I will now try and retrospectively review these pubs from my hazy memories, 10 at a time, in no particular order, and may well discover what my first guide tick actually was!
1. BRICKLAYERS ARMS, Luton - 4th Feb 2006 and after a Kevin Ellison inspired 3-2 win in one of the most depressing towns I've visited, Chris Irvin marched us to a very enjoyable post match pint of Everards Tiger (the best I've ever tasted), we held up beer mats showing "Easy" and "Tiger" which I have on my fridge to this day, we watched the final scores come through on the TV screens, and the same landlady who was there then and still here now, 28 years service apparently.
2. NAG'S HEAD, Reading - 22nd Jan 2011 and a post match pint in here wasn't a comfortable experience due to the extreme overcrowdedness. It didn't put us off though as almost a year to the day (21st Jan 2012), this was our pre-match pub and Ben, Mark, Dad and myself were unanimous in awarding it away pub of the year. The great music, friendly vibe and huge array of interesting real ales (my first was an iBeer!) made for a great experience and we were back post match after the helpful pub bus to the ground. Winning helped too when Brian McDermott amusingly didn't seem to understand the offside rule regarding not interfering with play.
|Me outside the Nag's Head at 12 noon on 21.1.2012|
4. CAMBRIDGE BLUE, Cambridge - Aug 25th 2003 in the summer sunshine and beer garden and Dad still hadn't recovered from the close season was was struggling with his drinking, as he had in Oxford a fortnight before. We had a meal outside too and the feisty old landlady made sure we knew exactly what ales were on and what they were like. The pub seemed quite quirky and sat outside, there was a menagerie of animals and loads of signs like "don't smoke over the rabbit hutches", "don't feed the guinea pigs with apples that drop from the trees" etc. We remember it as a top experience and Clare and her Dad, on my recent trip to Histon, told me it was still one of Cambridge's finest.
5. CHARTERS, Peterborough - Long awaited visit for the first time 10/9/2011 and twice more since. Despite it's excellent Oakham ales and the quirk of being a barge, I've never got on with this place. The first two times it was too busy, the third time was better because it was quiet due to being a pre-season midweek afternoon and even then, we got off the barge and sat on the grass bank under a tree where I tried a guest Oakham called "Endless Summer" I haven't had before or since. Think I'd go on a non-football day if I ever had an hour or two in Peterborough with no new pubs to visit.
6. HELTER SKELTER, Frodsham - The letter L of my A-Z had proved a good day in Llandudno, and this was definitely the best of the pubs I visited on the way back to Manchester. With rain teeming down, I was glad it was just around the corner from the station and was greeted to a warm, buzzing atmos of over 40 year olds and a fine selection of interesting ales. My phone battery died and there weren't any free seats so I had to perch at the bar. Everywhere else, I'd effortlessly chatted with strangers but it just didn't happen here. Anywhere else, this would have been a problem but i was glad to bask in a great pubbub. Not surprised to see it's won pub awards since.
7. KING'S HEAD, Carlisle - We went to Carlisle for six consecutive seasons and finding a good real ale pub was always a problem, but got a little bit easier once we started using the guide so it was probably the 14/2/2004 Stuart Green game where we finally stumbled on this little gem. The downside was that it was packed with the SS brigade all acting smug, eating lunches and meaning we had to sit at a non-table and watch whichever televised game was on before. Dad and I agreed that the Carlisle State Bitter was one of the most moreish beers we'd ever tasted, and when they ran out, there was nearly a riot but the SS obviously don't behave like that darling.
8. DEVONSHIRE ARMS, Ulverston - The letter U should have been a classic day out, but miserable weather meant we could not appreciate how good (or not) Ulverston was as a place when myself, Jig and JW2 (in the pre-Lucie co-habitation days) arrived here on a grey Saturday morning in December 2013. It therefore became a glorified pub crawl, Laurel and Hardy would have to wait! This was our first pub, a friendly landlord served us some rare local ales and in the back room, we helped support some Burnley fans (Dad and son) in their quest to beat Leciester as I launched a verbal onslaught every time twat-face Nigel Pearson appeared on screen. God I hate that man. I had to laugh at their love of Dean Marney though. The walls were decorated with names and badges of various teams the staff and locals supported, mainly local ones but worryingly including QPR. It was time to leave.
9. BABINGTON ARMS, Derby - I've heard many people say that this is the best Wetherspoons in the country, it was certainly well above average with it's incredible range of ales and grand bookcases stretching up to the top of the ceiling. Dad had taken advantage of free bank holiday parking so we used this as our pre 12 noon opener on 17/4/2006, no idea what I drank, but we both had half an eye on our 12 noon opener, which will be revealed in the next part of these archives.
10. CROWN INN, Glossop - 20/10/2012. The least talked about A-Z day is undoubtedly "G" in the beautiful town of Glossop, nestling in the Peak District, probably cos I went with my sister's ex Ric in the days before I "stopped seeing him!" if that doesn't give you the wrong idea. Having watched Glossop North End v his hometown team of Runcorn, we took on the mile long walk post match to this beautiful ornate pub. Just one minor criticism, it was a Sam Smith's house! Well, at least I know I had an OBB and whilst nearly all Sam houses are great proper old fashioned pubs, this one was highly impressive and had cosy real fires too which were needed after a long chilly uphill walk. I was also celebrating a Nick Prostwitcz inspired last gasp Hull City home win.
So far then, Cambridge Blue is winning the "earliest pub" challenge.