Wednesday 5 February 2020


Good evening and welcome aboard the good ship BRAPA, navigating our brave way through those murky deep blue oceans in search of the glimmering light of a new Good Beer Guide pub beacon on some rocky outcrop. 

Real life footage of me trying to get to a new pub in January 

It might sound overly dramatic (cos it is), but that is the quest for January pubs for you!  Never easy.  If the owners have not pissed off on holiday for the whole month, they'll almost certainly close for some period when you'd normally expect them to be open.  And if they are open, the real ales are getting such a lack of action, the quality can easily suffer what with virtuous nincompoops squealing 'hashtag Dryanuary' and just a general 'can't be arsed' gloom hanging over everything.

Me and a local wait to get served in January.

I say all this, but 2020 January was actually better than most for me, after a shocking start saw me do only TWO pubs in the first TEN days, officially embarrassing!  The pubs seemed to be licking their wounds from a Christmas-time hammering - used and abused to the max by the same people who turn their back on the poor little things come Jan. 

In the end, I got 31 done, a pub a day and it beats the January BRAPA avg of 28.4 so for that I've got to be grateful, even if it was gone 8pm on the last day of the month when I was finally in that 31st pub.

The BRAPA blue touch paper wasn't really lit until the 18th, and we must thank Father BRAPA for his overnight Cockermouth brainwave.  The pubs were superb, and minus a Gilcrux Caravan Park, very open.  The ale quality was stunning. I could pick three from here easily for monthly contenders.

Cockermouth's New Cock & Bull - not a place that suffers from lack of pubgoers in January

It came at a cost though as we said farewell to Martin the Owl, who flew the nest to live out his remaining years to live in West Cumbria.  We'll miss him, and a few have auditioned to be his replacement but so far, the position remains open.  Comment below if you have a contender. 

Farewell Martin, we will miss you!

Andy the Sloth auditioned, but was ultimately too wet and slippery

Another 'overnighter' of similar quality followed a week later, this time in County Durham.  Again, great pubs and ales was the order of the day and I was able to claw back some numbers from that difficult start. 

No room on the benches at the Smiths Arms, Castle Dene

And an excellent Sheffield finale, visiting the pubs that had failed me on New Year's Day, added a nice sense of 'coming full circle' to the month, leaving me optimistic for what is to come in Feb.

My fave experiences?  It isn't easy to pick out three but here goes ........

1. Tap & Spile, Framwellgate Moor, Durham
2. Stag Inn, Dufton
3. Grey Horse, Consett

Friendly locals in the Grey Horse, Consett.  A wonderful pub in every way.

Plenty of honourable mentions, Chris M and the Station House in Durham for being a great end to my weekend and making me so welcome, the Masonic Centre in Chester-le-Street for being a super friendly club, Three Mariners in Lancaster had plenty of quality, as did the Punch Bowl at Great Broughton, Bush Inn at Tallentire (what a lovely couple and unexpected opening joy, my ultimate single feel good factor moment of the month!), Little Haven at Parkgate near Rotherham for making a great effort with me, White Horse at King's Meaburn took some finding, but well worth it, and last but not least, Fagans in Sheffield, a real gem. 

Outdoor drinking with my friends from work, Three Mariners in Lancaster.  A good pub town.
Much harder to find any dross.  The Brewery thing at Cusworth near Doncaster was pretty dreadful but it was only a speculative preemptive so I'd have to say the GBG's done it's job. 

All 31 ticks had something to commend them (usually the ale in the absence of pub theatrics and excitement!)

In other news, Father BRAPA turned 73.  Thanks to him for being all time BRAPA legend!

Feb Preview

For the first time in a few years, we don't have a February Winter BRAPA holiday which is a bit sad, but I've 'sold out' by deciding to go to Lanzarote in March, but don't worry, I will be reviewing the pubs & bars where possible in LUBE (Lanzarote Unlikely Beer Experience).  I hope you are looking forward to LUBE.

Astounding pub ticking holiday in Isle of Man - two years ago tonight, making friends with Laxey locals

But for Feb, the aim has to be a pub a day, so 29 will do me, what with the leap year and everything.  You don't often get a 5 Saturday February, must be highly rare indeed, so am determined to take advantage of that. 

Looking at the bigger picture, the sooner I'm back at 1743 net pubs the better as this is the figure I was on in September when I had to cross-tick the 2020 Good Beer Guide and lose 200 pubs!  I'm currently on 1714 so likely to be March when I can start making REAL progress - but then only 5 or 6 months before the 2021 GBG drops on my doormat ..... brutal life this pub ticking!

My original 1714th pub, White Lion, Sawley, was done on 3/8/19 (which just shows how hard it is to make progress!)

The consolation is that at least I'm focused mainly on counties like Cumbria and Durham , where I'm hopefully getting many GBG regulars in counties where turnover isn't too high.  I'll be in Dorset and Cornwall later this year for holidays, and want to get cracking on Essex as the year progresses.

The month has already started with one of those epic drunken BRAPA days, straddling the River Humber, which I'll tell you about soon and featured five ticks and a great preemptive.

Coming soon, Duncan Mackay makes his BRAPA debut in Barton upon Humber (same shirt I had on in Sawley?)

This coming weekend, Father BRAPA has rebelled against official BRAPA protocol and got us match tickets for the Reading game, (had he heard I was planning on spending the day in Maidenhead?), but the good news is, I do have Reading pubs still to do, plus a couple of pre-emptive ideas courtesy of the great Sir Quinno!

A week later, I'm back up in Cumbria and again looking at an overnighter up Carlisle way to try and get some awkward outer Carlisle ones chalked off. 

And a week after that, County Durham comes back into focus with Father BRAPA back in tow - he's always wanted to go to Crook since he saw Hull City beat them 5-4 in the FA Cup in 1962 .... well now he finally has his chance!

Finally, on that unusual leap year Saturday, I've not decided what I'm doing yet but again, I should think it'll be up in one of the North Eastern counties. 

Add to this Thu/Fri nights cracking on with South Yorkshire, and perhaps the odd extra cheeky bonus midweek opportunity (my boss can't decide whether to give me Thu 13th off yet, c'mon Dave, don't be a BRAPA crapper!) and I'm quite optimistic for the month of Feb.

Me trying to be optimistic

Thanks for reading, I'll keep twittering my pubs and blogs so keep the faith, it'll soon be springtime!



  1. On initial inspection, a five Saturday February should occur once every 28 years. This is assuming that the bonus days each occur with the same frequency, which really should bean obvious true fact but I have a niggling doubt over.

    1. Hmmm, I think I see what you mean Tom! But if it is every 28 years, then I probably only have one more chance to pub tick on a 29th Feb Saturday in my life, unless I live to 96 which I doubt.

  2. Good work. Gilcrux caravan park let me down too. Am sure it'll be worth it if it ever opens.

    Incidentally, seeing you've just got back to where you were on 31 August, I'm still a hundred short of that figure despite 420 ticks since September. Must be even tougher for Duncan who presumably gets there on August 8th. But I guess you discussed all that at the Official GBG Tickers Convention last Saturday.

    1. Gilcrux never actually opens, it is just a ploy Cockermouth CAMRA use to keep pub tickers visiting the area - that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

      If Duncan and I discussed any GBG intricacies last Saturday, they've been lost in the cloudy mist of my addled brain!