Wednesday 6 October 2021

BRAPA ..... COUNTS BASSIES (Staffs Part 2 of 4)


Today's quest saw me aiming to break my three year old record of four consecutive pints of Bass in BRAPA pubs.  If it was achievable anywhere, Staffordshire was the place to do it.

And it was 1/1 early doors in Green Man, Milwich (1967 / 3396) , a pub so remote, I'd been delighted to come up with a public transport solution (obscure bus to place called Salt, then long walk) until I realised said bus only takes the Salt route about thrice a day.  

A taxi it was instead, my driver was a 'character', bemoaning all the shut boozers en route, but bemoaning even more Petrol Crisis 2021, which was dominating the news this morning.  We were joking about what I'd do if the pub wasn't open, but arriving at 12:05pm, a wide open door reassured me.  Yet he STILL felt the need to poke his head out of the car window, and shout at the landlady who was doing some essential pub work in the beer garden "THIS LAD IS WONDERING IF YOU ARE OPEN!"  (I'm not wondering, I can see it is).  "Well if he looks, he'll see the door is wide open!" she replies.  Talk about getting me off on the wrong foot!  I'm the the first customer, and thankfully the landlord is easier to please, as I order a Bass, a beer he's a fan of, he's been here since 1990. 27 consecutive GBG appearances too.  I'm very shortly joined by a gaggle of old locals, who all sit centimetres away from me on the bench, some to my left, some right, but almost zero acknowledgement, despite a bloody great cauliflower, beer guide and Stabilo on my table.  I try and join in the chat briefly, but they'd rather speak through me!  Verging on rude.  Is this peak middle England?  Why this lot are also so apoplectic re the petrol crisis I'll never know, sinking about 4 Bassies in the time it takes me to drink one, where are they planning on driving?  When did they last leave Milwich?  The guv'nor is the only person I like here, occasional smiles, he claims getting Bass on has been tough due to a CO2 shortage and we all should be thankful.  At one point, he wipes the blackboard, rechalks it, but it is fainter than it was before! Locals are passing each other newspapers over my head now.  I return my glass, say goodbye and leave.  Absolute crickets.

A happy scene

Before the locals arrive #1

Before the locals arrive #2

It is a long walk back to the main road junction, plenty of time to chunter under my breath about weird insular village folk, and get it all out of my system.  Gorgeous pub though, and good beer.

After passing a few farms and lots of angry pheasants, I take a right turn onto a busy road and just pray the pavement holds out.

It does.  Well, right up until I need to take my life into my hands by crossing and turning into the village for pub two.

And with not many properties in this little hamlet, the pub is easy to spot, all twinkly with little fairy lights flickering on the outside.

It opens up into a fairly characterless indoor space, I can't say Greyhound, Burston (1968 / 3397) is going to be a contender for pub of the weekend, despite a sunnier welcome from the landlady.  It is Marston's too, thus denying me a second consecutive Bass I'd been hoping for.  Having said that, the ale quality is spot on, the 61 Deep sure drank well, it needed to!  Pretty gastro otherwise, the only 'atmosphere' created by a spate of incoming yappy dogs blocking way to toilets from bar, and children asking their Mummies for sweeties.  It is exactly the sort of pub you'll end up in the baby change by mistake, and that's what I did.  At least I could take solace in the fact that two blokes opposite me, discussing aquatic birds, looked like they could've stepped straight off my Twitter page and into this pub.  We exchanged a few friendly words, mainly about twilds and twogs.  The low leather settee isn't doing much for my 'drinking posture', which soon needs to be dialled up to 'Down it, Down it'.  Having miscalculated how many miles Stone is from here, and still unclear on the 'pavement situation', I've tried ordering an Uber taxi.  Not too confident, such a hit and miss company.  But this time, it pings in seconds and a bloke says he's only eight minutes away.  I still have three quarters of a pint to drink.  But I make it, and leave with a big belch and bye bye to our bird lovers.

