Sunday 13 September 2015

BRAPA - Lewes, Brighton and London

What better way to get over the disappointment of dropping from 742 to 671 pubs after the new GBG cross-ticking exercise than to have an ultra-productive weekend down south?  ELEVEN new BRAPA pubs were visited and my liver is only slightly quivering as I sit here recovering on Sunday evening.

I will therefore try not to waffle as I describe them, some of course better than others but all worthwhile for the ultimate cause, to tick off all 4,500 pubs in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide......

Lewes - home of Harveys, but how many Harveys would I drink?
672.  Gardener's Arms, Lewes

Having successfully negotiated the train journey and B&B check-in, I just had to start at this pub.  Firstly, it was an 11am opener, secondly Christine thought I'd been before but I wanted to prove this was in fact a new BRAPA tick for me, and thirdly, my B&B landlady Kay had recommended it as soon as I mentioned the words "real ale pubs" which seemed a generally terrifying concept to her.  With lead BRAPster Tom Irvin in tow, we found a particularly small and very local pub, all wooden and basic with a pleasing range of local breweries on show, so I was disappointed in myself for having half a Green Devil IPA from the glorious Oakham though I admit it lacked life compared with some festival offerings of the same beer.  The pub seemed a community hub too with lots of posters for local events up on the walls and windows, Lewes FC for example.  I'd worn my colours on my sleeve (so to speak) with my Hull City top but despite the localness & BHAFC vibe, we were very much kept at arms length as outsiders.  I later heard they play a traditional Sussex game call "Toad" here which sounds fun but sadly we saw no evidence of it.  Good pub, could've been great.

Me and my Sainsbury's bag arrive at the Gardeners, a real locals boozer,
673,  Snowdrop Inn, Lewes

Very much the jewel in the Lewes real ale crown depending who you speak to, I decided to get this one done very soon after opening as we heard a Southern Supporters invasion was due.  Being "highly intelligent", they should be good at choosing pubs!  Having negotiated some particlarly OTT hanging baskets at the entrance, we found a nice circular bar though I felt the pub had more of a foody touristy feel despite it's traditional outward appearance.  It therefore lacked some of the charm of the Gardeners and the staff were of the "you should be grateful to be in our pub" category.  Luckily I got served just before the SS arrived, and the Mosaic by Crouch Vale was top quality and drinkable.  More posters adorned this pub advertising stuff, most scarily being Mary Berry backing Lewes Ladies football team.  A pee next to the Prof followed, but no more noteworthy incidents occurred as we drunk up with Chrissie's A & D on the horizon.  Nice pub but a teeny bit overrated.

Tom puts his application in for BRAPA beard of the year award at the Snowdrop.
674.  Lewes Arms, Lewes

As beautiful as Lewes is, as brewery based as Lewes is, I am still surprised it has as many as seven pubs in the guide.  We passed the Chrissie's and trekked back through town and my first reaction on seeing this pub in a state of disrepair with scaffolding up and the pub sign barely distinguishable, was "oh no!  2 days into the new GBG and it has closed down." But fear not, Tom spied drinkers carrying on and it was business as usual or BAU to use a Yorkshire Bank annoying acronym.  Tom was less sure about entering said establishment as door handle was missing, but in true New Adelphi Club style, a gave the door a tentative push and it creaked open.  This was a quirky little Fullers place, and am not surprised to hear it hosts events like pea throwing and spaniel racing.  The locals seemed crazy and all they were doing was reading newspapers!  It reminded me of one of those traditional Liverpool pubs actually.  My beer, a Shoreham air crash themed ale from Arkells (perhaps) was my most disappointing of the weekend, but the back room was cosy despite a few diners and you soon forgot about the scaffolding and general clutter at the front.  

Mind the scaffolding, the Lewes Arms is still open for business!
675.  Elephant & Castle, Lewes

Despite being about 2 minutes from the last pub, this one finally felt like a real "pre-match" kind of a place with my Hull City top finally being acknowledged and respected by a friendly landlord, who seemed very keen to sell me the local "Dealer's Choice IPA" from the Brighton Bier brewery, who I later read part own this pub so it all makes sense now.  It was easily my best pre-match pint.  There was Premier league football on so a load of wide eyed Seagulls were trying to crane their necks to the screen, desperate to see what kind of football they might be witnessing next season if they carry on as they are.  My advice would be "don't even bother!"  We found Christine at last and my revolutionary quiz based on a 1973 football programme didn't really capture the imagination as I'd hoped.  Time was ticking on and the train to Falmer wasn't gonna catch itself so we had to drink up pronto.  Quite impressed with the "Ellie" though, the quintessential pre-match pub.

