Friday 11 March 2022


Sunday.  Never a day for being over ambitious with your pub ticking.  True, pub opening hours tend to be more generous than most weekdays.  But you have to factor in the reduced (i.e. complete lack of) bus services in many areas.

So today, I decided I'd keep it simple and attack Gosport's trio, before returning to Pompey for three more (I was down to seven Pompey ticks required, just four after today).  And then, I'd start getting into the more rural areas from Monday.  Gotta have a plan!

After a lovely breakfast, see above, I strode down to Portsmouth Harbour where I bought a ticket and hopped aboard the ferry to Gosport.  It was another gloriously sunny day, bit of a chill in the morning air.  It was a Keane Lewis Otter day.  Fresh from his namesake's heroics at Peterborough yesterday, I figured an otter would be more comfortable on water than a cauliflower.

Not my boat sadly

As I wandered up the paved main street, it was hard to think of Gosport being attached to the mainland.  I had a real Hayling Island / Isle of Wight mentality and kept thinking that if I walked far enough, I'd fall into the sea at the other end!

So, a leisurely three pub ticking session right?  Wrong!  This is BRAPA.  Nothing is ever easy.

Problem was, we had one of the pubs only open today 12-2:30, another one 12-3 before afternoon closure, and the third and furthest out not opening til 1pm.  My mind performed some serious mental gymnastics to choose the best order (considering I arrived in Gosport about 11:30am and wanted to make use of the 'dead' time) but not be in any danger of missing any 'last orders'. 

I walked up to the 'middle one' first, the one closing at 3.  It previously opened 11:30am, but they'd recently changed their hours.  Smoke was billowing out of the chimney, so either the Pope had died, or the pub was getting ready for action. I loitered in a side street chuckling over a few funny Tweets about Bielsa's sacking, hoping a local neighbourhood watch weren't reporting me to the filth.

It certainly looked the part, but I was NOT prepared for Queen's Hotel, Gosport (2071 / 3634) to be my overall pub of the week, from 55!  12:02 I wander in, already a fair few old chaps dotted about with pints making me seriously wonder if I'd pushed the door at 11:30am, I might've got lucky!  A landlady screeches 'hello!' in a very friendly Mr Cadbury's Parrot style, and it is never too early for a Titanic Chocolate & Vanilla Stout. "I can't imagine a beer with chocolate in it tasting nice!" says the bar lad Connor.  I ask him to have a try, but he decides he'll stick with his favoured ciders.  "Oh do you like the real ones that taste like the inside of a horse stable?" I enquire, but alas no, he prefers Rekordlig & Kopparberg and all that bollocks.  A huge dog is asleep on the mat, a fire roars behind me, the bar area and pub itself are spectacularly ornate. I pull up a pew at the side of the fireplace, slightly set back so I'm partially obscured to the old blokes trying to crack the Ukrainian crisis but close enough to be able to lean forward and smile at comments!  "Corrrr is that an otter?" asks our fabulous hostess.  "I normally bring a cauliflower but it is an otter today" I explain, delighted I'm in the kind of pub where you can say such a thing without being judged.  She cackles wildly.  A bloke returning to his mates with a pint of Titanic gives KLO a little scratch behind the ears and makes a noise.  Is he trying to communicate with him, or firing pretend ammo at him? Hard to tell.  The Young's Original goes off which causes mild consternation in the curmudgeonly ranks.  I'm more worried because it means our landlady (and she's no spring chicken) has to balance on a chair with an unstable seat middle, to update the blackboard.  I'm holding my breath throughout, ready to leap forward and catch her if required.  Luckily, it isn't!  Utter classic boozer.

Still not 1pm, so again I find myself loitering in the vicinity of pub two, this one the furthest from the Portsmouth ferry.  That is until I see an open door!   So I cross the road and see a blackboard.  12 noon Sunday, but 1pm every other day!  Well, what a stroke of luck .... 12:48pm, I'm going in ......

