Wednesday 29 July 2015

BRAPA - Thornton (and month end review)

The BRAPA pub ticks continue to fall with the same rapidity of Hull City selling players, as I visited my fourth last West Yorkshire pub on Tuesday evening.

So it was onto the James Chester-esque 16:35 from Leeds to Brighouse, normally solid and reliable but when it does score on 'own-goal', it is normally hilarious and at a total inopportune moment.

The 697 bus from Thornton to Bradford was more Tom Huddlestone - heaving and painfully slow, but I was eventually dropped off by a friendly bus driver two minutes walk from the pub.

715 - New Inn, Thornton

A pub of two halves (but pints, you know what I mean!)

First half ..... On entering the pub, a group of about 5 locals were discussing which eggs tasted nicest.  Duck eggs was the conclusion.  I had nothing to add.  There was a certain pub camaraderie throughout, but it was more disjointed than Southowram last week.  Part of the problem was the pub itself.  A large building but I really could find a decent seat.  The left side looked dark and I'd be far too "out of the loop" sat there.  The entire right side was a Mary Celeste style dining area, the knifes, forks and serviettes were laid out, but who would use it?  This was a local as West Yorkshire gets and all drinkers were craggy old men.  Some noisy kids and Mums had draped clothes over one seating area, but at least they were outside, despite the cold rain.  Hardy folk round here.  A mini stage and a wood burner (which we could've done with being on, even in July!) were also taking up much room.  So I perched on a stool, a bit uncomfortably, especially as a back door was blowing in cold air.  I'd been recommended a Partners Working Class Hero by a quirky old chap at the bar, so I went for it, but a slight hint of vinegar was present.  It settled down a bit, maybe I was imagining it, but then another old man took back a pint of London Redemption back because it was 'sour' (and not a Saison from what I could tell).  I'm having a bad run with beer this last week after the Melbourne in York and Hedon's Haven Arms.   Getting near the end of the GBG year perhaps?

Big pub, limited seating options - New Inn at Thornton

Second half ..... It was lucky therefore all round that I'd just missed the first bus back, so "had" to stay for another.  First, the kids moved so I could get the comfy bench seat.  Then, my Acorn Yorkshire Pride was superb (they had 3 Acorn's on so perhaps this brewery was sabotaging ever other guest ale?) and then the quirky old man came to sit with me and was impressed with my West Yorkshire GBG ticks to date, and had a few stories to tell, and seemed to love the BRAPA concept in general which is always nice.  The barmaids were friendly, suspicious looking and a bit crazy.  One found a sign that said "Very Broken" but she didn't know what it had fallen off!  And the main one who served me was quizzed on a recent (supposed) arrest for GBH but said she could prove she wasn't the aggressor due to the bruises on her legs, which she wanted to show the pub.  By the time I left, everyone (4 people) were wishing me a jovial farewell and my opinion was somewhat improved.  But question marks over beer quality have to be a big issue.  The Allan McGregor of pubs perhaps?

Much better second pint - do you like my Acorn artwork? 
I was actually shivering stood waiting for the delayed bus back to Bradford and when I got back to Interchange, it was raining again, I was starving and cold, plus a direct through train to York was due in 4 minutes so I didn't do the pre-emptive pub I had planned.  I figured there'll be plenty more Bradford trips in the future, possibly as soon as Sept/Oct so no worries there.

BREAKING NEWS .... When researching Blackpool pub potential, it occurred to me I've done Castle Gardens, Carleton.  Call it my 716th tick!  I went on "P is for Poulton-le-Fylde" day so didn't recognise I'd walked to another part of Lancashire.  Full archive review to follow soon.


So that completes July, a cracking month for BRAPA thanks in large part to Aberdeen.  30 pubs visited is one off my overall record but double my monthly target, woohoo.    It would be 31 if I hadn't mistakenly thought I'd done the Commerical in Slaithwaite.  And I got some "good" pre-emptives in like Bryherstones (Cloughton), Old Vault (Thorne) and Chequers (Wrestlingworth).

First pub tick of the month - Hayburn Wyke at Cloughton Newlands
Pub of the month?  Wow, lots to choose from.  For midweeks, Sair in Linthwaite and the Puzzle Hall at Sowerby Bridge are very evenly matched.  If you include Aberdeen, Moorings and Grill were pretty special.  But what about Lund's Wellington, Hollym's Plough or Dunton's March Hare?  Amazing experiences galore.  Don't make me choose!


I thought the same last year too, that August what with the football season AND punk festival would be a stifling influence but I've soon learnt (with Tom's help) to make them work in the favour of BRAPA.  7 days off work helps too.  So the below agenda is a "best case scenario" and as we say at work, will be "approached on a best endeavours basis" (which basically means, if and when I can be arsed).

Sat 1st - Hereford (2 new pub ticks before seeing the Tiger Cubs).
Sun 2nd -  Sheffield South (3 pubs in the proximity of Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane)
Tue 4th - Upper Denby (more West Yorks midweek fun, unless friends hold me to an earlier DVD night promise).
Thu 6th - Sun 9th - Cleveleys / Bispham (I'll be looking to take time off from the punk fest to hop aboard a North bound tram to tick of these two Sam Smith's lovlies - just beware the Southend fans up from Fleetwood wanting to fight "rivals" West Ham).
Tue 11th - Accrington - 3 pubs before an important league cup tie which may well end in disaster.
Wed 12th - Thu 13th - BRAPA summer festival - Yes, I'm still of work so providing I have recovered my lizard sufficiently, I will be looking for a couple of cheeky pubs which don't really work as part of a Saturday trip, OR a midweek night.  No specific details yet.
Fri 14th - North Cave (lunch and pub tick after a walk in South Cave with lovely Mum and Dad).
Sat 15th - Wolverhampton (with emphasis on the 'outer' parts of town).
Tue 18th - Wetherby / Sicklinghall (two after work ticks, one NY, one WY).
Sat 22nd - Charlton (Tom and me have a plan, but Greenwich is now out with the sad news that "Old Loyal Britons" was closed despite everyone loving it).
Tue 25th - More midweek fun TBA, depending what has or hasn't been done on 12th/13th.  Could we see the start of South Yorkshire with a trip to Armthorpe?  
Fri 28th - Cross Hills / Kildwick - bus from Keighley, cos one pub only opens 3-11 on a Friday! 
Sat 29th - Coxwold and the villages North of York
Mon 31st - Bank Holiday Fun Fun Fun!  (or rest my lizard and do book work).

So as you can see, possibly over ambitious.  I'd break my record easily if I did it but I might need the odd lemonade or two!  

Time to start on the archives.


Monday 27 July 2015

BRAPA : the archives (271-280)

Welcome back all as finish our retrospective real ale trail of North Yorks, before dipping our feet in the Bingley waters, if you can imagine how muddy they might be.

271.  Hales Bar, Harrogate

My earliest memory of this famous pub (oldest in Harrogate but surprisingly not heritage) is being told a story by my sister's ex Ric, the "travelling illustrator" who went to draw the pub probably around 2008 only to be accosted by an overly friendly old gay man and a rough barmaid who smoked in his face.  Quirky wasn't the word.  I feel like I visited for the first time quite a long time ago and though I can't remember it, the most likely time would therefore have been Ric's birthday do on the first Saturday of July 2009.  This is because my next visit to Harrogate with Dad on 7/1/12 (almost 5 years to the day since our previous footie outing here) saw us come here on a freezing Saturday lunchtime.  As I remembered, the bar was ornate with weird flamey bunsen burner type things across it - there should be more naked flames in pubs!  The range wasn't spectacular but a Daleside ale went down okay, but the pub had a bit of a touristy lunchtime feel to stop it from becoming a classic, and not sure Dad loved me constantly reading "Colemanballs" quotes at him.  We moved on swiftly, a drab 0-0 followed and David Livermore was Histon's player manager which was an added bonus.  I can't recall bringing either Ben or Jig to Hales on our 2013 outings, Ben more likely but will have to check with both of them.

