Friday 30 September 2016

BRAPA - September Review / October Preview

September started on the first of the month (as it so often seems to) with the 2017 Good Beer Guide plonking through my letterbox after what felt like a fifteen year wait (about five days in truth).

After some intensive cross-ticking, I was down from 1,006 to 896 GBG listed pubs, a 110 drop, and desperate to crack on to replenish my numbers........

September Review

It was a more successful month than I'd anticipated, with 29 GBG pubs visited, plus 1 pre-emptive.  As they (I) say, "a pub a day keeps the doctor away".  The quality of the "pubs" visited wasn't so great this month, but I enjoyed some top days & evenings in places like Berkshire, Barnsley, rural North Yorkshire, Cheshire and Merseyside.

Here are my favourite three pub experiences of the month in no particular order:

1.  Sip Club, Stretford
2.  Rose & Crown, Hoylandswaine
3.  Stamps Bar, Crosby

The Furnace in Hoyland also deserves a special mention.

Daisy the cat asks when I'll be visiting her Farsley home town.

October Preview

A pretty crazy month is about to start - and I don't mean in a way which is particularly beneficial to BRAPA!  But it will be fun.

It all starts healthily enough, tomorrow in fact for leg 8 of my World Tour of Berkshire.  We are heading out east again to that Windsory Eton area.  A week later, I'm on a stag-do but fear not, for I am best-man, so organising a crawl around Liverpool, which will also take in Birkenhead.  Yes, there'll be a couple of re-visits (Cracke, Roscoe Head, perhaps Peter Kavanagh) but 3 or 4 new 'ticks' to keep me going.  Then it all gets a bit crazy as work send me to Melbourne for a week - and I don't mean the Derbyshire one where I need a pub tick.  I will be, of course, trying to find good pubs, bars and beer on off chance they are pre-emptive if an Aussie GBG gets published in the year 2040 when the convict-landers start brewing real ale.  And even on the final Saturday of the month (29th), I'll be recovering from the wedding so am writing that off as a 'recovery day'.  However, a pre-Hallowe'en spooky BRAPA chauffeur day with Dad (hopefully dressed as Lurch from Addams Family for effect) is all systems go on Sunday 30th.  "You rang Si?"

As for midweeks, I'll be cracking on with my South Yorkshire Tuesday nights for the first two weeks of the month, and perhaps the last week depending on jet-lag.  Am aiming to have SY done by the end of 2016 but may fall just short.

So my aim really is just to achieve my minimum 15 pub ticks in Oct, then go crazy in November! 

Wish me luck, and I'll be back on Sunday with the review of tomorrow's Berkshire trip.


Wednesday 28 September 2016

BRAPA - No Pain in Hoylandswaine

Shape-shifting locals become a pub cat
Just to show I hadn't learned any lessons from Saturday's "Scouse Pie" incident, I bought a squishy pie of questionable contents in Barnsley bus station, and proceeded to (accidentally) shove it directly under my GBG at the bottom of my bag - but luckily, this one didn't explode.

Freeing my GBG from further pie torture in Barnsley Bus Station

Ahhhh Barnsley Bus Station, the favourite of all my South Yorkshire Big City bus stations, I could easily settle down here in a onesie with a cuppa and two Jaffa Cakes and watch the world go by.  Sort of.   Just as well cos the bus was ten minutes bloody delayed wasn't it?

It would be churlish to blame visiting Aston Villa fans, so I will anyway.  As the bus left, we passed the brilliant Old No 7 pub, near deserted at 7:30pm, whilst the lager titty bar across the road was heaving with Villains, further evidence if needed why Villa are no-one's favourite Midlands club.  Hell, even Villa fans hate Villa.

After a mildly tortuous 40 minute bus ride, we were in Hoylandswaine and the air smelt somehow fresher than any other air I'd ever smelt!

