Friday, 20 March 2015

BRAPA : the archives (151-160)

Welcome back to my run-down of previously visited GBG pubs, finishing our tour of Liverpool and Norwich, and then we'll visit five towns we haven't yet heard from.  It's going to be good, trust me.

151.  Richmond Pub & Hotel, Liverpool - Ahh, Chris "Krzb" Britain.  Long time friend, and the most contrary man I know, he'll ask the difficult questions in life like "is the GBG overrated when you are scouring a new place for pubs?"   So on 14th September 2013 after an interesting "O" shaped day in Ormskirk, he was no doubt delighted as we found ourselves back in Liverpool with no map, no electronic device, no clue where we were.  He simply followed his instincts (and some very dodgy sounding 90's dance music he liked) to a tight, thin little bar on the edge of the main pedestrianised shopping area.  Desperate for a drink, we entered only to be stunned at the superb range of guest ales.  We soon squeezed into the left corner and watched a foreign channel showing a 3pm kick off Sunderland home game, against the Gooners I think.  I didn't remember this pub's name and just over a month later, I took Dad, Christine, Tom, maybe Mark & Ben and maybe some others on a pre-BRAPA crawl of the city.  One of my pubs was this, and I was shocked .... "I've been here before, this is the Krzb pub!" I exclaimed ...  GBG listed and everything.  Getting a seat was even nicer, Christine's home-brewed Coal Porter was shared around once I'd finished my Windy Bog.  A good experience.

152.  Roscoe Head, Liverpool - Famous for being one of six pubs featured in every edition of the guide, Dad and I weren't too sure what all the fuss was about when we first came here on 10th Jan 2009, but then again, it was crawling with SS.  As a consequence, I took myself into a small side room where I sat alone, totally undisturbed for about 3 minutes with just a few locals.  Ben spoilt my splendid isolation and I was forced to be sociable again!  I do remember what ever pint I chose was absolutely stunning quality.  The Roscoe Head really came into it's own when Dad and I were struggling for open pubs in torrential rain on New Year's Day 2014, this pub was our saviour.  The barmaid was really characterful, the locals were engrossed in reading materials but would occasionally look up and chip into our conversations, which was weird, as we sat in a strange shaped side room.  Good beer again, and we only moved on because a newcomer gave us a run down of all the open real ale pubs he'd walked past on his walk from the station, and this included Dispensary.

153.  Trafford Arms, Norwich - Tuesday 27 Sept 2005 was early in my "career" to be gallivanting around the country on my own but this is what happened on our first season in the Championship, and maybe why I felt a bit uncomfortable and out of place here.  I was staying in a Pink Lighthouse surrounded by bikers and rock n rollers so maybe my mental state was fragile.  I'd been to a couple of pubs already in the south west part of Norwich I've never really revisited since, when I found this popular with home fans pub.  After being served, I retreated to a quiet far corner behind a pool table, near the loo but with no table to rest my drink on, worried people knew I was a Hull City fan from afar.  JW2 once met a "date" from Norwich in Whitelocks, Leeds and she knew of and praised this pub.  If I went back now, ten years more experience, things'd be better I think.  

154.  Vine, Norwich - Why?  That one word would sum up my feelings about this place.  Post Alexandra Tavern but pre King's Head on our latest trip to Norwich, 18th Jan 2014 with the seeds of BRAPA formulating in my brain, I persuaded Dad to call in here for a quick one to get another pub "ticked off" my Norwich list - a long list, I know.  It is basically a glorified Thai restaurant, the seats set out something like a cafe/restuarant combined.  The staff were all Asian origin, I was scowled at as I creaked up the narrow staircase to the toilets, and it seems all the ales on were light to "compliment" the spicy food.  So wrong, it's untrue.  Still, I love an Oakham JHB (the regular) though I went for an "Indie ale" but I'd defy any drinker to get settled here, though plenty of local men were trying their best!   

155.  Wig & Pen, Norwich - The original Norwich brilliant experience, me and Dad came here on that monumentous day 25th Nov 2006 where the penny dropped and he finally realised train travel to away games was definitely the way forward (I'd done Ipswich alone earlier that season).  It almost made me feel guilty to be sat in here shortly after 11:30am in the sun drinking a pint of something golden and gorgeous, the little effort we'd made to get here!  The whole pre-match experience was probably our away day of the 2006/07 season in a most beautiful cobbled area of the town (I can't see it as a city despite the glaring grand Cathedral looming over us, it's too nice for that!)  Friendly barman, cosy pub, though I can't remember any specifics.  Therefore, it was the main pub on our agenda next time for a Tuesday evening on 12th Feb 2008, so maybe it wasn't surprising to find an anti-climactic experience.  We sat on the other side of the pub this time, and a mixed atmosphere, full of students and a great splash of cabaret camp made for a hubbub that Dad especially found a bit uncomfortable,  The beer range wasn't as stunning either with mainly well known brews.  Either the landlord or an entertainer had a microphone (or was it just quiz night!), and it was all a bit odd.

