Monday, 19 January 2015

BRAPA - Lincoln & latest updates

Sunday isn't my favourite day for BRAPA but it does give you a slightly different pub experience.  Busy around lunchtime, easing into a relaxed atmosphere by late afternoon, and then eerily quiet by evening.

As I boarded the 12:32 from York to Newark Northgate in a flurry of snow, I had my reservations about Lincoln.  My previous experience haven't been happy with football hooligans, riot police and small minded football chairmen plus many defeats making football days unhappy experiences in years gone by.  On another occasion, I went with the 'flu on a January day as cold as this, easily the most ill I've ever felt at a match!  Today, I was determined that Lincoln would impress me.  It did.

I definitely arrived into Lincoln the right way, out of the station and up the pretty High Street which became "The Strait" and eventually "Steep Hill", and it really was - and typically & annoyingly, my first pub was right at the top!

Walking up through Lincoln towards the Cathedral Quarter

559 - WIG & MITRE, Lincoln - It was 2:15pm when I arrived so was hoping I'd seen of the tail-end of the Sunday lunchers.  Wrong!  I really should have started at a non-food pub.  Every table was taken for dining and the only places for drinkers was a little ledge near the bar so I perched here on an awkward stool.  There was 4 ales on, 3 regulars including the wonderful Oakham JHB which I resisted to go for the guest, Aviator from the newbie local brewer 'Greg's' not related to the bakery but excellent nonetheless. I tried to get a bit of unity going with the other 'non eating' couple but this wasn't easy.  The pub looked like, if you stripped it back to basics, you'd have a lovely old building, it was surprisingly big inside and had that tardis feel.  The staff were young and smart, but being near the kitchen, I got the feeling that they struggled with the rush of diners, noticed a few tensions.  One 'chef' had to be taken a pint of Becks Vier presumably to keep him calm.

At the top of Steep Hill was this food orientated tavern
560 - STRUGGLERS INN, Lincoln - Pub of the day without a doubt, it would front up well against any opposition and must be a very early candidate for pub of the year too!   I'd had a mosey around the impressive Cathedral but it was biting cold, so I was ready for pint number two.  I went into the left side of the bar, and 'struggled' to get to the bar with the ten or so locals standing there but they obliging created a gap to let me through, to choose from a fantastic range of ales from micros, I went for a Brewsters "Hoptical Illusion" which was nice, both darky and less hoppy than imagined, maybe that was the illusion!  A welcoming real fire completed the scene which I got myself in front of, but it was the locals who truly made it a great experience.  Who needs to read a book or watch TV when you can observe life?  Firstly, a man changed a lightbulb on a precarious stool, then crossword clues were read out, I only wish I could've been more clever!  The locals then discussed what made a good pub, I felt like I was reading a chapter of my "In Search of the Perfect Pub" book but they shouldn't have worried, this was a real cracking hub of the community, which I'd never have excpeted so close to the touristy Cathedral Quarter.  In a 50/50 choice of "which direction are the toilets in", I even guessed right (and that never happens!)

The Strugglers : Surely the best pub in Lincoln

561 - MORNING STAR, Lincoln - A real example of how a pub experience can change dramatically during your visit.  I was very underwhelmed after a 10 minute walk brought me to this very old pub, dating back to about 1700.  Firstly, not a great range and for me, Lancaster Blonde is always a disappointing beer.  The £3.60 price really rubbed salt into the wound, I should've gone with a cheaper regular beer like Bombardier.  The young Spanish barman seemed a nice chap but the language barrier meant he couldn't really understand my (obviously) witty banter.  However, things started to pick up when I got sat in front of another real fire, and thought maybe I should start rating 'real fires'.  This was the pick.  I then started talking to a couple about my BRAPA challenge (as always happens once a day on a great day out such as this).  They were interested, the woman was a Lincolnshire equivalent of Mary Portas and gave me advice such as "I should turn the blog into a book sooner rather than later" and I should contact pub companies like Wetherspoons to try and get sponsorship/backing".  She really thought I could make a full time vocation, and I have to say, I went away with much food for thought!  A docile dog meandered around, no doubt looking for food, and my impression of this pub as I left had gone up ten-fold.  Excellent experience.  

Stick with this pub, it might just surprise you!

