Sunday 13 February 2022

SGT. BRAPA'S ONLY HERTS CLUB, BANNED? (Latest from Hertfordshire Pt 2/2)

It had been a promising start to southern 2022 pub ticking, with Stoke Newington 'Spoons and Benington both receiving their BRAPA gold stars.  But as 17th century pub ticker Issac Newton said, what goes up must come down.  Ready for the inevitable descent into mediocrity?  

With Daddy Dewhurst behind the wheel, we parked beside a pretty little church in the village of Puckeridge, which reminded me of a beer I'd ordered in a Thai restaurant for Daddy BRAPA's birthday the previous weekend ......

Midsummer Night's Dream & Indian Premier League Cricket? 

The Dewhurst's are ready for ale / non alcoholic beer

One of the prettier covered smoking areas you'll witness 

Frustrating.  That would be my one word assessment of White Hart, Puckeridge (2037 / 3600).  How you manage to make an ancient 14th century pub quite drab is, I suppose, almost an achievement.  With McMullen's ales left, right and centre, I got a positive reaction off the barmaid for mentioning the Old Bank of England in London, that most ornate of McMullen's pubs.  Both that, and the Great Eastern Tavern in Hertford (the other McMullen's I could bring to mind) are lovelier than this.  The ingredients were there.  A cracking fireplace with a beam you are supposed to ask about, plush carpets and some nice windows, it promised a lot.  But the shape of the pub combined with the almost total lack of pubby furniture, plus a huge space given up to dining, meant that we found ourselves tucked around a tight corner on a huge circular table.  Having said that, the atmosphere was conducive to conversation, I remember our chats in here being particularly zippy (and no, I don't mean we were discussing Rainbow).  The Mild (which I hear is the beer style 'on trend' at present) drank well, though in the case of McMullen's, they've been continuing to do Mild throughout its uncool period too. 

Didn't even remember to photograph the beam!

Much promise, little actual delivery

Simon D gets his first highlighting of 2022 done, ably assisted by that cauliflower

We started our gradual southern progress towards Hertford in the nearby village of Standon.

'Same old mediocrity, but done in a very different way' would be my wordier assessment of Star, Standon (2038 / 3601) .  The staff had gone AWOL, giving us ample time to decide Crouch Vale Brewers Gold was the ale to go for, if I needed it.  When the landlord did appear, he acknowledged us with a 'bear with me lads' and then disappeared again, to look after his locals first.  One was a Ted, one was a Geoff, there may've been a Jeff too.  Someone got done out of 20p, that's all I can remember, nearly sparking an international incident.  This GK boozer was 17th century, but again seating wasn't really conducive to a relaxed drinking experience, not in this right hand side at least, and we had to perch by posing pillars facing a wall, and read about 4 year old lads dressed for the first world war.  Even though this felt marginally pubbier than Puckridge, its overall atmosphere felt even more lacking, which is a strange contradiction now I think about it with a more sober mind!  To it's credit, the Brewers Gold was the best quality beer today, and their ambitious listing of a 'pint of mixed' which I associate more with that Colchester/Manningtree part of the world, (Abbot/ GK IPA) was intriguing, but not quite enticing enough.  Now half Tribute, half Brewers Gold, hmmm then we could be talking(!)

Hertfordshire eh, it has its moments of wonder, but it is no Essex if we are taking the county as a whole when discussing the strength of its GBG suite.  When I finish Herts, which is looking likely to be mid May now , I think a Top 10 Herts GBG entries would be something I could manage quite easily. 

Back in the moment, and back at the Daddy D Mobile, I broke the news to this pair of so far unhappy Hammers that they could smile again, the threat of a Kidderminster upset had been averted!  Phew.

I was back in optimistic mood myself, for now it was off to the town of Ware.  'Beware, but don't be Ware', as they say in the trade (okay, I made that up), as more online pornography is viewed here than anywhere else in the UK, though I read that stat about ten years ago now so I guess they could've found other hobbies by now.

The lively (some might saw bawdy) atmosphere was a blessed relief after our recent pub duo.  The Crooked Billet, Ware (2039 / 3602) felt a lot more how it should be.  Though, knowing what I know about the locals, eye contact was always going to be tricky.  A fabulously fringed lady with a dry sense of humour verging on 'bored of the world'), announced that our wait at the bar would be prolonged when she had to go and change the barrel of HPA.  Daddy D made the life-saving shout to get some snacks in.  I'd been feeling a bit wobbly for the last two pubs, felt it was going to be one of those 'can't handle my booze' days, but these scampi fries sure sorted me out.  The larger than life Six Nations loving men behind us were jiggling around in the centre of the pub like they were possessed.  I was relieved when we finally got to retire to a seat in the far corner with our drinks, though not relieved enough, as I had to walk through the (probable) bunch of wankers to get to the gents.  A leaky tap was being protected by a pink flannel.  Everything felt rude in here. On the way back, I realised there were actually only 4 or 5 blokes, it felt like about 50.   A second 'Blind Sooty' in three days confirms that we are in a proper boozer.  Simon points out the pub WiFi password is particularly complex, no doubt to discourage the locals from going online, we know what they are like.  Daddy D highlighted with aplomb, and much as I'd enjoyed this pub, was kinda glad to release myself from its sticky grip.

Slutty Sooty

Back to the backseat of the Daddy D mobile, where the Dewhurst's copy of the 2021 GBG kept me company as we drove to our final tick of the day.

