Sunday, 2 November 2014

BRAPA : the archives (1-10)

One of the most frequently asked questions I get when I've explained BRAPA to the uninitiated is "what was the first guide pub you visited, you must remember?" as though I bought the guide as a blank canvas when in truth, the first 350 or so were done well before BRAPA was a twinkle in my eye.  Most would have been visited during my football days, my A-Z adventures or just random day trips and nights out.

I will now try and retrospectively review these pubs from my hazy memories, 10 at a time, in no particular order, and may well discover what my first guide tick actually was!

1. BRICKLAYERS ARMS, Luton -  4th Feb 2006 and after a Kevin Ellison inspired 3-2 win in one of the most depressing towns I've visited, Chris Irvin marched us to a very enjoyable post match pint of Everards Tiger (the best I've ever tasted), we held up beer mats showing "Easy" and "Tiger" which I have on my fridge to this day, we watched the final scores come through on the TV screens,  and the same landlady who was there then and still here now, 28 years service apparently.

2. NAG'S HEAD, Reading - 22nd Jan 2011 and a post match pint in here wasn't a comfortable experience due to the extreme overcrowdedness.  It didn't put us off though as almost a year to the day (21st Jan 2012), this was our pre-match pub and Ben, Mark, Dad and myself were unanimous in awarding it away pub of the year.  The great music, friendly vibe and huge array of interesting real ales (my first was an iBeer!) made for a great experience and we were back post match after the helpful pub bus to the ground.  Winning helped too when Brian McDermott amusingly didn't seem to understand the offside rule regarding not interfering with play.

Me outside the Nag's Head at 12 noon on 21.1.2012
3. WETHERSPOON'S - Milton Keynes - Probably due to MK's total lack of history, this Wetherspoons doesn't have a name which I guess is quite unusual.  We pulled up outside on a freezing midweek afternoon, Feb 22nd 2005.  The snow started and despite Dad's initial reluctance to leave the car, we were soon on the otherside of this cavernous glass structure sat in the furthest corner watching the blizzards coming down.  The 2015 GBG refers to "tardy staff" which I seem to recall, especially when the biggest collection of Gooligans I'd ever seen in a pub at any one time turned up.  In fact, the entire crowd seemed to be in this pub.  The game was miraculously on, the orange ball was the highlight, and we earned a 93rd minute undeserved equaliser thanks to Delroy Facey after he and Danny Allsopp had put in possibly the worst strike partnership effort ever witnessed.  Neither played for the club ever again, so was Delroy's last touch in Hull City colours a goal?  Super DF!

4. CAMBRIDGE BLUE, Cambridge - Aug 25th 2003 in the summer sunshine and beer garden and Dad still hadn't recovered from the close season was was struggling with his drinking, as he had in Oxford a fortnight before.  We had a meal outside too and the feisty old landlady made sure we knew exactly what ales were on and what they were like.  The pub seemed quite quirky and sat outside, there was a menagerie of animals and loads of signs like "don't smoke over the rabbit hutches", "don't feed the guinea pigs with apples that drop from the trees" etc.  We remember it as a top experience and Clare and her Dad, on my recent trip to Histon, told me it was still one of Cambridge's finest.  

5.  CHARTERS, Peterborough - Long awaited visit for the first time 10/9/2011 and twice more since.  Despite it's excellent Oakham ales and the quirk of being a barge, I've never got on with this place.  The first two times it was too busy, the third time was better because it was quiet due to being a pre-season midweek afternoon and even then, we got off the barge and sat on the grass bank under a tree where I tried a guest Oakham called "Endless Summer" I haven't had before or since.  Think I'd go on a non-football day if I ever had an hour or two in Peterborough with no new pubs to visit.  

