Word up Homies!
A week off the ale is a long time in pub ticking, as Harold Wilson said in his early GBG days.
My liver still wasn't totally recovered from Hants when Daddy BRAPA posed me a tricky quandary the following Saturday. "I've decided to go to the football after all, so I need you to come up with a good 11 o'clock opener" he WhatsAppd before I'd even washed and dried my Hants undies.
Hednesford, my intended destination, was no help. I had to leave Walsall alone because I've got two people who want to join me for a 'special BRAPA day' there. Elford, Whittington and Burntwood provided little solution. Even my remaining Central Brum's were all nooners.
But I eventually stumbled upon something on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, in the Compton area.
After taking the now traditional 07:44 down to New Street (AKA the worst station in the world) , we hopped aboard the connecting train and were at a bus stop near Wolverhampton station about 10:45am.
After about 50 buses not stopping at Compton, two turned up at once, we zoomed three miles down the road and I pressed the bell with a sense of anticipation, trepidation, and whatever other feelings visitors have arriving when on a Wolves bus. Across a road, just after 11, relief to see the pub open. We couldn't have got here any quicker.
It might've been a Marston's pub, but best to view it as a Banksies, the Swan, Compton, Wolverhampton (2115 / 3678) set the tone for a day of cracking boozers, not a weak one amongst the seven I'd do. Suddenly, Isle of Wight, outer Southampton and South West London seemed but a distant memory. A Wolverhampton Wanderers flag almost dared you to admit you supported someone else. Being a multi-roomer afforded us the luxury of taking our delicious pints of Banks's Mild through to the larger lighter back room, its 18th century history very much in evidence if you ignore the Six Nations flags. We had so much room, Colin stretched his florets out over a long bench. Eventually, some lads arrived and what salt of the earth lads they are. "Wheyyy, on it early today mate! Av a groit doiy!" they said both as I went to the loo and on the way out. 'Twas a great start, I felt like I'd passed my 11am pub brief with flying colours, I just hope #DaddyBRAPA appreciated the hours (well, 45 mins) of research which led us here!
The bus driver says I need to ask for 'Chapel Ash' when I tried to explain where our next stop was, a name I recognise from the Combermere Arms which I visited a few years ago. It was nice, old and had a tree in the loo unless I was very much drunkenly mistaken!
I'm not 100% happy with that 'tick' however as I only had a half and the experience was a bit rushed, so I fully intend to return for my second half at some point in the future, which probably should've been today but wasn't.
Our second pub was just before you get into that inner ring road, the sun was bright in the sky, and we were happy to enjoy a Vitamin D boost before the clock chimed noon and the door sprung open .....
Royal Oak, Wolverhampton (2116 / 3679) was another staggeringly impressive old Marston's house with a Banks's bent. We'd had the mild, now time for the bitter. Equally yummy, and the lacings tell you all you need to know about the quality. And my decision partly made by the fact that I haven't enjoyed Sunbeam on the last few occasions I've had it. Not sure what has changed, me or the beer, as there was a time circa 2015 I was a big fan. Although this pub feels a touch younger than the Swan, it is homely, cosier and has a real heart. The real winning point for us was the landlord coming around the corner to welcome us and have a chat, a really top bloke, and this was long before Colin or my GBG or Stabilo had been pulled from the bag of dreams. And when he told us another BRAPA tick I needed was a short walk around the corner, I was stunned, I just hadn't realised! Dad agrees that yes, he has time to squeeze that one in with me too before he has to head off to the match. We settle down on the nicely upholstered benches, and I'm shocked at the sheer amount of people on my Twitter saying that this is their local. Well three anyway, a BRAPA record. Must be lots of housing around about. And what a local to have. I'd actually be jealous if I wasn't a ticker! Superb pub.
The landlord wasn't kidding, barely five minutes away if that around a couple of back streets, this pub which has been on my Wolverhampton radar for a good 15 years came into view.
