Thursday 31 July 2014

BRAPA - Toughest Midweek Yet!

In the cold light of day, I have to look back on last night and take the positives.  4 pubs ticked off, and some moments of humour / interest plus some great beer quality and offerings.  So why did I feel so downcast and negative last night?  Let's look back ....

It all started with another delayed train out of Leeds bound for Bradford (deja vu) meaning although I wasn't more than a few minutes late, my train was heaving compared to how I assume it normally is.  Got the bus to Cullingworth with a few mins to spare and after an arduous 40 minute journey, reached my first port of call.

491 - George Hotel, Cullingworth - The home of the Old Spot brewery beers with 7 on, I chose the almost famed "Light but Dark" and half of it had slipped down before I could blink - a good sign.  Perfectly kept, great beer.  It was very much a locals pub (what did I expect?) but the staff were very pleasant, they were all cooing over a baby belonging to a barmaid whilst two locals dogs provided additional entertainment!  This was a multi roomed pub but I am not kidding you, EVERY spare table was reserved for dining.  The food must be good.  Male dog owner advised me to perch on a reserved table as they probably wouldn't arrive til late but as a consequence, I could not relax and the beer continued to slip down easily!

Old Spot beers in the George Hotel, Cullingworth

492 - Station Hotel, Harecroft - What google maps never tells you is whether there are pavements or undulating road systems, so on what looked like a straightforward 1.5 mile walk turned into an uphill 'dicing with death' experience and at times I really feared for my life as narrow roads plus fast traffic scared the life out of me.  I only realised how uphill it had been when I reached this little local pub with sweat dripping from my brow.  My pint of Little Valley was superb but initially, a girl who was "not quite all there" kept firing questions at me.  To escape, I tried to go to the back bar but was growled at by a dog described as 'beautiful but I wouldn't stroke him' by the barmaid!  My taxi firm was too efficient in arriving on time so once again, had to drink up very quickly.

This creature growled at me as I tried to escape to the back room

493 - Haigys, Bradford - After a very nice BRAPA chat with my taxi driver Mustafa, he got a bit lost trying to find this pub in notorious red light district, Manningham.  He asked a local 'lady of the night' though it was only 7pm, she was out early I thought, and after initially not knowing, she pointed it out to us we'd just driven past it.  He told me she offered blowjobs for £10 a go, he charged me £12 for a Harecroft-Bradford taxi drive.  I pointed out the anomaly, he didn't really see it like I did!  Nice quiet locals pub, plenty of Bradford City memorabilia and saucy postcards in the loos, pub had a cat (always a plus), another cracking pint (a Terry Thomas themed one!) and I watched the bottom half of Emmerdale and Corrie as that was how much of the screen I could see!

A fitting joke amongst saucy postcard collection in Haigy's toilets in Bradford's red light district

494 - Sir Titus Salt, Bradford - A walk back into the centre and quick pee in the Ginger Goose (i felt they owed me for that weirdo last week) found me at this Wetherspoons - but shock horror, I'd been here before after some work testing with either Mark or Matt!  I recognised the steps but the rubbish didn't stink quite as bad.  Last time, the barmaid argued I shouldn't be drinking so early but this time, a very helpful bar man let me pay by card as all cash had gone, had a decent Naylor's velvet mild and tried to look innocuous though I didn't like the bright lighting.  This pub used to be a 'baths' but it just felt like standard 'Spoons fodder to me, but I was fed up by this stage!

However, quite an eventful evening and my final Bradford trip will leave me with what appears to be three cracking pubs left.  I will also look to combine Keighley with Denholme the following work evening week.

This means tomorrow I will try to get to Cross Hills for my Yorkshire day special.  2 reasons.  One, Naylors brewery only opens Fridays 3-11 and how often do I do a Friday BRAPA?  Also, I can get a bus from Keighley and instead incorporate Silsden as part of Saturday, where I can get a bus from Ilkley or Addingham.  Technical but I have it all written down.  Let's hope I feel sober enough to stick to these plans!

July has been a cracking month with 33 new pubs, hard to see how that can be beaten on almost tripling my quota for the month.  August will be less prolific due to football starting again mainly, but we make a great start 1st and 2nd with this double header.  And the 500 nearly up!