272.  Old Bell Tavern, Harrogate

Pretty much my first port of call when I come to Harrogate, this is one of my favourite Market Town Taverns, as it still kind of feels like it's former home, a toffee shop.   A first visit was the part of Ric's July 2009 birthday trip out that I'd most been looking forward to, and being one of the first MTT's I visited post-Brigantes, I was amazed but pleased to see how similar they were.  Even down to which breweries they put on!  It's quite a bright, airy pub so maybe not the best for atmosphere but does have a nice side room or two.  I had no hesitation in bringing Dad here on 7th January 2012, we were the first customer's and despite a huge pub to aim at, the next couple who walked in insisted on squashing on the closest table to us!  Dad was fuming, but it generated some heat and I think he still later declared it pub of the day.  I was in here again with Jig on a random weekday trip out on 17th May 2013 - it was actually a 'Market Towns Tavern Crawl' day where we got 5 in, 3 of them new I think though this was only new for Jig having not been on Ric's do in '09.  And a month later, 22/6/13, I met Ben here reading a newspaper with his legs out, bemoaning the lack of summer weather he'd expected to find in Harrogate.

Market Town Taverns Pub Map - I took this on my May 2013 crawl with Jig.
273.  Swan on the Stray, Harrogate

And Harrogate's newer Market Town Tavern (and perhaps the newest of all) opening in 2010 was mine and Jig's first pub of 17/5/13, across town a quite a distance from all the other real ale pubs.  It had a typical light and airy MTT feel and the barman was very friendly, drawing our attention to the "beer menu" and tried to get us to try a 32.5% Brewdog Tactical Nuclear Penguin so I had to explain no because we were on a serious MTT mission!  We did have a spot of lunch though to line our stomach's for the day ahead, no idea what it was (toastie perhaps), but I enjoyed it very much.  Might not be a bad one to "re-visit" if I find a new BRAPA tick needed for Harrogate in the 2016 GBG.  

274.  Winter Gardens, Harrogate

And from one amazing chain to another errrm ... chain, in Wetherspoons!  Yes, my one visit here to date was on a hot early July lunchtime in 2009 as we needed to find somewhere Lu could get a vegan meal, and they always come up trumps with a certain curry providing you ask for extra poppadoms instead of evil milk filled Naan bread.  But what a place!  Certainly one of the most jaw dropping 'Spoons ever, we came down this stone staircase with waterfalls and plants on either side and entered a huge dome shaped main room, not great for sound and the clatter of busy drinkers and eaters was deafening - but the entrance did make me feel a bit like a Roman Emperor, probably Caligula!  The whole ritual of ordering food, finding tables, getting drinks within meal deals had us all hot & bothered, but it did a good job on the day.  

275.  Half Moon, Knaresborough

12th October 2013 and the first pub of mine and Dad's highly successful Knaresborough day out.  This pub hadn't been on my radar on the "A-Z" visit in April so must have been quite new, and just got into the 2014 GBG.  Sadly, the pushpin on my GBG App had us looking for it in a housing estate, and then in a wooded valley when in fact, it was right on the end of the main road into town!  I remember a friendly, comfy room, not at all traditionally pubby and most people having coffee or breakfast didn't help that, but the staff seemed nice and my Ilkley Mary Jane was crystal clear and a great light way to start the day.  Slightly concerning, no one has checked in on Untappd here since Jan 14 so hope this place hasn't sunk as quickly as it rose.

276.  Mitre Hotel, Knaresborough

Back on the Market Town Tavern trail, this train is situated right on the train line (well, not literally) so you can see your train coming while you finish your drink.  It's location means it's always been a "later pub in the day" so apologies if memories are hazy.  20th April 2013 was undoubtably my first visit on the brilliant "K is for Knaresborough" A-Z though I can't remember much, I think we tried to go outside for when I came here with Jig a month later, our long walk from bar down the steps to the lower beer garden seemed a familiar but precarious one.  We had about 5 minutes of blissful peace before it was school chucking out time and a bunch of loud Mum's brought their kids here to run riot whilst they enjoyed a glass of wine.  Me and Jig were terrified!  A month after this, I'd expect Ben to have demanded that we got off here between Harrogate and York (we did go to York Tap and discovered it's new "beer garden" for the first time!) so whether that makes it more likely we came here too, I'm not sure.   And finally, me and Dad finished here on our October 2013 day and I was a bit shocked to find my pint of 99 Reb Baboons 'on the turn', though I never took it back!  Indoors, it feels a bit darker and more restauranty than most MTT's but still modern, clean and efficient - a bit like the Nazi Germany of pubs.  

277.  North Riding Brew Pub, Scarborough

I had a few days off work one summer's day in what was probably about August 2011 and took a random day trip to Scarborough to see what it was like as a day out, and I stayed along the coast as I walked a few miles up to Scalby Mills for lunch and read a bout serial killers.  On my walk back towards the railway station, the weather turned stormy so having seen Indigo Alley looking closed and in chaos, I came into this GBG entry - back in the days of using an Autoroute Map to get myself around.  The Guide description and all the rave reviews I've heard just didn't correspond to my experience - a huge sparse building as I sat behind the door of this bare room with only other people I saw were DIY men fixing doors and windows - they had a good range of ales at least but as the wind and rain felt like it was going to blow the place down, I can't say I enjoyed it.  So I was very pleased to get a revisit opportunity when I came with friends on 6th April 2012 for an Easter outing.  A bustling pub with friendly staff and locals chatting to strangers across tables.  It was barely recognisable apart from the large square white rooms.  Not even any DIY was occurring.    However, we'd just been for fish & chips and I'd wrapped some chips up in my coat pocket for a snack for later on.  Bad move!  A dog was all over me.  I had to confess.  The pub found it hilarious, I was hugely embarrassed and then another dog lay down across the exit so I couldn't escape.  Not a lucky pub!

278.  Scholars, Scarborough

This was our first pub on the Easter bank holiday crawl, 6th April 2012 having only taken us ten minutes to convince us that Scarborough as a picturesque town has little to offer.  Plus we had to keep Lisa away from the amusement arcades for a while longer.  It was quite an impressive start, with a long bar with lots of young, friendly go-ahead staff eager to serve us one of the many ales - one of the best ranges we saw if I remember rightly.  It was quite busy, some were eating lunch but I have the feeling the White Sh*te were due on TV so quite a few scum-plastics (found in most Yorkshire towns) were trying to change the atmosphere from ebullient to mildly aggressive.  It didn't work and we sat in one of the many large round wooden tables and I invented an impromptu dice game which was simple but fun (well, in my eyes anyway).  Can't remember who won.

Pre-Scholars on the train to Scarb, Krzb makes an indecent proposal to the girls (perhaps)

279.  Black Bull, Yarm

27th November 2010 and one of the most memorable away days EVER (and yes, it did involve Middlesbrough) found me, Ben and Dad trudging through a few feet of snow from Yarm railway station to this Nicholson's pub (quite a trek as it turned out).  Boro' being Boro', we were proud with our "thinking outside the box efforts" for a pub and as we settled down towards the back of this friendly early opener, 10am, the likelihood had to be that the game would be postponed, the snow had started again.  Then, to our horror, Jarvo led a gaggle of Gooligans into the pub - how unlucky was that?  Dad started edging us further and further back towards this thankfully deep pub til we were almost in the toilets.  Luckily, Barry was notably absent so I could semi relax.  We all enjoyed the pub, good staff and good selection of cheap beers, wonderful wood panelling, cosy.   With the weather in mind, we gave ourselves extra time to get to Boro but Ben found out trains were delayed/cancelled so we took a bus to Eaglescliffe/Egglescliffe and prayed the local old crones would stop chatting to the driver so we could make our connection.  We just made it and it was now blizzarding, I had a wee in the snow and tried unsuccessfully to spell out "Hull".  Amazingly out of the gloom, a rickety old train arrived a few minutes delayed.  We called it Vladivostok, or Bloody Bostock to be more precise.  Even more amazingly, the game was on, we limped to a 2-2 draw and it was trudging back through more snow to Isaac Wilson Wetherspoons where an old man told me about his pigeon fancying hobby.  Crazy day.

