We are almost at the end of the first calendar year of BRAPA, and after 10 months of pub-ticking I thought it was time for an awards ceremony with, of course, more personality than the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, so open yourself a bottle of real ale/blackcurrant and pretend you are a VIP.
12. BRAPA STAFF AWARD - I've been made to feel very welcome by many great barstaff, landlords and landlady's especially on my solo trips, but the stand out one for me is when I walked into the Voodoo in Darlington just after 10am on a sunny morning in July. The landlord was only just back from holiday himself, but by the end of my visit, he'd not only bought me my pint when I'd explained my quest, but also drawn me a map of the town, explained the history of the pub and also given me tips on 'pre-emptive' pub ticks in Darlington. Special mention too goes to the landlord of the Old Colonial in Mirfield who smoothed out a rug and sat me in front of a wood burner with my pint with the line "go on lad, sit there and enjoy!"
11. PUB PET OF THE YEAR - I like a good pub pet. It adds a quirk and remind you pubs are homes for people, and relaxed places to be - well depending on the pet. There's been scary dogs (I'm thinking Station Hotel in Harecroft, Wharf in Macclesfield) but the winner has to be Legs, the three legged cat we met in the Charlotte Despard in the Archway in London. Legs chased ping pong balls around the pub, and we got a bit of his life history from the staff. A shame the pub is not currently in the guide.
10. FOOTBALL DAY PUB - With the help of the Welly gang, I've tried to factor 'BRAPA ticks' into Hull City away days where possible without trying to go too ambitious, Recent experiences away to Arsenal and Everton show how much can be achieved to numb the pain of another spineless City performance. With that in mind, I'm giving the award to Peter Kavanagh's in Liverpool, our first pub pre-Everton earlier this month. What a mind-blowing cornucopia of rooms, curios, bric a brac, and some great beers!
9. "DAY FROM HELL" AWARD - 4 October 2014 was so unlucky. First, I couldn't get to Beck Hole and nearly broke a toe trying to wade through the floods. Then I realised Grosmont's pub didn't open til 8pm. Then, I got lost in Castleton with no signal on my phone. And just when I thought I'd salvaged something in Whitby, my phone got stuck trying to download a new version of the 2015 GBG and I couldn't navigate my way around the town. Plus the beer range was terrible in every pub! When I was in the Golden Ball with a choice of Doom Bar or Black Sheep, and separate Stag & Hen do's came in, both from East Leeds, I knew it was one of those days!
8. CLIENTELE OF THE YEAR - The key here must be pubs called the New Inn! Joint winners, the New Inn in Baschurch, Shropshire was my 450th tick, achieving the 10% was a big moment, and staff and particularly the locals were so genuinely nice and interesting, and interested in BRAPA which always helps! In the New Inn at Denholme, they were typically more northern and brash, and it felt a bit like I was in a episode of Early Doors but once I'd fronted up and explained BRAPA, I felt right at home and they made me so welcome. Runner up award for the Bridge Inn at Wennington where I met a group of walkers in the outdoor smoking area and felt like it was "an audience with Si Ev".
7. PUB EXPERIENCE OF THE YEAR - This would have to be my original 500th tick, the New Inn in Appletreewick. Not only was it a great pub anyway with a superb outdoor area outside to enjoy just before the rain set in, but vaguely knowing a guy from work who was on a Wharfedale walking day with his friends, I'd explained my forthcoming 500th BRAPA tick and got a guard of honour, round of applause and pint bought for me. A real one off 'god's smiling on me' occasion.
6. BRAPA PUB PERSON OF THE YEAR - It can only be one man, Tom Irvin for his ongoing enthusiasm and dedication to help me get to new BRAPA pubs on football days, constant efforts to help me get the best deals on trains and sometimes busses, and all this from a non drinker himself. He has also been so encouraging of this blog at times when I've wondered if it was worth continuing with. Thanks so much Tom, you are a legend. Additional thanks to other BRAPA travellers, mainly Krzb, Jig, Chris D and Christine who have all been highly supportive of blog and trips. Special mentions for Dad, Lizzy, JW2, Ben, Clare, Richard and Jason who have at some point during the year, joined me in at least three new BRAPA pubs.
