51 - WHO'D HA'THOUGHT IT, Rochester - My second and final Rochester pub of my 5/10/13 trip to Queenborough, this place was almost as good as Man of Kent in my eyes. I'd misjudged the length of the walk, but glad I carried on as I found a very friendly pub, full of talkative staff and locals keen to know who I was and what I was doing there. I sat in front of a huge Sky Sports News screen as watched Hull City tortuously hang on to a home 0-0 with some fairly decent team from what I can remember, as the barmaid and locals shared in my joy when the final whistle was announced, even offering to put the volume up so I could hear Matt Le Tissier "describe" the game, an offer I politely declined. The ale was good, Hopdaemon Gold Braid or something, and another from what was a fairly interesting range.
52 - OLD ELM TREE, Durham - Here we go. A famous Durham real ale establishment long before my 2002/03 visit with John, and still going strong. I remember enjoying it at the time, getting it slightly mixed up with the Half Moon, am sure I must have been in a lot more recently, but cannot remember any details. Built in 1600. Two ghosts. Surely I can do better, if you are reading John, give me a clue! Next time I'm going through Durham for a village pub ticking trip, I'll pop in.
53 - HOLE IN THE WALL, Southsea - Friday 19th March 2010 and this was the local pub of the year at the time, but didn't open til 5pm even on a Saturday so I took advantage of staying overnight and decided to come for tea here. Took a while to get a seat as it was a very small pub, great though with lots of bric-a-brac around, and once a group of large American women left, I squashed into a seat and ordered a suet pudding from the barmaid I'd be trying to flirt with, until her scary boyfriend arrived. A combination of him grabbing her bum and the suet pudding finishing me off, found me slightly resenting the place, but having visited several other Pompey pubs, I can see why this would be considered amongst the elite.
54 - BRIDGE BIER HUIS, Burnley - New Year's Eve 2011 was my first visit to this place, notably mainly for the fact I felt disloyal to my old favourite Ministry of Ale by coming here, plus also I was wearing a deliberately horrific Timmy Mallet style shirt as I was going straight to an NY summer themed party later that night. I could see why "the Bridge" was so highly thought of in the Burnley real ale circles, as it combines a good range of local well kept ales, with comfort and simple food and a multi-roomed proper pub feel. It was no different on a much more recent November 2014 visit, excellent pie n peas and a great range of ales. It was a bit too busy, but we soon got used to it - getting in early is probably the key here pre-match. Great pub.
|Background Burnley fans about to celebrate a victory on my most recent BBH visit.|
56. SOUTH WESTERN ARMS, Southampton - Despite a long walk from my hotel where I was accosted by the Gooligans looking for a pub that had closed years ago, I ploughed on through the misty rain on the night of 29th Nov 2011 to find this excellent split level pub, where I met Ben, Mark and Chris D for a couple of pints before they decided they wanted to move onto somewhere less good. This pub garden is right on St Denys station but we still walked instead of using this fact to our advantage. We sat in the raised area of this wooden boarded corner pub, and there was an impressive range of 8 or 9 ales on from memory.
57. THATCHED HOUSE, Poulton-le-Fylde - 28th September 2013 and the letter "P" A-Z day never really lived up to expectations. A painful, delayed train journey after sitting for ages at Preston on a hot day was too much to bear as I was less than fresh from recently returning from Inverness! Poulton as a town didn't really inspire, and the pubs were okay if not spectacular. This first pub had all the hallmarks of a good real ale venue, proper no nonsense pub and me and travel companion Jig were gagging for a pint of one of the many Keswick ales on the bar. We went for Thirst Gold, which was perfectly serviceable in an average way. I remember the only other man in the same room as us kept falling asleep, snoring, waking up, sipping his beer and falling asleep again. The landlord chuckled and shook his head, we rolled our eyes, and that was that!
58. SNUG, Carnforth - 14th December 2013 and suddenly, we discovered that changing at Carnforth to get to Ulverston had it's compensations, with this new micro-pub having popped up since I was last here the previous September with Jig. And what a treat it was too, okay so we only had time for a half but then a man came in with two flavours of gorgeous home made pasties and passed them round, the curry ones were especially good (shame I'd ordered an already spicy ginger ale!). No seats available but we were happy to prop up against the bar. This really was a modern day "brief encounter" (geddit?) but with Jig as Celia Johnson and JW2 as Trevor Howard. Excellent. Hang on, does that make me Stanley Holloway? Ooh 'eck.
59. HOP INN BIER SHOP, Ormskirk - 14th Sept 2013 and the new GBG had just been published and to my horror, most of the previous year's pubs had now been "exited" with the one remaining one, Farmers, looking rather bland with one hand pump on serving Hobgoblin. We didn't stay. With me wondering with my whole letter "O" A-Z day was going to be a pointless exercise, my good friend Krzb Britain told me the GBG was overrated and we could find good real ale pubs using his instincts! This had backfired for him at Northallerton a few weeks before but he got it spot on today, after a nice central old skool one to start, we wandered into this European bar style place, with lots of illuminated old jugs and bottles in little crevices in the wall making it feel a bit like a museum. However, it was modern with young pretty staff serving from a decent range of 4-5 ales to supplement the interesting bottles and Euro keg shite. It felt nice enough and I'm not surprised to see it in the guide a year later - well done Krzb but don't get big-headed.
|Plenty of spice but no space at Carnforth's excellent Snug|
60. BLACK HORSE, Preston - Oh yes! In my formative real ale drinking years, I regarded this as one of my favourite pubs in the country. When my sister decided to inconveniently go to Uni on a Saturday afternoon (and thus missing a cracking 3-2 late home win v Southend so Sept 2003. I left the family to go "shopping" which was code for, pluck a cheap video of Nick Hancock's Football Hell out of a bargain basement basket and explore the real ale pubs. This was the original and the best, for a few years at least. Down to earth, friendly locals helped me pick a Robinson's beer, I tried to put money in the free jukebox and settled down to untouched, tiled, old fashioned pub splendour. The word ornate is made for places like this, yet back then with smoke wafting around as the sun gleamed through the windows, I could have been back in the 1920's. I've been back in since, with family pre-Preston away, with Dad on an evening, on my own, with Lu and her crazy uni friends (there's a non real ale bar upstairs for "young" people so I used to be the only one coming downstairs for a pint, which seemed to impress the old locals back in the day when most young people drank lager). I met my sister's ex Ric here for the first time, walking around in a weird hat before disappearing, then reappearing at regular intervals. As time went on, my illusion shattered slightly, Sometimes, the staff could be a bit shirty and my Mum got told off for moving a barstool from one room to another (a BRAPA first). I also tired of the Robinson's range a bit as I regularly visited my sister, and cast the net further afield to other Preston ale outlets as we'll see in future editions.
I've temporarily postponed my Pontefract trip due to having to stay late at work, therefore missing my bus (I didn't feel great anyway). But I needed something to fill the BRAPA void, so hope you've enjoyed this latest installment. More from Lancs, Hants, Leics and Lincs in our next edition......