280.  Off the Tap, Bingley

16th November 2013 and me & Krzb were heading back down the trainline from Ribblehead to York, via Settle and Leeds so we decided to try out this new pub I'd seen in my most recent GBG, just a couple of minutes from Bingley station after some middle aged women had been caught out ticket evading, but hadn't been punished by the train guard which annoys me still knowing what I know now about these things!  But what a strange place this was.  We entered to find a kind of mini beer warehouse, not the cosiest on a dark November evening, the clientele was "quirky" and all the beers were served straight from the barrel so it was hard to tell what was what.  I think a barmaid gave us some kind of menu/guide/advice to help, as I felt guilty cos I'd plugged my phone into one of their wall sockets and hoped no-one would notice (incidentally, I once did this in Parcel Yard and unplugged a lamp in the process).  It didn't feel like a pub, but was a real drinkers place, a bit like a mini beer fest I suppose.  The toilet doors were like Wild West swing ones. I told my Bingley pub contact about this place over and over again (he loves York's Golden Slipper best) but he's totally unaware of it's existence.  Maybe it was a ghost pub.  It felt a bit like a dream.

So there we go,  off to Scotland next to review the likes of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and not much more!


Sunday 26 July 2015

BRAPA - Hollym and Hedon

The excitement is building (for me at least) as, after yesterday, I only have two more East Yorkshire pubs to tick off in the 2015 GBG.  And to think, back at Christmas, I only had 12 ticks to today's 40!

A novel slant on day care in the Shakespeare, Hedon
It was hard to imagine there is an "east of Hull", but it seemed to stretch on from village to village as we finally made it to Hollym using the annoying SatNav woman, who won't be in my year end BRAPA thank you list!  

Arriving before 12 noon, we had chance for Dad to take a trip down memory lane at the Golden Sands Holiday Park near Withernsea, where his family had a wooden holiday home (still there!) when he was a boy.  He was shocked though at the level of erosion, half the park he remembers is now missing.  Quite scary really.  

712. Plough Inn, Hollym

I don't suppose I've been in many wattle & daub pubs on my BRAPA trips so that was a nice quirk.  The friendly southern couple who ran the pub offered me a CAMRA discount without needing to see my card (Dad reckons I have an "authentic look" hmm, I think more CAMRA geek) and the landlady displayed the least surprised reaction EVER when I explained BRAPA, as though it is a commonplace challenge.  She was soon chatting erosion to Dad.  Landlord Steve meanwhile was half way through a 365 day "dry-a-thon" but revealed last night he dreamt he was drinking two pints of Morland Bitter!  Full credit to him.  Despite the pubs seeming tie to Greene King, it had two great guests on in Great Heck Voodoo Mild and Half Moon Bitter, both superb and the pub had a light and clean feel, but the wood panelling and beams made it feel old and authentic (like me allegedly!)   The dogs which had accosted us on the way in were friendly, but then retreated to an acceptable distance, but we didn't risk our cheese & onion rolls in case it stirred their nostrils.  A young bar lad was being trained up (maybe a bit too heavy handedly as he seemed capable) but luckily, he didn't seem to realise the pub operated a "lined glass" policy, so we got extra.  Take that Seabirds in Brid!  

Me at the Plough - Dad took this before his drink in case you were wondering!
And that was that, another absolute corker from East Yorkshire's rural pub portfolio.  I keep telling Dad how lucky he's been, the pub standard when he's been with me this year has been superb, but as occassional chauffeur, he deserves that luck.   We had a drive round Withernsea so Dad could rekindle more memories of family holidays before we headed to Hedon.

713. Shakespeare Inn, Hedon

And after 'losing' the first Hedon pub (more on that later), we accidentally stumbled on our other one.  It initially reminded me of the Beech Tree in Kirk Ella, so I was expecting it to open up into some huge estatey family friendly unatmospheric room.  So I was surprised to see that it had the 'reverse tardis' effect, with just a circular bar and two small rooms each side.  Even the loos were hidden in the entrance area.  We saw two Great Newsome ales (very Locale as the brewery is at nearby South Froderingham) and went for a Pricky Back Otcham.  The barmaid, who had pretty brunette potential, was stifled by two things.  One, being friends with two strangely capped chavs at the bar, and secondly, being deaf which Dad took exception to as he likes being the deaf one in social situations, he later revealed.  Luckily, there was a large outdoor drinking area at the front of the pub, and we found a secluded bench next to a nice floral display round the corner, and rated this beer, drink of the day.  And the added bonus of being outdoors, we finally got to have the pasties!  We left and I waved at one of the capped chavs, what a nice chap.  Maybe.  

Dad arriving at the 'reverse Tardis' in Hedon

714.  Haven Arms, Hedon

The GBG had incorrectly listed the address as 'Sheriff's Highway' rather than 'Havenside' so it was one of the day's highlights when we finally found our final pub, nestled down a peaceful country lane with a couple of a bench outside, annoyed as we disturbed their peace as we parked opposite.  We entered a quite large but dark and low roofed pub, where some friendly locals were giving us ale recommendations at the bar.  The Ashes theme was in full 'swing', and I had a Jimmy Anderson themed one and Dad had a 'Golden Pair' but Great Newsome.  We were served what seemed to be a Mum with an army of friendly daughters.  Maybe some were nieces.  They all looked the same anyway, but that could be Hedon.  Now it's credit to Dad that he thought his Golden 'Pair' was a pun on 'Pear' and it was like a farmhouse perry.  Problem was, I wasn't convinced and research showed me it was a rather bog standard bitter.  Conclusion, Dad was drinking vinegar.  Then, my Jimmy Anderson which had displayed sulphurous notes (do I sound professional?) totally turned half way down.  We left what was remaining, couldn't take them back at this late stage, and beat a swift retreat., though I did say bye to 'daughter: K993B'.   Worst beer quality in a BRAPA pub this year.  The slight confusing factor to me is that there were so many ale drinkers at the bar!

There was no beer haven at the Haven.
So I'd tempted fate by telling Dad how lucky he's been with the quality of our East Yorkshire visitors when we were leaving the Plough.  As time was still on our side, we popped in for a swift half at Greyhound in Riccall to wash away the taste of vinegar though the Bateman's guest wasn't amazing, but the beer garden was, well until the rain bucketed down and we sat in the smoking area - pub was heaving which was a total culture shock if you've read my archives review, it is normally just me and Dad in for lunch on a midweek lunchtime.  

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The remaining East Yorkshire 'ticks' are at North Cave (to be visited in August) and New Adelphi, 8pm gig venue opener in Hull, which I'm working on.  Tom's "evening tick in it's own right" makes a lot of sense, as does Dad's "on a football evening" post-match so we'll see how things go.  I take Tom's point about leaving a game early.  Problem is, I can't do the Fulham home game so amusingly (if you read my 'Hull City relegation' post, Ipswich would be the next opportunity!). 

See you Tues/Wed for a review of my Thornton trip & August preview, though I might try and get another archive out today or Monday.


Wednesday 22 July 2015

BRAPA : the archives (261-270)

I think pubs have been ingrained in my soul for as long as I have been alive.  One of my favourite ZX Spectrum +3 games which didn't involve football management was called 'Gunfighter'.  The premise was that you were a 'goodie' in a wild west town, and you had to seek out and shoot dead each individual baddie on the "Wanted" poster, cowboys like Billy the Kid.  One tip was to go to the local bar/saloon and if you went right up to the bar, the 'bar keep' would give you the local gossip of where the baddie was ... "hey kid, I hear he's down at the O.K. Corral" for example, so you could go and seek them oout.  My tactic was far more simple.  I stayed in the pub propping up the bar, til the baddie got bored and came in here, then I shot him dead from my position at the bar.  Simple.

