Monday 23 November 2015

BRAPA : the archives (359 - 366)

Hello and welcome to the penultimate edition of the archives, eight more pubs I visited pre BRAPA which have found their way into the 2016 Good Beer Guide.  I hope you enjoy.

359.  John Harvey Tavern, Lewes

The only Lewes pub I could say I'd been in with any real certainty before my 2015 visit was this pub, Harvey's obviously, though I now notice the town isn't so dominated by their beers thank goodness. It was post match after our first trip to the Amex on the evening of 15th October 2011 and I think Christine had been the main instigator in us coming here.  Certainly, I'd been marching ahead on my own with a sense of purpose I often display in search of a new pub, but found Colin already there slumped over a table like a man who'd be missing the kind of quality football Scunthorpe United could have served up.  It was a fairly swift pint of some more unusual Harvey's ale, but I remember being pleasantly surprised by the nice friendly feel and woodeny atmosphere.  Dad was rightly clock-watching though, we weren't staying over as would have been sensible, and we had to make sure we made the next train back to London so probably didn't quite get my allocated 25 minutes here!  Revisit potential as I need to know whether I've done the Brewers Arms anyway.

360.  Five Swans, Newcastle

was for both Jesmond and Jarrow on a typically wintery north eastern day, the date 5th Jan 2013 so no surprise.  With two visitors in tow, in the shape of Krzb Britain and north eastern ambassador John Watson II, a civilised sit down lunch was required and whether it was a pre-decided GBG decision or whether we saw this was a Wetherspoons and thought "ooh, they'll do food", we were soon sat down in a pretty packed multi-roomer.  Not sure what I drank but remember being impressed with the beer, whilst I ordered a very strange low calorie Thai Noodle meal which I didn't enjoy but only had myself to blame.  John and Krzb had more sensible food and I think we decided, as we prepared for the Metro to Jarrow, that it had been a good solid 'Spoons display.

361.  Station Inn, Kidderminster

29th December 2001 and Dad had been officially given the second hand 1999 Good Beer Guide as his Christmas House present (you can't say I'm not generous) though we had used it for the Scunthorpe away game a couple of weeks ago.  One of our main considerations when selecting a pub was to avoid the busiest and most popular ones, especially with Hull City fans, so this backstreet local seemed a good bet.  And wow, what a difference using the GBG made.  Quality ales like we'd rarely tasted before, and fantastic filled rolls on the bar in a cosy lounge with a friendly older couple running it.  Dad was gushing in his praise, and it was our 2001/02 away pub of the year, and I'd go as far as to say this was a defining moment for BRAPA because it was here that for the first time that we really saw the value for the Good Beer Guide.  There was a word of caution though as we returned with obvious anticipation the following season 5th October 2002 (only 10 months on).  It all started well as we parked up and the landlady opened the window to tell us she was still getting ready and she'd open up soon (think she had a hairdryer and a toothbrush in her hand at the time!)  The pub had been 'de-guided' according to my more recent 2002 copy, and it was laid out now with placemats, knives and forks, the filled rolls had gone, and the beer range was much more limited with more national ales.  The landlady bemoaned the change, something to do with the pub company owning it, and it's fair to say the magic of our first visit had gone.  Still, it was a lesson to trust in the GBG!

362.  Lion & Key, Hull

My third favourite (if I'm being diplomatic) of the Scale Lane trio which have recently helped boost Hull's real ale image, we'd known it as a dodgy looking Irish place for many years til we were pleased to know the then Walters owners had added this pub to their portfolio too.  I'd guess my first visit was about August 2011 and I have to admit, the quality of ale in here has always been spot on.  The staff are generally friendly and young females, especially that half deaf one who claimed the pubs acoustics meant all original songs sounded like cover versions.  However, there is something about the way this pub is managed which is incredibly frustrating.  It is the designated foodie pub of the Scale Lane ones, but the fact there's always one member of staff on means they have to (a) get drinks (b) take food order (c) run upstairs with food order to kitchen (d) run back downstairs (e) calculate the total cost and get card machine working (f) wonder why there are several irate people stood at bar who can't order simple pint.  Another thing that frustrates me is a cracking upstairs room which they hardly ever open to the public.  What's the point?  Drinkers could do with an area away from the diners.  In fact, more recently, the food situation seems to have gone from standard pub fayre to slightly pretentious stuff - i.e. more expensive, with candlelit tables which don't work here quite like they do in a pubby pub like Hawkes a few doors down.  The beer quality is still good but they've finally started their own brewery, something about a Cat, I tried one, it was a bit "Wellington in it's death throes" so watch this space, sure I'll be back as long as they don't read this!