Sunday 27 July 2014

BRAPA - Barnsley and an unexpected boost

Before my trip to Barnsley (a pre-season friendly which I was always going to hijack for BRAPA purposes!), I'd been looking back at my A-Z challenge to try and work out if I'd 'missed' any pubs from my original reccy which are still actually in the guide.

It all came about because of the now famed "Elsecar conundrum", I knew I'd visited 3 on my "E" day with Tom and a bit of research told me we'd met in the Milton Arms (482) and immediately after the heritage centre, Market Hotel (483), which fits the guide description about multi-rooms and colourful characters to the absolute letter!  I couldn't remember what the third pub was so I'd use Barnsley day to bottom it out.

Additionally, I remembered on Jarrow/Jesmond day, we'd lunched in the Five Swans Wetherspoons on the edge of Newcastle town centre, so this became pub 484.  Finally, the Albion in East Molesey (485) was visited post Hampton Court, on a pretty posh street, the pub had quite a locally feel but lacked warmth and friendliness but was comfy and just what I needed after all that Tudortastic history!  It is actually listed under Surrey in the guide.

So, on to Barnsley then and I roped Dad and Tom into my BRAPA ticking at 11am as we arrived on another scorcher of a Saturday.....

486 - Silkstone Inn, Barnsley - A Wetherspoons like any other in many ways, but at least this had a traditional pubby name and is named after the Coal seam that ran under the town.   I think I read somewhere it has a dark feel with lots of booths to reflect that coal mining age but that could be true of many JDW houses!  It was bustling, staff were good, but why oh why have 2 Raspberry wheat beers on together??

Disaster struck next as the Commercial was closed.  I even rang but the phone line was dead.  Was it, as the staff in the Old No 7 said, possible that they were opening deliberately late because there was a football match on?  Hmmm, in any case, won't be trying to get back in a hurry so was onto the afore mentioned Old No 7 which not only is the best pub in Barnsley but new Yorkshire pub of the year, I hear.  And well deserved, not a BRAPA tick though.

Post match saw me out on the train bound for Sheffield stopping at a few stations.

487 - Commercial, Chapeltown - So I did at least get to one 'Commercial' and what a cracker!  Excellent range and quality, friendly community feel, looked very run down from the outside but never judge a book by it's cover and it also had a wonderful large outdoor area with some benches to enjoy the evening sun.  Pleasantly surprised.

488 - Crown Inn, Elsecar - Time to solve the conundrum then and sadly, I still couldn't say for sure which that third pub was but I think it was this one.  Again, very local with friendly staff and a few good ales but lacking the Chapeltown range.  Sat on a bench at the front which looked like it should be designed for some old smokers. Tough.  A dog seemed to be driving a shopmobility scooter, it was that kind of place.

489 - Fitzwilliam Arms, Elsecar - Because it was next door to the Crown and you entered a similar bar, I really couldn't be sure which one I'd been to before.  This was less pubby but again had some interesting ales on, what did work in it's favour was a huge outdoor area with two older men on the swings having a 'swing challenge'.  There were lots of kids and families leaving as I arrived so good timing, I nearly stole one girls activity pack with crayons and stuff, accidentally mind!  /Nice pub, good summer one I'd say.

490 - Anglers Rest, Wombwell - It really was a long walk, I'd hoped the guide had made a mistake by not showing the rail station symbol but I soon saw why.  Anyway, though I was a bit drunk by this stage, my memories are of a large square estatey pub.  I'd earlier discovered Old No 7 is the excellent Acorn brewery tap and this pub was the Geeves brewery tap so had an excellent porter.

All in all, 5 new pubs (well 4 in truth) meant a productive and fun day despite the heat and having to watch Hull City for 90 mins in the middle!  Nearly missed train back to Leeds from Wombwell and got stuck in the door but you can't win em all.

It's been a great month for pub ticks, 29 so far (10 in South Yorkshire alone).  And we aren't done yet, a midweek BRAPA night probably on Wednesday as I'm off work Thurs and Fri should see me push the boat out with some outskirts of Bradford style ticks.  Cullingworth and Harecroft are high on my agenda.