Anyway, on with the North Yorkshire archives after that little interlude!

261.  Tickle Toby, Northallerton

This very blatant pub on the main high street by the market place in Northallerton was first visited by myself on the A-Z day, N is for Northallerton, on 24th August 2013 when it returned after a summer break!  My travel companions were Krzb and Clare and we came more towards the middle/end of the day.  There is a main room where the bar is but the pub is pleasingly long and thin and you can get lost in some very impressive old style canteen booths, as I'd describe them.  It can only be the alcohol that made this an unmemorable experience despite it being my second favourite pub of the day, it certainly had a good selection of ales on.  I therefore decided to do it justice when I had time to kill in Northallerton on an official BRAPA trip earlier this year.  It had been one of those incredibly social days and it was nice to 'hide' in one of the booths of a quite transient pub, being at the centre of all the hustle and bustle but still having a locals feel.  Anyway, I could regroup from my rural sojourn in peace as I nursed a half of Whiteheart by Yorkshire Heart as the human toby jug which is Tickle Toby smiled back at me in a jolly way.  May have to go back a third time just to be sure!

262.  Tithe Bar, Northallerton

A Market Town Tavern, and one of my 'sub-challenges' of the pub world is to tick all of these off, I believe I just have one remaining which I should get in by the end of 2015.  I like all MTT's, all have a certain blueprint, but this for me is one of the strongest, and I've been three times now I think.  The first time, again, was 24th Aug 2013 where me, Krzb and Clare saw a special guest all which seemed to relate to all of our names (can't remember how), and then we shared a delightful fish platter which I think was one of the most comprehensive demolitions of food I have ever been party to!  We were all impressed.  And as you'd expect from MTT, a great range of quality guest ales, served by young friendly staff and a young-middle aged well heeled clientele, even in Northallerton (joke!) The town has proved a real staging post for North Yorks BRAPA trips, whether it be Dales, North East, whatever really so I've popped in here so as not to be rude.  In January whilst waiting for the Borrowby pub to open, I unwisely had a Black Jesus, a killer at 6% plus and with the light fading, the soft music and gentle ambiance, I was nearly drifting off and just remember sat underneath this bright spotlight smiling at everyone who went past!

Fish Platter heaven on my first trip to Tithe, Aug 2013.

263.  Sun Inn, Pickering

After two previous trips to Pickering had yielded average pubs at best (mainly the former GBG entry run by the Sunderland fan who had a parrot next to the carvery), it was nice to be able to seek this one out 'cross town with Jig before we were due at Joe's wedding do.  This was 29th June 2013 but feels like a century ago!  An extremely precarious crossing was my first memory, and then a larger pub opening then expected with a selection like which I didn't think Pickering was capable of.  I quickly stole a pub beermat which I have on my bedroom wall today, cos I'm a sad tegestologist.  We sat in a unique back area, which felt a bit like a horses stables and beyond that, a beautiful sweeping lush green garden, which looked like a golf course but I think my memory is over-egging it.  The signs/entrance to the gents was one of the most confusing ever, and we got into a chat with a north eastern visitor about the ridiculously misleading signage, though I can't recall exact details.  Me and Jig stayed here for as long as possible, speculating the beer range and quality would spectacularly decline at the evening wedding do, and to find limited warm Black Sheep bitter was actually seen as something of a victory.

264.  Station Inn, Ribblehead

"R was for Ribblehead" and in the wild and barren walkers scenery, Krzb and me figured that our one certainty was a fine pub with great beer.  Except, I wasn't convinced and wasn't on my recent "re-visit" where I popped in for a quick half.  With the rain coming down hard, we had a Dent beer on arrival as we sheltered with what seemed like a thousand walkers.  It was pretty good and it was here where I first was made aware of a iPhone battery charger (which runs on battery), as I saw one group of walkers quizzing another on it.  I'd say this is one of my most important parts of the BRAPA survival kit two years on!  A sense of guilt soon filled us as the pub emptied when the sun came out and everyone got on with some serious walking!  Me and Krzb spent about half an hour tooling around under the viaduct before deciding lunch was calling at the pub.  My giant chilli filled Yorkshire pudding with hidden chips underneath ate next to a boiling radiator had me sweating like a chimpanzee (if they sweat) and has gone down in history as a momentous pub meal.  We worked our way through the beer list, another Dent, a Kirkby Lonsdale and their house beer Station Bitter.  All tasted wishy washy and the same!  It was hard to get past this.  Especially when I asked a surly barman who brewed the house beer and he snapped "DENT!" before I'd finished my sentence.  It was reminiscent of so many walkers pubs, where because the majority of customers are "passing through", they treat them like scum.  Something I've seen too often on my North Yorks BRAPA trips.  On my recent visit, I was unsurprised to find my half of a Copper Dragon guest equally bland, as I feigned interest in vintage Rugby League.  I saw the same beer in Alma in Scarborough recently, warned people off it, but was curious to know if it actually tasted amazing there?  Overrated pub.

Monumentous Chill and Chip filled giant Yorkshire pud, shame about the ale!

265.  Greyhound, Riccall

Impossible to say when I first came here, I'm guessing about May 2009, but having enjoyed lunch here with a pension's friend who lives nearby, Dad recommended this to me as a great place to come for lunch after our two or three yearly trips to play golf.  The staff are always very friendly and attentive, food is pretty good with the "Greyhound whale" (big fish) & chips a favourite.  The ale is a bit limited but there is normally one good guest, sometimes two, next to the John Smith's Cask.  They'd always set up a tab for us anyway.  We once accidentally "broke in" on a cold March lunchtime, stood at the bar, before being told the pub was actually closed!  And on rare occasions when food hasn't been available, Dad would pop to the fantastic butchers round the corner and we'd have pork pies, normally in the large beer garden but I think they let us eat them in the pub once.  We even popped in for a swift half when we were too early back from an away game, but with old men playing noisy dominoes in OUR seat, it felt like OUR pub had been invaded (we never really see anyone but the local radio that gets piped through has often been hilariously bad).  A bad run of unreliability for food/opening and discovering how many other good East & North Yorks pubs are for lunch (as a result of BRAPA) mean we haven't been here in a couple of years now.

Me at Greyhound, March 2012.  Later that night, I went to Leeds beer festival.
266.  Angel, Scarborough

'Twas half way through a 'York gang' Bank Hol day out to Scarborough with my sister Lu the only absentee due to moving house.  The date was 6th April 2012 and this was the most 'local' pub that we went in all day, slightly reminiscent of the recent Alma visited on the 2015 Welly day, but lacking the same cosy charm.  It was quite 'rumbustious' (I think the word is) with crazy one toothed locals keen to engage in conversation in between leaning on the bar and watching the latest horse race they'd betted on a specialist horse racing channel.  I feel like I've been to pubs like this in every downtrodden seaside town in the country.  The range of ales was promising, but most were standards we'd had before.  The pub had a nice central bar and some nice old features and decor from what I can remember.