Premier league football and ale at the sportstastic Ellie.
After a dreadful Hull City performance and an OTT tribute to the Shoreham air disaster, it was time to head into Brighton for some post-match drowning of sorrows, and despite a long queue at Falmer station, I actually made decent time to join Chrissie A and Chrissy D before their train to London.....

676.  Craft Beer Co.  Brighton

Brighton doesn't need any encouragement on the hipster front, having a very young, trendy go-ahead kind of vibe, but calling a place 'Craft Beer Co' is always going to help.  As I forced my way through the beards, rolled up jeans, man bags, thick rimmed spectacles, back tattoos and keg dispensed beers, I found a heart warmingly full selection of Salopian ales around the corner, served by jolly young bar staff.  Salopian is one of my all time favourite breweries, and the Treasure Trove was jaw droppingly delicious.  I joined CA and CD in a nice little window seat, and my view out to the street with the grand white buildings was so Brighton, as was the cross dressing students with "Hello Kitty" armbands who wrapped himself around a lamppost when his girlfriend disowned him.  Behind me, a young lad with an eye-patch was regaling an eager group of young ladies with tales of the most fabled burger he had ever eaten.  It was that kind of a place.  

See that little lower window just left of centre, I'd soon be sat in that.

677.  Brighton Beer Dispensary, Brighton

With the Chris's regretfully leaving, I took the chance to sample this nearby new GBG entry and again, it was in the same ilk as the Craft attracting a younger drinker, in fact I'm starting to think that if you are over 50 and live in Brighton, you get sent to the gas chamber.  More friendly staff did just enough to stop me getting confused between which were the 4 real ciders, and which were the real ales, though why a beer dispensary has such a strong cider commitment is anyone's guess.  All the beers were served by gravity, so from wooden casks behind the bar as far as I could see.  Space was at a premium so I was very lucky that a couple were just vacating an outdoor seat as I checked out the front.  Again, it felt so Brighton with the large white buildings, the street on the hill, the seafront visible to the right, and the sound of seagulls.  As I breathed in the sea air, it was all very therapeutic as images of Tom Huddlestone's lumbering useless frame were vanquished from my mind.  There was almost a moment of drama as a member of staff told off a young man for moving his seat onto the actual pavement, but this was no Dog & Gun in Wolverhampton and violence was averted.  The ale, a Worm Catcher by the local Late Knights brewery was another candidate for ale of the weekend.

Note the couple sat on the left, they moved so I could sit in this space.
678.  Prince Albert, Brighton

I'd been meaning to come here for a while so had built up an image in my mind of a load of old men hunched over pints of old fashioned bitters in a smoky carpetted pub with a dartboard and a dog, the last bastion of proper old man pubs in Brighton.  This was naive of me, as it was more of the same youthful vibe as revellers geared up for a Saturday night on the lash.  The pub was huge and very tall and I must have been stood at the wrong bar as I could not see one hand pump.  Asking the barmaid confused her totally, as she tried to list the ales but the acoustics meant her voice got lost in the ether,  I heard the words "Dark Star" so ordered a pint of that (but later had to ask another barmaid exactly what ale it was for the benefit on Untappd of course!)  Despite the vast mutli roomed maze of a building, it was ram packed and everyone was spilling out onto the streets.  Even here, space was at a premium and I soon found myself leaning on a phonebox staring up at the stars and the railway arches whilst a group of excitable females had an OTT reunion hugging session which made me think murderous thoughts.  I'd had enough, and with my phone battery nearly dead and a woozy feeling, it was Sainsbury's for snacks and the train back to Lewes.  

Saturday night chaos at the Prince Albert in Brighton.

I was back in bed by 9pm and after a brilliant night's sleep, a fine cooked breakfast and a chat with a Huddersfield fan living in Eastbourne going to watch Rod Stewart in Hyde Park with his Scottish wife (I'm not making this up), I was ready for some London pub ticking.

A slight problem was that a good number of pubs around Victoria station were closed on a Sunday, so I had to select quite carefully, especially as it wasn't yet 12 noon.  Firstly, I took a very lazy one stop to St James's Park on the District Line.

