Monday, 30 March 2015

BRAPA : the archives (171-180)

Welcome back to the latest edition of these amazing (or not so amazing) pubs, currently in the GBG, which I visited pre-BRAPA (so either early 2014 or before).

171 - Loggerheads, Shrewsbury - My first visit to this historic and wonderful pub was Tuesday 29th October 2002, our first pre-match pub before a 1-1 draw.  It was teatime so Countdown was on, and the locals were taking it very seriously, consulting a dictionary to possibly help them, not sure it worked!  I even remember what I drank, Crop Circle by Hopback - the less common "Summer Lightning" which was the "ale of the moment" back then.  It is a superb old Heritage pub, and it even had a "men only" room until 1975 - the sign is still there and you get the feeling people wish it was still the case!  This is where I sat on my return visit with John on Wed 7th Sept 2005, we noticed huge chunks of plaster out of the wall, this is proper old skool!  We then moved into the main bar to watch Northern Ireland beat England 1-0, where a local annoyed me by laughing that England were losing to a team with a "Hull City player in it".  I'd like to go back and ask him where the fuck are Shrewsbury compared with Hull City in the football pyramid, but it might be aggravational and this pub is no place for that!  Again, I can remember the beer we drank, Slater's Top Totty.  Superb pub.

172 - Three Fishes, Shrewsbury - Not far from Loggerheads, Dad and I had tea here on 29th Oct 2002 and it was our second pub of the night.  Dad and I slightly preferred this, it is a bit cosier with a lounge style feel and an annoying group of women he called the CLF (Canadian Lesbian Front) spent ages ordering their food and slowing us down.  I also remember a great beer range and the fact it was no smoking well before 2007.  The pub is on a cobbled street and has tudor style oak beams so Dad's often telling me he's seen it on films and TV programmes set in t'past.  I therefore took JW2 here on our mini-holiday, probably on Tue 6th Sept 2005 and this time, I slightly prefered the Loggerheads experience but it wasn't by much.  Too many diners on this occassion spoilt the atmosphere a bit.

173 - Raven, Bath - Pub number three of my inaugural A-Z trip in July 2012, this was my least favourite pub of the day based solely on the people.  Beerwise was fine as I went in and found a good range of locales, I had one from the Blindman's brewery.  There was no room downstairs despite being mid-afternoon (where I normally find a lull in pub activity) but I was chuffed with myself that I worked out another room and bar upstairs, unusually and impressive as it had all the ales on too.  This one was full of tourists (which I always try in vain to distance myself from) and some annoying Northern men were talking to a few locals, but I couldn't establish myself and felt a bit like the dunce in the corner!  So I read the pub's own leaflet from cover to cover, twice.  I think I just caught the pub at the wrong time for me.

The Raven in Bath - top upstairs bar, shame about the customers
174 - Star Inn, Bath - My 4th and favourite pub of the day, I'd been reading up about "snuff" as I heard they sell it free in the pub.  Terrified I'd be offered some and not know how to take it, I'd spent the previous evening on Wikipedia learning the full history!  In fact, all I did get offered was some free pie, leftover something to do with the fact there was a beer festival on outside (I'd never have known, it was so quiet and peaceful in).  It is a really old style quirky pub, National Inventory and the main bar was full of strange curios.  I sat in a side room called "Death Row" because it had one long table in the shape of a coffin.  The man I shared it really looked depressed like he was awaiting death!   John had been texting me asking me to try a pint of "Abbey Bellringer", and I was pleased to finally find it here.  Staff were really friendly too, made conversation and offered me samples of other ales. Overall, a very heartening experience after the difficult Raven.

175 - White Star, Stoke - I've been to this cracking Titanic pub 4 times now, the last 3 times it has been our main pre-match pub but we first popped in after finally realising the Locomotive(?) was rubbish on 29th November 2008, where Mark "Beefy" Bainton had the kind of polycarbonate drinking vessel incident which led to that particular anecdote being told for the next 5 years!  It has a range of about 5 Titanic ales and 5 or 6 guest ones, no away colours allowed but it's pretty obvious we aren't from Stoke (as our eyes aren't too close together - JOKE!)  It's not the most traditional pub, with either chairs and tables designed for eating, or some overly low settees - needs a happy medium.  I think the best part is actually the staircase area up to the loos, but maybe that's just me!  The best experience here was 29/3/14 when we got talking to a friendly bunch of Stokies who helped us get the bus to the ground.  Nice chips too.

