Before I scare anyone with this title, I'd like to assure you that the only person who has to adhere to this (fairly tongue-in-cheek) code of conduct is me, myself and Si.
The reason I put it on a blog post is that I have in last two years made some silly mistakes, been ill-disciplined, and want to 'tighten things up' a bit. I hope it is instructive and may be even amusing to you in places, if slightly rambling!
Planning with Care
I often moan to people at work, bleary eyed in the morning, "I spend more time planning BRAPA than actually visiting the pubs!" but planning is, in effect, all part of the fun.
Firstly (I'm assuming you've booked your travel tickets well in advance, and also got any train tickets out of the machine in advance, don't rush on the day!), work out which pub is your main focus of the day, this might be for alphabetical reasons, to complete a page in the GBG, because it is a Heritage pub, or it's a "oh my god Si how haven't you visited it yet" pub. It could be a multitude of reasons. Anyway, make one pub the focal point of your day, your MUST visit pub.
It might be a good idea to try and visit the most difficult or furthest away pub first and work your way back in. Write down all train times, bus times, estimated times spent walking, waiting and in the pub itself (27 minutes should be your minimum time planned to spend in a pub). It should be planned with military precision.
Make detailed notes re busses, what number, what time, where the stop is. What platforms or direction a train will be going in (re busses, google maps is your friend here, re trains, where does it terminate eventually). You can't have too much in this category.
Write all this down, step by step to see if it works in theory. Even if you are having a "city" day with say, more than enough central pubs to visit, don't be complacent. Record a planned pub route and stick to it. In your more sober state in planning mode, your decision making will be better than doing things on a whim a few pints in. Can you get out to a village or two (see "pub strategy section")
If something just doesn't fit in terms of busses, trains, walking, you may have to decrease your number of planned pubs in a day, it's not an admission of defeat, it is sensible. Remember you have a lifetime to complete this.
Number of Pubs
A moot point that requires discipline. 3 is a minimum for any full day out, 7 is too many (unless it is "broken up" by another event) so make six your optimum but 5 is more than acceptable aswell. 4 is a good result on a tricky rural day involving walking and busses. On an evening trip, 1 is acceptable if an "out of the way" tick but I'd look for 2 or 3, no more than that if you have work the next day.
BRAPA Survival Kit
To be packed on the night before any full BRAPA day (this does NOT include football match days, car trips or midweek nights though some things should be packed).
1. Little red notebook - Ryman's is your friend, it rhymes with Simon. Stock up on these.
2. Your iPhone - evil they may be, but invaluable in so many ways i won't bore you with here.
3. Portable Charger - best invention ever, just keep it close to your person at all times, and ensure it is charged itself the night before your trip.
4. The physical Good Beer Guide - More of a prop really, as we'll see in a later section, but it's always satisfying to "tick the pub" IN the pub!
5. Food & drink (oh and kitchen roll, thanks Dad for that late inclusion!) - Keeping yourself rehydrated and with a lined stomach is essential, and will be covered in it's own section.
6. The "red pen" - a yellow highlighter, again Ryman's who are one of my unofficial sponsors can help here, again for satisfying "ticking on the day" and it can also be interactive.
7. Oyster Card - if going anywhere remotely near London, even if you don't plan on going through it, things can change with travel and transport.
8. A pen - to make notes in your little red notebook, someone might give you a good pub tip for example (see "local knowledge")
9. Headphones - because odds are there will be someone annoying on the train at some point who you want to block out.
10. BRAPA business cards - to share the joy of this blog with the general public, take a stash of these (see "BRAPA" pub etiquette).
N.B. If you are going "rural", you may even wish to take extra steps to ensure this fraught day isn't a disaster. Spare socks, walking boots, a compass, a couple of taxi numbers, sturdy trousers, maybe even draw yourself a rough map (a lifesaver at Castleton Moor in '14) as you cannot rely on mobile phone coverage all the time. You are the Bear Grylls & Ray Mears of pubbing!