Nearly the pub - actually a garage with a postbox 
The actual pub.  Hurrah.
913.  Rose & Crown, Hoylandswaine

I was greeted by one of those reassuring South Yorkshire pub scenes.  A group of three old locals hunched over in a corner like they were plotting to explode the Houses of Parliament, and two more sprightly but still old men, smiling at me from the back wall with slightly reserved expressions.  The barman had a southern accent (how very dare he?) but he was friendly and when I became the first person to circulate a new style five pound note in Hoylandswaine, I'd definitely put my cards on the table as an "outsider".  "Oooh one of those sneaky ones!" said the barman, hoping he was talking about the fiver and not me.  Well, it was just the perfect pub scene.  The fire was in and roaring, Autumn is finally here, my Farmers Blonde was crystal clear and superb, the pie and peas was almost too tempting, and Dire Straits Brothers in Arms played gently in the background.  As I reached for the highlighter to "green my entry" (ooo err), the landlady appeared at my shoulder asking if this was the new GBG.  Soon, all (two) staff were gathered round reading the entry for this pub in total silence.  I felt more nervous than a baker about to be appraised by Mary Berry, eventually they nodded their heads in approval.  I invited our landlady, Judy, to do the green highlighting but she had to reach for her specs as she's apparently blind when dusk falls.  They may well have been night-vision goggles too, for when she dropped the pen lid under the table, she was straight on to it in a flash.  No sooner had that incident past when the Guy Fawkes gang had disappeared, to be replaced by one pub cat.  How on earth did that happen, I only looked away for two seconds?!  One of my favourite features of the pub were the blackboard beams displaying customer reviews of the pub grub.  The best being "10/10 for the Turkey Dinosaurs, says Bobby".  It was that kind of a pub.

The perfect midweek BRAPA pub ticking experience.
Although the bus was ten minutes late, we somehow made it all up and got back to Barnsley at the correct time so I could get the connecting train back to Leeds, then York.  Bonus.

Sunset at the bus stop as a bid farewell to Hoylandswaine for ever.
It was nice to hear Barnsley had scored a 90th minute winner to silence the Villains, I hope that when Sam Winnall celebrated, he raised his shirt to reveal a t-shirt saying "this one's for the Hoylandswaine Rose & Crown Turkey Dinosaur Massive" though I'm not sure how small that font would need to be.

Attentions now turn to leg 8 of the Berkshire Tour on Saturday, we'll be east of the county this time and I don't know whether to be pleased or sad that both Slough's entries have disappeared, deriving me of my debut there.  Still, I've got 5 or 6 pubs in mind.

Before that, the month end review on Friday.  See you then chumps.


Monday 26 September 2016

BRAPA : the archives (383 - 390)

Monday night, Archives night!

Welcome back to week two of our three week archives special, where I delve into the vaults of my memory and review eight pubs that I visited before BRAPA was even a drunken sperm trying to fertilise a micro pub shaped egg.

Either that or I visited them and didn't even consider them for BRAPA inclusion, which probably sounds inconceivable but has been known to happen (see pub 388) ......

Apologies for the lack of photos, most of these are such old visits, cameras probably weren't invented (not on phones anyway!)

383.  Artillery Arms, Plymouth

The morning of 9th December 2006 and I'd already had my obligatory 10am pint of Bass in the Dolphin, and been to a quirky GBG pub called 'Sippers', when I finally made it here for 12 noon opening, in the delightfully edgy area of Stonehouse.  I managed to get lost en route, as I tried to take a shortcut through a dockyard but annoyingly, I couldn't get past the giant metal fence!   It was worth the effort, a great street corner local with a real family feel.  Being December 2006, it was the time I was keeping a notepad record of my pub visits (like an old fashioned Twitter and Untappd rolled into one) so I can exclusively reveal, I drank an unspecified Adnams beer of top quality, but moaned a Flowers beer and another "non-interesting one" made up the three on offer.  As soon as I sat down and unzipped my jacket to reveal my Hull City top, the fun really started with me saying "got some great banter going with all - ending in the landlord running down 2 streets to return my "lost" hat!"  The Pilgrim topped teenage son was bouncing a football around the pub despite all the fantastic looking breakfasts flying out of the kitchen, constantly keeping everyone on edge.  I told them all I predicted a 1-0 defeat for us, they looked amazed I'd travel all this way to say such a thing.  I think you can guess what the score was.

