Let's just say that by the time I finally arrived into the now bright n shiny frighteningly modern version of Wales' most European city, and checked into my Travelodge, I was like a coiled spring ready for BRAPA action!
683. Pen & Wig, Cardiff
Opposite the law courts in quite a serene and leafy area of the city, I did at least make some effort to leave the city centre proper to get this tick in. It had the feel of a student pub to me, well a very well kept and clean one, if you've ever had the misfortune to go to York's Keystones, imagine a posher version of that. Two friendly bar chaps were on had to serve me, it was very quiet on this Tuesday afternoon, and a decent range of ales all had those little jars next to them so you could see what colour your beer was going to be, something that really spoils the surprise for me, but is useful to people like my Dad for example. Having said all this, I ordered a beer called 'Bronze' which pretty much came out black. I sat in the front window and the only other customer of note was a girl with a plate of sausage and chips. Thing was, she seemed more happy chatting to her friend on her mobile phone and I reckon in the half an hour I was there, she ate a grand total of two chips and they must've been cold. I can only think she was a member of staff and the meal was complimentary! My friend then messaged me to say his Mum was a regular in here 42 years ago in other interesting trivia.
|Pen & Wig - law courts, students, untouched sausage and chips.|
Hidden away behind a shopping centre, I found this micro pub which, uninkeeping for 2015 pubbing, was actually "micro" being one fairly small room only. The keg beers were to the fore, the cask to the back (boo minus point!) so I had to be careful but the beer was dispensed straight from the barrel and the taps were actually 'taps', like you'd find in a kitchen or bathroom - very novel! It was like a bottle/can shop too with a really good selection along two walls. I ordered a gorgeous pint of "Sharks against Surfers" (very orangey) from the new local Hopcraft (terrible name) brewery and quizzed the barman about Hopcraft's new pub up near Queen Street. He reminded me of a guy I used to work with and sadly, had the same lack of social skills and our chat died after about 90 seconds. Still, it was a great relaxing place to sit and have a drink, especially when a man with a wife he bought online left the place. There was one huge copper table in the middle of the room which seemed to be for all customers. A late moment of drama occurred when a toddler ran in only to be restrained by his Mum, who then criticised the smell of the pub, and in a moment of perfect karma, was promptly headbutted by her son. A satisfying end to a satisfying pub.
|Arriving at the quirky Gravity station, Cardiff's first micro pub.|
685. Rummer Tavern, Cardiff
686. Lansdowne, Cardiff
688. Molly House, Manchester
I'd received an intriguing text message from Christine (who seemed to be doing her own more successful Cardiff pub tour) earlier in the day who told me this pub was "rubbish" and the bold statement "won't be in the 2017 GBG" and I should go to the new pre-emptive Hopcraft instead. Obviously, this just made me want to sample the Rummer Tavern even more, reverse psychology at work perhaps. But was her assessment right? I entered a very old looking building (Cardiff's oldest pub allegedly, full of tudor style beams) and it was deliciously darkly lit, with a long thin walk through to the bar with another interesting (and surprising range of local ales) and my Digger's Gold by the excellent Grey Trees which I'd previously enjoyed in Hereford, was lovely and bitter. There was a good hubbub too, with a few other customers chatting away and the feeling of ghosts of centuries old drinkers all around. So, in conclusion, not in my opinion! Cracker, Goat Major-esque.
|Rummer - atmospheric fun opposite Cardiff Castle|
Time was moving on swiftly and with the new Ninian Park on the far side of the city, I decided to stride out to my main pre-match pub. I'd heard that it attracts the "more discerning Cardiff City fan" so wanted to get in early so I could get a good seat. What I hadn't realised is that "discerning" and "Cardiff City fan" don't really go hand in hand so the pub was quiet for the most part. It was very much the Hull's Wellington of Cardiff pubs, a little bit out of the way but easily walkable to the ground, and felt like the Welly in it's hey day with a wooden floor, a cracking range of ales, and staff that seemed to be have an element of those characters of old. There was Welsh Sophie, Welsh Vicky, Welsh Janette, Welsh Angela, Welsh Carter, Welsh Dylan from Magic Roundabout - only Welsh Rich was missing and I could live with that. However, the key phrase here was "Yey Hayley!" invented by a little girl for one of the barmaid's, who first seemed flattered by it, then embarrassed, then annoyed. By the time Christine arrived having escaped the S.S. in their dodgy Brains pub the Butchers Arms, I gave her a run down of the beers and when Hayley came to serve her, I said "you have to say Yay Hayley", Hayley looked like she wanted to stab me in the eye. Nevertheless, beers like Bristol's Milk Stout and the hard to pronounce Llandogo Trow Ale underlined this as pub of the day and surely the best in Cardiff. They did food, but you can't have everything!
|Quality pre-match drinks at the Lansdowne|
Then, something weird happened, Hull City played well and won away from home.
So it was time for a celebratory post-match pint so with Christine and Chris D in tow, we found a pub between ground and city centre up near Sophia Gardens Cricket Ground. You can guess the name?
687. Cricketers, Cardif
A bit like Pen & Wig, it had a very open plan interior which I have to confess I'm not a fan of, but it worked very well here, with book cases and just nice understated decor meaning it still felt that we were in a cosy place. The beers were from a brewery called Evan Evans, who I read bought out Archers of Swindon who's beers I used to love and see them everywhere (even Hull) in my early real ale drinking days. I was equally impressed with the unpronouncable Cwrw which I had kindly bought for me. Still, beer always taste better after a victory. We reviewed the match and the Cardiff pubs (I managed to get in how I'd enjoyed the Rummer Tavern!) and it was the perfect end to my trip to Cardiff. Chris D thought I could maybe push myself for one more city centre 'tick' before closing time but truth be told, I'd had enough and it was time for supper and a good night's sleep!
|Post match celebrations outside the Cricketers.|
The following day, despite York Beer Festival looming like a gigantic boozy mess, I'd given myself a good 70 minutes in Manc before my change of trains and decided to walk to the gay district where I'd heard great things about this pub for a couple of years now, let's say it was one of those 'monkey off my back ticks'. There was controversy on the walk to it in Sackville Gardens where an angry woman with a mobile phone accused a bewildered man of letting his "mutt" attack her gentle little dog and she had it all on video! The pub was a much more serene place, and I was the only customer and a bit like the Lansdowne in Cardiff, apparently attracts "the more discerning gay drinker!" It definitely had class and style with nice decor, a great range of ales with an emphasis on the always good Beartown brewery and my blueberry ale was an absolute joy. It almost felt like a micro pub as it was one small room only, and the one unisex toilet was called the 'water closet', presumably so people can say "I've just come out of the closet ha ha ha". Or maybe not. Great place.
|Excellent Manchester between train pubbing at the Molly House.|
Still, BRAPA returns tomorrow for a very low key day which is about exercise, fresh air and scenery as much as pubbing. Stay tuned for Sunday's report.