363.  Minerva Hotel, Hull

I think that as soon as I'd have started using the 1999 GBG in December 2001, it wouldn't have been very long at all before we started using it to explore the pubs of Hull before Hull City home games.  This was one however, did not appear until I'd got the more up to date 2002 GBG, which I'm putting around Feb/March 2002 time (if I know myself like I think I do, I'd have not been happy with an obviously out of date edition for long, so my feeling is I definitely had it by the end of the 2001/02 season so will put an estimate of April 2002 on my first visit.  I certainly remember it being sunny and bright which suggests more springtime conditions.  Dad and I came here a few times in the early days without it ever being a regular, and possibly my first time was best as a landlord called "Scottie" (he was Scottish) seemed quite a character and served the best pint of Deuchers IPA I have ever had to this day!  However, a lot of black and amber plus quite a bit of lunchtime food stopped us really embracing it, plus it's location and 12 noon opening made it impractical, though we did once get in the 3 seated snug (smallest pub room in the UK I once read) which was a highlight.  To be honest, by the time we were discovering the "joys" of Spring Bank's pubs, we heard on the grapevine how Scotty had gone and the pub was in decline.  A recent visit by Dad did nothing to persuade me that this year's entry makes it worthy of revisiting, though it'd be interesting.

In fact,the GBG logic I tried to apply to the above probably would mean my first visits to Olde White Harte and Olde Black Boy are earlier than I thought, it'd seem likely I visited both before Minerva.  Having said that, I can picture the inn brief section the first time we used a GBG to discover Hull pubs, meaning we were by then using the 2002 Guide.  I should also consider that Hull City didn't move to the KC until Dec 2002, so how willing would we have been to go out regularly to old town / Spring Bank before the official move? 

364.  Sailmakers Arms, Hull

Our decision to first come here was not GBG influenced, but it was well before the days you could conceivably think of it as a pre-emptive tick, in fact as far as I can remember, this is it's first time in the GBG.  Impossible to say when the first visit was, but I think perhaps an evening game when me and Dad (wanting  a change from the Welly routine) gave it a chance with it's welcoming looking courtyard entrance.  The place seemed tied to Old Mill beers (never a favourite) and we sat in a booth with tropical fish tanks creating the barrier between the snugs.  Novel!  In a return visit on a lunchtime as part of another old town experiment a year or so later, we unfortuntely had to contend with a plastic L**ds fan getting excited and watching his team on a screen above the bar, the tropical fish still in tact.  And we popped in about 2012 too on another evening to find the Old Mill tie broken and we had a splendid Great Newsome beer dedicated to a local poet called Marvellous Andrew Marvell, I think!  Fish were still going strong.  Fish in!  And Dad might be going before a forthcoming home game to see if it is better than Minerva.

Further research, and on 19th Oct 2011 when trying to decide what to do for a pre-match, Hull CAMRA impresario Mark Bainton said this "Around the corner 100yds or less down the High St is the Sailmakers they also have installed two hand pumps and i also class this as a keg pub." So presuming he had his finger on the pulse more than me and Dad (which you'd expect), I reckon our first visit would be after then, we'll say the next evening home game 7/12/11.

365.  Walters, Hull

It's always mystified me how this pub hasn't been more popular and been more loved by the people of Hull / our fellow "Welly gang" drinkers.  Sure in those early days, it took an hour for the heating to kick in, sure there was the time after a drab Watford 0-0 draw that I got ejected for wearing a Hull City top (to much jokey "oooh you look like SUCH a hooligan" from other people in there, the staff looked embarrassed and they changed their policy shortly after!) but I'm glad I gave it a second chance.  Now, I'd rate in my Hull City home pub of 2015 so far, just edging out the landlord's brother's excellent improvement of the already good Whalebone.  I think this pub did go through a bad spell about 2011/12 when it had just way too many beers and a big steel bar across the errrm bar(!) so you couldn't really see what was on.  The change of ownership and being out of the Wm Hawkes/Lion & Key chain means you can now see how much better it is, the beers are slightly fewer but more focussed with superb breweries like Great Heck, Abbeydale, Acorn and North Riding flying the flag this season.  Comfy too and always has the heating on, the barmaids are nice and always make some effort to be friendly even if it doesn't always come naturally, okay so it isn't an old pubby pub but it's certainly not plastic modern sterile rubbish either.  I've heard some great music in here, and after years without, even phone signal has appeared!  This and Whalebone, since Welly's closure, really do kick the S H I T out of everything else in Hull, and make no mistake ya buggers.

A pint and a bag of Hobgoblin crisps this season - 20.10.15 in Walters
Further research shows the first ever mention of Walters in email was on 2nd Dec 2007, actually mentioned by Tom who must have known we'd be going before the Cardiff home game a day earlier which I'll now call my first visit.  Tom said  "Hope Walter's was good. Shame about the game, I feel we have got what we deserved, and in pessimists corner, I saw that goal as inevitable from the moment when Marney didn't hoof the ball out."  I replied to say Walters was "worth checking out" and you can "walk through the shopping centre to get to the KC" which sounds like a first visit if ever I heard one!  