384.  Cricketers, Westcliff-on-Sea

Sunny but chilly morning of 1st Feb 2003 and for some stupid reason, instead of discovering the wonderful Cork & Cheese sooner, I thought outside the box and realised this pub, not listed under Southend, would be a great way to spend a pre-match.  Well, I was wrong.  A modern, bright and shiny Greene King emporium was what it was, soulless vapid staff, comfort of zero, dried flowers in tiny vases on our table.  Wooden floors went clomp clomp clomp with the sound of ridiculous high heels, attached to Coke-thin waitresses.  One of my main thought processes for coming here was to avoid a big football crowd pre-match.  Well that backfired when one of the largest groups of Hull City fans, many young and female (unusual at that time) descended on the pub to complete the experience.  The one saving grace was that, being idiots, they all stood blocking the bar, whilst we sat at the far end so at least had our personal space.  Hull City then lost 3-0 in one of the most abject performances ever (and that is saying something), Danny Webb was sent off (or should have been) for murdering a defender, and the club apologised to the fans (which was rare too) for the poor effort, they should have also apologised for this pub.

385.  Saddle Inn, Blackpool

One of the consolations of the low turnout of our 2008 Blackpool Punk Festival (just me, John Watson and Jig this year) was that it allowed me to plot all the GBG pubs on an autoroute map and try and get to them.  Jig and JW2 would be good sports in this sense, had my sister been here, it would never have been allowed being the pre-emptive BRAPA crapper she was.  The pub seemed pretty traditional, lots of tattooed locals in vests eating mixed grills.  It was boiling hot, the landlady was feeling it, but when I realised our Summer Lightning's were vinegar, I had to do one of the most apologetic beer returns ever.  She told me that if our replacement ales were off too, I'd have to come back there and pour something for myself!  Which would have been amusing, sadly the replacement ale was fine.  Pretty crummy experience considering what a trek it'd been to get here!  As a post script, I tried to return on the Friday evening the following year, this time with my sister and her then boyfriend Ric.  As predicted, it only took a toothless tanned teenage girl with burning pram asking us to go into the offie and buy her a bottle of cider, for my sister to decide Whitegate Drive was too scary and made us turn back for the (relatively) safer climes of Pump & Truncheon.

386.  Briton's Protection, Manchester

11th September 2008 and myself and the good John Watson were excited.  We were about to witness the Stray Cats farewell tour at the Uni down Oxford Road.  I got to Manchester first, he met me later.  I waited in the Lass O'Gowrie in the days when it was a gem of a pub, full of bric-a-brac.  John got lost and accidentally stumbled across the GBG pubs on Great Bridgewater St, so I left my drink with two men who definitely didn't look like date-rapers, and found John to bring him back to LoG.  We walked to the venue but were shocked to hear the drummer had broken his arm in Brixton the night before and the gig was cancelled.  NOOOOOOO!  Devastated we were, but at least John had found those other real ale pubs so we decided to make the best of it, and Briton's Protection was arguably pub of the night, much better than Rain Bar and probably also the amazing Peveril of the Peak.  Multi roomed, amazing ales, amazing features, I've always wondered why it hasn't been in the GBG more in recent years.  I wondered if the landlady of the time had fallen out with the local CAMRA, quite a feisty lady.  Less than 2 months later before a 4-3 defeat at Old Trafford, a group of us were in here and sat in one of the more amazing backrooms with fire in.  It was one of those all time classic pre-match sessions, just perfect,  No food was going on so we decided to eat our sandwiches, so out of courtesy (almost an afterthought), Christine asked the feisty landlady if we could eat our own food here.  Her reply "would you go into Marks & Spencer's and drink our beer?" is still one of my favourite pub quotes EVER,  huge awkward silence.  We sat there as a group for about 10 mins after trying to process what she'd said, like we had been posted a tricky pub quiz teaser.  Classic.  "Errr, so is that a no then?" we eventually said.  It soured the experience, but I've been in since, before a 4-0 defeat to Man Utd with Jig and his Dad (another great session, no food was consumed) and then, before the Man City 2-2 Bullard penalty brilliance, me and Dad hid in a corner here.  When landlady announced she was "off shopping", Dad nearly asked her to bring us back some of their beer from Marks n Spencers.  The pub breathed a sigh of relief anyway as the door closed behind her, and the rustle of sandwich bags began ......

