Sunday, 4 October 2015

BRAPA - Nottingham Central (to a finish)

Fabulous Flemish building in Nottingham
Nottingham rocketed up to 13th in the BRAPA league table as I visited the five pubs required to complete the central area of the city.

There are 3 BRAPA pubs hiding in this photo - can you name/spot them?

My BRAPster 'band of merry men' were Dad & Tom, with Ben deciding to do his own VAT & Fiddle inspired day (which apparently wasn't a success, a BRAPA lesson there), and Chrissy's A & D making an interesting train decision that got them too late into Notts for any quality pub time.

We had a bit of waiting around in the Sneinton area of town before our 11am opener unbolted it's doors, but we tried to make the cultural best of it with a look at old tram sheds, old banks and modern arenas.  Who says BRAPA isn't a whitewater ride?

700.  King William IV, Sneinton, Nottingham

The King Billy (with crowned goat on pub sign) was a fitting way to bring up the (2nd) 700 pub landmark.  It was the young landlord/bar chap who made it, combining fine hospitality with pub and real ale knowledge to make him a 'staff of the year' contender despite not being a young brunette!  After talking us through the amazing range of LocAles, Dad and me got Shiny ones from this magnificent Derby brewery, he gave Tom his blackcurrant for free (a BRAPA first from memory) and then showed us to a superb little roof garden.  A very enterprising way to create extra space, it had astroturf and nice views over the city, plus it was a sunny warm morning.  What a great place to debate which five 'public figures' will be the next to die!  No wonder Dad did his classic line "oh, that's me settled, I can stay here all day" No chance of that, BRAPA waits for no man and it was time for the walk back towards town, with the landlord characteristically pre-empting my pre-emptive tick!

Dad & Tom in roof garden bliss at the King Billy
Barrel Drop, Nottingham

Single unisex toilet?  Check.  No blackcurrant cordial?  Check.  Straining your eyes and brain to try and work out which real ales are on and where they are hiding?  Check.  Basic room with nothing electronic?  Check!  We must be in a micro pub!!  Following on from my BRAPA report on this new phenomena, it made sense to give this one a pre-emptive try.  Tom's opening line "it's like the Hop & Vine" was harsh, but the place did have something approaching a cafe bar feel.  As instructed by King Billy chap, I said "hi" to the owner on his behalf, but he lacked the earlier chap's charm despite helping Dad to choose a rather delicious 'black' IPA and giving him a taster.  Indeed, I wondered if he was actually going to charge me for the drinks or he was testing my honesty!  Now to solve the conundrum, is this building part of the Nottingham caves system.  "No" was our resounding conclusion.  There was a nice ambiance created by some soft background music, but comfort was lacking, even my Micro pub standards.  Some Hull City fans arrived just to ask us "how the 'ell have YOU found this place?" which was quite unanswerable.  Time to leave.

I'm off caving down an alleyway in Nottingham.  Barrel Drop!
701.  Sir John Borlase Warren, Canning Circus, Nottingham

Just to underline the fact that Micro's lack something a refurbished old fashioned pub can offer, this place was an absolute gem combining comfort with a sense of the olde worlde.  It in fact only reopened in 2014 and also has a roof garden, facts I was unaware of at the time.  I had to do a double-take when we arrived, thinking "I've been here before" but I was thinking of the Lass O'Gowrie near Manchester Oxford Road, an uncannily similar curved bar at the entrance.  I'd been pronouncing the pub 'Borlasie' after the Crystal Palace midfielder, and this should have been a clue for my fantasy football team as he scored a goal.  The staff were again helpful, and most of the ales were from Lincoln Green with Dad getting a special charity one.  I like the whole Robin Hood / Maid Marian thing, but was sad I couldn't get a pint of Rabies!  We sat in a back room so we could smuggle some incredibly unsly cheese n onion rolls from my BRAPA bag of tricks, whilst Dad kept the cultural element in tact by spotting a wonderful Flemish building through the fine etched windows, so we had a bit of a photo session.  Another great Nottingham tick.

