Sunday 16 November 2014

BRAPA : the archives (31-40)

In the fourth edition of my "back-book" of 2015 GBG pubs visited from years gone by, I'll be looking to see if any of these 10 were first visited before November 2001 which is the 'oldest' date so far.....

31. OSTRICH INN, Peterborough - 19th Jan 2013 and we skated along icy, snow covered roads to this 11am opener to the surprising news that the game was going to be ON (I've never seen my friend Tom so lost for words as at this moment).  I often think what makes a genuinely great pub is the licensee and this landlord (Irish?) was a friendly, enthusiastic, straight talking chap who really made an effort with us, presumably impressed we'd braved the weather as away fans and got here so early.  The range and quality of beers was jaw droppingly good, loads of local breweries I'd never heard of.  The pub was all wooden, boarded proper boozer type, yet warm and homely at the same time.  Another great reason to come to Peterborough, a fine real ale town indeed.

My snowy walk to the wonderful Ostrich Inn

32. SWAN INN, ULVERSTON - December 2013 and this was the final real ale pub of my letter "U" A-Z day before we retired somewhere more terrible to watch an appalling Hull City 0-0 Stoke on the TV.  This was our favourite pub of the day, great range of ales served by a largely functional local chap, they had a lot of beers on from Sheffield, Abbeydale and the linked Dr Morton although my choice didn't hit the spot, I think I was just unlucky.  We were drenched by this stage and with the TV's having a strange green hue, Garth Crooks on Final Score looked amusingly like Baron Greenback from Dangermouse.  If I'd recommend one pub in Ulverston, this would be it,

33. FORTESCUE HOTEL, PLYMOUTH - Ahh, mine and Dad's "original" in terms of Plymouth and real ale.  We arrived here for the first time on the morning of 12th Jan 2002 and were relieved to find it better than our rather dubious evening session pubs the night before.  It had a rather interesting mixture of beers on, from Orkney Skullsplitter which had travelled remarkably well and may be the least Locale ale I've ever had!  The locals were interested in a guest ale from Yorkshire called Black Sheep - oh dear.  Spurred on by this experience, we both returned for our pre match session 27th August 2005.  This was even better with the cricket on and England suddenly having a real purple patch against the Aussies.  Wickets fell for them left, right and centre, and old locals were racing from one end of the pub to the other high fiving each other.  That was my abiding memory of that day!  My next visit was on Friday 8th December 2006, all on my tod this time.  There was some kind of disco club night going on downstairs so I avoided it like the plague and sat with the "older crowd" upstairs and got lots of sympathetic looks from middle aged women!  It could be my imagination but the entrance to the ladies toilets also gets you to the beer garden and the basement.  Interesting pub.  My 4th and final visit to date saw it was our Welly gang designated pre-match venue 2nd Feb 2008 where Ben was so tired, he put his feet up on the bench seat and pretty much slept the entire 2 hours we were there.  I just kept drinking, so many guest beers on, so little time to try them but I'm always on form in Plymouth, must be the Devon air.  No wonder I needed Colin to rescue my bag and help me do a Sainsbury's shop later on!  A fine pub.

34.  HALF MOON, Durham - It is a Durham institution, I went on my first Durham crawl with my guide John sometime in 2002/03 but I'm ashamed to say, apart from the fact the bar is shaped like a crescent, or a half moon if you will, I cannot remember anything about the inside.  John and I popped in after our disappointing Co Durham BRAPA crawl of June just to prove some pubs in the region have a great range of ales, and we weren't disappointed.  We sat in the large outdoor area at the back where the river is just over the back wall, it was packed as people got tanked up pre England v Uruguay and my Scottish ale (almost LocAle I said, which upset John!) was great quality.

35. OLDE TROUT TAVERN, Southend - The little acorns of BRAPA were probably forming in my mind when we arrived to this superb "away pub of the season" contender in January this year.  It wasn't the warmest or cosiest of starts as Dad, myself and Mark were in earlier, followed by Ben and the entire "City Til I Die" crew, as I joked that Dr Allam need only drop a bomb on this pub if he wanted to win his silly Hull Tigers campaign.  I'm glad he didn't for many reasons, and mainly they've already demolished the Cork n Cheese (I think) so this is the natural replacement as top Southend pub.  Tim'rous Beastie by Mighty Oak was the pick of the many beers, but I even enjoyed a pint of cider.  Live football was soon on tele, Chris Douglas was ordering food, and the pub was in full swing.  A great pre match experience.