Krzb, John, Jig, Lisa and Clare in the Angel on our Scarb day out.
267 & 268.  Cellars / Valley Bar

Again as part of our Scarborough day out (see above), I cannot remember which is which,  But don't blame me too much, plenty of reasons for this.  Firstly, they were next door to each other.  Secondly, they were our last pubs of the day so I wasn't as sharp as I had been earlier.  Thirsly, they were both down from street level.  And finally, they were both competing for pub of the day, despite the relative short time we spent in each with trains back to York awaiting.  The first one was more homely, cosy and loungey.  It had split levels to some extent and we sat not far from the bar behind some bannister style railings, that's my main memory.  The second was quite small, felt even more underground, was a bit less comfy and more of a drinkers place - the beer selection was even more impressive, and the barmaids were very pretty (beer goggles?) but it wasn't quite so friendly.  We perched on the edge of a bench style table, all in a row.  I probably preferred the first overall, from the description in the GBG, I'm thinking Valley was first and Cellars second but can't be sure.  But I don't care too much,

269.  Thirteen, Settle

Back on the "R is for Ribblehead" day on 16th November 2013 with the redoubtable Krzb Britain and as we wended our way back towards York, it felt rude not to have a couple of post Ribblehead drinks.  This rather interesting place was a cross between a museum and a wine bar with illuminated old glasses and bottles in little alcoves in the wall (see below).  The barmaid was very friendly, and very bored (the two often go hand in hand) as she told an old local at the bar, who had a frail puppy dog with a muscle weakness in one of it's back legs, not helped by the cold stone flooring.  For a pale ale, my Hetton by Dark Horse brewery tasted a bit like coffee, but me and Krzb were about the only non-coffee drinkers in the building.  I like how the GBG says you are welcome here as much in hiking boots as high heels - I think that sums this place up pretty perfectly.

Thirteen in Settle, hiking boots and high heels.
270.  Narrow Boat, Skipton

Part of mine and Lucy's 'sibling day out' in Skipton on Sunday 23rd June 2013, we'd had some lunch in a pub I can't remember the name of, then had a good explore of Skipton Castle before a cup of Earl Grey and the walk back towards the railway station, via the canal (hence the name of the pub).  Lucy had been here before, but for me, though I didn't admit it, the most highly anticipated pub tick of the day as it was one of the remaining Market Town Taverns I needed to visit (a mini challenge in itself).  It had all the hallmarks of an MTT, Yorkshire guest ales aplenty, bare boarded drinkers feel and I believe we sat in old church pews.  This may explain why my sister got onto a higher plane and asked where I saw myself in five years time, not quite the question you want on a lazy Sunday afternoon but she's always been a challenging character!  My answer, "in a pub like this enjoying the peace and quiet" didn't exactly go down well at the time.  There was also a strange smell of sick in the pub air I couldn't quite get over, so all in all, not the best ever MTT experience I'd ever had.

Me and Lu enjoy a happy pint in the Narrow Boat (probably before I answered her question!) 

Well, that was an enjoyable ten to review in my home county.  I will be staying in North Yorkshire for the next ten where we will be back in Harrogate, Scarborough and Knaresbrough before a quick trip to Yarm and a cheeky West Yorkshire finish in Bingley.

See you soon, time to brush my teeth - dentist tomorrow.  Yipes!


BRAPA - Southowram

Sheep & Halifax - a view from Bank Top after a tough climb.
I will miss West Yorkshire when I finally 'complete' the county in the coming two months, and today was a microcosm of everything that makes it great and has been typical of my WY travels.

Okay, so a train delayed by only six minutes to Halifax was nothing to get upset about, but in that time I came to the conclusion that a 2.7 mile walk to Southowram would be preferable to the bus ride.  Of course, it saved money but it also allowed me to exercise/burn off my little "beer shelf", see the countryside, and avoid hanging around 30 mins for the next bus.  Also, Halifax bus station is the most badly positioned West Yorks bus station in my opinion.

So why do so many busses run, and why do more people not walk?  That soon became clear with the most back-breaking steep incline imaginable up to a place called Bank Top (the clue was in the name).  I was sweating buckets, my heart was racing, at least I'd had a work out!  The final mile was smooth level plain sailing as kids cartwheeled through the streets and two boys on scooters powered down to Southowram, you could tell it was the summer holidays.  

711.  Shoulder of Mutton, Southowram

And the pub too was typical of all that is great about West Yorkshire midweek BRAPA as the group of eight customers present were all stood at the bar, all laughing and joking with each other and the landlady.  When I arrived, one kindly woman exclaimed "eeeee. you've got a customer!" and I ordered a top quality Saltaire Blonde.  The only beer on, not always my favourite, but perfectly kept and let's face it, it's all about the pub rather than the ale (in this instance at least).  Everyone seemed to be practising their Spanish, maybe not the first thing you'd expect from a rural West Yorks pub scene.  Then, there was a racist joke reminiscent of Saturday's trip to Arlesey's Vicars Inn.  The landlady/barmaid (Christine) then had the pub in uproar (well, those eight people) by stuffing a cushion up her top to make her 'fat' before doing an impression of one of the locals!  It was that kinda pub.  There was a pool table in one empty room, another was in the dark.  I contemplated getting another half but there was a staff changeover, three of the group left, and I decided maybe the magic was gone and I should cut my losses.

Shoulder of (M)utton - half the "M" missing but the pub felt very complete!

A bus was due but the walk was all downhill as I well knew so I skidded back towards Halifax at quite a pace.  I was probably only 2-3 mins off getting the direct service back to York so what could I do but pop into the Three Pigeons for a swift half for the first time in nearly two years?  Wow, what a pub - soon to be reviewed in the archives so I won't talk about it now.  

And I was still back in York about 20:30 for dumpling stew and to shake my head at how bad "Death in Paradise" is.  A textbook low-key BRAPA evening.

A perfect pint of Saltaire Blonde in a cracking pub

BRAPA Other News

And I can exclusively reveal, just four pubs left on the West Yorkshire front!  And I'm determined to get them done before the 2016 GBG comes out.  Thornton is next and how I now regret when last summer, a kind taxi driver from Thornton volunteered to stop here and wait for me to have a quick drink.  However, I received a text from Christine of Welly gang fame - she was having two hours of pub time in Bradford today and drew my attention to a pre-emptive tick "Bradford Brewery" which surely is too good an opportunity to pass up next week.  

I'm trying to be relaxed about the Colton situation.  After all, Dad says I was there in a high chair gurgling once.  I assume this means when I was a baby and not last year.  Earliest archive tick?  But seriously, I now see it as a daytime 'whip it in' tick when I'm off work one midweek (post punk fest?)  However, my most problematic West Yorks tick (Wintersett) is not possible after work and may also fit into this category.  

I have a bonus ticking plan for Friday evening.  I just have to postpone drinks with a girl at work - can I tell her BRAPA is more important than her?   I know how to treat my lovely work ladies.

All this talk of West Yorkshire making great progress but actually, another East Yorks jolly with Dad on Saturday will see me left with, dare I say it, only TWO remaining EY ticks.  IF all goes smoothly.

See you soon for more archives and weekend updates.

Keep on pubbing, Si

Sunday 19 July 2015

BRAPA - Bedfordshire - Part VI "Eastern Delights"

Sometimes in life, less is more.  Well, it isn't true of BRAPA where more is more and less is less, But after 4 gruelling hours of evening planning for this trip (a new record), I decided that staying in the east of the county might only yield three 'ticks', but I would lose less in terms of money and time.

The journey went well with a change at Peterborough, and I stayed on from Sandy to Arlesey even though the hapless ticket office girl in York tried to sell me a Sandal & Agbrigg ticket!

I had half an hour to wait for my bus, my plan was to pop into the 'Old Oak' next to the bus stop (a Greene King pub) but when I realised GBG entry Vicars Inn (which I visited last year) was round the corner, I went in.  On the plus side, they had a guest called Sand Cask-ale so I had a swift half in the front bar, where three locals faced up to the fact that immigrants weren't 'going home' any time soon and every time they turn on their TV, it is like watching Planet of the Apes.  Ah, casual racism, the staple of rural British pubs!  The landlady apologised but I claimed they had enhanced my experience.

The bus was on time, it stopped for me, first challenge out of the way.