Chips and great ale in Titanic wonderpub, the White Star 29/3/14
176 - Dove Street Inn, Ipswich - 13th August 2011 and after a bit of a wait for opening, I persuaded Dad to stick with it and join me here (neither of us had been impressed with the St Jude's on our last visit).  We entered to a tiny front bar and were glad to get a seat in the corner as the main long bar was very busy despite being only just after 12 noon opening.  They have a huge range of ales on, lots of different styles and plenty of locales you wouldn't normally see as a York based drinker.  The beers have to be listed on small blackboards above the bar such is a sheer volume of them, and it didn't take us long to work out it was our new favourite Ipswich pub!  We unsurprisingly returned on 13th April 2013 and there were murmurings Ben had got fed up of St Jude's and wanted to join us, but it didn't transpire so we resumed out text wars about which pub was best.  It was a glorious summer's morning so we sat in the garden on the astroturf, and then in the tent when it clouded over.  We eventually moved inside through the conservatory foody room to the main bar, but not before we'd had a dreadful pint of some local 'lager' style ale which tasted like Carling to me!  We weren't too sure about any of our beers on this day, just lacking that pzazz.  Things like Woodforde Wherry for example, good enough but a bit average. We won again on this day so a lucky pub!

Me enjoying a pint in the astroturfed tent at Dove Street, Ipswich  13.4.13
177 - Fat Cat, Ipswich - Travelling on a train to an away game was a new concept to me, and one that had blown Dad's mind so much that he didn't even travel.  So it was then, on 19th August 2006 that the era of away train travel began and I loved it.  The hard part was the fact it was a hot day and I legged it through Ipswich centre and out the other end in a thick leather jacket, dripping with sweat, and a mile later, finally reached this pub on the edge of town.  My urgency was that Chris and Tom were expecting me, and I knew they would be ahead of me.  Such was my thirst and urgency that I pushed past an old bloke at the bar, quickly apologised but he let me go first anyway, with the words "we do things a bit slower in this part of the world" in a thick Suffolk accent!  I eventually found the Irvin duo outside, and with an actual fat cat for company in a lovely beer garden, I'd say this is still the highlight of my Ipswich pubbing to date.  Chris moved us on well before kick off in search of other pubs, and we found Ipswich is a town with a serious problem in dealing with "visitors", something I've noticed every time since.  We returned here as a bigger group post match 4/5/08, an even hotter evening.  I remember the beer range being even better, there may well have been a festival on!  We sat outside again and ordered curries from across the road which apparently is the done thing,  and some Ipswich fans had a go at me for getting curry round my mouth - a weird thing to criticise I thought at the time!  A bit out of town, but still a very good pub.

178 - Albion, East Molesey - If there was one A-Z day where 'pubs' and 'drinking' weren't concepts at the forefront of my mind, it was H is for Hampton Court where I got lost in the wonder of the place.  I had also underestimated the length of time it'd take to get from here back to Kings Cross.  And thirdly, I was on medication for an infected leg so not technically supposed to drink.  I still had this pub earmarked though, and after a walk down an impossibly posh road full of weird shops (think Harry & Paul's 'I saw you coming' sketch), I entered to find a comfy if not overly friendly pub, full of red furniture and walls I seem to remember with a TV, plenty of food, more drinkers thankfully, and a slightly split level - in a weird way, I could think of it as Henry VIII's local, maybe that was just being fanciful!  The date by the way was 24th November 2012.

179 - United Services Club, Egham - A ridiculous walk to Englefield Green from Virginia Water on my "V" day (11th Jan 2014 so probably just before BRAPA was forming in my mind) eventually took me on to Egham.  I'm always a bit anxious in going in "clubs" rather than pubs with all this talk of showing your CAMRA card, being signed in, firm but fair policies etc etc but I could not have been made more welcome here.  On entering, I was surprised to see a huge vast function room style layout, it looked like an aftershow party, or at least, the remnants of a celebration.  The staff were friendly and I was charged £2,50 for amazing Hastings Porter and a lighter locale, unheard of pricing around this part of the world.  I settled down to watch the football scores and got chatting to a couple of locals about the perils of being a Hull City fan (we'd just lost at home to Chelsea so being Surrey folk, they seemed rather happy).  Before I knew it, the main chap was giving me a guided tour of the premises, and leaflet's on forthcoming beer festivals telling me about all the places from the "North" that people come from just to visit this festival.  I could see the attraction but he nearly made me miss my train so I had to scoot along, making polite apologies as I legged it for the station.

180 - Beehive, Englefield Green - I was quite underwhelmed by this, my second of three pubs on the memorable "V" day of 11th Jan 2014.  The area had seemed very well heeled and upmarket and this felt a bit like a protest pub, where the last bastion of no nonsense drinkers come.  That could have explained the large rather intimidating group of men stood around the bar watching horse-racing and the like.  I quickly got a pint and sat round the far corner in a fairly basic bar to the right of the entrance - I didn't even get chance to notice the landlady was German (apparently she cooks meals from her homeland which must be quite unusual pub fayre).  It was also very much a Fullers pub, and with only three or four on, I went for a well-kept Bengal Lancer as it seemed the rarest but for a 5% IPA, you'd expect a bit more bite.  Not the pubs fault though.  I put on my coat, took a deep breath, banged my empty pint glass on the bar, and said goodbye to the entire pub, never to return!

My Bengal Lancer at the unspectacular Beehive.
So there we have it, ten more off the list and after a bit more time in the south, we'll be heading up to that fictional county of Tyne & Wear for our next archive session in a few days time.

See you soon, Si

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