Wednesday 1 June 2016

BRAPA - Firbeck & Mapplewell, South Yorkshire

It was the day after Wembley as we travelled back north, quite fuzzy-headed and still disbelieving of how good the day had actually been, but I was just about alert enough to hold Dad to an earlier promise "if you see a difficult pub you need for BRAPA just off the motorway, we'll stop off".  This is why Bernard is a leading BRAPster.

Having reluctantly come to the conclusion that the B4368 Clun - Abermule road couldn't really be considered as being just off the A1 or M1, I settled on a pub that has been causing me much South Yorkshire evening woe due to busses not running after about 3pm.

The location was more remote than I expected, but once we negotiated the country lanes (SatNav woman was suffering from PMT so had stopped talking to us, bless the lord) we found a village so beautiful it felt like it was saying "come on then South Bucks if you think you're 'ard enough!"

915.  Black Lion, Firbeck

In true South Yorks tradition, it's opening times were subject of much debate.  11am is very unusual for a village pub on a Sunday, but everything said it apart from the actual pub sign that said 12 noon.  Why can't South Yorkshire just behave?  The pub had low beams, was well furnished and a nice 50/50 split of traditional and modern, and the inevitable influx of Sunday lunchers somehow did nothing to detract.  This was possibly because most people were eating chip butties with their yearly salt allowance and a generous helping of Henderson's Relish.  It sounds like an S.Yorks stereotype, but it was brilliant to see.  The two barmaids were having a whispered conversation about a couple in the corner "oooh, he used to talk to me, NOT anymore", and "she's got a rubbish dress on, I don't trust her", I couldn't really hear so am filling in the blanks but it was classic bitchiness, and the landlord gave a sideways glance to indicate the lack of professionalism.  The guest ale was New York Pale by Chantry from Rotherham and there can't be many better, but Dad's Bradfield Farmers Blonde was an obvious rival.  I could feel invisible pubby tentacles grabbing at me, trying to keep me here all afternoon.  Despite being at the bar for all of two minutes, a local with a  classic mullet commented to the brunette barmaid "don't mention the football, we blew it" before she replied "Hull City were the better team and what a great goal!"  I thought they'd all be Millers fans (or "Toytown" as they call them) so serves them right, failed glory supporters, and wished I'd kept my Hull City top on now.   Wonderful pub.

Gents to the left because women are right - oh how we laughed (or not).
So, that was that then but fast forward 48 hours plus and much sleeping and recovering, and I was on the always characterful 16:40 Leeds to Barnsley "express" train.

"I'm a real ale man and I like my real ale!" announced an old man being humoured by a young student, a great intro to a BRAPA evening if ever I heard one.  He then claimed Barnsley had no real ale pubs but before I had chance to beat him over the head with a paper bearing the words "Old Number 7", he started going on about how lonely he was since his wife died .... "yeh mate, we've all got problems, you're starting to bore me." 

Barnsley bus station was it's usual classy self so after a Coopland's sausage roll, I was on the number 1 service to Mapplewell, or "Mapp" as Caroline at work told me I should call it.  The skies were grey, the wind was swirling, but a traditional looking South Yorkshire hostelry was on the horizon .....