Aquatic legends - and I don't mean Colin

I love owls but no thanks

What can we see through the pub window?   

Handbag dog orders lady owner a pint of Pedigree (chum)

Uber driver doesn't say a word but is incredible efficient, dropping me off at my Stone outlier at 13:57.

A lady is sat outside, I step up to take the picture ......

"I don't want you to think I'm an alki waiting for the pub to open!" says woman of the moment, who introduces herself as a Wolverhampton Wanderers fan in that slightly apologetic / didn't ask way they always do.  "Wait ..... so they aren't open yet?" I ask in shock.  "No, 2pm!" she replies.  Well, I'd timed my arrival at the Swan, Stone (1969 / 3398) perfectly then.  Suddenly, we hear a key jangle in the lock and the door creaks open, 1:58pm.  "Sorry, I didn't realise you were waiting, I'd have opened sooner!" says our lively, slightly bonkers friendly host Danni, an Aston Villa fan, who hasn't got over Grealish's departure.  "I thought we were going to get married, but he's blown his chance now!  I've moved on to Danny Ings" she says, bonding with Wolves lady over Midlands football.  For a woman worried about looking like an alki, Wolves lady orders a tiny coffee with free biscuit, whilst I hit the Sarah Hughes.  Danni brings out a frozen blue rubber glove to entertain the masses, which now involve a bonkers old local, who keeps showing me rude memes on his phone even though I didn't ask.  He wants a hold of Colin.  Danni is a fan too.  Of course Colin would prove popular in such a friendly, quirky environment, one of my favourite pub experiences of the weekend.   And just when you think it can't get any more weird bonkers colourful, Matthew "See the lizards" Lawrenson arrives to my 'surprise' (name of the ale I'm drinking so I shouldn't be!) , all Paisley shirted and wonderful, seeing on Twitter I was likely due here.  Great, finally I have a tour guide.  Wolves lady, who now has a man with her, stumbles back from the bogs, pauses and confesses she thought Matthew's bag was a dog and nearly stroked it.  What was in that coffee?  Matthew had warned me that Stone was a funny place, but now I could see for myself.

Col, Matthew and a Random Pile of Logs

Rude joke meme loving local, with Col

Danni and Col

Col and pub party piece, frozen blue rubber glove

Our local heroes enjoying a great pub

Distant Wolves lady surveys the scene

Cracking ale, but very sweet

So another Bass failure, and the scene didn't get any brighter next as Matthew tells me the next place is a Titanic outlet ...... NOT that that's a bad thing ......

More enjoyable quirkiness was to be found at Royal Exchange, Stone (1970 / 3369) certainly more evidence that Stone is looking to compete with Portland for weirdest place BRAPA has ever visited.  Our amiable but no nonsense hostess (well, that is until I put forward my controversial theory about Stafford's Sun hiding their Plum Porter so people don't drink it all!) serves me a very cool crystally Iceberg, yes it is drinking well!  People keep talking about whether a local called Mr Brasso is going to put in an appearance, and one staggering bloke tells the barmaid he only came in today to see what she is wearing, which asks a lot more question than it answers.  Me and Matthew go to sit at the front of the room, and moving a curtain which doesn't look like it has been touched since 1970, aptly enough, a dead moth falls out and is suddenly sharing the bench with me.  Twitter loves a good moth redemption story.  Duncan Mackay is pleased with me, and reports it is an Angle Shades, which I thought was a pub near Liverpool Street station.  Meanwhile, Katie Fuller declares all moths are good ones (even dead ones?) and says you can attract them by 'sugaring' which involves ale so it possibly got confused.  Zombie moth attracted to Titantic Iceberg??  I'd seen enough to know that in Stone, anything is possible.  Remember the show Eerie Indiana?  Stone has the same energy.

Angle Shades

Iceberg time, courtesy of our friendly host wearing sensible clothes

Possible Mr Brasso sighting?