562 - ADAM & EVE TAVERN, Lincoln - After a quick phone-call home to hear about Hull City's latest limp performance, I was facing this pub at the bottom/top of a hill depending which way you'd come from.  Luckily for me, it was downhill, and sadly, so was this pub in comparison to the last couple.  It looked wonderful from the outside, and again, I read it takes from the very early 1700's.  However, I get the distinct impression the interior has been somewhat altered over the years, not sure my Heritage Guide writer would be impressed!  The main room was almost like half chavvy sports bar with Man City v Arsenal on a huge screen, but also half tudor-styled with a third consecutive real fire and some other rooms off with lower seats than the high stool I had to sit on.  I don't care what anyone says, no way stools are as good as chairs so why do pubs keep doing it?  I think the beer I had was a Lincoln Best by Poachers, it certainly had Lincoln in the name anyway!

Adam & Eve : Slightly failed to live up to expectations

563 - DOG & BONE, Lincoln - Dusk had fallen by the time I reached this pub, a bit of an effort as I didn't realise it was hiding down a little backstreet, but I love pubs in locations like this - just like another house on the street.  This was a Bateman's pub and the young barman who seemed a lively affable chap was bemoaning the fact that there were only four customer's in, me, an old man and two young lads who sat at the bar.  And was that yet another real fire I saw?  One in a day is unusual, but Lincoln seems to be the capital of them.  Despite the Bateman's beers which I'm no stranger to, I went for a Muirhead 'Summit Hoppy' which I was going to describe as a typically sweet, rich, hoppy Scottish ale, until I realise it was brewed in Ilkeston!  With a full bustling pub, you could imagine what a cracker this could be so a shame I didn't catch it in it's full glory.

Night time falls in the backstreets of Lincoln

564 - JOLLY BREWER, Lincoln - I was glad to be able to squeeze this pub in on the way back to the station, and it had a different feel to all the other Lincoln pubs I'd been in today.  Being a "Quirky Art Deco" pub as the GBG describes, it was not a massive surprise to see more of an alternative clientele, but on this occasion, the real fire was being neglected and you could really feel the detriment that this caused to the comfort as it was already a non-carpetted fairly spartan affair, but with good decor and excellent staff.  There was a good selection of local ales on too, from local breweries like Tom Wood, Newby Wyke and Welbeck Abbey but I went for a 'De Lovetot' from Dukeries, a new Bradford brewery I'd not heard of before.

The journey back home was traumatic in the extreme.  Changing firstly at Retford, I got a bit confused by platforms 1 & 2 being nowhere near 3 & 4 and with a tight change anyway, I wasn't unduly worried to miss the first connection and allow me an hour for pint number 7!  Amazingly, I didn't feel too drunk, I think a cooked breakfast and two pasties must've made the difference.  

565 - RUM RUNNER, Retford - Nearest to the station, a 0.4 mile walk too me over a little canal bridge to this homely pub which was well in the throes of an evening knees up with some pretty horrendous sounding karaoke filtering through from the large back room!  I settled in the front bar with an excellent pint of Titanic Steerage (always a winner) and just in time too as the snow started coming down at quite a rate.  This particularly excited the female contingent, who rushed to the window to squeal at the site of it, whilst their men-folk rolled their eyes.  I was simply concerned about train cancellations.  On arriving back at the station, the guard thought I should've got a Donny train but my train was via Leeds so was happy to hang on for the 21:30 which was on time.

Cosy, homely fun in Retford as the snow comes down.

However, on arrival at Leeds, the replacement bus service to York was still in operation despite the implication being it would have been finished by now when I'd bought my tickets.  So, 50 minutes back and having to feed my sister's cat Bertie meant it was all of midnight by the time I got in.  A great day, but am feeling it a bit the following day!


 Midweek W.Y. BRAPA nights were due to start again this week, but in light of my sister's broken ankle, I am current responsible for the feeding and entertaining of her cat for what may be up to six weeks so I am suspending these nights til her pot comes off! 

Hopefully, Dad's Saturday birthday BRAPA day will go ahead, the following week will be the long-awaited outer Northallerton day.  We'll have an outer Selby crawl with Krzb Britain on 14th Feb to continue with the North Yorks challenge which is admittedly slow going.

I'm currently organising spring trips to further reaching places.  Beds, Berks and Bucks are all on the agenda from April -June.  Beds will be 18th April to celebrate 1 year of BRAPA as I revisit Biggleswade (2 ticks) and will be trying to get to some other places nearby such as Broom, Dunton, Henlow and Abington Piggots (technically in Cambridgeshire). Berks will be focused on villages to the North and West of Reading.  Bucks will be Aylesbury and three or four places I can get busses to from there.

I'd also like to see a Hull United game by the end of this season, and may be able to combine it with a final trip to Cottingham, plus Kirk Ella and possibly some post-match ticks in Hedon, Hollym or Hull itself.

Happy Brapping, Si


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