Sunday, 22 February 2015

BRAPA : the archives (111-120)

On this latest, and long overdue edition of the GBG pub archives, we will mix things up a bit by starting in Greater Manchester before returning to London for the second half.

111.  Old Market Tavern, Altrincham

1st September 2012 and Alty was to be my letter A for the highly popular A-Z challenge I conducted from 2012-14 and although Bath had controversially been my starting point, me, Jig and Krzb came here by default (the only pub in the guide for Alty at that time) for a brilliant pre-match session before Altrincham v Histon, our 'culture' of the day.  A board of eleven ales saw a superb range, and when one went off, another immediately replaced it and we were soon treating it as a football team sheet with subs and trying to work our way through the squad (so to speak)!   With Jig on a quest to find a cashpoint (he always does this!) and Krzb wandering around and exploring (he always does that!), I had an early uncomfortable experience as a scary man in a Celtic top and headphones sat practically on my knee despite the pub being empty, you do sometimes get that "this is my regular seat" nonsense.  Little Plough at Donny, Hull's Burlington Tavern and Newcastle's Crown Posada have also seen the same fate.  Things settled into a great session, staff were helpful and characterful.  We eventually sat outside in the searing heat as Jig was sure we were missing out on sun.  In truth, it was quite busy out, the 'beer garden' was nothing to write home about (outdoor bin area if anything) and it was too hot, I'd just ordered a Chilli Chocolate Stout and it was not the perfect drink under the circs!

Great beer selection at the Old Market Tav, Alty

112.  Barristers Bar, Bolton

A gig by one of my bands of the moment, Mischief Brew, had been randomly moved from Manchester to Bolton but even in those pre-BRAPA days, my immediate thought was "ooh can find interesting new pubs".  I think this was the only one as I met sister's ex-Ric here, I think it was close to their break up, possibly June 2010.  I'd been here on my own though on this summer's Friday night, and the courtyard I found first felt more like a banging townie bar on first glance, with terrible dance music and all the ales seemed to be hidden behind huge lager fonts, with the barman seemingly surprised I wanted real ale though he helpfully then tried to offer a CAMRA discount (I wasn't a member then) but typical of the "you want real ale, you must be in CAMRA" attitude of some of these north west towns - Blackpool another offender here.  To my relief, I found a nice cosy pub area (this was part of the Swan Hotel so I'd got a bit confused finding it) and as long as the doors were closed and the townie's weren't in, I was happy.  Ric took an age getting there, and after educating him in the Barrister Ales that were on, we soon drank up paranoid we'd miss the start of our gig. 

113.  Trackside Bar, Bury

The now traditional Welly summer crawl was held on the East Lancs railway, and we met here having walked through the town chatting to the locals and deciding Bury was a friendly place. 27 July 2013 was the date, and I was immediately impressed by this buffet bar, almost as good and reminiscent of Stalybridge's one, but less famous.  There was some good simple food to be had as well, sausage & egg sarnies to get us sustained for the day, whilst there was a lot of bag swapping as I think Tom had brought me some crazy beermats.  We didn't stay here too long sadly, as we had Ramsbottom and beyond in front of us, but a fine start to the day.

Me with lit up phone pocket on steam train, shortly after departing the Trackside Bar
114.  Railway Inn, Greenfield

Speaking of Welly Gang summer crawls, I think it was probably July 2011 when we embarked on a second Transpenine crawl, this one with Dad who had missed the first.  I think that first one may have been 2009 and my reasoning is that soon after, I tried to replicate the experience with York friends (Jig was not allowed still, following his 2008 accident) when I again came to this wonderful rural pub , but it didn't really have the same magic as before, though the rickety old bench overlooking all that scenery is very joyous.  Both times, I drank Millstone Tiger Rut and had a pork pie, and both times, the English Mustard was right at the end of the jar and the last few particles had to be forced out with a knife.  Funny what you remember about places isn't it?  

115.  Crown, Horwich 

29th December 2009 and on a dreadfully wintery evening, we realised how stupid Premier League fixture lists could be as we risk life & limb over the M62 with this away day.  Having been disappointed with Bolton's pubbing and then getting to the ground the previous season, Dad and I decided to focus on Horwich and it has been something of a success ever since.  A compromise parking spot meant a long icy walk down the main road to this huge corner pub with a good few Holt's beers on.  To be honest, we were underwhelmed by our initial visit , Dad even wondering whether this was the GBG "Crown" pub!  It was cosy enough, locals were very characterful in a Lancastrian way, but we'd seen enough and moved on to better things.  However, we were much more impressed on our return from Madeira on 23/2/13 or was this because it was our first pub & ale after a week of Portuguese lager in insipid bars?  Again though, we didn't stay and found two more arguably better pubs in Horwich on Lee Lane round the corner. 

116,  Doric Arch, Euston 

Back in London and where better (or not) to start than this institution of our earliest train days of 2006/07.  Yes, it's fair to say I've been in here a good few times and had I actually enjoyed it, it could have been a lot more.  No pub has suffered more from the "Chris Irvin effect" as he created an image in the mind of not just me, but Dad, Christine and possibly others, of this bright, clean, silvery, polished haven serving 300 guest ales with football fans of all 92 league clubs (and Grimsby and Wimbledon at the time) all mingling, where you'd see a Leeds skinhead buying a pint for a Millwall man with a switchblade knife.  They would then laugh uproariously as a Luton fan told a great joke about how much he loved the Muslim community.  The truth was a fairly dingy upstairs bar, bored Eastern European staff dispensing beers from an uninspiring range, many of the eight pumps turned round.  The whole faff of getting the code to go to the downstairs loo is another turn off.  Don't get me wrong, there have been some good times and my last visit 11th Dec 2010 saw me persuade the landlord to put on Crystal Palace v Hull City on the TV because all of us apart from Chris Douglas were too lazy to go to this 5:30pm kick off after a day of drinking.  I then told him I was off to Euston Tap (see next archive edition) for a couple and to retrieve the gang and amazingly, he didn't mind so I owed to get everyone back here ASAP.  My friend John and his Dad, who'd been to Fulham v Sunderland (I'd been with them pre-match) joined us and though I was drunk, I could tell it was up there with the most boring 90 minutes of football ever played by anyone, ever!  For this experience, I owe DA a return visit. 

