Tuesday 5 May 2015

BRAPA : City of Hull 2-4 Greater Manchester

The title might read like a football result from the last day of the season (some of you may argue two goals for Hull City is optimistic), but it reflects my BRAPA ticks so far in this, my birthday week of almost unlimited, unadulterated pub joy.

It all began in Hull on a sunny bank holiday afternoon as Dad helpfully drove us out to Newlands Ave, where we began our drinking at a pub he'd already dampened my expectations on.....

641 - Larkin's Bar, Hull - It didn't really convince from the get-go, regardless of Dad's comments.  It was what it said on the tin, a "bar", and with families, groups, reserved tables (although helpfully with signs saying when they are reserved from, so you could still sit down in advance - take note George Hotel in Cullingworth) and even plastic glasses for outdoor drinkers, it didn't really scream GBG pub to me.  As Dad said, in Hull this is probably quite cutting edge and modern, if it was in, say, York or Altrincham (to pluck two random examples out of the air), it'd be bang average.  The staff were good and hard working, and I took advantage of hesitation by others to nip in for a quick round, Milestone and Wold Gold were about the only ales available but despite Milestone not being a great brewery, I enjoyed my pint.  The wine menu (what sophistication) detailed a frog (toad?) hanging off a cocktail stick in a pint of beer.  Interesting.  It felt a decently run set up, if a bit chaotic, but the drinkers of Hull were determined to make the most of their bank hol.  A tent outside seemed to be offering a local music festival, but I'd rather have an indoor pint in a proper glass any day.

Larkin's, under the Newland Ave bridge - note the "Allam Out" sign
I couldn't help feel that Hull is still in the dark ages in terms of real ale pubs, never mind the whole craft craze.  What with Welly shut down, the owner of Lion & Key and Wm Hawkes strangely deciding they want no CAMRA affiliation, and the Exchange lasting about 2 months, options are limited and shutting Walters all afternoon seemed a bit silly.  

After a bit of Hawkes time (good ale but unconvincing barmaid and atmosphere), we ended up in our next pub - it says a lot to me when a Wetherspoons wins pub of the year .....

642 - Admiral of the Humber, Hull - But you can see why.  Helpful staff, wide range of excellently kept ales, who cares that 'Spoons "cater for all" when they can please so many?  A wide range of locals, home and away fans and the after work crowd mingled happily - it was busy but this huge former paint & wallpaper shop meant it never felt crowded and we even got a nice booth towards the end of an excellent pint of Celt Dark Age, a mild with a sting, quite a rarity.  Although the pub is all on one level, my trip to the loo found at least three people complaining about the "long walk".  What did they want, a horizontal escalator thing like in Manchester Piccadilly station?  Some people!  Glad to finally get this "pub tick" as we joked it might be my last in the GBG (i use the word "joked" loosely).  I may be back here for breakfast some time soon.

It's all kickin' off at the Admiral - in a non threatening way of course.
So onto Tuesday we went, the weather having taken a turn for the worse but I found myself in Manchester on the slightly delayed 09:41 so grey, windswept wetness was to be expected.  A short Metro "yellow" line took me to Altrincham, where the A-Z had begun in 2012 but two new venues had since appeared in the GBG.

643 - Pi, Altrincham - A cool, funky kind of place - the type to make you come up with bollocks soundbites like "proof that Greater Manchester is at the heart of the modern real ale revolution" so I won't say that!  I never know what to make of Alty, is it a well-heeled, upmarket market town of Cheshire or a shitty suburb of Manchester?  With my brain in turmoil, I wasn't perhaps at my most sociable as the friendly barmaid served me a gorgeous pint of Hand Drawn Monkey, though the threat of complimentary peanuts would probably have killed me stone dead!  As Social Distortion's cover of "Ring of Fire" rang around the cosy bar, I was finally glad I'd made the effort to do a BRAPA day despite earlier misgivings, as I shared the space with two elderly gents enjoying a pie n pint combo.  If you're in Alty, you should definitely try this place.

The life of Pi : modern, fresh, clean, friendly, Alty! 