6. HELTER SKELTER, Frodsham - The letter L of my A-Z had proved a good day in Llandudno, and this was definitely the best of the pubs I visited on the way back to Manchester.  With rain teeming down, I was glad it was just around the corner from the station and was greeted to a warm, buzzing atmos of over 40 year olds and a fine selection of interesting ales.  My phone battery died and there weren't any free seats so I had to perch at the bar.  Everywhere else, I'd effortlessly chatted with strangers but it just didn't happen here.  Anywhere else, this would have been a problem but i was glad to bask in a great pubbub.  Not surprised to see it's won pub awards since.

7. KING'S HEAD, Carlisle - We went to Carlisle for six consecutive seasons and finding a good real ale pub was always a problem, but got a little bit easier once we started using the guide so it was probably the 14/2/2004 Stuart Green game where we finally stumbled on this little gem.  The downside was that it was packed with the SS brigade all acting smug, eating lunches and meaning we had to sit at a non-table and watch whichever televised game was on before.  Dad and I agreed that the Carlisle State Bitter was one of the most moreish beers we'd ever tasted, and when they ran out, there was nearly a riot but the SS obviously don't behave like that darling.

8. DEVONSHIRE ARMS, Ulverston - The letter U should have been a classic day out, but miserable weather meant we could not appreciate how good (or not) Ulverston was as a place when myself, Jig and JW2 (in the pre-Lucie co-habitation days) arrived here on a grey Saturday morning in December 2013.  It therefore became a glorified pub crawl, Laurel and Hardy would have to wait!  This was our first pub, a friendly landlord served us some rare local ales and in the back room, we helped support some Burnley fans (Dad and son) in their quest to beat Leciester as I launched a verbal onslaught every time twat-face Nigel Pearson appeared on screen.  God I hate that man.  I had to laugh at their love of Dean Marney though.  The walls were decorated with names and badges of various teams the staff and locals supported, mainly local ones but worryingly including QPR.  It was time to leave.

9.  BABINGTON ARMS, Derby - I've heard many people say that this is the best Wetherspoons in the country, it was certainly well above average with it's incredible range of ales and grand bookcases stretching up to the top of the ceiling.  Dad had taken advantage of free bank holiday parking so we used this as our pre 12 noon opener on 17/4/2006, no idea what I drank, but we both had half an eye on our 12 noon opener, which will be revealed in the next part of these archives.

10. CROWN INN, Glossop - 20/10/2012.  The least talked about A-Z day is undoubtedly "G" in the beautiful town of Glossop, nestling in the Peak District, probably cos I went with my sister's ex Ric in the days before I "stopped seeing him!" if that doesn't give you the wrong idea.  Having watched Glossop North End v his hometown team of Runcorn, we took on the mile long walk post match to this beautiful ornate pub.  Just one minor criticism, it was a Sam Smith's house!  Well, at least I know I had an OBB and whilst nearly all Sam houses are great proper old fashioned pubs, this one was highly impressive and had cosy real fires too which were needed after a long chilly uphill walk.  I was also celebrating a Nick Prostwitcz inspired last gasp Hull City home win.

So far then, Cambridge Blue is winning the "earliest pub" challenge.


  1. 1. I seem to remember there was some local brew on with a Luton Town themed name, with proceeds going to the running of the football club (I won't post my alternative, for fear of a libel charge), in addition to the Tiger. I think there was a Dragon Stout shop involved somewhere as well, it was the days before the tedium of alcohol bans out of Kings Cross. Top riot on the train as I recall, Sunderland fans, less tickets than passengers, keen Newcastle guard, no BTP escort, I'm sure you can add together the ingredients.

    I like Charters, it is full of dark corners. Then again, I like darkness more than daylight. I do agree though, having been there on such it is much better on a not football day. Too close to the ground in my opinion.

  2. Thanks Tom for adding to my recollections, keep them coming please if I miss anything. I remember the Luton Town beer now, but sure we had Tiger instead! I remember lots of treks to Dragon Stout shops with varying degrees of success but usually ended your Dad quizzing a non-plussed Asian shopkeeper how come they stocked them last year but not this year! I haven't found enough dark corners in Charters, that is my problem. Enjoy the latest archive section published tonight.