On the Day / Food & Drink
Give yourself plenty of time in the morning, double check you've packed everything, got your food out of the fridge, heated pasties up etc, got all your travel tickets, If you are staying overnight, do you also have a wash bag, spare undies and any booking confirmation if applicable.
If you have time, make yourself a cooked breakfast to line your stomach, otherwise heat something up to have mid morning like a cornish pasty or sausage roll. I'd take at least one bottle of cold drink but try and get something juicy whilst out as well. I also find a banana is a good super food to have first thing. Cheese blocks are good (I learnt that from Spooks season one!) Otherwise, stodge all the way! Keep away from caffeine - tea, coffee and energy drinks, even super fruit juices are a nightmare on the morning of a BRAPA day, avoid. Also, draw out more cash than you think you will need, maybe best to do this the day before aswell.
City. Town and Pub Etiquette
I think of Portillo's railway journeys. As you arrive in your new city, town, village, shithole and eventually pub, walk around with head up, shoulders back, look people on the eye, smile - you own this day, you ARE BRAPA! Today, you are twice as tall, twice as intelligent, twice as attractive, twice as popular. Believe it.
Take a nice photo of the pub, don't be self conscious of locals outside or cars in traffic. Carry on regardless. They may even offer to take your photo or suspect you are a pub tourist and talk to you as though you are a simpleton which is totally fine. Act naive rather than cocky/ full of knowledge, Let them have their moment of glory. No-one likes a smart arse.
In the pub, get straight to the bar (unless you are dying for a wee), say hi to any barflies and be friendly to the staff. Stroke any pets even though dogs scare you. Humour them (locals, not dogs) if they tell a bad joke, accept offers of free tasters if alone (not in company) and maybe ask questions about a rare local brew. You don't really care, but it might lead to more chat. If the barmaid is a young pretty brunette, try and rate her bottom out of ten without being caught (there is a BRAPA "end of year awards" ceremony to consider).
So do you want to talk to these people? Well, my unscientific research shows me 4 out of 5 BRAPA pubs (80%) are generally a case of getting your drink and sitting down, drinking it and leaving. So if you sniff half a chance of a chat, take it, Try and lead it to a BRAPwardly direction. People are nearly always interested in BRAPA. Have confidence in your challenge. Also, don't be immediately put off by locals or a lack of reception, don't sit in the furthest darkest corner unless it's full of hipsters. Give people a chance at a later time to include you in things.
Use your Good Beer Guide as a prop. Put it on the table in full view. Now people know why you are here. People like a route into conversation. It's like wearing a football top, having a dog or a baby, or wearing a t-shirt saying "kick me!" In fact, there is now BRAPA clothing. Wear it! Also now is a good time to get your BRAPA cards out before you forget. Someone may even see your shiny case and demand their own card, once they realise it isn't a vanity mirror. If you are chatting to staff or locals, perhaps ask them to "red pen" your pub, make them feeling included in BRAPA history, though don't be sad if they refuse - some people are very lazy I've found!
When you leave the pub, take your glass back to the bar and try to make sure you say a cheery goodbye to someone, anyone. But don't be too needy, in any of the above steps. Walk out as you walked in, with head held high. If you need the loo, make a joke out of how difficult it is to find toilets in new pubs. This is particularly hilarious in JD Wetherspoons establishments, female friendly pubs in Silsden or Glasgow branches of Nicholson's.
elating to the above, if you do meet people in pubs or on busses etc, don't underestimate them - they might be able to advise you on a "pre-emptive tick", give you a lift to your next pub or recommend a good local brew, so even if they don't seem like the kind of dream desert island partner you were hoping for, understand their value.
