2:20pm on 2nd October, and it was time for my third and final of Brecon's GBG pubs ......
And the Clarence, Brecon (2423 / 3987) would prove to be my 'Goldilocks' pub. The George Hotel had been a bit too Wetherspoonsy, the Brecon Tap had been a bit too Microey, but the Clarence was just right. My only sighting of Wye Valley Bitter all week, despite the HPA and their glassware being rather too omnipresent, and it was immaculate. The barman was a gent, the carpet was an 8/10, even the pile of logs wasn't too random, a wood burner in close proximity. The front room at least, was pure pub. A ginormous group of pre-booked foodies filled a less cosier back bar, but out of sight out of mind was my motto here. Okay, so I was a bit jealous that they got the benefit of piped Kylie and P.M. Dawn, but for the most part, I was a picture of contentment. Sunday afternoon is a great time to be in a pub.
In 2023 GBG? Frustratingly not. Brecon CAMRA seem to have gone full crafty, leaving in Brecon Tap and ditching this and the 'Spoons in favour of a 'Hop in Beer & Gin House' which I almost certainly won't get to in the next twelve months. I'll do it with Bwlch in 2035.
As much as I would've loved to stay on this bus route and tackle the likes of Bwlch, Crickhowell, Llandgynidr, Pencelli and Groesfford, a sparsity of bus services plus my aching bottom half (which I don't like to talk about) meant that a return to Abergavenny was the only option.
Slim Pickens, as the cowboy said to the actor (oh I miss Wine, Westerns and Wotsits nights, didn't have to leave the house!) so I had to be imaginative and come up with the decent pre-emptive. This was the non-GBG pub that kept being mentioned, and actually was in the 2021 Guide.
I knew from the moment I pushed through the 'Vaults' room door at Station Hotel, Abergavenny (pre-emptive) that I'd struck gold. And that was even before I tasted the Bass, which was an A* Bass and I've drunk enough of it this year, mostly good ones, to know. Someone on Twitter's father-in-law agreed with my assessment, and as Bass king TheWickingMan said, FiL's are the most reliable sources. Only my most recent pint of it in East Markham was on a par. I'll probably get to writing about that pub next Easter. The Station had a bawdy local atmosphere, though a 'sensible' youthful guv'nor, and it was only this earlier sober hour which prevented it from becoming a full on balls-to-the-wall Y Cantreff experience from the previous night. Suddenly Brecon's Clarence seemed distinctly less pubby. Folk played cards in the back room, a smoky smell took you back pre-2007, folk talked about shopping, washing and household chores, and it was only when there was a mass migration for the exit door that a bloke with a short body but long arms, think a Welsh Mr Tickle, decided to ask what my game was. Give this pub a more vibrant colour scheme, ditch the spider lights, and you've got a pub of the year contender. A real step back in time and I couldn't stop smiling.
In the new GBG? Yes! I'd have rioted otherwise. Can only assume its year of absence was due to change of ownership / temporary closure, or some other technicality.
The Station folk had suggested I pop into the Railway over the road, but then laughed to themselves and told me that whilst I'd receive a hearty welcome and get some fantastic blog material, the beer was bad, it'd take me ages to get served, and it had no chance of making the GBG any time soon!
Not to worry, because close to my Premier Inn, and about a 20 minute walk from here (25 today as my legs were currently big lumps of lead), my 'local' for the week could be found nestling on the other side of the river across the bridge separating 'Gavenny from Llanfoist.