117.  Rake, Borough Market

7th April 2012 and arriving into London early, Dad decided to do some "culture", Tom was doing some train thing (micro-gricing or the like) and not wanting to be left out, I decided to do a foetal version of BRAPA and after a nice walk along London Bridge where I actually sang out loud to myself, I found this intriguing and unique bar hidden next to the famous Borough Market.  The pub is most famous for it's huge bottle, continental and craft range, but I was only interested in the handpumps and the young barman was very friendly and knowledgeable.  He advised me to get a polycarbonate glass so I could walk around the market with my gorgeous pint (I remember all 3 were breweries I love, Oakham, Titanic and one more) and explore.  This I did, though at 10am, I got some funny looks from other market goers.  I bought a Wild Boar sausage, a stupid trinket, and came back to the outside courtyard to relax, waving at barman and his hipster friends before hipsters were really a thing.  The bad news, the market toilets were just round the corner and absolutely stank!  They looked like they hadn't been cleaned since 1888.  As Tom pointed out in the last archive edition, he (and maybe Dad, not sure on that one) met me here and I can only think the reason we left was the toilets, or the hope the Market Porter would someday, somehow, be a relevant tick for something called BRAPA - which of course it was!  

118.  Wetherspoons, Victoria

 22nd November 2008 and after a traumatic "replacement bus service of a morning", Dad and myself were finally in a position to meet the others for a pint on the upper concourse of Victoria station before our train to Pompey.  Frazzled by the morning's events, Ben didn't have to convince me too much that a gorgeous 6% Russian Imperial Stout was the way forward, though why they insisted on staying outside the pub on one of the coldest days known to man is something I couldn't quite grasp, and kept nipping inside to warm up on the hand dryers!  I once read you could perhaps meet "the partner of your dreams, or have a brief encounter" here in a previous GBG edition.  On that day, nothing was further from my mind!  Pub wise, it felt like your typical commuter 'Spoons but I hear a recent refurb has made it brighter and more cafe like.  A good thing?  I'd have to go back.  What was impressive and notable was the beer range, even for a 'Spoons.

119.  White Horse, Parsons Green

Legendary pre-Chelsea and Fulham away pub dating back to our early Premier league days, 7th Feb '09 a probable first visit though I remember returning for a Fulham away game on a Monday night where I had £11 fish n chips (average!) and also went on 11/12/10 when Sunderland fans took over and somewhat innocently created a buffet style environment by cracking open their own Pringles, much to the staff's consternation.  Sadly, this pub has gone down in my estimation with each visit having loved it the first time, it's just too pretentious and the beers don't seem quite of the standard I'd expect from a GBG entry.  Or is that just the south?  The prices are predictably ridiculous, and on our last visit 18/8/13, it was at it's most annoying.  The Gooligans enjoyed an outdoor barbeque, it was still busy in, Christine was patronised by Chelsea fans, Ben spent £8 on half a strong continental bottle of fizz, but then we shared a pint of 10% stout which was only £4.40 a pint!  Hilarious.  They were also pushing their own brewed lager, I wasn't a fan.  And the food menu gets more stupid each time we go.   The staff were too plentiful, constantly buzzing around looking for the first sign of an empty glass.  Not very relaxing.  We gave up on it that day, I doubt I'll be back.  A shame cos on that first visit, I was raving about the 'Sloany Pony'.  A case of familiarity breeds contempt perhaps?

Me n Ben forcing smiles on our last Sloany Pony visit, 18/8/13

120.  Falcon, Battersea

Just round the corner of Clapham Junction station is this huge, historic Nicholson's house which is famous for having the longest continuous bar in the country, and believe me, I've walked around it enough.  What I love is they often have an ale hidden away from all the rest.  This place became a bit of a haven in those difficult QPR/ Crystal Palace pub day and whilst me, Mark and Ben were here 5th March 2013 for midweek defeat injustice at Palace,  Post-match, Mark was fuming about the way we were chucked out at last orders.  Talk about heavy handed.  Even the other staff agreed the young foreign girl in question had been a bit of a Nazi.  I'd been here with this Mark n Ben duo plus Dad for the same fixture on St Patrick's Day 17/3/12 where it was heaving due to Paddy's Day plus a big Egg-Chasing event going on nearby.  Not often football fans feel outnumbered.  We only got a seat in the quiet back area because Dad kept pretending we were going to "be dining with them" until we were forced to share a bacon sandwich by the snippy staff!  That day was also notable for my yellow jacket, worst jacket ever seen in a GBG pub?  However, my favourite time in here was probably our first, sat in the front window in the sun before a QPR away game, probably 25/4/11 on bank holiday Monday.  Even then, we had to get rid of a Leeds fan who insisted on talking to us because "we are all northerners together in the south".  Ugh, how annoying.

Me, Mark n Ben (not at all drunk), about to be chucked out at the Falcon 5/3/13

So, another fine set of 10 pubs that would now be called BRAPA ticks,  Nice to be back on the archives, more to come from London and Greater Manchester in our next edition,  

See you then, Si

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