Friday 18 September 2015

BRAPA - Cardiff / Manchester

A 76 minute train delay / cancellation meant any hopes of an adventurous outer Cardiff day had to be shelved for another year.

Let's just say that by the time I finally arrived into the now bright n shiny frighteningly modern version of Wales' most European city, and checked into my Travelodge, I was like a coiled spring ready for BRAPA action!

683.  Pen & Wig, Cardiff

Opposite the law courts in quite a serene and leafy area of the city, I did at least make some effort to leave the city centre proper to get this tick in.  It had the feel of a student pub to me, well a very well kept and clean one, if you've ever had the misfortune to go to York's Keystones, imagine a posher version of that.  Two friendly bar chaps were on had to serve me, it was very quiet on this Tuesday afternoon, and a decent range of ales all had those little jars next to them so you could see what colour your beer was going to be, something that really spoils the surprise for me, but is useful to people like my Dad for example.  Having said all this, I ordered a beer called 'Bronze' which pretty much came out black.  I sat in the front window and the only other customer of note was a girl with a plate of sausage and chips.  Thing was, she seemed more happy chatting to her friend on her mobile phone and I reckon in the half an hour I was there, she ate a grand total of two chips and they must've been cold.  I can only think she was a member of staff and the meal was complimentary!  My friend then messaged me to say his Mum was a regular in here 42 years ago in other interesting trivia.

Pen & Wig - law courts, students, untouched sausage and chips.
684.  Gravity Station, Cardiff

Hidden away behind a shopping centre, I found this micro pub which, uninkeeping for 2015 pubbing, was actually "micro" being one fairly small room only.  The keg beers were to the fore, the cask to the back (boo minus point!) so I had to be careful but the beer was dispensed straight from the barrel and the taps were actually 'taps', like you'd find in a kitchen or bathroom - very novel!  It was like a bottle/can shop too with a really good selection along two walls.  I ordered a gorgeous pint of "Sharks against Surfers" (very orangey) from the new local Hopcraft (terrible name) brewery and quizzed the barman about Hopcraft's new pub up near Queen Street.  He reminded me of a guy I used to work with and sadly, had the same lack of social skills and our chat died after about 90 seconds.  Still, it was a great relaxing place to sit and have a drink, especially when a man with a wife he bought online left the place.  There was one huge copper table in the middle of the room which seemed to be for all customers.  A late moment of drama occurred when a toddler ran in only to be restrained by his Mum, who then criticised the smell of the pub, and in a moment of perfect karma, was promptly headbutted by her son.  A satisfying end to a satisfying pub.

Arriving at the quirky Gravity station, Cardiff's first micro pub.

685.  Rummer Tavern, Cardiff

I'd received an intriguing text message from Christine (who seemed to be doing her own more successful Cardiff pub tour) earlier in the day who told me this pub was "rubbish" and the bold statement "won't be in the 2017 GBG" and I should go to the new pre-emptive Hopcraft instead.  Obviously, this just made me want to sample the Rummer Tavern even more, reverse psychology at work perhaps.  But was her assessment right?   I entered a very old looking building (Cardiff's oldest pub allegedly, full of tudor style beams) and it was deliciously darkly lit, with a long thin walk through to the bar with another interesting (and surprising range of local ales) and my Digger's Gold by the excellent Grey Trees which I'd previously enjoyed in Hereford, was lovely and bitter.  There was a good hubbub too, with a few other customers chatting away and the feeling of ghosts of centuries old drinkers all around.  So, in conclusion, not in my opinion!  Cracker, Goat Major-esque.

Rummer - atmospheric fun opposite Cardiff Castle
686.  Lansdowne, Cardiff

Time was moving on swiftly and with the new Ninian Park on the far side of the city, I decided to stride out to my main pre-match pub.  I'd heard that it attracts the "more discerning Cardiff City fan" so wanted to get in early so I could get a good seat.  What I hadn't realised is that "discerning" and "Cardiff City fan" don't really go hand in hand so the pub was quiet for the most part.  It was very much the Hull's Wellington of Cardiff pubs, a little bit out of the way but easily walkable to the ground, and felt like the Welly in it's hey day with a wooden floor, a cracking range of ales, and staff that seemed to be have an element of those characters of old.  There was Welsh Sophie, Welsh Vicky, Welsh Janette, Welsh Angela, Welsh Carter, Welsh Dylan from Magic Roundabout - only Welsh Rich was missing and I could live with that.  However, the key phrase here was "Yey Hayley!" invented by a little girl for one of the barmaid's, who first seemed flattered by it, then embarrassed, then annoyed.  By the time Christine arrived having escaped the S.S. in their dodgy Brains pub the Butchers Arms, I gave her a run down of the beers and when Hayley came to serve her, I said "you have to say Yay Hayley", Hayley looked like she wanted to stab me in the eye.  Nevertheless, beers like Bristol's Milk Stout and the hard to pronounce Llandogo Trow Ale underlined this as pub of the day and surely the best in Cardiff.  They did food, but you can't have everything!  

