Monday, 3 October 2016

BRAPA : the archives (391-398)

For the third and final time this year, here are eight pubs I visited before I thought "oooh crikey, I'll take a photo of this pub, walk inside, be all judgey, and give it a number based on how many pubs I've visited previously".  Sounds crazy now doesn't it, but that was my sad life before 2014......

391.  Crown & Sceptre, Torquay

Revolutionary!  Oh yes, that is how I felt in those heady days of 2001/02 when supporting Hull City was fun despite the level of performance, and the idea of "well kept real ale" was a novelty I didn't take for granted.  16th Feb 2002 and after enjoying some crusty bread and soft cheese with Dad on the cliffs at Babbacombe whilst discussing where Agatha Christie took her inspiration from (we knew how to be hardcore hooligans!), we walked to this gem.  I can remember clearly to this day my first pint here, "Granny Wouldn't Like It" by a brewery called Wolf, which I think was Norfolk.  Am sure it wasn't my only pint.  There were lots of colourful candles, and picking bits of wax off them was about the most enjoyable pub game you could have.  The landlord was one of those friendly curmudgeonly types who looked like he'd been in charge for 500 years, and all the other customers were bearded old men with sandles and funny Devon accents.  We got a great 1-1 draw and we came back for two of our next three visits including on an evening last of all, which lacked some of that Saturday lunchtime magic, but we won 4-1 and 3-0 so quite a lucky pub too.

392.  Commercial Rooms, Bristol

I don't know if there's some weird old pub law in Bristol still in place today but I'm always amazed to find that despite the wealth of pub options and locals reckoning they are "hard", finding anything opening before 12 noon anywhere remotely near the centre is virtually impossible.  This helps explain why despite my many visits to the city, I've done such a small number of pubs and need to book myself in for a week for BRAPA purposes!  When you have to rely on a 'Spoons to save the day in Bristol, you know they must seriously hate the idea of morning drinkers.  No wonder this place was busy, but one of the more spectacular Spoons I've been in with a huge high glass ceiling and lots of gold and shiny decor and lots of 17th century men in wigs and top hats laughing (or that is how I remember it anyway).  It was March 1st 2008 and we just used it to tide us over before we went on to a pub called the Old Fishmarket which I might get to review another year.

393.  King William IV, Leyton

It was 23rd March 2002 so another ultra early GBG 'tick', having spent the last few years enjoying the legendary atmosphere in the Coach & Horses very near Brisbane Road, but my new book suggested we might get better ale elsewhere - how dare it?  Well, Dad went for something light, I was looking for a stout or porter, and chose something called "Dark Star" but this was a brewery unbeknownst to us and I was upset to see it was a pale ale.  But then we tried it and "boom!", best beer ever.  We both drank about 10 pints each which helped numb the pain of watching our new loan signing Kyle Lightbulb make his debut.  Oh, and a very nervous Liverpool fan came in, sat at the bar, twitched a bit, drank a glass of red wine, watched 10 mins of his team on TV, made a scouse noise, and then ran off.  We came here a year or so later but the pub had become more like a Thai restaurant.  We had a meal we didn't really enjoy and were disappointed by the pub change.  Our third visit, a lot more recently, for an evening cup game on a cold cold night saw the pub looking much more errrm 'pubby' but it lacked warmth and charm despite being in front of a fire, and I had this ale called Brodie's Citra which was one of the vilest pints of a well kept beer ever - pure Fairy Liquid.

Me deciding I could do a late Christmas album in King William IV - Jan 2013.
394.  Coach & Horses, Norwich

Post match on 27th September 2005 and as I was staying overnight in a Pink Lighthouse owned by bikers, I felt the need to join the post match throng at this very impressive pub, though hard to fully appreciate with so many Canaries around.  I don't remember much apart from getting a seat against all the odds (mainly because people like standing up and getting in the way), I remember the ales (by Chalk Hill) being really great and I even nicked a beer mat for my collection - such a part time Tegestologist!   On another evening post-match, I brought Dad here and when I saw a crazy incident being repeated on Sky Sports News, I said it was an Ipswich goal and a local turned round and properly told me off for mentioning the "i" word - he wasn't even joking, weirdo,  Anyway, we chatted with "Big Dave" and his lady wife, Aidy might have been there too or some other Welly Gang 'backing cast' - we definitely didn't get a seat, despite staying til almost 11pm.

395.  Head of Steam, Newcastle

13th September 2008 and it was more post match fun, and a good idea to go somewhere a bit "off-beat" in the Toon as Bodega and even things like the Bridge Hotel are heaving after the match!  I say "off-beat" but it's incredibly handy for the station, just never seen it busy.  Maybe stairs confuse Geordies.  They'll never find the Sip Club.  Anyway, this was very much a mission, led by hardcore revolutionaries like Chris Irvin/Mark Bainton and Ben Andrew who wanted a "carry out" for the train, which was pretty much the sole purpose, though we mingled at the bar with an extended group of Andrew's.  Beer is always good I find (Autumn Tyne by Mordue was superb in Sept 14), been here 2 or 3 more times since, with people like John Watson and again Ben Andrew who really likes this place, though the stuffing coming out of settees, weird lighting and music that should be better than it is, always make me wonder how it does often get in the GBG amongst such strong competition.  Well, I suppose simple answer - it is a beer guide!