708.  Brewery Tap, Shefford

Now call me picky but having read at B&T (Banks & Taylor) do 12 regular beers brewed in Shefford, you could expect to see more than three of them on!  Sure they were supplemented by the likes of Everards Tiger and two or three more, but to me, that is not a brewery tap in the truest sense.  It was a lovely relaxed place, bare boarded in the main bar, a cosier lounge, and a few sleepy locals at the bar.  One old chap asked his friend if he'd sent him a photo of a lady, which I think turned out to be Demi Moore, but no one knew what he was talking about and he was accused of sounding like a 'dirty old man', which he apparently wasn't.  The locals then realised one of their regulars was a former Luton and Chelsea footballer called Jimmy Husband so they looked him up on Wikipedia.  He has a "northern accent", they said with horror.  Food was how pub food should be, 'filled rolls' (sandwiches to you non pubbers) or nowt.  One visitor liked his first two filled rolls so much, he asked for a third but the barmaid declined because he was being "greedy" and other customer's might want one!  Classic anecdote.  I enjoyed my Shefford bitter, sitting at a reasonable distance away from the bar but feeling very much part of the pub, and that's as good a acid test as you can get.

Always nice to get your drink in the right glass!  Shefford Bitter in Brewery tap.
Bus back to Arlesey, train to Biggleswade and after a bit of lunch, I headed for the bus station but the 188 was delayed by over 10 minutes.  And when it did finally arrive, the sense of urgency between the old and new driver in the 'change-over' was ridiculously lacking.   A girl from Dunton commented we always have this problem on this service!  

709.  March Hare, Dunton

But hurrah, get out the party poppers, I finally made it to this multi-award winning Beds pub in a rather remote village!  You may remember I came here back in March and knocked on the house door of the owners, only to be told it doesn't open til 2pm - I didn't hang around on that day.  Anyway, when I saw the beer range and little multi roomed pub, I realised it was worth the wait.  Not many Beds pubs are freehouses with this many ales.  However, there was trouble in paradise as the couple who own it were arguing and stressed out, and I had to wait a while to get served.  Luckily, she didn't recognise me from March!  When I asked what was occurring, it seemed they had a wedding party due, her husband was also co-ordinating a folk band playing at the village church and most pressing, the ladies loos had been blocked up with toilet paper and caused a flood!  I shuffled out into the delightful little beer garden at the front, so as not to be in the way or get drenched by toilet water.  The sun was properly out now it was a lovely day, drinking my Salopian Hop Twister in the sun (with a scotch egg I'd smuggled in) - good things come to those who wait.  From my vantage point, I scoured the landscape for wedding groups or churchie folk bands.  The delayed bus and delays being served meant there was too much pressure on getting to Wrestlingworth in time for the connecting bus, so I stayed here for another and got the later 188 instead.  It made sense.  As I went back in to get a swift half from the local Buntingford brewery, an American father was giving his kids a lesson in reverse psychology, he then demanded landlady bring her husband to them, and then the kids crumbled under pressure and confessed all about the blocked toilets with a most humble apology!  What drama. 

Classic BRAPA experiences at the (Mad) March Hare
Chequers, Wrestlingworth

A short bus ride two villages north of Dunton took me here, to Bedfordshire's "most improved pub of the year" though as Tom Irvin had pointed out, it might depend on what level of rubbishness it was improving from!  So I managed my expectations and glad I did, as they only had two ales on (one of interest) and the young barmaid told me it was her first day, and I had to make her realise that the beer that comes out of hand pumps is called 'real or cask ale'!  Poor lass, she'd been left alone as in a far corner of the garden, everyone else who worked here seemed to be doing some excavation, or that's how it sounded from the toilet window.  No doubt it was a fantastic old creaky pub, though the tinkly wind chime bell things got in the way of anyone taking a drink outside.  I can see this pub getting a future GBG, it was good enough in Beds terms to be classed 'pre-emptive'.  I sat out as I knew I'd need to ring for a taxi to Sandy, but with the low beams, no signal inside.  What I didn't realise, no signal outside either!  I even walked a few hundred yards down the road each way to see if I could pick something up, but nothing doing.  I went to ask at the bar and being her first day, young barmaid was very responsive to my problem, but the one taxi man she knew answered his phone but was 'away' somewhere.  He may have been Derek from Potton, who I was going to look up myself.  In the end, one of the locals at the bar came to the rescue and said if I bought him a pint in the Queen's Head, he'd drive me.  Stuart was his name, a local builder.  Despite being very grateful, I had my BRAPA head on and having explained my challenge, negotiated a change of venue to the William Peel, the 'tick' I needed!

I'm not sure how much Stuart had drank, I didn't ask, though he seemed quite fresh, but it was a life saver to get in a lift in his rickety red autombile.  What I didn't realise was that he purposefully never locks his car (some misguided "you can trust everyone around here"), so I had to bite my tongue when I found this out as I'd left my bag on the front seat.  In some ways in was a parallel of Wootton in April.  On that day, I'd found a beautiful pub, called the Chequers, in a village beginning with "W", and got a lift from locals to my next venue.  Almost spooky.   

Lovely improved pub, no phone reception - Chequers in Wrestlingworth
710.  Sir William Peel, Sandy

Again, you could see the quality shining through as soon as you entered this dark and bustling pub.  Any pub in the Oakham Oakademy (for keeping Oakham ales well) gets a bonus point from me, though I declined the JHB in favour of a Bateman's XB because this is what Stuart wanted, and it is a Bateman's pub.  Really enjoyed it actually.  Stuart is one of those 'characters' who knows everybody, and will speak to anyone he doesn't.  Despite never remembering my name, I was introduced to loads of people who he told about my BRAPA challenge,  I got the impression most people put up with him rather than really liked him, though despite being a loudmouth, he was a decent chap underneath all the bluster.  We sat in the beer garden (well, smokers drinking area) and I got chatting to a woman who turned out to be the landlady.  Her son is moving to York soon, and she thinks he will spend most of his time in the York Tap despite getting a top teacher's position!  She gave me a guided tour of the rooms they use for beer festivals, where her son is temporarily using as his bedroom - doesn't look very comfy I had to say.  Stuart then popped back up and said we had time to go to Queen's Head before my train, oh the joy!

Sir William Peel, taken on my aborted visit in March

Queen's Head, Sandy

Pre-Stuart, this had been a bonus/pre-emptive pub I'd had earmarked if needed - a Greene King one which was nice enough, but probably isn't going to trouble the GBG compilers any time soon thought the side entrance through a gate was a cool way in.  Stuart insisted he buy this round despite my best efforts, I even tried to give him petrol money which he refused, so I ended up with a very cheap day.  Just as well cos the Old Speckled Hen and guest ale (can't remember which it was) was typically Bedfordshire over £3.50 a pint.  Again, Stuart did his ambassadorial role, tried to chat up the landlady who cowered on an outdoor table and we chatted to a few pleasant locals who'd seemingly been at my previous three pubs already today - we could have hired a minibus between us.  Stuart insisted on dropping off at the station (it was a 5 minute walk for me!) so I said goodbye, 20:03 was on time, and I was soon at Peterborough and then York for KFC and bed by midnight.

Another eventful Bedfordshire trip.  See you Wednesday for a midweek update and latest news.




Friday 17 July 2015

BRAPA : the archives (252-260)

Good evening all, and welcome back to the archives.  Ideally, I'd like to get all of these 'written up' before the 2016 GBG is released in September.  Unlikely probably, but eventually I'm going to put them all with their "dates first visited" in a spreadsheet so I can keep a 'live' record going of each GBG visit.  It's a good job I don't have much more to do in life isn't it?  Well, apart from visit them!

This time, we'll unleash the county in which I live ... North Yorkshire.  York, remember, was reviewed previously.

252.  Old Manor House, Clapham 

15th September 2012 and although "C" was technically for Carnforth, a trip to Clapham on the train line back down seemed to be a nice bonus "C" in the pre-cursor to BRAPA, 'Si's A-Z Aleway Adventures".  First pub New Inn had been quite disappointing and things weren't looking up as this place didn't seem to exist!  All I could see were a few posh old women in a cafe called the Reading Rooms, but hang on, I re-read the entry on my GBG Phone App, and sure enough, the bar was hidden in an adjoining room through the cafe!  Travel companion Jig looked as non-plussed as me as we ordered the most interesting of the guest ales, which may well have been Bowland Hen Harrier, it definitely had a birdie theme. It was a sunny light room with a few board games scattered around and the clientele was older, higher class drinker.  As this turned out, rather sadly, one of our pubs of the day as the standard was generally average.