I was cursing last summer, when a wedding stopped me gaining entrance to Hertford Club.  John Depeche Modem, who I was with that day, tried to argue with a beardie man that I only wanted a quick pint and a walk around to take some photos, and that me and Colin wouldn't ruin TOO MANY of the bride and groom's photos.  

But young beardo wasn't having it.  In fact, I could tell he was getting cross, so I told John to leave it alone.  

And as it transpired, it had all worked out for the best.  With the Stansted train line being hampered by replacement buses, the Dewhurst's had kindly agreed to take me back to Hertford North, despite it being well out of their way.  So the fact that I had a Hertford tick just added a nice kind of symmetry to proceedings. 

No wedding signs up, phew!  And the place looked a hell of a lot nicer without any pink balloons encircling it .....

I think we're all taken aback by the sheer volume of folk inside this tight 15th century space, as we run the gauntlet to the bar at Hertford Club, Hertford (2040 / 3603).  The bloke eyes us appraisingly and hesitates and I'm thinking 'oh no, beardie man has tipped him off about me, and I'm gonna be barred'.  But don't panic, it's just Hertfordshire CAMRA clubs are stricter than most (see also Welham Green).  He sends us back to the entrance to sign in.  Simon grasps the red clipboard of acceptance, and back at the bar, the same guy (we'll call him Slicked Back Rick on account of his hair) who is a real 'presence' btw, got a lot of time for him, much better than beardo, provides us with much top quality ale.  Yakima Gold in a Theakston's glass, what a time to be alive!  I'd been expecting to sneer at this place as a couple of people had previously told me it was a bit crummy, but I found a delightful building with a friendly atmosphere of people pretending to enjoy Rugby Union but actually just chatting.  This is definitely second only to Benington in the 'pub of the day' stakes.  I'm all happy, warm & fuzzy, handling my ale a lot better now, thanking the Dewhurst's for a top day.  But BRAPA being BRAPA, you can't relax for long without something going wrong .......

"Simon Everitt ..... CAMRA"

8.5/10 for SD's tick, losing 1.5 for forgetting to highlight the word 'Hertford'

Love this pic

One of us looks up train times, and everything is showing CANCELLED.  What the 'eck is going on?  My phone however, seems to think trains might be starting from Hertford North rather than stations further north, but is this too good to be true? 

The Dewhurst's let me jump out at the station to assess the situation, where an overworked man in hi-vis not called Eddie is dealing with many queries.  I walk in, and to my delight, trains on time all going to London!  Hurrah, I tell the Dewhurst's they can stand down, I'm on my way, phew, I was envisaging booking into a Hertford Travelodge for the night.

But if I thought my train problems were over, far from it!  King's Cross concourse is a heaving mass of confusion.  Everything north says cancelled.   A lady of blousey qualities tells me someone has jumepd on the line.  Only one thing for it ......

I grab an ESB, and just at the right moment, a seat in that rubbish central area is vacated.  A Parcel Yard style geography teacher has wheeled in a TV so we can watch Six Nations.  Seeing as I'm in prime position, I have to feign some interest, sharing a table with some posh London boys.  

Pint finished, but still no movement, I go up for a second one, which at the time, seemed a good idea!  

But at the bar, I'm stunned when she says it's gone off.  I stand there open mouthed.  "Okay, I've have a Pride" I eventually tell her after composing myself and wiping away the tears.  "Sorry, all the cask ale has gone off" she tells me.  I stand there open mouthed again.  She's starting to look impatient, but I don't have any words.  Thankfully, a male colleague has overheard despite juggling five glasses of prosecco to our right, and recommends me a bottle of 1845, which he assures me is like ESB.  Saviour!  Not sure who is more relieved, barmaid or me.

Back at my table, I must've been gone a while, the rugby has finished, and the young lads have been replaced by TEN men with north eastern accents.  Colin looks bloody terrified.  "That cauliflower yours?" says closest bloke, as though it is the most normal thing in the world. 

I ask where they are from.  Hartlepool!  Had to be.  Spent the whole season following me around the country so why would they stop now?  From London to Manchester to Burslem to London, and back again, it's been uncanny!  But these lads are canny, I recommend the 1845 which is drinking well cos they all seem to be drinking less good drinks, and they seem impressed I can name a load of Hartlepool pubs without looking in my GBG.  

Someone's had too much 1845!

I decide that to brave the station concourse, it's not telling me a great deal, so I go down to the trains and finding an LNER one that looks open and perhaps gearing up for the journey north, I hop on, have a wee and try and find someone to ask. 

I'm eventually joined by a group trying to get to Newark.  They're a bit fraught about it all, but one of the ladies cracks open the Haribo to make it all better.  Probably a sign I was drunk, I stuck my hand in the bag and got a few!  Think she only meant for me to have one.  

Finally, they ascertain this train is setting off soon, stopping at York but not Newark so I thank them and wish them good luck for getting home!  Late trundle up to York, home about midnight/1am.  

That started a run of irritating/depressing events.  Neighbours cancelled.  Nooooo!  My WiFi down for over 24 hrs, engineer didn't have a clue.  A couple of bad bits of work news.  Hull City woeful at Derby.  It can all be traced back to this journey home!

But all was back to normal the following Thirsty Thursday, which I'll tell you about tomorrow evening.  

Tek care and thanks for reading, Si 


  1. I read the title and laughed at the photos; can I have the tick ?

  2. Read the post now. Sorry about the bad work news. Hope it's not too bad.