Monday 21 November 2022


 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. 

Bridge Inn, Llanfoist (2424 / 3988) sums up everything which was wholesome about my week of pubbing in Gwent.  A perfect example of a community local, it had everyone here from grandkids to grandparents - and I don't mean that in an annoying 'grrr, kids in pubs being twats due to twat parents, grrr' usual BRAPA kinda way, I just meant that folk flitted in, laughed, drank, sat, pissed off quite quickly,  it was a living breathing ball of life.  I had a Cwrw first, and pronounced it with the confidence of a man who'd been watching Welsh YouTube language videos for a week, and settled into a recess in this warm sweatbox of a pub.  Folk fawning over a newborn baby upset the older sister, so she was given a bag of Mini Cheddars to placate her whining.   I went to the bar and bought some, I cannot be in the presence of folk eating Mini Chedz or Wotsits or Pickled Onion Monster Munch without wanting my own.  A Welsh flag fluttered joyfully behind me, as two blokes discuss their onion growing.   I hear a 'pop' behind me, then a yelp of dismay, older sister's Mini Cheddars have exploded all over the floor.  She's not having a good day the hapless little loser.   On the other side, I hear a groan.  An old bloke dressed as a canary (well he had a yellow jacket) is trying to stand up, but it is a struggle.  With the heat stifling, I buy a Jemima's Pitchfork and take it outside to the beer garden, and I mean garden, lovely and green and spacious.  The air is so fresh down here too.  SEVEN taxi companies I ring to try to take me to Pantygelli to salvage a late fifth tick (I'd had a second wind by now) but when bloke no. 7 laughs and says 'no chance tonight boyo', I give it up as a bad job.  Two dogs start fighting, a man dressed as Toadfish hits the Madri, and with a cold chill descending on Llanfoist, I decide to call it a night and start afresh, hopefully with better legs, tomorrow. 

Still in the GBG?  Of course, I'd have been horrified if not.

So with the north of Gwent nicely greening up, it was time to hit the Newport area tomorrow.  Would it be a comedown, or similarly beautiful?  Hmmm, join me in Part 5 to find out.

Right, back to the USA v Wales which I've paused on live TV, 0-0 17 mins gone. 


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