewery (though not quite the same beer I remember from Chequers in Ledsham June 2015) as she jangles keys, opens tills and gets the fire lit, all whilst being chatty, engaging and seemingly interested in BRAPA.  Phew!  She was quite the 'superwoman' of pub custodians, though you might think I'm saying that as I gave her my blog address so good chance she'll read this if she's patiently waded through the 11 part Lake District session.  Oh, and I nearly forgot, the pub was called Red Lion, Kellington (1598 / 2815).  Such a fine hospitable place, and one that will only get better as the fire gets going and a few locals rock up.  And £2.40 a pint Happy Hour, and here was me thinking Goole's £2.50 was cheap.  I tell you what Coniston, Windermere, Hawkshead and co, you can stick yer London prices up your bottom (sideways). 

So there we go for part one.  Two pubs to come.  One would be terrible, one would be fabulous.  But isn't that the varied joy of pub ticking?  Course it is.  Now go and scan eBay for a 1971 GBG.