156.  Malt Shovel Tavern, Northampton - Although we are going back all the way to 4th October 2003, this was a great pub experience and away day etched in my memory.  After a morning playing snooker at the local Riley's, we walked down to this pub just after opening and were served beers from the local Frog Island brewery (Natterjack I remember) by young, attentive staff.  We then sat back in the wooden part of the pub and watched the action unfold as some rough looking City fans (hopelessly trying to appear "local") get haaalves of laaaager as the staff kept ducking under the bar and speaking to police through walkie-talkies - we could tell but the Hull chaps were oblivious.  The pub soon filled up with SS and other football fans, and we went to sit with our new football friends Chris and Tom (more to the right of the pub) who we knew from "Hole in the Wall, Spring Bank".  We had a good pre-match with them, the highlight being when Dad couldn't quite 'get' Chris's anecdote about Andy Payton naked in a wardrobe.  The noise of the pub was such, Dad struggled to grasp the meaning, an exasperated Chris shouts "HE WAS SHAGGING HER!" just as there was a pub lull and everyone stopped and turned round.  Classic away pub action! 

157.  Barrels Ale House, Berwick-upon-Tweed - 28th March 2009 and Ric & me went up to Berwick for a very lowly Scottish football encounter (losing 2-1 at home to East Stirling in the last minute was about as bad as it could get!), our rationale for the trip, we were manging them on Football Manager 2009.  This was our main pub of the day, nestling in a great location under the old Tweed bridge, and was very unique, described as an Olde Curiosity Shop and with things like an Old Dentist's Chair and stuffed animal heads, it was very memorable.  Some greats beers from the North East of England and the Edinburgh area meant we wished we could have stayed longer but we weren't sure where the ground was.  Ric, trying to appear a cultured artist, brought his sketching stuff and sat in the cold and painted the pub from the bridge.  I waved/stuck two's up at him from the window.  I think I was the winner here despite his attempts to take the moral high ground!  

158.  Bold Forester, Mansfield - We never seemed to do very well at Mansfield, pub-wise or football wise despite plenty of attempts, but being able to use the GBG to finally choose a pub here was, I remember, something of a relief, an almost cathartic experience if you allow me to be poetic for a second.  6th March 2004 was the date of this, my 7th visit here and last to date, and after parking in a typically dodgy neighbourhood, we arrived to find something of a 'happy harvester' style family eatery pub, with one difference, loads of ale, and a landlord who was delighted to see some ale fans in.  It was probably a rarity for him.  My only gripe with it, out of the amazing range of 10 or so beers, even in these days, it seemed they were all common.  Greene King, Deuchers, Black Sheep, Landlord, etc etc you know what I mean.  I think an Adnams was the rarest.  And every time one of us went back to the bar, we had to have a long chat with the barman.  Well, we were about the only customers in a huge place.  We tactically decided to reveal our "colours" (brave in Mansfield) but rather than putting him off, it just gave him more to chat to us about!  

159.  Just Beer Micropub, Newark - A few months before our visit, our friends in the Welly gang sent us a link to website of a pub unlike any other I'd witnessed, their tone distancing themselves from the rest, and claims to be able to "get any beer on" put me off more than 'wowing' me, but I guess this was the dawn of the micro (or "pop up") pubs we are seeing a lot more of now (see Chequers, Beverley, Snug in Carnforth or that Driffield newbie).  We were unable to attend the Welly trip there if it ever happened in any form, so when planning some nice summer days out, Dad and I decided to give Newark a whirl, mainly because he thought he could get some antique rummer glasses from a fayre.  He couldn't!  It was 15th June 2013, and this was our second or third pub of the day and was hard to find in an old industrial estate.  We weren't impressed.  True, there were some great beers with helpful tasting notes served by a helpful bearded ginger lad (not Tom) but as this was the East Midlands, no-one was friendly clientele-wise.  The seating layout was a bit quirky, but lacked privacy and the whole building was too small and invasive.  There were too many people here "trying to be someone" with laptops, and a painful exchange between two dog owners across the room pretty much summed up a poor experience.  Our least favourite pub of the day.

Happier times in Newark - me and Dad in a Springhead pub not GBG listed at the moment! 
160.  Canalhouse, Nottingham - I was first made aware of this pub in my excellent "Strangest Pubs of Britain" book back in the early noughties, but as it was not GBG listed for a while, I never went/couldn't be bothered to find it despite having a canal running through the pub.  We finally got here for a couple of our regulation Forest 1-0 away wins, 5th March 2011 being the main one when I'd much rather have stayed elsewhere but Dad felt we should be "sociable".  Beerwise, I couldn't fault it with superb Castle Rock ales and friendly staff, and it was great to finally walk over the internal bridge and see canal barges go by.  However, it was a bit foody and too modern and warehousey to have much proper pubbub comfort factor.  It was either on this same day or 29 Oct 2011 the following season when Dad and I came here post-match and it felt like a dive - dirty, chaotic, old plates of food everywhere, and a weird Hull City man we couldn't get rid off.  And most recently, in April 2014, we came here late afternoon with friends on our Nottingham Easter trip where we sat in a huge outdoor patio area, the place teeming with young, attractive students, it all felt as uncomfy as the post-match evening.  In conclusion, it wouldn't be my first choice if we returned to this excellent city for real ale.  

So, ten more pubs down.  Join me next week for the next batch as I notice these are more popular than my actual BRAPA reports!  More from Newark, Nottingham and beyond.  


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