Quality pre-match drinks at the Lansdowne

Then, something weird happened, Hull City played well and won away from home.

So it was time for a celebratory post-match pint so with Christine and Chris D in tow, we found a pub between ground and city centre up near Sophia Gardens Cricket Ground.  You can guess the name?

687.  Cricketers, Cardif

A bit like Pen & Wig, it had a very open plan interior which I have to confess I'm not a fan of, but it worked very well here, with book cases and just nice understated decor meaning it still felt that we were in a cosy place.  The beers were from a brewery called Evan Evans, who I read bought out Archers of Swindon who's beers I used to love and see them everywhere (even Hull) in my early real ale drinking days.  I was equally impressed with the unpronouncable Cwrw which I had kindly bought for me.  Still, beer always taste better after a victory.  We reviewed the match and the Cardiff pubs (I managed to get in how I'd enjoyed the Rummer Tavern!) and it was the perfect end to my trip to Cardiff.  Chris D thought I could maybe push myself for one more city centre 'tick' before closing time but truth be told, I'd had enough and it was time for supper and a good night's sleep!

Post match celebrations outside the Cricketers.
688.  Molly House, Manchester

The following day, despite York Beer Festival looming like a gigantic boozy mess, I'd given myself a good 70 minutes in Manc before my change of trains and decided to walk to the gay district where I'd heard great things about this pub for a couple of years now, let's say it was one of those 'monkey off my back ticks'.  There was controversy on the walk to it in Sackville Gardens where an angry woman with a mobile phone accused a bewildered man of letting his "mutt" attack her gentle little dog and she had it all on video!  The pub was a much more serene place, and I was the only customer and a bit like the Lansdowne in Cardiff, apparently attracts "the more discerning gay drinker!"  It definitely had class and style with nice decor, a great range of ales with an emphasis on the always good Beartown brewery and my blueberry ale was an absolute joy.  It almost felt like a micro pub as it was one small room only, and the one unisex toilet was called the 'water closet', presumably so people can say "I've just come out of the closet ha ha ha".  Or maybe not.  Great place.

Excellent Manchester between train pubbing at the Molly House.
So, I'm all beered out now after York Beer Festival following on from Cardiff and Brighton, I feel like I've barely stopped travelling/drinking in the last week.  

Still, BRAPA returns tomorrow for a very low key day which is about exercise, fresh air and scenery as much as pubbing.  Stay tuned for Sunday's report.



  1. Are you saying that it is perfect karma for people needlessly making trivial complaints about a pub to be headbutted? Does it matter who does the headbutting?

    Water closet is the origin of the well used acronym WC. I'm not sure of the etymology, but it sounds American. I've no idea if the phrase 'coming out of the closet' is connected, it wouldn't surprise me if it was to do with pairs of people of a certain persuasion coming out of the water closet together, if you get my drift. You should write to Susie Dent to find out.

    Tomorrow is all about the pubs, you know that deep down. The exercise, fresh air and scenery are all incidental. I have set myself a lowly target of 3, although I may very well smash that in spectacular style. I feel the need to bounce back after Tuesday's mauling, and I suspect I will be soundly beaten next week.

  2. I told you I'd go back and read all the posts; it's a bit like finding a copy of Charles Buchan's football annual in the loft when you move house.

    There's pub gold here, even if the lack of Brains is a bit weird. Not what it was though, but the four pints of Bitter (never SA) after watching Cambridge win 7-2 in 1994 (from the home end) will never be forgotten.

    So glad you highlight how rubbish those little jars are. I'd say you only find them in pubs where beer quality isn't great, so colour irrelevant, but there's some decent Greene King pubs like that one in Pontefract that use them. Why don't the mainstream beer blogs focus on that and glassware rather than hopping rates (???).

    You've just me how much I need to book Cardiff. Planning to get to those suburban pubs is a real joy.

    Wellington did close, didn't it ? Was my favourite Hull pub.

    1. I like the Charlie Buchan annual analogy, very happy with that!

      Yes, you know I set out that day expecting it to be Brains heavy (not a problem) but a bit like my plan to have an ESB and London Pride on my boring South West London day recently, it just didn't happen!