387.  Greyhound,  Ipswich 

Me and Dad were staying in a nearby B&B overnight so having checked in on 25th March 2006, we decided this was the nearest pub in my GBG to come for  pre-match.  It was notable for a few factors.  Firstly, it was the first time Ben Andrew joined us for a pre-match session, he'd become a regular over the next 5 years or so,  Secondly, it was the first time I paid £3 for a pint, and I was fuming.  Adnams Lighthouse it was, and to rub salt into the wound, the Adnams vases they serve their beer in just makes for a depressing drinking experience.  The staff were right misery guts,  and this probably all started my (until recently) negative impression of Suffolk's 6 fingered lovelies.  Ben enjoyed the pub experience, we didn't (pub was all cluttered dining tables) but he did enough to encourage a group of us back two years later on the last day of the season, as if it is the only pub in Ipswich.  Some of our group were here for breakfast, but they wouldn't serve ale til 12 noon, and they meant it.  Even counting down the final minute at 11:59 before they serve us.  Obvious they were deliberately proving a point and being obstructive.  Some of us had even popped out to the local home fans only Spoons to tide us over.  Irritating pub, Ipswich has so much better.

388.  Duke of York, York

Every Thursday, me and my "York Gang" us a dice to randomly decide where to go.  Let's face it, York has over 100 at least decent cask ale outlets.  When a new one opens (which has happened a lot over the last two or three years!) we know there will be an initial clamour brought on by Mr Aitchison's gushing Evening Press review.  This will be counter balanced by people moaning York has reached pub saturation levels, debate about whether it is worse than the latest pop-up Tesco Express and whether drunk racegoers are ruining the city.  Our gang yawn, "give it a few weeks/months", and visit when the clamour has died down and the pub has 'bedded in'.  So on 21st November 2013, we came here and in the dark mood lighting, I ordered an Acorn "Burning Bails"as "Burning Balls".  Ouch. Still busy, the problem for me here is the pub never feels like it has 'bedded in'.  My second visit (alone on a Sunday evening) was better but amidst the dregs of a 'brewery takeover', and beers were going off at an alarming rate - the service was terrible.  Whether you try and sit upstairs or down, I've never 'enjoyed' a pub experience here.  Another problem is the Leeds Brewery pub model (and I do very much like their beers).  If you've been to "Crowd of Favours" in Leeds, you've been to Duke of York.  'Brewery Tap' and 'Midnight Bell' are slightly different, but the point is they are all a bit modern and soulless.  Apparently, if you sit upstairs in the window on a wet Tuesday afternoon overlooking overlooking King's Square, it is the most joyous York drinking experience in the City.  Such claims aren't enough.  I'd advise you go to "Eagle & Child" as a pre-emptive instead, as this is one York 'Leeds Brewery pub' which does have more natural charm.

389.  Royal Oak, Old Malton

26th Jan 2013 and "F" had been for "Filey" with John Watson, one of my most favourite of all the A-Z days as we refused to let heavy snow the previous night spoil our plans.  It was pitch black at the end of the day as we trudged out of Malton along a busy main road and found this fantastic old heritage pub.  Not sure what we drank but the landlord could sense our approval of the old building and came over for a nice friendly chat.  Our main criticism would be the icy draught coming from the window behind, but we were told that because it was a grade II listed building, it could not be replaced or double glazed or whatever, and we'd just have to wrap up, which I suppose was a consolation in some kind of way!