And for added excitement, this was another candidate for my famous '2007 mystery pre-match pub' we visited when Jay Jay Okocha ran the show on a rare 1-0 away win here ......
|Chindit? Binned it!|
Sadly, it was soon evident that the Chindit, Wolverhampton (2117 / 3680) was not the pub in question, much as I was clutching it straws. "We ARE facing a bar though!" I told Dad hopefully, as though facing a bar in a pub is something that only happens once every 15 years. No, the more I think about it, the more I think that mystery pub was the Newhampton, just that on my 'revisit', I spent most of my time sat outside with my head in a set of stocks which wasn't conducive to scrutinising the interior. Potential third visit needed? Paul WME , a Twitter chap who knows more about Wolves boozers than anyone, gave me a couple of other 'long shots' but they don't ring many bells despite having been in the right part of town. Anyway, back to the present (as it was then) I'm just not enjoying my HPA, it smells of 'wet dog' and having had a lovely pint of it in Ware recently, I know it isn't supposed to. Doesn't help that Dad keeps telling me how great his pint is at regular five minute intervals. You know how much I love a pub carpet, and bonus points here as the carpet creeps up onto the front of the bar, like a naughty furry thing. A long covered corridor leads to the gents, and I realise there's a bit more life in the other bar, by which I mean the guv'nor is chatting to one local. A lovely, honest street corner boozer with few frills, but the ale plus 'residue 2007 disappointment' means it wasn't one of my favourites today.
|The 'Col effect' proves the beer is totally clear if nothing else!|
Time to stride back to the station where Dad needs to get himself back to Brum quick-sticks with time ticking towards kick off. Isn't it nice to see Martin the Owl making a new career for himself?
And Dad's final pre-match act is to take the below photo, as I've now spied a central tick I somehow have never done despite seeing it in GBGs every time I've visited Wolverhampton in the past ......
And I'm sad that Dad missed out on the Posada, Wolverhampton (2118 / 3681) which surprisingly. in my experience for a pub so close to bus and train links, is not only a rugged boozer full of growling one toothed men with indecipherable accents (to my ear at least), but is incredibly ornate and unaltered which I only really notice the full extent of when I run the gauntlet to the loos through the back of the pub. Tiling, snob screens, stained glass, wooden fittings - everything for the pub lover is here. Homemade cobs on the bar, which for me, are the West Mids equivalent of an outdoor loo in other areas, AKA an indication of a quality pub for a quality ticker (that's me if you were wondering). I grab a cheese & onion and sat at the bench in the window with an old bloke called Will or Wilf (he was as softly spoken as that Dundee bloke in Kensington last week). We exchange nods and munch on our cobs and sup our Bath Gem ale for five minutes in companionable silence, until he sees my GBG and tells me he used to be an active CAMRA bloke back in the day so I shuffle along the bench and we have a nice chat. He is quite frail these days but always makes a concerted effort to come out to his favourite pubs, #PubMan, a lesson to us all, we exchange a warm handshake and I get on my way.
I'd never expected today to be so Wolverhampton orientated, and here I was, four pubs in already well before 3pm!
Having said that, I didn't really have much appetite today to visit the two newish sounding micros which sound like they are out in the 'burbs, Starting Gate and Keg & Comfort, and knowing I've still got unfinished business at the Combermere, plus a possible third Newhampton visit, I fully expect to be back in the town again in the coming years.
No, instead I boarded a bus full of 'yoofs' blaring 90's rap music out of their anti-social speakers, and despite the blog title, I'm more of a punk rock kinda guy.
Perhaps this horrid journey led me to accidentally pressing the bell two stops too early, but I did, and left myself with a long walk to pub five .....