366.  Alehouse, Reading

Well, the above picture fits in very nicely as this pub was, on my two visits, called the Alehouse, but after Aberdeen's Moorings renamed itself Krakatoa, I decided to relax my rule on pub name changes.  My first visit here was 19th November 2005 when it was very much our dedicated pub of the day, a well impressed we were.  Enough so for a return on 22nd Jan 2011 and I'm hoping my forthcoming 2016 tour of Berkshire will afford me at least one opportunity to rekindle that Hobgoblinny flame.  What I remember from both visits is how easy it is to play hide and seek when you sit in one of the back snugs, covered in so much beermats and graffiti that you kind of get lost within it.  On our first occasion, we'd just started making Ben our newish away match drinking regular and he appeared like a phantom to squash his 6 foot 4 frame into this tiny room.  Did Tom and Chris appear too, can't remember!  What a shame someone had left a chilly back door open, or this would probably have been a 2005/6 away pub of the season shoe in.  And on our return visit, I remember for ages peering round the corner at Dad at this loud scary Hull skinhead who was engaging the whole bar in conversation, when we realised it was Mark Bainton!  We finally made ourselves known.  Again, I have a feeling other people joined us in our little snug (again people kept opening that flippin' door!) but details are lost in haze of superb guest ales.  Research does show Tom was amongst them, arriving into Reading General at 11:52am. 

See you next time, for our final 8!  



  1. Great compilation of historic days out. Memories of pubs - marvellous. Lets hope the L & K proprietors do read it. I will never forget the sight of Ben trying to make himself fit into one of those Alehouse alcoves. Students in a phone box just ain't in it.

  2. Thanks unspecified Visitor who coincidentally shares my surname, always appreciate the feedback. Ben in Hobgoblin alcove was more like 30 clowns trying to fit in a Mini!

  3. Hi Simon

    Just discovered your blog via twitter and really enjoyed it.

    I think I'm trying to do the same as you - visiting all the pubs in the current Good Beer Guide. I'd got up to 81% (3,686) of the 2015 Guide at the end of August, and am back up to 75% of the 2016 edition, I'm not sure it will be possible to complete with so many new pubs each year, but give it a go !

    Best of luck - be good to bump into you sometime and compare notes.

  4. Martin,
    From a regular commentor, welcome to the website and good luck in your own version of BRAPA.

    To try and help with the Minerva conundrum. Father and myself regularly used the Minerva when we were at Fer Ark, mainly because we could get a bus to either the ground or to the Eagle, which with the bus ticketing of the time was free for me, and as a result with the tickets being presented in a cunning manner easy for him to eff (the freeness of the bus wasn't the reasoning, it just made sense to use a pub near a bus route). I don't remember you ever being in there, but I don't think we became friends until the move to the Circle and the opening of the Hole in the Wall, so it is possible we were in simultaneously without knowing it.

    I take it the chipmunks aren't still present in the Sailmakers. It is one of my happy childhood pub memories seeing them running round in there run with the 'tunnels' that went over and around the beer garden.

    I have my intelligence sources. Was that Cardiff home game the day they bought about 200, all of them good old fashioned mental Cardiff supporters, we drew 2-2, we conceded an equaliser late on? Probably the last game against a Welsh club with the traditional atmosphere of such an affair, gentrified as they now are. I hope we play Wrexham soon and they are just as they always used to be. I think it is a new ground affect.

    I believe I visited Hobgoblin in 2011 but not 2006. 2006 was the pub out at Sonning (you weren't there but as a handy hint they run a special bus to the ground from the village - taxis are also available). I do recall Ben trying to fit into the snug.

  5. I'd like to second that - that's a fine achievement so many GBG pubs Martin, the "cross-ticking" of the Guide every September is the most frustrating thing of my challenge, but I think you've got a great chance of clearing the whole lot one day. Will keep in touch on here and Twitter and spur each other on!

    Tom - thanks very much for that re Minerva. I do have vague recollections of us experimenting with the old town area and Spring Bank well before so we may once or twice have ventured to that area. It would seem weird having a GBG we used for away games in early 2002 and not using it in Hull. Also, I don't think HITW was discovered through the Guide either - it first went in a lot later when it was probably actually past it's peak. Typical Hull CAMRA!

    I think Dad may well try Sailmakers on Friday so I'll ask him to look out for Simon, Alvin and Theodore (not Whitmore!)

    Yes, that is the Cardiff game that came to my mind. A sickener when that admittedly very good strike flew in. Yes, Swansea particularly seem tamer since they left the Vetch. We used to see chairs through pub windows and all sorts!

  6. I think we found Hole in the Wall very quickly after moving into the Circle - it had only just opened so wouldn't have been GBG. Probably word of mouth or Pub Mirror. The ground move, Scotty and Kathy leaving for the Old Mitre (I think they have just retired) and Hole in the Wall opening all happened in a fairly short period of time as I recall.

    Am I missing some form of cultural reference with Simon, Alvin and Theodore?

    I do not blame Boaz Myhill for not saving that strike. I do not give the striker full credit. I blame Dean Marney for dilly dallying when in the last minute, 2-1 up he should have hoofed the ball forward from that corner. Unforgivable.

    Swansea seem tamer because they came down from a more violent level. I remember when the Police ejected about 50 Swansea from the supermarket end terrace, then ended up escorting them back into the ground about 5 minutes later. I've always wondered what happened in the intervening time. I reckon that they caused so much carnage that it was actually safer to uneject them.