916.  Talbot, Mapplewell

So imagine my surprise when I found a pub choc-a-bloc with diners, and I mean EVERYONE apart from one nervy looking youth at the bar had their piggy faces in the snoutbag.  However, things took a turn for the better when I was told that the ales (all from Four Roses brewery in nearby Darton) were £2 a pint.  Happy hour!  Til 6pm.  It was 5:43.  Even my comment  "I better get drinking quickly then, ho ho!" made two barmaids laughed, the third obviously thought I was a bit of a tosser, but a 66.67% win ratio is better than normal in the "BRAPA bar room banter" stakes.  I wonder why I haven't encountered happy hour more often on my evening trips, considering 5:30-7 is about my peak time.  Perhaps it is a dying art?  Perhaps the discounts are usually so measly I just think it's a decent value pub?  Perhaps it usually only applies to locals?  The Heron Porter went down well as I squashed in a rare free seat, with only a leather bound menu as opposed to knives, forks and condiments.  I was immediately wedged in by a sour faced couple who were lacking in spatial awareness, charm and were up and down like yo-yos.  Seriously, the number of trips to the 'specials board' made me think they were trying to memorise it a la Generation Game.  Being outer Barnsley though, this somehow still felt a lot more like a pub than a restaurant, perhaps the high proportion of Barnsley home shirts kept the experience down to earth.    Then, an even weirder couple sat at my table with their backs to me, using it as a kind of waiting area before a foodier table became available.  It would have been easy to leave in a 'food pub rage' but instead, I embraced it and with my watch showing 5:58pm, I'd drunk quickly enough to warrant a second pint, something paler.  It says a lot for the pub that I wanted to do this.

Heron Porter and a leather menu
Pint two and Mr Sourface

Pint two with weird back turned couple.

I bussed it back to Barnsley and trained it to York via Leeds in fairly good time, working out I won't finish ticking off South Yorkshire before the new GBG comes out so will aim for the end of the 2016, as I will probably have some new West Yorkies to tick off too.  Thinking ahead! 



  1. Wonderful stuff, makes me wonder why anyone would drink bottled beer at home when they can go to a pub and get picked apart by you on the net two days later (he says).

    Oddly the Black Lion was a rare gastro pub in S Yorks when it was previously in GBG a decade or more ago, with a staggeringly good pint of Magnet (RIP). Very posh. Must go back but clearly won't.

    You're spot on about outer Barnsley foody pubs being very pubby, remember the Mapplewell one on Friday night being full of dressed up folk (and me) but quite boisterous.

  2. Exactly, I only drink at home when my bottles have past their sell by date and even then I'd be wondering which pub I can slag off next ;)

    Was a really nice pub the Black Lion, I only ever had Magnet in Lowther in York which is quite a terrible pub.

    The Mapplewell experience really made me think how much I've been taking for granted the sheer pubbiness of the likes of Birdwell, Barugh Green and Tickhill to name but three.

  3. Just looking back at my bookwork, there's been a bout a dozen new pubs in West Yorks each time new GBG out, and eight or so in South Yorks. Not really micropub territory yet so presume just the newer craft bars and Ossett type places.

    I've still got one irritating S Yorks pub to do in lower Sheff (Mt Pleasant); irritating op.hours and WhatPub data wrong. Been there ?

    1. Well, it's nice to know my midweek adventures won't be ending any time soon! I even think I might be able to factor in the odd Lancs/GMR trip on Tuesday nights.

      Yes, that is my only remaining South of Sheffield tick too - didn't realise times and data dodgy so will pay that close attention!

  4. With comments like that coming from Mapplewell, I'm giving serious consideration to enquiring amongst local bookmakers for odds on the 2016 brunette award. I think I may ask in Hindley bookies, where there will surely be heavy betting on the local candidate.

    Martin, of the dozen or so new annual average entries in West Yorks, how many tend to be quick comebacks, returnees after an extend absence and completely new? Si is reckoning on needing a few, I had imagined it would be a higher figure but if 12 come in, I can well imagine that not all will be required, particularly if some of the new ones are in the land of white shite.

    1. Tom - i meant completely new i.e. pubs that I had to do. About 20 will drop out typically with 8 to 10 re-entries, as CAMRA branches like to rotate in places like Halifax.

  5. I guess Martin was meaning 12 brand new ones otherwise it probably wouldn't be worth mentioning, but we'll see. 12 sounds about right to me. Expecting Bradford's brewery thing and Hebden Bridge micro to be two of them.

    Hindley girl was too set faced n stern, I like brunettes to display a bit of personality and not be too corpse like.