Hoping it might be a lucky omen for Hull City, the Royal Tiger, Wednesfield (2119 / 3682) appears a pretty typical 'Spoons, but I suspect a cut above the average when I order my Damson Porter, hand over the 50p voucher, and the bloke asks if I'm a CAMRA member. I confess all, and he asks if I can submit a beer score on the old NBSS, quipping 'every little helps' , winking, smacking his bum pocket, and walking off. I think he may've confused past Tesco & Asda slogans, but I got the meaning. Fifth pub of the day, taking my first sup of Porter bang on 3pm, let's just say I wasn't perhaps at full 'pub observations' level. In fact, I couldn't help but think back to THAT day in North Kent where I'd had eight pints by 4pm, then two ESB's, and woke up on THAT beach in Brora or Wick, allegedly. Anyway, the locals were lively, the walls were a vibrant red, the beer was good, and Tessa Sanderson smiled down on me from a wall. Life was good.
Just around the corner, my other Wednesfield tick was looking back at me like a large square mechanical cat ......
Oh yes! Almost like a 'greatest hits' collection of all that had been fabulous about my Wolverhampton pubs today, with a couple of promising previously unreleased bonus tracks thrown in, Vine, Wednesfield (2120 / 3683) truly was your quintessential West Midlands boozer. 1938 might not sound particularly 'old' in the grand scheme of British pubs, but this just shows what can be achieved when you don't go dicking about with the interior. The place is deservedly heaving this Saturday afternoon, and I grab my Pale Moonlight noting another enticing selection of cobs, and have to walk right around to the old 'smoke room' before I finally manage to find one small seat underneath the TV screen. Colin refuses to come out of the bag, even six pints in! A man who is drinking a quick succession of Carlings with even fluffier heads than Col keeps peering over at my GBG n Stablio, and I eventually pluck up courage to chat to him. As with most people on these days out, he thinks it insane that I return to York on this very same night and not staying overnight in a Walsall bordello. Amazing what a chat can do, I suddenly feel part of the pub, well that is until his wife swoops down, buying him his 15th pint of Carling in the last half an hour and killing our chat. A true classic, if you haven't been, please do!
I find I'm having to concentrate very hard just to find a bus to get me back to Wolverhampton station, which would be pretty easy from here for someone with a sober mind.
Once in Wolverhampton station, I manage to look up Birmingham to Wolverhampton trains by mistake, totally make a balls of getting back to Brum, which is then compounded by a train cancellation and a delayed one behind it!
So by the time I finally reach New St, the match has long since finished and Dad has made it to the designated meeting pub already. Now Google Maps tells me it is a 17 minute walk, grrrrr, here was me thinking that being called the 'Bull' is was by the Bull Ring and about 3 minutes away!
Still, I stride out best I can, feeling soberer for the benefit of a brisk walk and nice bottle of weak orange drink, and the pub is on the horizon as the light starts to fade ......
I walk in to the Bull, Birmingham (2121 / 3684) and I'm pleasantly surprised to see not just Dad, but Tom too, so that the original BRAPA O.G. squad was all here together. I'm expecting them both to be in high spirits following what a paper looks like a decent point in a 0-0 against a team close to us in the league, but both tell me it was a woeful game between two woeful teams! Apparently we did all our best attacks in the first 3 minutes and then stopped. Never mind, here was another cracking pub to rubber stamp a particularly high quality day, again making me realise I need to 'crack' this part of the world whilst these old pubs are still making the GBG before it does a Tyne & Wear / Merseyside. It puts me in mind of my Craven Arms visit a few months back. Far enough out of town to have a gentle atmosphere. Jugs hanging from the ceiling, a fabulous pint of Oakham Citra, and a fluffy little pub cat roaming around just to put the cherry atop the icing atop a very nice pubby cake. Sad that my tardiness in getting here means I only have the minimum 25 minutes to drink my pint, as I could've easily relaxed into this wonderful place.
Top lacings! What a day it had been. Seven pubs and I couldn't feel a thing, nicely numbed for the train ride home to York.
Join me at a similar time tomorrow for tales of a Wet Wednesday in Coventry. Nicer than it sounds, honest.
Thanks for reading, skimming, looking at the pics, whatever. Si