253.  Bonhomme's Bar, Filey

26th January 2013 and heavy overnight snowfall was not going to ruin mine and John's day out (even if my Facebook 'friends' were bleating like babies about the weather) as I trudged up South Parade to the station ankle deep.  After a pleasant explore of Filey beach, a church and other attempts to be cultural in the posh crescent area (it was sunny now), it was time to 'tick' off the one GBG pub (at that time) and very pleasant it was.  I was expecting something quite grand, but rather nicer, it was an unassuming carpetted lounge bar.  The barman was friendly, maybe not expecting tourist visitors on such a day and there was a good range of ales, am sure we had the house beer 'Bonhomme Richard' from East Coast and I think we got perched near a fire, I could be wrong.  The star attraction though was a 'self help' positive spirituality book written by Noel Edmonds - never more have I wanted to steal a book from a pub!

Why does it always snow on me?  Me on a lobster in Filey pre-Bonhommes
254.  Blues Cafe Bar, Harrogate

It was 22nd June 2013 and I'd been working in Leeds on a Saturday morning and was just contemplating the train back to York for some lunch when Ben Andrew text me out of the blue to say he was "shopping" in Harrogate which in Ben speak, normally means 30 mins of failing to find some jeans he likes, and then six hours in pubs.  So quick change of plan, as the rain started (what had happened to the sunny morning?) I was on a train 'the back way' to Harrogate.  I'd been here 3 times before, each involving real ale pubs, I'd seen this pub in every GBG I could remember, but this was my first visit so thanks to Ben for letting me push him in this direction.  It definitely felt like a cafe bar, but a cosy, rustic one (supposedly brown cafe Amsterdam style) with plenty of nods to music, past and present.  An interesting range of guests was on offer too.  Problem was, no seats and leaning on a radiator was not comfy so we tried to use our initiative and shinned upstairs to the other room we could see.  Before we knew it, barman was chasing us up shouting "you can't go up there, it's an Egyptian restaurant!"  The other customer's looked sympathetic but a bit smug, had Dr Allam hired the whole place out to feed his greedy face?  It was a bit extreme and me n Ben scowled our way through the remainder of the pint before declaring the pub "up itself" and leaving.

255.  Coach & Horses, Harrogate

My first of two visits here was when I had my first proper trip to Harrogate.  In recent years, when Hull City had a boring FA Cup 3rd Round home draw, we'd gone to a non-league game and with Goole and Pickering already sampled, with trudged across a waterlogged stray on what may well have been 6th Jan 2007.  We were impressed with this unassuming side street pub, landlord was obviously proud of their ale commitment and they had a little 'ticker' to show how many real ales they'd had on in the last year/decade/ all time (or something like that).  It was a bit chilly and basic, but ale was good and I think Dad probably marginally preferred this to me.  But I still liked it enough to recommend it as we went to Harrogate for Ric's birthday in early July 2009 and started here.  We were 'voting' pubs in categories similar to those used at dice night, and me and Krzb argued the crazy little dog and pool table were worthy of a 'Quirk/Food' bonus point but sister Lu (not a nun) successfully argued pool table is always here, dog might often be here so it wasn't a "quirk", to quote her " may as well call the category 'random shite'"  and to this day, that has stuck.  And it came about in this nice little pub.

256.  Blind Jack's, Knaresborough

Oh yes, it took me a while to discover the delights of Knaresborough and this, it's most celebrated and probably best real ale pub.  My first visit was 20th April 2013 when "K" was for Knaresborough on one of the best A-Z days of the whole challenge.  After a bit of culture (involving being ripped off by Mother Shipton's cave), we came here for our second pub of the day and were impressed by the exciting range and proper basic bricky, wooden, poky feel.  You can't really stand near the bar without getting in half the pubs way.  I spotted a non handpulled Magic Rock but am sure we went for some weird and wonderful ale, they do some in their own small brewery.  We sat in the window looking out towards the market place.  I think it's here where a weird hidden staircase to the loos sometimes seems to take you to a lumber room, sometimes the actual toilet, depending how the pub feels!  I came back with Dad the same October (12th) for a random father/son day out and though it wasn't our most memorable pub experience of the day, I was struck how much this place reminds me of both Saltaire's Fannys and Otley's Old Cock (the latter modelled on the former).  We sat in exactly the same seat as A-Z which feels like the best seat in the house, and I drank a strong Shankar IPA from the marvellous Great Heck brewery.

Blind Jack's on my second visit with Dad, October 2013.
257.  Cross Keys, Knaresborough

Another pub I did on both A-Z day and my Dad trip, and on both occasions, were visited one pub before Blind Jack's.  It's an Ossett pub done in the traditional style, so as we know from recent West Yorks midweek adventures, that's almost a quality control guarantee on it's own.  On the first visit, we eventually moved outside and celebrated Jig making the front page of the York Evening Press despite his accident being nearly 5 years ago (slow news day in York, we felt!).  Jig had almost (promised) to get us a lavish present each after the compensation he received, Lisa had demanded a pony so when a pony drawn cart circled the corner of the pub, we thought for a minute Jig had come good on his promise.  He hadn't.  With Dad, it was a much chillier October day so we sat inside and we admired the way they'd made it feel clean, modern and traditional all at the same time.  I remember staff featuring prominently, they were either superb hosts or totally incompetent.  Sadly, I can't remember which or why!  At least Untappd can tell me I drank a Big Red and enjoyed it with fruit bread and cheese which Dad had smuggled in.

Lisa, Lu and Krzb have a drink for "Crash Victim" Jig at Cross Keys

258.  Crown Hotel, Malton

Back to 26th Jan 2013 and "F" had been to Filey, but by late afternoon, we'd jumped train to Malton via Seamer to check out the two in the GBG, this is the only one which remains as of 2015.  It was also called Suddaby's in the GBG at the time (in brackets, like this!)  I spoke to John about this recently, and our memories differ slightly.  We both remember a low roofed raucous place with locals lining every wall like they were part of the furniture.  I remember horse racing photos, horse brasses and wood beams but John remembers exposed brickwork.  Who knows?  It was one of those pubs we'd heard was a bit of a North Yorks institution and whilst we enjoyed the olde worlde feel, we never could quite embrace it due to the overload of local joviality and noise!  Plus my phone died, we got lost trying to find the train station, it was pitch black, but someone in a chippy helped us with directions and we legged it back just in time, phew!  

259.  Swatter's Carr, Middlesbrough

Let's get one thing straight, Middlesbrough's premier real ale establishment for years has been the Star and it is ranged from almost good to quite rubbish so it is no surprise that a Wetherspoons could come on the scene, have a quality commitment to ale, and steal it's crown.  Of course, me and Dad only realised this on 4th Jan 2014 at the start of Hull City's world famous FA Cup run where we won against a disinterested Boro' with McLean and Proswitcz up front ..... of COURSE Bruce took the competition seriously from the start(!).  I digress.  I had colours on so zipped my jacket right up but there was no fooling the friendly young barman who simply loved the idea of Hull fans in the pub excited about the ale range.  He was hoping to get off his shift in time for kick off, I hope for his sake he was forced to do overtime.  We sat in quite corner and learnt that Middlesbrough Ironopolis as they were know before the rebrand, played on this very site.  It was called the Paradise Ground!  In fact, all Boro' historical life seemed to have come through this huge building.  I for one, was impressed.  Of three ales sampled, Salopian Shropshire Gold was my highlight.  Me and Dad didn't want to move but Ben was feeling neglected, alone in the Star, so we took pity and it was much worse than it ever had been on any other trips, freezing too and full of weirdos.  Wished we'd stayed in the Swatter's Carr, a really top Wetherspoons.

