Wednesday 8 April 2015

BRAPA - Swansea & Sowerby Bridge

April started with a trip to Swansea, a near on 22 hour day may probably have yielded more than one pub tick but at least it was a good one .....

616 - No Sign Bar, Swansea - So just after 12 noon we arrived in this obviously ancient (1690) bar which Dylan Thomas apparently frequented, very much the Dick Turpin of South Wales in that regard!  A nice selection of 4 ales would have done me, but the lovely blonde barmaid advised us there was a beer festival on in at the end of this Tardis like long & thin building.  Bonus!  Though it took as a while to properly find it, never mind to embrace the beer fest experience.  Tom had arrived looking like someone who'd spent the last 24 hours on the rail network, and we sat under a rather pretentious food menu til Dad cracked, ordering us all Tapas but both mine and his (Calamari and Bruschetta) were rubbish, though full marks to all the staff who were excellent throughout - seemed like they needed a few more to assist.  All the ales were superb quality, the Elland 1872 Porter a highlight as I'd managed to avoid it on recent trips to Elland and Halifax, yet found it in Swansea!  Typical.  I wish we'd been able to stay there a bit longer, or a bigger "Welly" gang could have sampled this "away pub of the season" contender.  Tom did make a valid point, how can you have a pub called "No Sign Bar" when it has a sign displaying that very fact?

Fresh off the 5:55am from York.  Me arriving at the No Sign Bar, Swansea 12 noon.

Fast forward to Tuesday and probably still not recovered from Swansea, it was time for the West Yorkshire Midweek edition of BRAPA!  Now I was supposed to be going to Hipperholme for leg two of Halifax, but work had put me on "checking", so I had to stay to 5pm, and with a bus needed for Hipperholme, it put too much pressure on the situation.  So something more straightforward was needed ....

So after taking the Manchester Victoria train 40 mins, I arrived at the attractive canal town of Sowerby Bridge.

A fine spring evening in Sowerby Bridge
617 - Shepherd's Rest, Sowerby Bridge - After a 10 minute walk skirting around canals, hills and eventually rush hour traffic, I arrived in the 'village' centre to find this Ossett owned pub and am pleased to report it was more along the traditional lines (think Drop in Elland or Fox at Holgate, York) than the modern efforts of Leeds and Sheffield.  I entered in a weird triangular shaped bar and after buying a very drinkable Saltaire Citra from a friendly young bar chap, I sat in the lounge area where the locals were, comfy bench seating, and supped my pint.  I often find myself judging pubs by the clientele, and the easy, jovial nature of the people here, helped give a great atmosphere, I was accepted as a visitor without any staring or forced conversation, so a good balance! A local referred to the place as "Soreby" Bridge, which I'd heard from a guy at work was the correct pronunciation, but when even the train guard didn't do it, I had been losing hope, so it was good to hear!  I read a leaflet on Ossett's forthcoming beers for 2015 and left, happy, contented, like so many, a tinge of regret I may never return! 

Decor and seating inside the Shepherd's Rest, a fine Ossett pub.
618 - Firehouse, Sowerby Bridge - Having read the GBG description, I had my reservations on this one with it's supposed emphasis on stone-baked pizzas, but whilst it was modern, I'm pleased to report in an excellent way which reminded me of Henry's in Sheffield.  Despite the street corner, big windowed feel, it didn't feel exposed and was warm and comfortable in, even if a big group of young ladies were ordering glasses of Prosecco as I arrived.  Friendly staff served me a fine Teleporter from Summer Wine brewery, who I thought had given up on cask altogether so this was heart-warming ale, both metaphorically and literally!  I found a large, curved green settee which had my name written all over it (not really) but I sat there and got hungry watching two middle-agers munching on goats cheese pizzas, the specialty I admit did look very yummy. I agonized over where the loo's were for ages looking for clues (it's almost a game at times for me!) and I was relieved (again, literally) to find them downstairs and not up a spiral staircase past the cackling Prosecco gang.  So, all in all, pleasantly impressed.  

There is a third pub in Sowerby Bridge, but with time ticking on and 40 minutes from Leeds, never mind York, I headed home knowing I have plenty of time to do combine the final pub with my final Mirfield tick later this summer.

Firehouse, Sowerby Bridge (Prosecco gang in second window on right)

  • My "business" cards have finally been shipped after some payment difficulties.  Could they make a surprise debut on Saturday?  
  • Oh, the joys of village pub life and their irregular opening times.  Ellerton's pub appears not to open til 4pm, and with Sutton Upon Derwent's one closed between 3-6pm, Dad and I have had to work hard to come up with a plan around this!  All will be revealed in my next BRAPA report. 
  • HAPPY 1ST BIRTHDAY to BRAPA!!  5th April 2014 was our official start date in Beds, I was around the 385 pub mark then.  Now at 618, not forgetting the 70 or so pub drop in September when the 2015 GBG came out, I've ticked off a lot of pubs!   
  • I'm sure I won't be on "checking" at work two week's in a row, so Hipperholme will be back on for Tues 14th.
  • I'm booking an overnight trip to Aberdeen on Thursday 9th July, I have two days off work so let's get on the BRAPA trail!
  • Even more urgently, I'm looking at a birthday BRAPA outing in early May.  Greater Manchester is looking the most likely county at the moment.  
  • The latest Bedfordshire trip is a week on Saturday.  Some high level planning is needed. Ampthill and Bolnhurst are the "must" pubs.  Houghton Conquest, Felmersham and Kempston would all be nice too.  
  • Doing Sowerby Bridge made me realise the great progress I'm making in West Yorkshire.  I could well be finishing this county before Bedfordshire if I can stay in the Tuesday night groove through spring and summer.  Dirty Dick's in Halifax was my 100th West Yorks tick.
See you all in a pub (virtual or real) sometime soon,


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