396.  Falcon Tap, York

So BRAPA had been going for almost a year, yet when I first visited here with friends on 29th Jan 2015  on one of our Thursday "dice night" challenges, it never occurred to me to treat at as a pre-emptive and give it the full BRAPA treatment.  Expectations were low.  Having been an old man's pub when I started drinking in York, the scumbag drinking culture of Micklegate meant it soon became a shitty bar called Rumours, despite retaining the bronzed Falcon above the door.  So it was good to hear it going "real ale" again, though of course the word "Tap" had to be included somewhere in case we didn't realise it sold proper beer, FFS!   Stood in the front bar (all a bit reminiscent of when First Hussar became Yorkshire Hussar became the Whippet Inn), friendly barman tells me there's not just THESE two ales on, but FOUR more round the back, so I went round, saw my friends already deliberating, and ordered a Brass Castle Snow Eater (very good of course) due to snow blizzards in L**ds all day.  It's not so cosy, posing tables are about as good as you can do save for one 'porno settee' which is too low and often inhabited by the kind of dead-legs who can't quite accept it is no longer Rumours.  Nevertheless, of all of York's recent pub opening (and there's tonnes), probably most impressive for me, certainly ale-wise, fully deserving of a GBG entry.

397.  Foley's Tap House, Leeds

It's the "T" word again!  This pub, one of my most frequently visited in Leeds since my 2005 debut here, has had more names than most pubs have served guest beers.  I was once told it was a tax fiddle, possibly by a barmaid who just after, disappeared forever, I liked her honesty.  Being of a multi levelled nature, and having an almost "modern" feel (well, until the current Friends of Trembling Ham-ness trend kicked in), it has been a good "go to" compromise place for work nights out over the years.   I reckon it was a pre-emptive tick when I first visited, about 2005, possibly early 2006.  It was called "Baroque" and served Isle of Man beer from Okells so it soon became "Dr Okells".  Then it became "Mr Foley's Ale House" but became a York brewery pub which excited some folk at work, but bored me shitless.  Last year, they added "Cask" to the name.  This year, the "Mr" has been dropped and "Cask" changed to "Tap".  Next year, who knows, I'll let you predict.  I'm going "Doc F's Craft Kitchen".  Two favourite times in here - (a) a work Christmas do, everyone stood in street not making a decision so I marched 20 people here including a group of old ladies - the "filing" ladies.  They spent the whole time moaning whilst I sipped my Acorn Gorlovka.  I got a right slating for bringing them, so we all went to this shocker of a bar called "Players" which was hideous, everyone THEN said I should have persuaded them to stay in Foley's.  And they all went home.  I got drunk on Desperado and a stripper's t-shirt hit me in the face.  But he was male and sweaty ugh.  (b) World Cup 2010 and I set myself a challenge to watch EVERY game so went to Mr Foley's after work EVERY day to watch the 4pm kick off.  Three weeks in, Japan or Sweden v Cameroon or Ivory Coast was 0-0 after 34 minutes.  I just thought "what the hell am I actually doing", necked my Roosters guest ale,  and sped off home to gorge myself on salad for 3 weeks.

After work Mr Foley drinks with Rebecca, 2nd Oct 2015.
398.  Inns of Court Hotel, Wakefield

On mine and Jig's epic W is for Wakefield pub crawl on 30th Jan 2014 when I was already thinking ahead to BRAPA and wishing the A-Z was over, this was our second pub of  the day after the Black Rock on account of it actually being open before 4pm on a midweek.  What my hazy memories tell me is that this was the weakest pub of the day so haven't been surprised to see it deguided from either the 2015 or 2016 GBG.  The beer range seemed lacking, perhaps a Marston's pub and I spent ages trying to fathom out whether Empire is a session 3.8ish beer or a 5.4% bruiser.  It seemed very basic, airy, quite open plan, a bit like a working man's club if I'm being honest.  Yet, there was that nagging feel that it wasn't quite all there - like someone had removed some of the furniture, fixtures and fittings for a clean, and would be bringing them back again in the morning.  Strange place.

So that is that then!  As I say every year, we'll have to wait and see what the 2018 GBG holds before I can archive any more pubs (unless I get bored and just start reviewing old pubs at random).

Before that, someone on Twitter has requested I go through a few of those that have been de-guided from the 2016 GBG and perhaps give my thoughts on whether I agree or not.  I'll pick 10 at random and write a couple of lines on each, with a final result on whether CAMRA has got it right or wrong in each case (in my very limited humble opinion!)

I'll be writing up Maltby and co on Wednesday so see ya then,


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