5. DAY OUT & EVENING OF THE YEAR - There have been some absolute cracking Saturdays, some have looked great on paper and have just not quite gelled, and I could say exactly the same for my West Yorkshire midweek nights. Overall, I'm giving the day out award to Isle of Wight. Great scenery, great island, great people, great errm sunburn and most importantly some great pubs and beers from start to finish. It really did take something as ridiculous as Hull City being in an FA Cup final to tear me away, or I'd have stayed for a second day and tried to do the full island! My favourite evening trip was my third mid-August trip to Bradford. After a couple of strange ones, I was getting a bit down about Bradford and BRAPA in general with the new guide on the horizon, but the 3 pubs on this night (Corn Dolly, Sparrow and New Beehive) made me realise how many hidden gems I am going to have the pleasure of uncovering.
4.5. COMEDY MOMENT OF THE YEAR - Speaking of Bradford, this was when a taxi driver took me from Harecroft to Manningham on 29/7/14 and we had to ask a local "lady of the night" for directions to Haigy's pub. She eventually found it for us, and he then recommended her to me (blowjobs for a tenner) before charging me £12 for the taxi journey. I tried to point out the discrepancy but he didn't really get it!
4. BEER RANGE OF THE YEAR - One of a few impossible forthcoming categories, but when I'm thinking of sheer 'spoilt for choice' numbers and fascinating breweries, I always think back to that messy but superb September day in Cambridge with Jig and Clare. From memory, all had at least 5 interesting ales on and the Maypole in particular had 8 in the front bar, 8 different ones in the back. Probably why we went back at 2am! And I recommended it to Joanna at work for a hen-do and yes, they did take my advice.
3. WORST PUB OF THE YEAR - It has to be done. My trip to Durham with JW2 in June yielded some really disappointing pubs in the shape of Witton Gilbert's first one and the Rugby Club which just didn't do much, whilst the Wetherspoons wasn't the best. Fate for John perhaps as his life takes on a more 'conventional' Lucie shaped direction? It was therefore interesting that on my next trip to that fine county, I had the misfortune to go in Coatham Mundeville's Foresters Arms. My pint was off. Not a problem normally, but barmaid kicked off about it as though I was wrong and I resented that despite other staff and locals being nice and my replacement pint being great. It was too foody anyway. The Brewery Tap in Idle was potentially even worse, it just felt like going to a shit gig venue in the day and my Kelham Island tasted like farts. Again, nice locals saved it slightly but the barstaff couldn't be arsed. Great to see both pubs kicked out for the 2015 GBG.
2. PINT OF THE YEAR - Again, an impossible category to look back on. It's more recent ones that stick in my mind, the Glass Blower Wetherspoons in Castleford served me a pretty much perfect pint. My Movember themed ale in Bradley's White Cross was as drinkable as anything. My stout in Bingley's Foundry Hill was beautiful. Oh, and the pint of Oldershaws in Barton's Stables. And what about that pint of Bombardier in the Stone Jug, Clophill near Bedford - ridiculous raspberry jam heaven. Ok, I'm going for that as it's a beer I've had so many times and found boring as sin.
1. PUB OF THE YEAR - Another impossible category, I'll have to shortlist a few. Grove in Holbeck, Leeds. Crown in Manfield, North Yorks. Golden Pheasant, Biggleswade. Brewery Tap, Chester. Kean's Head, Nottingham. Commerical, Chapeltown (South Yorks). New Inn, Appletreewick. White Lion, Heptonstall. Lamp, Birmingham. Live & Let Live, Cambridge, St Aldate's Tavern, Oxford. Maltings, South Shields. Kings Arms, Askrigg. Pineapple, Kentish Town. Queen's Head (London St Pancras). Stables, Barton-on-Humber. Tapping the Admiral (Camden Town). Station Hotel (Birstwith), Wharf (Macclesfield). One Eyed Rat (Ripon), Regent (Chapel Allerton). Pig & Whistle (Southfields). Peter Kavanagh (Liverpool). Black Bull (Liversedge), Junction (Baildon). Brown Cow (Keighley), Corn Dolly (Bradford), Red Shed (Wakefield), Cricketers (Keighley), Jacobs (Bradford), Old Colonial (Mirfield), HDM Beer Shop (Huddersfield), Junction (Castleford).
Got a bit carried away there - but I'm going to go for the Jacobs Beer House in Bradford, it simply had everything I'd want in any pub. Special commendations must go to the Brown Cow in Keighley, Crown in Manfield, New Inn in Appletreewick, Maltings in South Shields and the Red Shed in Wakefield - all jaw dropping pubs for several different reasons.
I'm ready for a pint, here's to getting past the 750 mark by the end of 2015! Cheers.