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!



  1. This may shock and alarm but I've never been to Harrogate. The track isn't required, obviously, but I've never even stopped on a train. I should really check if I did the centre road, hopefully it's in the archives.

    I also received the Colemanballs book. Terry D had two entries.

    The Black Bull at Yarm actually has the BR sign for Eaglescliffe these days. I was looking at it the other day. I've never seen us fail to lose at Middlesbrough.

  2. OMG Tom, never been in Harrogate! Actually, I don't think you'd like it.

    Funnily enough, I have about 15 volumes of Colemanballs but it WAS the Terry D one I took to Hales Bar.