Royal Navy officer, politician, diplomat, great pub!  Sir JBW.
702.  Falcon Inn, Canning Circus, Nottingham

With Tom off on his merry way, Dad and me walked the 15 steps or so to the left which found us in the Falcon, another brilliant recent refurb of a proper grand old pub.  Again, we found a friendly and helpful barmaid at the helm - this kind of staff behaviour is unheard of in the East Midlands - and Dad thought it was fitting that we ordered an "Endless Summer" from the Black Iris brewery which she told me was only a three minute walk from the pub.  It was the pint of the day, absolute nectar of the gods we just couldn't get over how tasty it was and as you can guess, the standard today was very high anyway.  A feverish young man then rushed into the bar to tell barmaid that Titanic Plum Porter (her favourite and one of mine too) was on at the Organ Grinder, our next pub anyway!  What drama.  We sat in a nice dark cubby hole and noticed that the original Falcon pub sign had been brought inside the pub and was now hanging on the wall.  Now call me a pub geek, but I'd like to see this kind of thing more often.

Me about to steal a shopmobility scooter outside the Falcon
703.  Organ Grinder, Canning Circus, Nottingham

Rich pickings in the Canning Circus area of town, this again was probably less than a minute walk from the last two pubs aswell.  I'd been in a "Blue Monkey" pub once before, in Loughborough, and you can certainly see the similarities, lots of dark wood, low lights, youngish discerning ale drinkers, though I was glad this time that there was no huge intimidating monkey mural on the wall, which totally freaked me out in Loughborough.  Sure enough, the Plum Porter was present, but we were overwhelmed by the impressive range of Blue Monkey ales, with standards like BG Sips and Inifinty complimented by guests like Marmal-ape, which Dad was soon sampling.  I was sad to see it was marmalade based rather than marmite, and it took about two thirds of a pint before the burnt orangey taste came through.  As we sat away from the bar and observed monkey memorabilia, we wondered why they'd even bother putting Sharp's Doom Bar on as a staple beer in their pubs, before an old man came along and ordered two pints of the stuff!  The pub also gets bonus points for having proper pub snacks like pork pies and scotch eggs instead of main meals.  In fact, an excitable man confidentially  whispered in my ear that spending 60p on a Pickled Egg would line your stomach to such an extent that you can drink exactly as much beer as you possibly want without feeling drunk.  Hmmmm.

Time for a bit of monkey business at the Organ Grinder

704.  Newshouse, Nottingham

With the rather remarkable 'news' that Hull City had won at Nottingham Forest, it was celebration time, and no more fitting place to do it than a building, which in years gone by, used to be where the illiterate would go to have newspaper reports read out to them!  Now, our great host in King Billy had said this pub, close to the station, was improving because half of it was now selling beers from an exciting local brewery.  He wasn't enamoured by Castle Rock ales (I guess it's what Black Sheep is to us in Yorkshire) but Castle Rock was all I could see and it holds enough of a novelty for me to enjoy a pint of Elsie Mo, whilst Dad had a guest.  Speaking of Dad, I hadn't seen him for 15 minutes and it turned out he was having a rare but momentous pub poo, a fact I'm sure he won't mind me sharing in the public domain to add colour and life to my blog.  It gave me chance to observe what a cosy, lounge-like no frills pub this was, splendid in it's own way and very different from most Nottingham pubs, you'd never have guessed you were in the city centre from the calming atmosphere.  

Dad gets ready to celebrate at the Newshouse! 
The journey home went well, despite two train changes and I got 90 mins of shut eye before a friend's birthday reggae night, phew, all in a days work.  Detox time!  Well, until Tuesday night anyway.


Original pub sign from the Falcon Inn


  1. Just for all those people in readerland that aren't me, I would just like to clarify that when I went on my merry way from the Sir John Borlase Warren I did not go to the City Ground. Si didn't imply that I did, but I can see how somebody would draw that awful conclusion. I went to Elton & Orston station via the average but possibly GBG standard in some counties with lower standards Durham Ox in Orston.

    I thought from the Code of Conduct that the young brunettes were having their own category in the awards ceremony. The bloke in the King Billy must surely, however, be a contender for the general staff category.

    I'm glad the pubs were just as successful after I left, I approve greatly of pickled eggs as bar snacks. Titanic Plum Porter is everywhere, I understand from a pump click from non-guide pub but coming good (unless it is new in 2016) Number 1 (not 2) in Cleethorpes that it is national beer of the year.