Another low key Mr Brasso contender, note Matthew in the window

No need to fire up Google Maps, Matthew knows Stone like the back of his hand, and I follow him through the mean streets in search of our third and final pub. 

We come to a building which we think might be the pub.  Impossible to tell, doesn't look like a pub, looks more like the entrance to a railway station they never want you to use.   But a GBG sticker and a range of handpumps suggests we are probably in the right place.

Borehole, Stone (1971 / 3370) is the probably venue, and as early ticker Isaac Newton observed, what goes up must come down.  After some cracking experiences today, I found this place drab and unconvincing.  Feels more like a boutique cake shop / dog grooming salon than a pub, the young lady serving us has such an expression on her face (nervous?  unseeing?  sinister? ..... which may be forgivable, if me and Matthew approached YOUR bar)  We're hardly made to feel welcome.  Matthew observes the way she's pulling our pints, looks like she's never done it before in her life.  Lymestone is the brewery, so another Bass failure, so much for my plan this morning!  A decent drop, never wows me.  It was Matthew who took me to Lymestone's main place in Newcastle-under-Lyme and I liked that one, friendly bloke I remember.  My ale is good but the place smells of raw meat, damp and dogs which kind ruins the aroma somewhat.  We sit at the back of the room, a few more folk arrive, but there's no Mr Brasso or Drunk Wolves Coffee ladies here.  I guess it does what it says on the tin, bit of a bore, bit of a hole.  But of course, that is just my considered (100% correct cos I've visited so many pubs) opinion, you might love it.  Give it a try before you die!

Matthew guides me back to the station, mindful of what state I'm likely in by now, hops on a train Preston bound before me and I wave him off, and then I go for a wee in some bushes definitely not part of the station so don't fear.

One more pub to go, and one still to do in the central part of Stafford.  Makes sense doesn't it? 

And whilst my memories of Bird in Hand, Stafford (1972 / 3371) are inevitably hazy, I remember enough about it to report it was one of the stronger Stafford pubs I visited this weekend.  Black Country Ales pub again, like my favoured Shrewsbury Arms the previous evening, making me think they obviously know how to do pubs well, plus their ales seem very nice as well, though my fifth consecutive Bass fail means my grand tally so far is 1/10 - boo!  The Zombie Richard III is drinking well though.  Solid staff, and quite a lively local hub, being a sunny late Friday afternoon now, spilling into the evening session.  It starts with a few blokes dotted around the bench seats watching the golfers tee off for the Ryder Cup (come on Europe!  How did that work out?), and soon, in what they claim is a total coincidence, a massive group of 'yoofs' arrive, with inflatable golf clubs and sporting golfing gear.  "Actual gowf!" exclaims the ring leader, beating himself over the head with his fake club, as a lady in a skimpier golf outfit than I've ever seen Davis Love III wearing, giggles.  Other than that, all sweetness and light, apart from a slightly sinister incident when a youngish bloke tells his partner that he wants his parents to believe he's into clay pigeon shooting because he doesn't want to admit he shoots actual birds!  Eeek.  In a 'Bird in Hand' aswell.  Pubbing, you don't know what you're gonna hear next.  

Nice foamy Zombie Richard

Calm before the golf gang arrived

A pleasant BRAPA scene

Extreme Col

Well, it might still have been early, but that was me done!  After buying a nice bag of food, it was back to my Travelodge.  

Busy day tomorrow, little did I know I'd end up doing EIGHT pubs, some absolute classics, as the likes of Daddy BRAPA and Tom were coming to town.

Join me for epic tales of that tomorrow in an even more extended Part 3. 



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  2. Just ahead of your Staffordshire trip, going back to your 'Too long to get served' tweet about the Northern Monk Refectory. You didn't miss much. The day before your visit, I went in hoping to get it ticked off, but there was no cask beer at all. A GBG failure always annoying for a long-time GBG ticker (722/4444).