See you soon for the next update.  Si

Tuesday 22 July 2014

BRAPA - West Yorkshire Midweek - Bradford 1

It's late, it's Tuesday night, it is time to review this evening's BRAPA event as we got back on track with our West Yorkshire challenge with the much anticipated first mini-crawl of Bradford, that much improving multi-cultural City, still with plenty of edge in that summer evening heat, I felt, on an interesting evening.

479 - City Vaults, Bradford - following a sticky, heaving and delayed train (due apparently with some woman having a heart attack on the Skipton bound service) I made it here just after 5pm and it was probably the pub of the night.  Beer range wasn't too much to write home about but a quality Pendle Witches Brew (Moorhouses) was enjoyed in a surreptitious corner overlooking the beautiful illuminated stained glass design in old wood paneling.  This made for a superbly atmospheric pub despite a fairly bog standard summer evening clientele (which sounds horribly snobbish I know!)

480 - Ginger Goose, Bradford - Open planned, fairly unatmospheric town centre fodder followed with another Moorhouses which was less good, as were the locals as I felt about the least tattooed person in there.  I found a nice seat in a sunny window but my relative peace was short lived as a man called Paddy, not Irish, decided to join me having been turned off the outside area by a Palestine / religious demo taking place in the square opposite.  I sympathised before his unconvincing racist rant.  He had Leeds Utd and anarchist tattoos, told me his ex boyfriend had topped himself, we had a chat about ghosts and Derek Acorah but really, it was time for me to move on!

481 - Castle Hotel, Bradford - The sign said "try a real ale" as I walked into a totally empty pub with two nice guests.  The barman was a nice Indian chap which is notable because, although yes I was in Bradford, this must be a rarity.  Amusingly, he seemed very Indian until a local walked in and after a mock-greeting and bow, he turned into your archetypal West Yorkshire man - I'd like to have known what Paddy would've made of it all.  My 'One Eyed Jack' was a nice local pint, really felt sad the last pub was heaving and here was empty. Do the people of Bradford have no taste?

On that note, I decided that with dentist tomorrow, I'd walk back to Bradford Interchange so I could be sat here writing this later!  Part two next week perhaps?  With Thursday and Friday off, I have ideas floating around my brain for BRAPA.  Wed eve (30th) I could do Bradford part 2 or even be more adventurous and venture out to the likes of Harecroft and Cullingworth.  If I'm feeling fit after the gig on Fri 1st August (also Yorkshire day), I am contemplating a "Worth Valley Railway" day which would actually mean Stanbury, Silsden, Goose Eye and Keighley.

Options are everywhere, but now we'll concentrate on Barnsley Saturday, back in South Yorks.


Sunday 20 July 2014

BRAPA - Donny / Welly Day

It's funny how days out evolve over time.  This one, Sat 19th July, was due to be our 'Welly gang' (the people we drink with at football, mainly in the now defunct Wellington in Hull) day out, but with so many of them pulling out of the plans to get on the Worth Valley rail line, I was encouraged to change it into a full on BRAPA day (I had already been planning on hijacking part of the day for BRAPA purposes).

I rested on Doncaster and the surrounding villages, as a lot of them were alphabetically near the start of the South Yorkshire section, and with a pre-season trip to Barnsley next week, it all seemed to tie in.  Also, Donny's proximity to the Hull/North Lincolnshire area meant I may still tempt certain people to come.

In the end, some people did turn up, and rather than me hijacking a day out, they kind of hijacked a BRAPA day and I got less done as Auckley and Bawtry had to be shelved for another day.

473 - White Swan, Doncaster - Myself and Tom found Christine and Colin in this lovely old traditional town centre pub, selling a gorgeous Glentworth at a ridiculously cheap price.  This pub used to have the tallest bar in the UK at six foot tall but a silly ex-landlord removed it, why would you deprive your pub of a stand out quirk like that?  Bet they regret it.  Though at least I could get served.  Nice to have a catch up with friends in a proper pub and had a good local feel.