644 - Costello's Bar, Altrincham - Another modern bar with superb ales and a nice atmosphere, I was impressed how on a wet Tuesday lunchtime, so many people of different walks of life were enjoying this place from old couples to bearded hipsters with laptops.  This was in the supposedly attractive Goose Green area of town, but major roadworks just outside sadly made it all a bit of a squashy eyesore for my visit (it could've been worse, a sign tells me they are closed for a refurb from next week).  A friendly barman (a bit like a nervous George Boyd) helped me choose from the 6 Dunham Massey ales (this is the brewery tap) and then gave me a loyalty card.  I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd probably never return due to BRAPA commitments!  He might have glazed over if I had done.  Like Pi, I was very impressed and it further emphasised yesterday's feeling of how Hull needs an ale flavoured shot in the arm.  

A loyalty card and a Dunham Massey porter - that's me sorted! 
Next, I hopped back on the Metro one stop to Navigation Road, two pubs were a short walk away.

645 - Railway, Broadheath - Wow, how different was this from the Altrincham duo?  Not only was this actually an incredibly down to earth pub, but it was National Inventory with multi-rooms, outdoor loos and I'm sure my favourite pubs are where you enter into a hallway/corridor.  The only beers on were Holt's Mild or Bitter, I went Mild and wasn't complaining as a 3.2% felt right for this stage in proceedings.  The locals were crowded around the bar area happily chatting to the landlady, it was a very jovial atmosphere with tonnes of laughing but I hadn't drunk enough to join in and went to explore the main lounge, though I spent most of my time walking around with my pint having a good nosy, it felt such a novelty to be in a proper pub after recent BRAPA ticks.  Superb.  You know, as my challenge goes in, the beer range on offer takes less and less significance. 

Cheers!  Mirror selfie time at the wonderful old Railway in Broadheath.
646 - Old Packet House, Broadheath - Even closer to Navigation Road station was an even more historic pub, right next to the Great Bridgewater Canal, which I did at GCSE, and 200+ years ago, canal travellers and workers would've been sat where I was today.  Local office workers had just taken their faces out of the nosebag when I arrived, but the remnants of food was enough to make me delve into my own bag for secret scotch eggs!  Again the ale range wasn't great with only two on, but no disputing the quality of my Little Bollington ale, a very local brew.  The pub descended into a peaceful early afternoon wind down, with the few locals who remained in a comatose state, just like me, and the sun finally came out, shining a beam through a stain glassed window partition which made things feel almost heavenly.  It was a "wind down" I never really recovered from! 

Historic canalside pub not far from Navigation Road Metro stop.

I almost had too many options.  Back on the Metro, I debated whether to 'alight' at Sale and tick off the two pubs here, or head back into Manchester, get off near Deansgate and do Cask Bar, or go even further into the centre and do the long awaited Soup Kitchen/Molly's House pub ticks.  Like a less lethargic Tom Huddlestone, I dillied and dallied, ended up doing none of the above, and found myself in Piccadilly station with a coffee and sausage roll cursing a cancelled train to York (possibly the one which reaches L**ds at 16:17 which has been terrible recently).  

I think yesterday plus the early start had caught up with me, but I'm sure more BRAPA ticks await in the coming week so stay tuned.




  1. I'd say the Manchester 4 is also highly optimistic.

    Out of interest, how did you get to Alty? Did you do tram from Picc, or stay on the train to Occy Road and then walk to St. Peters? I'd lean to the latter, with consideration given to BR from Picc as an alternative.

    In terms of your delay, you should put in a delay claim form and get some money back. Ask at York booking office for a 'TPE Compensation Claims form'. Fill it out as follows:
    Outward York-Manchester Piccadilly, booked departure 09:41, delay 1 minute.
    Return Manchester Piccadilly-York, booked departure 15:26, delay 32 minutes.
    Ticket type Season / whatever your Leeds-Manchester was
    Ticket number: quote from the relevant pieces
    Fare paid: I'd just give the fare you paid for Leeds-Manchester.
    Enclose your Leeds-Manchester ticket and a photocopy of your York-Leeds pass.
    Seel the form with selotape as well as the adhesive provided - the provided stuff is crap.

  2. Thanks Tom, I think the problem might be that I was on an open ticket for this one. But great detailed advice right down to the sellotape! Yes, I just did a Metro from Picc but could have gone from St Peters if it's cheaper. I'll bear it mind for my Sale trip whenever it happens.

    1. Si, you can still get the refund on an open ticket, just fill out the details as stated.

      I suspect St. Peters Square is the same fare, however I suspect that if you are on a Liverpool which stops at Occy Road it would be quicker. Beware with Sale of major engineering works coming up at St. Peters Square, I believe there is at least a partial blockade of several months coming up,

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