Again it was a classic grand oldie, just a lot more plain, you might say spartan, than the Queen's, but I tell ya what, Junction Tavern, Gosport (2072 / 3634) is a serious contender for one of my top five this week too.  Landlady (Dina?) greets me with a cheerful 'sweetie pie', that's when you know you are in a proper pub and as I turn to take my beer to a bench facing the pool table, a little fluffball appears at my feet.  Hendricks, the five month old kitten, tail like a bog brush, big blue eyes, dominating the scene for the next 25 minutes in much the same way the Six Nations dominated the Admiral Drake yesterday.  "Gor, you ain't allergic are ya?" asks our hostess.  I most certainly am not, unless Hendricks is squirreling away a bag of peanuts.  In a week of unexpectedly good dogs, this kitten trumps the lot, much to the chagrin of Lu, the 16 year old Westie on a blanket on the floor under the bench.  She belongs to the couple next to me.  Lu is so old, she can't walk far, so the owners have brought her in a buggy!  Much as I love cats, they all have an evil streak I admit, and Hendricks is soon wise to Lu's limitations, nonchalantly walking past her VERY slowly, taunting her.  It is pure theatre.  Lu looking on like "if I was 10 years younger ....."  A little girl even pops in to the pub just to say hi to the cheeky kittie.  The last five minutes is me stood in the centre of the room explaining BRAPA to the assembled crowd, nice folk over here in Gosport.  Next time someone asks you (apart from Leek) where the best pub town without a train station is, Gosport might be the answer you are looking for.

Being in 12 minutes early had been a bonus, and now I was fully confident there wouldn't be any mishaps re the 14:30 closure of my third pub.  

Under bright blue sunshine in the shadow of the lovely church, and back within spitting distance of the ferry terminal,  I stepped up to this micropub at 13:40 ..... 

My first reaction on entering the Four Ale Taproom, Gosport (2073 / 3637) is one of surprise at the huge number of folk inside.  I have to breathe in and swing my bag around my front just to get through to the bar.  Luckily, unlike some future experiences I'd have this week (cough, nearer Southampton, cough), any bar blockers part in a jovial red sea kinda way, smile and encourage me through.  It is like 11 hours worth of people have condensed themselves into the limited time period!  I get a beer direct from a barrel, now where to stand?  One tiny sliver of space, and then I maybe start to understand part of the reason for the extreme popularity.  I'm opposite a cheeseboard!  Everyone seems to have had their fill, and the only way I can put my glass down anywhere is to eat enough to free up a bit of table space!  Oh the things we tickers do.  I grab a bit of cheese & onion quiche first.  If this quiche was a Western, it'd be the 3:10 to Yummy (sorry).  Then I use some tiny wooden knives to chisel off some bits of cheese, grab a few crackers.  A lady in a very flammable looking Sunday dress swoops down for a cheeky bit of strawberry sponge cake, her guilty look and comment of 'I shouldn't really...' hopefully not directed at me, I'm not judging!  Finally enough room to put my glass down and go for a wee, which from observing others, I've realised you pull this rope across first like you are in a V.I.Peeing area.  I'm so fascinated a few mins later watching this toddler with patient Mum trying to fasten and unfasten the rope, I forget to pick up a second piece of quiche, and the guv'nor swoops in and removes the cheeseboard!  Life can be so cruel.  I leave, full, happy, and convinced Gosport might just be one of the greatest places on earth.

Bloke shocked to learn he's drunk 96,470 pints

Initially read this has 'barely wash your hands'

Perching room only

Almost enough room to put my glass down, just gotta force a bit more food down oooof

Back aboard the ferry for three more in Portsmouth?  Why not.  

The Gary Spinnaker Tower in the distance

This is the life!  Could be in Dubai but with good pubs

After a much needed wee cos Gosport's public conveniences were rather inconveniently closed on a Sunday, I meandered around the bend to my next nearest walkable pub from the harbour in an area called 'Old Portsmouth' even though it felt a lot newer and glossier than my more favoured 'Backstreet Bastard Portsmouth'.

I could see the pub, but no bugger had thought to build a bridge across, ironic as this was the pub's name ......

So I had to walk right around the dangly bit.  So frustrated I must've been, I accidentally took a photo of my walk in action ......