Cheap Glentworth & good company at White Swan
474 - Plough, Arksey - Waiting at level crossings for trains on the York-Doncaster line meant our bus in both directions was seriously delayed.  Tom had local knowledge as he makes 'deliveries' in this village.  This was the first time he'd seen this, the 'first South Yorkshire guide pub' open due to restricted hours so was definitely worth the experience.  We were the only customers in, had a decent Imperial beer from nearby Mexborough and helped landlord solve his crossword (moth was the answer!)  Felt very much a village pub and had farmer type decor (horse brasses etc)

475 - Three Horseshoes, Bentley - After the first real soaking of the day waiting for the ridiculously delayed bus (how they can even have a timetable on that line I don't understand!), we found our way to this very unassuming local on the way back in to Donny.  It only had Acorn Barnsley Bitter on so luckily this is one of my favourite pints.  Lightning nearly struck our pub, full of characters, mainly a crazy 8 year old!  Really great old feeling pub again, we sat at the bar it felt that comfortable (not something I normally like doing).

476 - Corner Pin, Doncaster - One of those 'how have you never been before Si/' type pubs, I'd heard it was quirky and the locals were even madder than those in the brilliant Little Plough nearby.  They had a liquorice and vanilla stout on which seemed gorgeous though was hesitant as it said something about being designed for women!  In any case, I was ID'd - yes ID'd for the first time in years.  Wow!  I argued and got served eventually as I don't carry any but could not believe it.  Think I was bemoaning going into the over 30's only pub in Shrewsbury without an eyebrow being raised not that many weeks ago!  Tom and Ben were ok.  Even the local at the bar then claimed he thought I was about 16.  I wondered if it was one of their crazy banter things but apparantly not.  Not to detract, it was a lovely pub and a guy overheard my BRAPA talk and gave us some local knowledge, plus my pint was great. Just the IDing left a slightly sour taste.

Corner Pin - they thought I was a 16 year old!

Doncaster Brewery Tap - What Tom and Ben described as a pre-emptive BRAPA tick, as this brewery tap will surely be in the guide next year or year after.  Lovely beers.  Place felt like a car show room but nice enough, and very much like Cask Corner when that first opened!  Good real ale signs for the future in Donny, previously a town that didn't seem to embrace the best of all god's drinks!

477 - Red Lion, Doncaster - Colin and Christine were back with us, and a visit to this heaving Wetherspoons was a tick I needed but put paid to any Auckley or other village plans.  It was a decent dark old building but my pint (another Imperial) wasn't great plus the hot, sweaty busyness made it hard to enjoy the experience, probably caught at the wrong time.  With that rain, no one was going anywhere!

Well, I say no-one was going anywhere but we unwisely ran through the heaviest rain I've ever known in the UK to the (little) Plough, not a tick but a stunning pub and not sure what I had but pint number 7 of the day you can forgive me.  Coped so much better with the beer than in Nottingham last week so maybe the early cooked brekafast and the rain helped keep me sober, plus I did have snacks as the day progressed so dealt with it well.

Tom puked blackcurrant all the way home according to Ben, but before that he reminded me that pre-Charlton a few years ago, I'd been to the Prince Albert (Rose's in Woolwich) so am now on 478.  It's probably 481 in truth as we still can't remember Elsecar day exactly.  Frustrating.

Photographic evidence of Ben and Tom in Prince Albert (Rose's), Woolwich Aug 2012.

Good day on the whole, nice to have a bit of company though it's always true, the more people are involved, the more complex days out get, which must be why I'm sometimes reluctant to invite others along.   Next week, I'll be looking to get back on the midweek WYBRAPA trail before Barnsley on Saturday.


Monday 14 July 2014

BRAPA - Nottingham day

Good evening from a grey, overcast and quite windy York on this Monday evening.

Here's Saturdays report.....

Nottingham had all the ingredients for a great day out.  Excellent local beers (Castle Rock and Blue Monkey just to name two fairly local breweries), more intruging pubs than I could possibly hope to visit in one day, and daytime journeying which didn't need to involve one bus or taxi, simply a train and a bit of walking.

But it never really took off in the same way that my recent Darlington and Shropshire trips had, with that over-riding feel good factor.  Whether it is simply the East Midlands (I've always thought Leicester was very unfriendly, not Derby so much), or I was seen as another cricket tourist (the Test Match was on at Trent Bridge) or maybe I wasn't on top form (had been worrying about work for little good reason), or the summer stifling heat had everyone hot n bothered, it never quite clicked as a great day out.  Don't get me wrong, some great pubs were visited and some great beers drunk so not a total write off.