679. Buckingham Arms, Westminster

Central London was very quiet after the madness at Victoria, save for a few tourists milling about.  I saw a couple taking pictures of each other outside this pub, then a French family did the same.  Nice to see BRAPA spreading I thought, but then they didn't even go inside.  Losers!  This pub has been in every edition of the GBG and I can see why, stunning old interior.  Friendly East European barmaid offered me samples of all the ales, but I "braved" a pint of Wimbledon Common, at £4,20 a pint a bit eye-watering as much as it was mouth-watering.  I sat in a fantastic curved bench seat near the front door, and saw a photo of the Queen Mother serving a pint of Young's here.  I wonder how much that cost, I reflected.  A few crazy French people came in, with very little English, they were suspicious of the hand pumps and stuck to lager so I gave them evils.  I couldn't totally relax as behind me outside the pub, an armed guard who looked like Monty Panesar was guarding the Minstry of Justice.  It was high octane BRAPping to say the least.  

One of the "magnificent five", Buckingham Arms.
680.  Jugged Hare, Pimlico

A walk back in a Victoria-wards direction found me at this 12 noon Fullers Ale & Pie house, the first place I've ever seen hare pie on the menu!  A young jewish chap who'd obviously heard about the BRAPA beard of the year competition randomly asked me how I was in such a casual way, the barmaid assumed we were old friends.  It was a fine beard, but I'm glad he disappeared to an area of the pub which meant I never saw him again.  If that hadn't been slightly unnerving, a random old local man just kept bursting out laughing to himself at five minute intervals.  No wonder I tucked myself away in a little snug seat, but more was to come as a stary bunch of students and a middle aged woman who looked nervously at me all seemed to be trying to make this a BRAPA experience I wouldn't forget, quite wise as apart from the pretty splendid interior, it was standard Fullers fare.  It made me think of the film "Passport to Pimlico" (helped by some nice old photos on the walls) and I wondered if it's residents really do have their own independent land, hence their weird behaviour as everyone else I encountered in London was perfectly fine.  Very strange,

Jugged Hare in Pimlico - full of weirdos.  
Back at Victoria station, I played it safe now and got on the Victoria lane heading towards King's Cross, but definitely had time for another stop so I alighted at Green Park, where there really was a green park just outside the tube!

681.  Coach & Horses, Mayfair

0.4 miles later and I was meandering past Berkeley Square trying to look as upmarket as I could in my new blue leather jacket, for I was in high value monopoly territory now!  And didn't I bloody know it when sour faced Eastern European barmaid charged me £4.80 for a rather average pint of Portobello Star, what I'd call a classic London ale.  I paid using "contactless" card payment just to prove a point.  I had also wanted a pack of Monster Munch, but I dreaded to guess the cost whilst a daughter of a tourist family asked for a pack of "the yellow ones".  YOU MEAN ROAST BEEF YOU IDIOT GIRL!  All this anger aside, this was a beautiful little pub with great stained glass windows and a proper 18th century feel.  There was an upstairs dining area where a blonde babe went, but there was some furore when they apparently tried to move her and she refused to sit at table number 13!  Well, I only caught half the story.  

Pub highway robbery in Mayfair
I popped into Sainsbury's for a late lunch for the journey back, an amazing range of cosmopolitan sandwiches you don't see in the York or Leeds branch of the store, and happily, time was still on my side so time for one more Mayfair tick next to the Ritz.

682.  Clarence, Mayfair

My day in London was to finish as it has started with people photographing each other outside the pub.  As I prepared to do the same, a woman who seemed to be part of a big cockney hen style knees up jumped out and volunteered to take my picture,  What a nice lady, we'll call her Polly Nicholls Junior just for sake of argument.  She even wished me a nice rest of the day.  Buoyed by this moment, I was perhaps a bit too exubarant as I greeted the barman and ordered a decent pint of an instantly forgettable London ale!  I think this might have been a Nicholson's house, it had fairly dark wood panelling and ambiance and an interesting upstairs room with it's own bar which I wish I'd explored a bit more, but by now my mind was on the train home.  The pub is actually a few years older than the Coach & Horses, though you'd never have known.  

Picture courtesy of Polly Nicholls Jr.  Thanks Pol! 
I still had time for a swift half in the Parcel Yard at Kings Cross, which threatened to be more as there was supposed train chaos somewhere near Stevenage, but it must have just cleared as my train went from being seriously delayed to totally on time and I had to drink up as I'd been nursing my Chelsea Blonde - so to speak.  Voluptuous it wasn't.

The journey back was fine but a bit long and drawn out, I was either eating, asleep or peeing to be truthful!  All in all, a very good weekend but work will be tough tomorrow.  And then onto Cardiff on Tuesday where I have at least 5 pubs earmarked for visitation.  So much for One Month Reverse Owl Syndrome eh?  