      Those jars, gawd, you are right, it seems to be the poorer quality beer pubs that do them, and sometimes the ale in them looks like it has been there for years! Yes, the Carleton is good. And one in Nottingham which wasn't a good pub experience for me but I could appreciate it's quality, can't remember the name but built into caves or something?! Not Ye Olde Trip.

      Outer Cardiff will be a day, Tom I'd go there next season for an overnighter perhaps but Swansea is less appealing.

      Tom sums it up re the Welly's death knell but so sad because circa 2006-9, I'd say I had some of my best ever pub experiences in there before our HCAFC home footie gang dissolved away very much like the pub!

  3. Ah I do enjoy Cardiff, I feel the need to get into the Valleys at some point and get the Welsh phase of project pacer off my back. I will see if we are in the same division as either or both Cardiff City and Swansea City next season, it may be a close season beezer to the valleys.

    The Welly did close, I'm afraid to say. A combination of the landlord having an accident in the cellar, financial difficulties and the brew pub saw it off. Were you one of the many Saints fans who visited on your couple of trips to the Circle?

  4. Don't confuse me with someone who gives a damn, as the song goes! I go to occasional Cambridge away and Man City home games, purely to coincide with my pubby travels. Where on earth does the Southampton reference come from ? Can Southampton fans even write ?

    I had several great trips to Boothferry and the Kellogs Coornflakes Dome with Cambridge.

    What should be my favourite Hull pub now ?

    1. Oooh, it's a toss up between Whalebone or Walters for me at the moment but got to try out this new Furley's in the old town though for a real unpolished rough diamond, try the Burlington Tavern if feeling brave!

      I miss playing Cambridge, remember my August Cambridge Blue trip before we won there very well indeed but you'll note alphabetically, Cambridgeshire isn't far off.

      I thought from Twitter you were Man City (or Stockport!) and no I don't like Saints either since about 10 of them came into Hull's Editorial one evening game, saw only Tetley's on, ordered ONE HALF between them, had half a sip each, and left. Terrible pub etiquette which I picked up with them in the Welly a year or two later.

    2. Ta. Genuine pre-emptives like Furley's always welcomed, and staying in Hull overnight I ought to try and do all the Old Town pubs at some point.

      Personally I would always recommending "demanding" real ale in The Alexandra and Frankie's Vauxhall Tavern as that's what CAMRA is all about.

      I'm a regular visitor to Southampton as my parents go on cruises from there and cheap flights to Channel Islands; it's a decent pub town as well. Normally it's French tourists who share halves and ask for tap water, certainly in Cambridge.

    3. The Southampton reference came from me reading one of your comments on a pub in Manchester and stating that it had a number of Saints fans in. I took you to be one of those fans. Appologies for getting the wrong end of the stick.

  5. Fell down a bit of a rabbit hole following a link to this blog from Retired Martin's blog and decided to see if you'd visited Cardiff. First of all, Keystones York looks quite horrific from its website, and thanks from the warning - I'm sure I've looked down at its beer garden from the city walls many times when visiting my in-laws and thinking "Oh, that looks nice".

    I really like Pen and Wig - one of the few city centre pubs with outside seating. I worked a few doors away, but by that time I had very young children and my spinsterry colleagues (early 40s like me) no longer went post-work drinking there, which was probably just as well as I got really hammered trying to keep up with them on my leaving do.
    Gravity Station is long gone - it got behind with with rent owed to the landlord, a housing association which built and owns the flats above it. It was run by a small brewery in mid Wales.

    The Hopcraft place (called Hop Bunker- also a bit of a naff name) was quite a good and unique below-pavement bar, but never re-opened after the first lock downs.

    For some reason I've only been to Rummers a couple of times in the 20 years I've lived here, although I quite like it. Sadly, they've criminally ruined the facade of the building with a nasty plasticy sign. Madness.
    The Landsdowne is the nearest pub to my house, and I'm just the sort of nouveau-middle class it targets, but if my wife and I go there on the rare occasion we get babysitters, you feel like you're babysitting some other shits' mouthy (but understandably bored) children. Before the Landsdowne was gentrified (I had my 30th there under its old guise), it was a normal local Brains pub and everyone too posh/scared to go the Canton's Brains pubs would all herd into Chapter (arts centre) bar, which has decent beer and is possibly in the GBG?
    'Cwrw' in the Welsh word for 'beer' BTW and in pronounced koo-roo. You're welcome.