467 - Trent Bridge Inn - It all got off to a rocky start when, in trying to add a bit of excitement to proceedings and skirt with the hoards of cricketing fans 40 mins or so away from the end of the morning session, I took the mile walk down here only to realise it was a Wetherspoons, doh!  Not so bad you might think, plenty of them need to be visited, but despite it's 9am opening, bouncers outside and always selling Abbots Ale policy, it was only when I got my local pint of Magpie 'Angry Bird' that it twigged!  The Guide did not mention the fact, annoying.  Not a bad pint in the Gary Sobers suite (as I called it) but compared with my imagined version of this pub where I joked with jovial staff about beer being less flat than this Trent Bridge wicket, it was a bit of a let down.

468 - Trent Navigation - As I'd made the effort to walk this far, I thought I'd visit another pub in the vicinity and found myself here, next to Notts County's ground (it still wasn't lunch as England's record breaking tenth wicket stand went on).  This was pretty much a brewpub and my Navigation Stout, enjoyed outside where there was a decent sized group watching the cricket on a big screen, was a nice experience although the staff seemed to be a bit friendlier with foodies and locals but I kind of accept that's the way it is.  Seemed a nice pub inside too but when I heard a barmaid telling some locals how busy it was going to get when the cricket lunch bell sounded (do people really leave the ground to come here for lunch and expect to get back for the afternoon session?), I necked my summer stout and walked back into town.

469 - Kean's Head - Possibly my pub experience of the day as I was still very sober, and the staff, gave me one of those Castle Rock loyalty cards and were friendly in explaining it.  I'd come through the heaving centre to get here, suddenly it quietened down, became cobbled, some church bells rang and a waft of old fashioned scent drifted across me.  It really felt like some surreal back in time experience and though I don't normally like one roomed pubs, I'd make an exception for this.  My Castle Rock monthly guest (Red Admiral) was not really my type of beer but it all goes to show how little the beer influences pub experience.

470 - Lincolnshire Poacher - A long uphill walk in the heat followed next, I felt it was now or never.  Buoyed by my last Castle Rock experience, I had one here too and used my loyalty card, had to have a Screech Owl which is one of the best, at 5.5% strong too.  The barman was quirky, everyone seemed an inch away from very friendly but maybe I could've done more.  It was out of town enough to feel locally, but it still had quite a central feel.  Busy enough not to get a seat outside, but I had quite a sweat on by now as I headed back into town.

471 - Langtry's - Named after Victorian starlet Lillie Langtry, this was a lovely old building, felt the most town centre of all I went to, and had a cosmopolitan mix of tourists, people looking for food, so felt a bit like many of York's central crowd do.  It was here thay it really hit me I was struggling beerwise only 4 pints in.  The heat, the Screech Owl and the fact I'd not eaten a great deal all contributed.  With hindsight, as I didn't get a train til 10am, I could've been up at 8 and had a big fried breakfast, with snacks along the way but despite my usual chunks of cheese and a sausage roll, I felt woozy.  I drank this pint very slowly, a gorgeous Blue Monkey Infinity.  So I was all to blame for my downfall.

472 - Hand & Heart - I felt a bit better by the time I'd walked slightly out of town west to my final pub of the day.  And what a gem.  30's style music played, the decor was old fashioned but stylish, as was the look of the barmaids.  Tried to get some banter going.  Firstly I asked if my guest ale, called little weed had marijuana in.  Joke went down like a lead balloon.  Then I noticed the beer samples were tied up in little jam/honey jars, very quaint.  I joked if it was honey.  Lead balloon.  Finally, another barmaid turned the fan away from me ('twas very warm in the pub), I did mock despair but she didn't get it and turned it back in my direction, apologising.  Tried to insist she needed it more, she was working. Felt like a bastard.  Then, first barmaid went to take 2 chaps food plates away and laughed like a drain at everything they said.  I left with my head hanging low, kind of summed it all up in many ways!  Amusing looking back.

So a mixed day and another real lack of social media recognition, particularly on Twitter made me feel a bit disillusioned with whole thing but was pissed by then, if I wasn't already!  Still, I don't regret it and certainly a day I'll remember.  They can't all be 100% nicey nicey can they?  It'd be boring.