    Your defence held out very well for the 5-5 draw, I could have snatched it in the end but failed to profit from a goalmouth scramble in Doncaster. Bentley could well join Healing as potential for a comedy last shack tick on BR.

    See you in Sheffield for which an email will follow later in the week.

  2. I never had any chance of a 6th so happy with the point!

    Plum porter won the speciality beer category but overall winner was Cwtch (?) by Tiny Rebel, near Cardiff.

  3. Well Sime, a great day out matched only by your excellent report. Its astonishing to have three top class pubs within half a minutes' walk. Amazingly superb ales in each one, and all that on top of the Sneinton King Billy - a little gem by any standards.Landlord of the year will take some beating. All trains back nearly empty, and comfortable too. Was I dreaming ?

  4. If it takes you back to reality Bernard, I ended up on a replacement bus from Scunthorpe to Grimsby and got in at just gone 22:30 after Si had had his couple of hours kip.

    I apologise for not studying the pump clip fully in the Number 1. My point still stands that Plum Porter seems more common than ever. I hope that I never see a Tiny Rebel beer in an English supermarket.

  5. Dad, you certainly have been the lucky charm for BRAPA 2015, some such high quality pub days. I tell you it made the Hobgoblin in Spread Eagle taste even worse than usual!

    Tom, I would be happy to see Plum Porter everywhere. Ok so I missed my Blue Monkey chance but not had it in a while. I hope I see plenty of Tiny Rebel beers in Yorkshire pubs!

  6. You see, I would actually say you are better off Plum Porter and Tin Rebel and the like being a rare treat, retaining high quality but only to be found when playing Stoke, Port Vale or doing a Cardiff City associated move up the valleys. It is a bit like my feelings on Wensleydale cheese, for which availability has increased in inverse proportion to quality. It is possible for these things to get to big.

    The Sheffield Wednesday email is progressing well.

    I'm looking forward to out of the box BRAPA ticks when we play Notts County in the third division next season, now that the central ones have fallen. You will be amazed to learn that I actually agree with you that West Bridgford is the best starting point although every time I pass I wonder why I haven't been to the Victoria at Beeston.

  7. The thing is Tom, you don't drink Plum Porter or Tiny Rebel. This would be like me telling you what brands of blackcurrant cordial to drink, it'd be simply unacceptable wouldn't it?

    Also, I don't think the cheese you get in Wensleydale tastes much like the supermarket type at all so the stuff from Hawes etc is always gonna be special.

    I'm quite relaxed about Notts. Glad you agree on West Bridgford, plus it has little bus trips out North, West and East a bit like Sheff/Wolverhampton so not worrying just yet!

    Cheers for the comments as ever! Si

  8. Do you not think you'd enjoy it more if it was a rare once a season treat though? I'm always up for suggestions for blackcurrant cordial brands. I do get your point though.

    Hawes do send a lot of cheese to the supermarkets these days. Sadly the real stuff seems to have suffered a bit as a consequence. It's still good stuff, don't question it, but not quite as good. I do wonder now I am eating less cheese (lack of facility to get decent stuff - I don't buy rubbish) I will appreciate it more next time.

    Some of the north trips are tram jobs to places like Basford. West might be as well, two new lines opened about a month ago so won't be reflected in the guide symbols yet. There is also Beeston for a train ride into Notts, though I suppose in the unlikely event that you run out of Derby pubs it could work for that as well.

  9. Plum Porter can be anywhere it wants. Just had it in a Berwick micropub along with half their fans; travels well. Tom is right about ubiquity damaging enjoyment though. I'm sure Cloughie said something along those lines.

    I also had mixed feeling about the micro, only person in there before a gig during the week, and very average. Notts CAMRA love them on principle, obviously.

    How many away games do you go to, or is it more fun just being in the same town and BRAPAing?

  10. Martin, I generally like to go to all away games unless it is overpriced or a lame boring ground/place or silly kick off day and time. So if we go up, very few! But behold NFFD (non football football days) which we are trialing at Blackburn on Sat though in reality did at Notts Forest, Sheff Wed and Man City in last year!

    I agree about ubiquity but call me complacent, I won't see Plum Porter go the same way as say Golden Pippin, York Guzzler or Deuchars just yet! I'd have a pint of it monthly if I had a choice.

    Micro pubs seem to be either great or very average in my experience, a bit like most pubs I suppose!