Monday 3 November 2014

BRAPA : the archives (11-20)

In the second part of the series, I'm looking back at the 2015 GBG pubs visited long before BRAPA was invented in the early part of this year.  Our reigning early pub champion is Cambridge Blue (visited 25/8/2003). Can any of these next ten beat it?

11.  DRAPER'S ARMS, Peterborough - A Wetherspoon's but one I've got a real soft spot for, mainly due to their excellent breakfasts, great service, and little booths you can hide from Barry and fellow Gooligans in.  I've been three times, once at 7am pre-Norwich, once on a wintery Peterborough away day and once pre my Cambridge BRAPA trip.  The only time I may have drunk alcohol was on the middle of these but even then, I can't say for sure which would make it quite unique in BRAPA ticks but then again, there's no rules saying I have to drink a real ale for it to qualify, I don't think!

12. PENNY BLACK, Northwich - And the 'Spoons pubs just keep coming!  Wow, we are going back in time here.  Nov 17th 2001 and I'd just finished my first week in the Yorkshire Bank as I prepared for an exciting FA Cup first round game.  The message boards were full of vitriolic comment from Northwich fans trying to scare us, so I was expecting some Lincoln City style day but it was like a ghost town, a ghost match, and only Theo Whitmore trying to tackle his own players threatened to give them any chance.  After a dodgy local pub where a DJ was trying to sort out some lights and equipment, we came here.  Hard to imagine now but Wetherspoons was an exciting new chain which me and Dad in particular were raving about.  I was horrified York didn't have one yet.  This former post office was huge, high ceilinged, ornate, great quality ale even if the service was lacking and an old local had a go at me for pushing in front of him, which I didn't actually do.  We were well impressed, and whilst the novelty factor of JDW soon wore off, I remember this as being a great pub experience.

13.  WOODROW WILSON, Carlisle - A third consecutive 'Spoons, sorry I'm not doing this deliberately.  Before our King's Head experience (covered in part 1 of the archives) we came here due to JDW's early opening policy.  To say the locals were "real" and "colourful" would be an understatement but there was plenty of black and amber knocking about, hidden beneath other tops as Carlisle can be an intimidating away day.  This was our first experience of Carlisle State Bitter, which was being revived to an old First World War recipe when it had been banned, though my memory of the exact story Dad told me is by now hazy.  Visited 14/2/04, Stuart Green was booed by them more than us, he put in his most/only ever mature performance and got a great equaliser in off the post at their end, ha!

14.  STAN LAUREL INN, Ulverston - Yes, sounds like a Spoons doesn't it?  Well, it wasn't.  Our second pub on our dreary wet day for the tricky "U" in my A-Z challenge in Dec 2013.  I'd rate this highly, as we drank a pint of "Local Hero" from the local Ulverston brewery named after Stan himself.  We sat in the middle of this low roofed one roomed pub with a wonky carpetted floor, nervy staff and locals who kept looking at us like we were three aliens who'd landed from outer space.  Well, that's Cumbria for you.  Great quality ale.  Probably better than the Dev at a push.

Stan Laurel Inn, with the Sir John Barrow monument in the background
15. FLOWERPOT, Derby - 17 April 2006 was our first of three visits here, magical and one of the pubs of the season despite the lateness of the voting submission.  Recommended by our friends Chris & Tom, we arrived to find them elbow deep in a lovely looking plate of egg and chips and quickly demanded the same.  The sheer number of exciting beers won me over, with many coming straight from the barrel in the cellars, it was one of my first "beer festival" pub experiences.  That was one of the most drunk I've felt at a match!  No surprise we returned the following season, 10/2/07 for another draw and again we were impressed, ordering faggots washed down with more exciting ales which the barman was able to pull in one swoop (and claimed this should always be the case but 7 years on, it's something I rarely witness).  On that day, an old man chatted to Dad about old convertible Morris Minors which bored me to tears.  We tried to recreate the magic as part of a pre match evening crawl on 22/2/11, but it was poorer beerwise and the atmos was ruined by loud music which caused Dad to close a door in a controversial move!

16. BRITTANIA INN, Plymouth - Friday 8th December 2006 and I'd come down to Plymouth on my own in what must be one of my earlier examples of "trying to get round as many guide pubs as possible" on both the Fri and Sat.  This was a JD Wetherspoons, but it didn't stop me wanting to "tick it off" and as it's back in the guide 8 years on, I'm glad I did.  This wasn't one of my better pub experiences of the night, as with Christmas approaching, it was full of screeching middle aged people enjoying their xmas work nights out and space was at a premium,  During December 2006, I kept a little notebook of my pub adventures I rediscovered recently so I can tell you I drank a Moletrap Molecatcher, I found the staff friendly and hard working, but I wrote "a bit disappointing all round".

17. DIGBY TAP. Sherborne - Saturday 1st May 2004 is still to this day, my favourite day of supporting Hull City as we achieved promotion at Yeovil and stayed in this lovely little town overnight, as recommended by Chris Irvin.  This was our post match drinking place after some fish n chips from a place recommended by Frank Bruno, and with euphoria still running high, this was a superb place to celebrate, everyone was so congratulatory, especially the impressive landlord who I seem to remember was a Burnley fan and had plenty of their memorabilia adorning the walls.

18. OLD WELL INN, Barnard Castle - Invited to a wedding on my birthday in 2012 held at Greta Bridge, I booked me and my sister into this place totally unaware it was a real ale pub, never mind a guide listed one.  The accommodation was decent, the beers from a local brewery I cannot remember were absolutely superb, staff and locals couldn't stop talking to us and eventually we had to go to the chilly beer garden and then try other pubs, but looking back, we should have just gone with it! 

19. NUMBER TWENTY 2, Darlington - 21/4/2003 and an Easter Monday defeat in Darlo, where we escaped our usual pre match ritual of the rather scary Hogans at the train station to branch out into real ale, and as it is now, this is the home of the local Village brewer who do an excellent ale called White Boar,  I took a beermat which I still have on my bedroom wall, but we were less impressed with the over foody atmos, something of an early example of a gastro pub where drinkers are squashed into the long thin area near the entrance and the clatter of knives and forks echos from the back of the pub.  Wasn't a huge fan.

20.  COURT INN, Durham - My good friend John Watson grew up around Durham and as we discovered real ale at about the same time, we have had a handful of excellent Durham days since I met him at Uni in 1998/99.  He took me here on my first ever Durham real ale day out (not including New Inn and Angel pre GBG trips) so I'm thinking this day may have even taken place before he moved to York in 2003.  This place felt a bit foody loungey so whilst pleasant enough, didn't really do it for either of us, plus I think John had a bad experience in here whilst a sixth former!   Students and prison staff make an interesting clientele combo.

So, I think Penny Black in Northwich is now holding the crown as "longest ago" visited pub with the Court Inn a slight possibility but I think John and I were both in GBG mode so 2002/03 seems more likely for that and the other Durham pubs I will be reviewing shortly.

Look out for pubs 21-30 coming soon.....

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