6 more pubs done and where next?  Well, another busy week means West Yorkshire BRAPA is again in jeopardy.  If Keighley/Oxenhope does go ahead on Saturday, I'll be looking to exploit for BRAPA advantages (Stanbury?  Keighley?  Goose Eye?) but if it doesn't, I'll do a North or West Yorkshire trip anyway, might even ask for some company ... now there's a novelty!


Friday 11 July 2014

BRAPA - 3 days off

I'll be off to Nottingham tomorrow for my latest Saturday, the last example of a day I booked in a fit of pique, probably drunk after our Bank Holiday Nottingham outing in April.  Still, despite the Test Match being on at the same time, I'm looking forward to it, looks like I'm going alone, just how I like it.  Is that healthy?

Nottingham's a strange town for me.  Despite going to many gigs, football matches and days out over the years, I've barely scratched the surface pubwise and am aiming to stay central in a bid to rectify that tomorrow.  Those North, West and South will have to wait for some 'outer' Nottingham day in the future - the Trent Bridge ones may be heaving.  It will be nice for a change not to feel tied to the Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Bell, VAT & Fiddle (despite it's brilliance) and that flippin' Canal House.  After all, the Malt Cross in particular showed me on Bank Hol that Notts has plenty more on offer.

Anyway, 3 days off work have allowed me to get a few extra BRAPA ticks under my belt.

464 - Ship, Strensall - One silver-lining to the cloud of having a crown fitted was that Dad was up for a new pub challenge post-dentist, happy to drive out to Strensall in the hope of food, great beer and a nice atmosphere.  What we actually found was a poor beer range, a town full of surly locals and roadworks just outside with that baking smell of tarmac.  On the credit side, the garden was nice (allowed us to eat some butchers bought pork pies) and excellent quality Landlord (but £3.40 a pint was way too much).  Overall, glad to get the 'tick' and delighted Dad had saved me a painful bus ride for an experience like that.

465 - Slubbers Arms, Hillhouse - On the outskirts of Huddersfield pre-Bronx gig, I dragged Jig a mile North of town to an interesting little suburb full of typically dark West Yorkshire bricked terraced houses and the friendliest pub experience you could hope, to a point!  The landlady was great, locals were lovely, interesting local ale range well kept (I had a Founders), and we were kind of 'locked' in their outdoor courtyard without really having a say!  Still, we weren't complaining (well, apart from Jig's burning bald patch!)

466 - Sportsman, Huddersfield - On the way back into town and this former CAMRA pub of the year lived up to it's billing with a superb ale range, more 'try before you buy' for Jig served by a polite young chap.  I had a good Mallinsons session ale, Jig's was even better.  The pub was a bit spartan (you could almost have hosted ballroom dancing in the main area!) but as it filled up with people knocking off work, you could picture it being quite a heaving loud venue on a Saturday evening.

467 - Vulcan, Huddersfield - A very locally pub in the town serving all real ales for £2.40 (take note Strensall's Ship!), it was full of characters and a friendly barmaid who looked like she'd been there a few centuries(!).  Ale range was a bit more limited here but nowt wrong with my McMullen's Tour De France themed 'Slip Stream'.  We sat in and Lu joined us, hope she realised she was part of my BRAPA side project!

So, I'll still need to return to Huddersfield for the much anticipated Grove, the Star (which didn't open til 5pm) and one out of town in Bradley which might need a bus or taxi.  That's for a midweek night in the coming months I reckon.

I received the 1982 and 1989 beer guides and what interesting reading they make (for a pub geek like me).  Could I possibly do a 'Bradshaw' of pubs when I (if I) finish this challenge and look for everything in the 1982 guide?  Best not think about such plans at this stage!  See you after Nottingham,


Sunday 6 July 2014

BRAPA - North Yorkshire beginnings

It felt fitting on the weekend of 'Le Tour' that I should properly start concentrating on the North Yorkshire guide pubs, having started the West Yorkshire midweekers a couple of months ago now.

Having said that, I ended up doing 4 in County Durham and only 2 in North Yorkshire!  Hey ho, it's all for the greater good.

I gave myself an unexpected boost before when I realised that the Salamander in Bath (456) had indeed been my first pub visit there, and therefore, of the A-Z.  How could I forget such a momentous occasion with the old wood paneling, jolly touristy clientele and friendly smartly dressed staff serving top quality simplistic Bath Ales?  Well, obviously, I couldn't.