36. KINGS HEAD, Bristol - My birthday a few years ago and Dad and I were down on the Friday night to "make the most of it" and in a rare foray into town away from our beloved cider pub The Orchard, we came to this historic pub with it's exposed beams and timbers.  I'd read it had featured in many TV programmes like House of Elliot and probably Casualty somehow, and just like York's more famous, touristy pubs, we were greeted by an incredible lazy barman who basically agreed to serve us when he was ready, which seemed to be when he'd finished reading his paper.  Well, the beer range wasn't that groundbreaking anyway and Dad was silently fuming at the service for the miserable 30 mins we spent in here.  Oh well, you live and learn.  Bristol is still pretty much a closed book to me real ale wise.

37. VICTORIA, Westbury-on-Trym - Heading north into Bristol Rovers territory and after an earlier superb experience is Westbury at pubs called the Post Office Vaults and Prince of Wales (not listed in this guide), we came back and after parking on a precarious steep side street, we found this pub for our next visit on 29/11/03.  It was just past opening time and we were greeted with a slightly disorganised scene as we dodged a hoovering landlady and many pub pets sleeping in the middle of the floor.  The pint was good, but we never really settled and I think Dad was more than happy to try and rediscover our pubs of the previous two seasons.

38. BARLEY MOW, Portsmouth - 20th March 2010 and having stayed over on the Friday, it was maybe no surprise I was first in.  To be honest, the pub opened late and with a terrible rainstorm subsiding, I'd spent most of the morning in Poundshops looking for hats!  I met Ben in the basic back bar and was then surprised as he took me round to a large front room, all furnished and almost with the sense of a Gentleman's club with old men reading newspapers, the smell of coffee, but we were soon joined by the Irvin's and enjoyed a nice pre-match session before a taxi up to the ground.  I've done a lot more Pompey pubs than I can remember, but this was one good pre-match experience I won't forget.

39. GUIDE DOG, Southampton - One of many intolerably wet trips to the "jewel of the south coast" and this early example proved one of my most miserable away days ever, all alone as Stern John dismantled our team and sadly, the chants of "Brown out!" took another few years to come to fruition.  After fish n chips and some decent ale in a pub no longer in the guide, I came here for the final hour, quite near to St Mary's and it was heaving!  I could see why, it had elements of Brighton's Evening Star, a bit smaller but wood paneling and a range of quality ales from all over the country.  Problem was, the bar was so busy I could only see "selected" ales so chose 2 nearest to me.  I tried to skulk in the background (but skulking on your own, dripping wet, in a black and amber top in a home pub isn't easy.  I'd love to go on a non matchday!

40.  BARRELS, Hereford - Circa spring 2007 and I had a mini-break on my own in this town, mainly because I was their football manager at the time (in the simulation computer game of the same name).  As a town, it flattered to deceive in pretty much every way (I'd had visions of a very different place) and this was the third and final pub I visited on my first night.  I'd been assured this was the most famous real ale pub in the town, and though I enjoyed pub two more, the full range of Wye Valley beers and some local guests gave me plenty to go at.  I went to explore the pub next as it was quite busy with after work drinkers and found a nice new 'smokers area' (in the days when they had to cater them around the time of the smoking ban), all big and wooden with flowers around and undercover bits.  It started raining so I came back in.  I then took a picture of the magnificent bar area showing all the handpumps, fonts, bottles, spirits etc but an old local told me off - "the landlord might not approve" he warned as he prodded a finger in my chest.  I whimpered and sat in the corner (nowadays, he'd get a BRAPA lecture) before settling down to watch the most interminably dull England home 0-0 friendly ever witnessed, I'm not exaggerating.  This bonded me with some of the other football fans in the pub, I got quite drunk, forgot my bag, got a pizza, remembered my bag, it was in the same place, the wet pizza box dyed my beige jacket red, I collapsed in my B&B and spent the rest of my holiday across in Worcester,  Never again!

So, there we are.  40 now done and Northwich Penny Black still winning the "oldest real ale pub race".  Two more people asked me what my first guide pub was in Mirfield last week.  Arrrghh, I need to get some solid answers in place!  Ten more coming in the next few days.....

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