|Me and Sinbad at Beer in Hand (Pub 717)|
A double header football weekend was a great chance to get some BRAPA ticks in. And after an unsurprisingly painful cross country journey down to the practically Welsh town of Hereford, me, Dad and Tom were ready for our pre-noon opener.
717. Volunteer Inn, Hereford
This could have been a very good pub. It had all the elements, some good quality ales with a south western bent, a nice traditional farmhouse feel, it even has an old skittle alley out the back which I'm sad I forgot to look for. However, BRAPA always reveals what an important category staff is and the Robotic but Functional barmaid set the tone, but at least meant Dad could tell us about his programme of the moment, "Humans" on channel 4. Even me asking for HPA in it's full name "Herefordshire Pale Ale" didn't raise a "you tourist scum" smirk on her face. There was a bit of a fly infestation too (well, two or three of the blighters) and no silage problem to blame as in Bryherstones, Cloughton. A few other female staff seemed to be lurking in the background too, one cracked half a smile and I saw this as a massive victory. The music (of the terrible modern chart variety) didn't add to the pubs perceived ambiance. I held a BRAPA committee meeting, which was basically me deciding we should move swiftly on. A shame, could have done better, it had the foundations (so to speak).
|Me and Tom say "Allam Out, flies out, miserable staff out" at the Volunteer.|
|John Watson got this same poster, but he has since lost it. Wye Valley-tastic at Barrels.|
Hereford's new "micro pub" (actually, quite a large former launderette) turned out to be my pub of the weekend but got off to a shaky start with Dad asking where the beer was! Like two of my modern Aberdeen pub ticks, friendly host Christian realised we were "first time visitors" and took us through "how it all worked" and soon we were settling down to gorgeous local ales (Tweed Hopster, Grey Trees Mosaic Pale my favourites), dispensed straight from the barrel, I'd been bemoaning the lack of characterful BRAPA "pub pets of the year" only that week, so it was nice to see a dog called Sinbad who was fantastic, and believe me, I'm no dog fan. Dad had won a bag of pork scratchings for winning Tom's prediction league 2014/15, but was it wise to open them in front of this creature? I think if someone is opening a bag of pork scratchings on Mount Everest right now, Sinbad would know about it. We had to share them after he did the "guilty eyes" thing. Anyway, the ales were superb, ceiling pump clip decoration really appealed to me, and two Hereford fans even joined in my random "who played for Hull City at Bournemouth when we drew 0-0?" quiz. It was so good, we even popped back in post-match for a celebratory "swift half". An excellent place. The Jarrod Bowen of Hereford pubs.
|Me and Dad arrive at Beer in Hand, ignore the 'craft pub' nonsense. It's excellent anyway.|
I dusted off the cobwebs by power walking two miles to the west of the city, and how nice it was to see a near deserted city. Sheffield has rarely been better.
719. Francis Newton, Broomhall, Sheffield
A Wetherspoons, but not as you know it! Although having said that, the painful lack of service at the bar was quite typical Spoons. Having read that Mr Newton was a former steel magnate who lived here in the 1840's, I was going to get a Steel based ale from Rotherham, but when the barmaid finally turned up, the ghost of Francis Newton took me over (I think) and forced me to order a Bradfield Farmer's Stout instead - it was like a pressure came down on my head. Anyway, he reminded me to use my 50p off voucher so not all was lost. I went to sit out in the warm morning sun and was delighted to find a huge beer garden which stretches out into a community nature reserve. Only 25 mins from the centre, this place is worth seeking out as it shows both Sheffield and Wetherspoons in a light you might not necessarily expect. My calm was only temporarily disturbed when a group of students complained in the softest way possible that their "extra toast" order had gone awry. "Extra toast, what extra toast?" was the waitresses response. Ghost of Franny Newton strikes again!
|A hearty morning stout in the biggest Spoons beer garden I've ever witnessed.|
A 1.5 mile walk through part of the Nature reserve and a graveyard took me to "Sheffield south", where Tom was lurking somewhere nearby ready for me to buy him a blackcurrant cordial. This pub was immediately impressive, really friendly bar chaps, a clean yet authentic feel with many large snugs each with their own stained glass window features. You could really see how it had been previously a bit of a soulless one roomer, but care had gone in to making it more "traditionally Yorkshire. Great beers from local breweries abound (and South Yorks does have a fine selection) and I tried a wonderful red rye Bleeding Heart from Black Iris, As me & Tom sat in a sunny snug and discussed North Yorks BRAPA tactics for the coming months, I felt incredibly happy and relaxed and when I went to the loo, I felt like I owned the place. The only way I could describe it is that I'd have felt perfectly at home slipping on a onesie, ruffling a couple of old men's bald heads, and moonwalking around the perimeter. But luckily, I didn't.
|The excellent Broadfield in Nether Edge, Sheffield|
And then, when we found the WHITE LION, it was very closed. Well, I say that, as you can see from the picture below, the lights are on so I think our hunch that it may have been a lock-in were correct. Surely not football related? Who knows, frustrating anyway from a BRAPA perspective but as we were a bit behind schedule not altogether a bad thing.
|Shut pub alert! White Lion. Note the lights are very much ON.|
Thankfully, this pub was not only open but quiet too, a relief as we'd read it is heaving with miserable Blunts on match days. But as you could tell by Bramall Lane, the folk of Sheffield don't care a jot for pre-season. And who can blame them? Even though the bar area was very open, this pub also had a great feel and staff and locals seemed a friendly bunch, I chatted to one Sheff Wed fan who enjoyed skirting with the danger of drinking on the wrong side of the city. More great locales were on show, Neepsend Pale the latest new brewery for me but the Pokies from Manchester was even better, New Zealand hops or not! There seemed to be about ten toilets and the magical corridors never took you back to your seat the same way you had come from. A more narrow area and side room were surprisingly full of local drinkers. Sheffield really is a superb place for pubs, if not football.
|Tom arriving at the Sheaf View|
Overall, a very good but very tiring weekend.
And not much time to relax! Punk festival on the horizon and I'm going to make a concerted effort to get a tram up to Thornton Cleveleys and Bispham one morning before the bands start (probably Fri or Sat).
I've still not ruled out Upper Denby either. Depending how well tomorrow evening's "list ticking of tasks" goes (8 things to do tomorrow evening!), I might look at it for Wednesday.
See you soon, I'll be in touch.