It got me thinking, I can't remember which Elsecar pubs I did for the letter "E" with Tom.  Am sure one was the Milton Arms, there were at least 2 more but I cannot say for sure so am still 2 or 3 guide pubs down on reality ... which is sad.  It begs the question, where else have I forgotten?

Never mind for now, on with Darlo and co ......

457 - Voodoo Cafe, Darlington - Samba South American themed and felt I just had to take advantage of the fact it was a 10am opener.  No real ales on probably due to a heavy night for them before (Brazil had played Columbia) but the brilliant landlord (his first day back) asked me why I was drinking so early(!) and when I explained BRAPA, he gave me my 'craft' beer for free!  Like Baschurch all over again but in a more generous, less pubby way!  He talked to me the whole time and I picked up loads of useful info about the Darlington drinking scene and their old building.  Superb effort almost made up for no cask!

458 - Stanwick, Aldbrough St John - One bus ride and one picnic later (where a dog called Molly tried to steal my sausage roll), I walked along the huge village green to a nice little Daleside pub which also featured Mithril ales, brewed in the village.  I had a Tour de France themed one (obviously!) and the event was on the TV too.  The landlady could've been friendlier (probably I'm spoilt from recent experiences) but she enjoyed horsey chat with the locals before a visiting cricketer from Richmond livened things up but not convinced his performance later that afternoon will have been at 100%!

459 - Crown Inn, Manfield - A scary roadside walk (why not have pavements on these roads, I thought of my Virginia Water experience) took me to my next venue.  A good couple of miles and a bit of sunburn but was wholly worth it for this little gem.  8 interesting ales and one of the most pleasant beer gardens you could hope for made me fully understand why this was the local CAMRA pub of the season, country side version!

460 - Quakerhouse, Darlington - I'd been waiting for this, the local town pub of the season, and after a delayed taxi back from Manfield and another BRAPA chat with the taxi driver, I was in this dark little cavern of a place which felt underground and I could imagine why it is also a popular live music venue.  Again, a huge range of ales was served by a nice barmaid and the locals were again friendly as I smuggled my chunks of cheese out of my bag (that's not a euphemism in any way).  Once again, I found myself explaining the challenge!  I'll be famous at this rate.

461 - Foresters Arms, Coatham Mundeville - My second bus trip of the day took me North and after a slightly fractious number 7 bound for Ferryhill found me stuck with chav girls and the local nutter(!), I was soon at my destination though I got off a bit late and had to walk back on myself!  It felt a bit too foody to be a proper pub and bad news early on as my Robinson's Dizzy Blonde was dodgy to start with and you could tell the vinegar overtones were only going to get worse.  Sadly, the barmaid's disbelief only made things worse but her protestations about cleaning lines and fresh barrels made me accept it's a pub that usually takes pride in their beer, even though she gave me evils for the rest of my time there!  My Golden Pippin was conversely one of the best of these I've had for some years now.  Maybe the dodgy ale could be explained by the many "mysterious goings on" in this pub that the guide claims it has!

462 - County, Aycliffe Village - Decided on another long walk to keep me fit, my beer belly down, and sober me up a bit.  Crossing the M1 wasn't the dangerous thing it appeared on google maps and about half an hour later, I was at my destination.  Again, I felt it had a bit of a restauranty feel but the superb range of local beers (Yard of Ale featured heavily) and quality of them made me realise that this was another quality establishment.  This was further enhanced by a front outdoor drinking area, a great sun trap facing out onto the beautiful village.  Little wonder all the people sat out were friendly and jovial, thus completing one of the best experiences of the day before my journey back into Darlo for the train home to York.

Overall, I couldn't have hoped for a better BRAPA day and that last pub finally proved Co. Durham can do good pubs in the villages after recent dodgy experiences, if I think back to Witton Gilbert as well.

I've just booked my first Oxfordshire trip for mid September (buoyed by Shropshire last week) and with midweek West Yorkshire BRAPA's hard to come by, I'm trying to get Jig to join me pre-Bronx for some new Huddersfield ticks.  That will take me to 8 or 9 and then I should reach my monthly July quota next Saturday in Nottingham.  Whether I stay central or try and go West or North (south isn't an option due to Trent Bridge test match!) depends on who, if anyone, comes with me.  Watch this space!