pint measure in each pub is your standard drinking amount. If you want to nurse a half, that's fine. If you want a pint of water, that is fine too. There is no rule, but you should be in the pub for 30 mins strictly speaking, well 25 absolute minimum! Always listen to your body, if you are feeling a bit woozy as the day comes towards the close, you are probably worse than you think and you should rehydrate if you have nothing in your bag. Perhaps order a pint of water AND a pint of beer if you don't want to admit defeat, but careful of your bladder if you have a long bus journey ahead of you. Maybe smuggle some food too if the pub isn't too geared up for food, or at least ask for some crisps unless you are in a Mayfair Monster Munch situation (see pub 681). I HATE memory gaps and let's face it, how can you do the pub justice in your blog if you are too pissed to remember? You owe it to yourself, BRAPA and the pub in question. Don't be an idiot, don't bring the challenge into disrepute.
In a similar vein, avoid "additional pre or mid BRAPA drinks". Football ground pre match or half time? No! 20 mins to spare in train station with real ale pub before you're first tick? No!
GBG Pub Strategy
On deciding what pubs to visit in general, there is a real balance to be had between "doing all the easy ones" and making your life overly difficult. You are quite young, fit n healthy so it stands to reason to get some of the long hikes in before that hip replacement op is needed. Despite living in North Yorkshire, this has provided some of my most challenging pubs to date showing that it is all about transport links. An easy pub would have a nearby train station, an average pub would have a bus, and a difficult one would have neither or an incredibly tardy one, and probably no phone reception (see Eversholt). A really easy pub may also have a football team in the same division as Hull City, to make pubs easy to visit on these "bonus" days, but don't let certain BRAPsters have you believe that a trip to Oban should be put on hold because "we'll probably draw them in the Anglo-Scottish non league Cup in the year 2032". What I mean is, if YOU want a day out in Newcastle city centre for the hell of it, just do it! You rule the roost. If people want to be disapproving, stuff 'em. Self righteousness rules.
I currently am focussing on North & South Yorkshire (because they are local to me) and Berkshire, because I have alphabetical OCD and I get a thrill from ticking the first pages of the GBG in a vague order. I will gradually spread the net further, and move house to a different part of the country to make other counties easier to achieve.
Hull City, NFFD's, midweek and an army of BRAPsters
You might find that Hull City away games have become glorified BRAPA days. This is generally a good thing. The complication of other people is an errrm complication, but nice to have company some times and the key here is to "get in first" with an email outlining what pubs YOU will be visiting as part of BRAPA. So if someone replies with "well, I'm staying in the VAT and Fiddle all day" (just to throw a random example out there), then that is their prerogative and if they want to be a "BRAPper Crapper" (someone who dissents on a BRAPA day out), that is fine. And if an enthusiastic BRAPster comes up with an overly ambitious pre-match plan which leaves you worrying about getting to the ground for 3pm, then remember you are in control. That's the whole point. And herein lies the real key - "BRAPA should be fun, not a steeplechase, not a running race, not a box ticking exercise, but a hobby, a pursuit, relaxed but with an overall long-term aim"
, and something you could do well to remind not only others, but yourself as well.
This is where NFFD (Non Football Football days) come in. Tired of paying high ticket prices to watch Hull City lose in an identikit stadium when you could be in peaceful beautiful countryside with sheep bleating, approaching a Green Owl with nestling fire and real cat? Then get your June fixture list, identify the games you WANT to go to, and on something terribly boring (I won't name teams for fear of offending readers), plan a normal solo BRAPA day but then invite your Dad's and Tom's of this world along to be guides, chauffeurs, travel experts, photo takers, fine drinking companions. In a barren football month, do this twice a month on-season, once in car, once public transport, with your other two days to yourself (in the summer, remember the value of friendship - in winter, they'll have to wait(!) and go to beer festivals monthly between May-July.