Learning about the Smoggies history - informative Spoons action in Boro'.
260.  Blacksmith's Arms, Naburn

When Mum and Dad moved us to Naburn in 1993, one of the more interesting pre-moving days out was a walk around the village, probably because it didn't involve that dusty broken down house they were doing up at the time!  We stopped here and I remember sitting on one of the benches out the front and drinking a lemonade.  So do I have to call this my first BRAPA tick?  I'd rather the Wetherspoons in Sunderland town centre.  As I got into beer, I'd walk down to this village - sometimes with Lu, occasionally Dad, or might bring a friend who was staying.  The timescale of most of my visits would be between 1998-2005.  One thing was constant - it was rubbish.  Dirty glasses, filthy benches, rude staff, weird locals.  Louise Nurding lookalike was a great barmaid, though when John came to stay, he got abused for being too pale by some local, then some Chinese tourists tried to usurp us based on the fact there were two of us taking up a table of 4 and they wanted to do the quiz - tough luck ladies!  This was about year 2001.  My all time highlight was probably when Lu stole a Kronenberg glass on the night we came here to get over Paddy's death and we saw a tree spirit.  Or when Mum didn't wait to pick me up from the bus for long enough, so I came in here and downed two Guinness' in protest, just before a dentist appointment.   Beer improved in the sense they got some Marston's ones on, Banksies and Mansfield Cask are the two I have mostly had here.  I haven't been here in years but signs of improvement aren't too forthcoming.  John came here to watch brilliant folk artist Jez Lowe headline a festival, which was also a "beer festival", but he told me it was still all Marston's and the one guest festival beer went off immediately HA HA HA.  I could only imagine.  And only a few weeks ago, Mum and Dad brought Lu here and they reported rude barmaid and quite rubbish all round.  And it's in the GBG.  Come on York CAMRA, have a word!

And on that terrible note concludes another classic selection of pubs.  We'll stay in North Yorkshire next, it's going to be fun.


Tuesday 14 July 2015

BRAPA - Lund & South Dalton

One of the themes of 2015 has been finding fantastic rural East Yorkshire pubs hidden in beautiful villages, and today was no exception as after a (slightly) rigorous 9 holes of golf (I even won for a change), Dad again was the perfect chauffeur to allow me to visit a couple without the aid of buses, taxis or long walks.  It was a fair journey too, such is his commitment to the cause / love of a pub meal and pint.

706.  Wellington Inn, Lund

And once again, we were struck by the pretty village with church, green at the front of pub,  and calm feeling of serenity.  It was a big surprise then to find the car park full, and the pub busy just minutes after opening, with a fully active kitchen going 'all hands to the pump' (or spatula or whatever they do).  We were immediately impressed by the landlady who presided over the Welly, a mixture of professionalism and friendliness.  Yes, there was no Great Kelk 'learning our trade and feeling our way around', this pub knew exactly what it was doing.  Three or four ales were on, the Great Newsome Sleck Dust and American thing from Scarborough's North Riding were both sampled, both immaculate.  One criticism for me would be the food menu was a bit too lavish on the whole, so sandwiches were the way to go, and I tell you now that Brie, Mango and Sweet Chilli on soft white with homemade chips and a bit of salad was wonderful.  The barmaid who served us was a friendly young thing, excellent hostess, she had the look of a girl who'd won "junior East Yorks barmaid of the year" for the 20th consecutive year.  Another minor gripe was the music, Elaine Page's 'Wishing on a Star" in the middle of summer?  Funny cos Dad hates it as our family Christmas album.  But such gripes are simply to add colour to my review.  The two men facing us seemed a bit perturbed by the influx of diners on a Tuesday lunchtime, fancying themselves as the Steve Coogan/Rob Brydon combo of East Yorkshire food critics.  The locals were meanwhile dressed in the M&S 'Blue Harbour' range, it seemed the rule.  The landlady complained dust from the refurb (going on in a back room) was getting everywhere, but such was the quality of the pub, you'd barely have known it was happening. Wonderful stuff.

The Wellington at Lund - it's 'boot'iful!
Lund also had the added significance of being the place where my late Grandma had got her dog 'Mack' from, and this was actually our last meaningful conversation before she died, so we raised a glass for that.

Dad was soon setting his (pointless) SatNav for South Dalton (my GBG app could have got us there as quick) and about 1.5 miles later, hey presto we'd arrived.  If Lund was a lovely village, South Dalton somehow eclipsed it with a stunning church and amazing cottages on the way in - it was truly picture postcard.

707.  Pipe & Glass, South Dalton

We deliberately chose to eat in Lund rather than South Dalton because this place has a Michelin Star i.e. small portions for high price.  Dad wanted to tell them his reason for not eating was that he was on Ramadan - not a point I actively discouraged but I gave him a disapproving look, and the danger was averted!  I like to remind food orientated pubs that people can come just for their beer and that's what we did, eyeing up a nice range of Great Newsome and Wold Top ales.  Again, the carpark was heaving but this time, the number of diners didn't seem to correspond.  Staff were nice  & buzzing around in aprons, the pub had a nice dark traditional lived in feel.  They seemed a bit surprised we weren't eating, and we took our drinks to the extensive picnic tables at the front as it was quite a warm day despite the grey clouds.  They'd gone full throttle on the foodie feel as the door to the toilets was almost blocked by tables!  Luckily, there was a back way to the outside.  We could really appreciate South Dalton from our vantage point, and we decided how 'Midsomer Murders' it was as shiny posh cars left the carpark over gravel, birds twittered from above and locals chuckled in the distance.  A murder felt just around the corner, and surely if the beers had been Nettles IPA or Badgers Drift Best, it wouldn't have seemed out of place.  

Arriving at the entrance to the Pipe & Glass, "you can shove your Michelin Star sideways!"

So after those two crackers, we reflected how lucky we've been.  Suddenly, the Marston's cloud has been lifted from East Yorkshire and this combined with Goodmanham, Ellerton and others makes for a pleasing village portfolio.  Great stuff. 

BRAPA Latest News

East Yorkshire could well be the first county I finish and I've put plans in place for our next trip next month, North Cave after a South Cave walk with Mum and Dad - let's do it!  I really can't wait.  The New Adelphi in Hull is the tricky tick opening 8pm but as Dad said "come to a home game and just leave early .... it won't be difficult (to leave a Hull City game early) HA HA HA".  

West Yorkshire is the other contender for finishing first but I'm thinking my next midweek after-work tick will actually be Colton in North Yorkshire.  It is next up alphabetically, busses only run Mon-Fri, it makes sense.  And speaking of which, other North Yorks ticks would be better suited for after work - I'm thinking Cross Hills/Kildwick or Helwith Bridge.

My latest trip to Bedfordshire is on Saturday - part 6 no less.  It's my third trip to East Beds and last night I spent AGES trying to work out how to do Dunton, Sandy, Felmerhsam and Great Barford on the same day without spending a fortune on taxis.  It's all because Dunton's pub doesn't open til 2pm.  It looks like a bus connection from Sandy-Bedford will fail to make for Felmersham by ONE MINUTE.  I've tried to solve it from three different angles.  Desperately frustrating but we'll plough on regardless! 

I'm going to buy a lottery ticket every Friday for the Sat lotto draw.  As they say "you've got to be in it to win it" and I think it's my destiny to complete BRAPA so I'd like to think forces from beyond will help me achieve this by stopping work getting in the way!  I'd still pace myself and look for best travel options, even when I do scoop the £80,000,000 rollover.  

So, the 700 up achieved in Aberdeen and now the question is, what will be the damage when the new GBG comes out?  I mean, I will probably be able to get up to about 740 before I receive the 2016 book in early Sept but I'm sure I'll drop back below the 700 mark, but hopefully not massively so! 

Stay tuned,