  1. Is lead BRAPster a promotion? I feel honoured. Do I need to do anything? Do I get a payrise?

    I was more worried about the wet paint sign on the door of the Lewes Arms and wondered if we should be using a back door. I didn't want to spoil somebody's paint job. I have a policy of attempting to be nice once a day, and that was yesterday's quota.

    I enjoyed your 1973 program quiz, although involving me in a nearest the marking numbers questions will always result in the tactical answers you saw. I find it frightening how useless 'somebody Tom really hates' is as a clue to a question when one of the answers is Doncaster Rovers.

    I was hoping that when you were going round Brighton all the yuppy types would have buggered off back to London, but clearly at least some are resident. The place was infested when I walked from the BR station to the Volks and back. Sadly one of them was nearly hit by a bus when failing to follow the green cross code.

    The Prince Albert has been referred to by Nick before. Brighton used to be a good drinking town (yes, Brighton and Hove are two towns, not one city), whilst the pubs are still there it sounds like it is caving in on itself with these funny youngsters taking over. Shame really, there should always be a place for a quiet pint.

    11 for the weekend, I think we said 15 was achievable this week. I think you could exceed that. Top draw. 68 required for the target of 750, with 3.5 months to do it. A monthly pub average of 20 will do it.

    Would you agree Elephant & Castle for the pub of the season entry, seeing as it is the only one all 4 of us met in?

  2. Before you get too carried away Tom, you were 'lead BRAPster' for that weekend, it is an ever changing position.

    If that was a paint job, I think another coat is needed. Maybe I had a black right hand.

    That was funny! I thought everyone would put Donny in your top 5 but just shows how much competition there is.

    My lizard might disagree but 750 challenge is on! 5 is Cardiff should be achievable, not to mention a cheeky Manc tick on Wed lunchtime.

    Yes Ellie felt like the most away day pub of all those visited. I give it 8.

  3. I had assumed that the paint job was unfinished, however I suspected there might be some damp undercoat. You can never be too careful.

    For a Tuesday night in Cardiff, could you run up an even higher score? Is there potential to stop off at somewhere like Casnewydd on the way (your train will almost certainly stop) or are you not in early enough?

    I shall send an email to those in Fareham but my score is considerably lower than 8, possibly because it felt too much like a football pub and the New Zealand barman flogging you the beer with the New Zealand hops. I give it 4.

    It is probably a good thing that I wasn't in London with you. If I had managed to get past the armed people outside the Buckingham, if you were struggling to be posh enough walking through Mayfair just imagine the position I'd have been in. It could very well have resulted in a lynching.

    I wouldn't have trusted Polly Nicholls Junion. I know I am a cynical bastard, but I would have been too wary of her running off with my camera.

  4. Hi Tom, I could do more but am going to be sensible with it being York Beer Fest tmw. Have a bit of an 'out of the way' plan and if it were a normal BRAPA day, think I'd focus on the North Cardiff pubs. It may not come off anyway.

    Yes, and the Ellie was co owned by Brighton Bier so amend my rating to 7.5 please.

    I did imagine you striding through Mayfair with carrier bag and raincoat! It'd have been fine, it didn't seem like a lynching kind of place.

    Polly Nicholls senior once nearly pawned a 'jolly bonnet' for the price of a bed/gin for the night, so what she or junior could make from an iPhone beggars belief. Her running off with it did cross my mind so you aren't the only cynical one.

  5. I suppose lynching is a bit to lower class for those Mayfair types. I'm sure they would have had a way of dealing with me, even if it was being removed to the commoners area.

  6. I'm only going to comment in GBG 16 onwards and go forward in order. Keep you in your toes.

    Point of clarification - when you say Portobello Star was a classic London ale, presume you mean largely rubbish ?

    By the way (re Shoreham OTT), a highlight of Berwick Rangers was players emerging from tunnel at 2.59.30 and kicking off at 3.00 dead. No minutes silence for Terry, no ref picking the ball off a plinth, no handshakes, Brilliant.

  7. Yes, 'classic London ale' probably belongs in the 'cracking the code glossary'.

    Oh that was hideous at Brighton match, deary me. Exactly right, and the appeal of going to say Hull Utd over Hull City when I was contemplating defection in my darkest hours of the name change saga!

  8. Hull United have two name changes in their history, and some of their recent behaviour has been despicable. I take and agree your point though, and I believe the war is not yet over. I see Gary Bradshaw and heroic centre half Matt Plummer are playing with them, just as an aside.

    We are Hull City, we'll soon be non league.

    Dagger for Duncan.