Other things may come to light too so remember to be flexible. Mum might want a 'walking trip' which involves a BRAPA pub or three (she might not be aware until the day). The sister might fancy her 5 yearly trip to a Market Towns Tavern. Her all knowing boyfriend might want to take me to a pre-emptive in his hometown of Hemsworth. Friends might want to discover new pubs not far from York, or the one with North Eastern leanings might want to immerse himself in his native land. Pissed up work men might want a trip to some edgy Northern town in the summer, young work females might join on a West Yorks midweek night. Someone may suggest combining BRAPA with a women's football game, or a random trip to an owl sanctuary/crisp factory (not one and the same venue). Or Untappd people might want to meet up in person for real ale local to them. BRAPA really can be sociable you see, I just have to remember to ask!
Social Media and BRAPA
"The chains that Marley forged in life, he now wears in death", to use a Scrooge / Gaslight Anthem analogy. And that is sometimes how I feel about effin' social media. I'm on Untappd, Twitter AND Instagram.
Yet, when you are sat in that 80% of pubs alone with no social interaction, it is nice to do an Untappd check-in to get that semblance of recognition from your followers, it's a nice way to pass 5 minutes. Plus, the followers are primarily interested in pubs and beers so it fits best.
Twitter has become a revelation for spreading the word, I have a different group on here of passionate pub and beer enthusiasts, all with witty and interesting views on the world of pubbing. It is the most valuable in terms of promoting BRAPA. But I do find it a bit of a needy App. "Oooh look at me CAMRA expert / local celeb / brewery / festival .... I'm doing a thing, please like meeeee!" You get the gist.
And Instagram, my favourite in terms of "creating the post and checking in", but my 5 followers mean it is a lonely existence but ironically the format fits BRAPA so better than the other two.
And if I'm doing all 3 in every pub, then I'm not going to be sociable to strangers anyway. Re Untappd, sometimes, making a note of beer and details and then "typing it up" later is the healthiest idea on a BRAPA day, but it loses the nice immediacy of the situation. A double-edged sword.
BRAPA and "downtime"
BRAPA is a lifestyle, not just something you do on Saturday's an occasional Tuesday's and then say "hey ho" I'll not think about it for the rest of the week. Look at all that planning that is needed! Train bookings, social media, blogging, it's a full time profession I tell thee.
You therefore need to look after yourself on these "downtime" days. Plenty of exercise, work on that emerging beer belly, weights, abs, squats, jogging etc etc. Eat healthy, your liver may be more prone to cirrhosis with all that ale so here's a few foody steps I take - avocado, tomatoes, turmeric, berries, cottage cheese, oily fish. Get that metabolism going fast, and keep that liver strong and healthy. Lovely stuff! It does require discipline and motivation, but you'll never still be trekking 8 miles to Anchor in Shropshire at 62 years old if you are having a lifetime of health problems.
I hope you enjoyed this definition/rant/mission statement of what BRAPA is all about.
Sadly, there are still people out there who think BRAPA is an excuse for me just to drink lots of beer, but the thrill of another new pub is the prime motivation, whether it is a young hipsters bar, a brand new micro pub, a haunted fake-tudor coaching inn, another bloody Wetherspoons, a gorgeous heritage pub, a glorified farmhouse, a street corner local, they are all as exciting and as valuable as the one which preceded it. Who knows what awaits me as I push open that door?
I see pubs as the closest thing as an extension to home, so unique and quite weird if you think about it .... go into a building, stand at this "bar", ask a stranger for a drink, pass over some money, note loads of people are doing the same thing, go and sit or stand somewhere else, it is a weird concept but beautiful. In this modern age, I feel the value of preservation more and more as I get older, if I just wanted great beers, I'd simply walk within a 0.2 mile radius of my York flat and be very satisfied thanks very much! Brigantes, Swan, Slip, Golden Ball - that's 4 high quality GBG pubs a stone's throw away from my flat.
I also love the challenge, the chase, the effort to get to a pub 4 miles from anywhere in a village that no one every goes to, the crazy uphill walk through a damp forest, the wild wind, the rain teeming down, coming over the hill as sheep part in all directions and there it is on the horizon, the next pub on the list.......