It looked the part, I'm never averse to a bit of Fuller's fun, and with a nice mural on the side, I was hoping for a bit of Union Saltash style boozery, but what I got at the Bridge Tavern, Portsmouth (2074 / 3638), was a pretty bland dining tourist destination pub.  I guess today's amazing run had to come to an end at some point!  A pint of an Orange Dark Star which I'd never seen before piqued my interest, but even that failed to hit the spot.  To be fair, the staff were good.  Seeing me helplessly surveying the room for a non reserved or occupied table, a nice lady intercepts me and points me towards a quieter upstairs area.  At the top of the steps, a posh looking couple stick their noses in the air when I smile.  A man, trying to chat 'beer' with his Dad, commandeers the last remaining table with a view out to sea so I don't even get that consolation prize.  He later mistakes Doom Bar for Hobgoblin so I try giving him evils, but it doesn't work.  Maybe I'm being harsh on the place, as two lads, on seeing my Twitter check in, have a little chat about what a proper quality banging boozer this is!  Felt like I was witnessing a different pub.  

My phone then stopped working and needed a 'hard reset'.  Maybe it'd got bored?  

On the plus side, I'd seen some buses in this dangly bit with 'Eastney' on the front, and I still needed a pub called the Eastney Tavern.  Hurrah!  When I jumped on the bus, I couldn't get my words out for some inexplicable reason.  He lets me on for free!  I'll have to try and be thick more often.

The bus doesn't go past the pub, but only two or three streets away, so it is well within reach .....

This was more like it!  Okay, so it was a bit of a large room, leading off to dining areas, but the dim lighting, homely staff attitude, and the both quirky but relaxed Sunday afternoon thrum of the punters convinced me that we can definitely put Eastney Tavern, Portsmouth (2075 / 3639) in with the backstreet Pompey classics I'd come to love.  Did you know that it was whilst on tour in Portsmouth visiting the fantastic pubs that the Backstreet Boys decided to change their name?  They had been known as the Orlando Oddities previously.  That is a BRAPA fact.  The bar top was especially majestic here.  Being fully carpetted throughout helped enormously too.  Staff and customers seemed interchangeable.  The kind of place where one minute, a bloke would be massaging someone's back, then he'd be bringing a pint of Frigate and a plate of Yorkshire Puds.  One table kept stopping various staff members for selfies.  An old man said something amusing and next minute, a flash mob had crowded around him and they all did a little jig.  Or that's how it looked 5 pints in.  The Yachtsman was drinking especially well, and I was just on the cusp looking out into the main area able to survey all, the perfect seat.  You'd be hard pushed to find a more satisfying pub experience whilst food was going down. 

Not too far of a walk away, but most importantly, back in the direction of my Premier Inn, was my final tick of the day ......

The 'interesting' font (ooh I'm going all 'See The Lizards') and ocean colour scheme (weren't they a band?) and large clear windows indicated we were about to see something very different from the Portsmouth ale scene from what I'd witnessed to date.  Merchant House, Portsmouth (2076 / 3640) was my first foray into a 'craft beer bar' in the town.  GBG entries like this over in Southampton are ten a penny, but a rarity here.  But you could immediately see that the gentle folk of Pompey had properly embraced it.  So many beards.  So many beanie hats.  Exposed brickwork.  Exposed pipe ducts.  Greys, blues, beiges.  Awkward little tables.  High little seats dig into your arse.  Hell, you even had Cloudwater on cask.  I best get used to this kinda thing if I'm going to complete Greater Manchester before the 2023 GBG comes out.  Sociable though and not without some charm.  I get chatting to this younger couple next to me.  They have a very inquisitive dog called Zoe.  She looks like she wants to do bad things to Keane Lewis Otter.  KLO is having none of it.  I'm soon chatting BRAPA but obviously, six pints down, my memories about our chat are as hazy as the beer I'm drinking.  All I remember is chatting with these two (and Zoe) made the experience that bit more pleasant.  No seventh pub for me today, I'm definitely done!  

And there you have it!  Some utterly fabulous pubs, and haven't I been lucky with the weather?  Was this possibly the best day of my holiday?  And could we keep it going into next week?

I think we all know the answer to that .... where there's a BRAPA high, a BRAPA low soon follows.

Join me on either Sunday or Monday (more likely Monday) for Part 4, 



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