390.  Fleece, Pudsey 

There were many reasons why me and John Watson (featuring heavily in tonight's archives) kept coming to Pudsey in the 2003-2006 period but it was our "adventurous" evening twice yearly trip.  Our first pub experiences in Pudsey were the World's End (wanted to love it but you could tell it was on the decline), and the Bankhouse which was our favourite with it's "Last of the Summer Wine" bathtub approach play, some good grub, and the best, albeit limited, ale in town.  What's more, we accidentally first came to Pudsey on a "Children in Greed" night, which seemed fitting with the Pudsey Bear link.  I fancied a girl from Pudsey too, not that we were likely to bump into her in a real ale pub.  And we went to many more pubs of mainly poor standard.  So when I saw the new 2006 GBG in Leeds Waterstones one lunchtime in Sept 2005 (I was too much of a skinflint to buy the GBG back then so used the shop as a public library), I yelped with delight at a newly listed Pudsey pub.   18th Nov 2005 was the probable visit date, memories are vague but I remember a full range of Tim Taylor beers, busy with very friendly locals and staff (middle agers) and a great lounge like small hubbuby atmosphere with lots of photos and decor.  I'd like to go back really but I might wait til the "Pudsey Bear Micro Terry Wogan Cask Eatery Tap Tap Tap Kitchen" opens next year!

I'm in South Yorkshire tomorrow night, I'll write that one up on Wednesday.  Then we'll have a month end review / preview for Sept/Oct before my 8th trip to Berkshire on Saturday.


Sunday 25 September 2016

BRAPA - Crosby , Half of Waterloo & a Scouse Pie

Following a conversation back in June about those Antony Gormley statues on the beach, myself, Dad and Tom had organised a visit to Crosby and surrounding area with plenty of BRAPA ticking potential.  It was Tom's birthday, so his Father Chris (not a priest) joined us too to swell the numbers to four.

The journey was notable for only two things.  Scouse babies are the loudest whiniest babies in the UK and helps me understand why Goodison Park's atmosphere is like it is, and secondly, the shade of yellow used on the Mersey trains is the most offensive shade of any colour in existence.

The day should probably have started with a huge cooked breakfast from Wetherspoons with hindsight (more on my memory loss later!) but as it was, we had to make do with a local bakery where I bought a Scouse Pie (more on the later too) to line the stomach.

After 5 minutes of Dad looking in estate agent windows and deciding he wasn't going to move here any time soon, the pub was actually open early so time to stop messing around and go in ......

908.  Stamps Bar, Crosby

I'd mentally prepared myself for a micro-pub so it was nice to see something a lot more traditional, even if it did have modern leanings.  Our rosy cheeked barmaid seemed a nice if slightly nervous lady, and had to shut Chris down when he asked about CAMRA discounts, something I never do unless it is obvious for fear of reprisals (e.g. those pubs that think CAMRA members are all scum).  With beers on like Oakham Citra and Titanic Plum Porter, anyone would be happy and my Boris Citrov was excellent.  Dad had already decided this was probably going to be pub of the day, helped by 'North Liverpool's first vegetarian menu' which he rang Mum about, but to me, ordering something called "No fish, chips and mushy peas" is asking for trouble, or an expensive empty plate!  I'd inadvertently sat us in "Kids' Corner" with it's wonderful apostrophe but I left the SpongeBob colouring book alone.  No kids were to be seen but a vacant old man on his 50th pint of Plum Porter before 1pm looked at us in a wistful way.  Younger relatives soon joined him and took him back to the care home.  Always the best style of pub music, 50's rockabilly, was playing (well unless you count Judge Dread or George Formby) and under the stairs was a piano and a drum kit so this must be quite a music venue too.  I went back to the bar for a swift half, and a most hyperactive woman was telling one of those heartfelt impassioned stories with no pauses that made her voice go higher and higher - the only bit I picked up was "the mushrooms were cold and the beans were still bubbling".  What an anecdote.

Under the stairs music

909.  Liverpool Pigeon, Crosby

Just gone 1pm then and we reached our second pub, named after some extinct Scouse bird (not Cilla Black) and this one really was a micropub, yet it had comfort, warmth and enough space to swing a cat despite the usual trimmings (i.e. no blackcurrant cordial for Tom, he slummed it with lime).  I scanned a good range of Blackjack beers but went for a Salopian Oracle because it is so good.  I then became perhaps the first person in a pub this year to start a conversation about the perils of deciding to wrap chicken livers in foil in the fridge, and wake up to find a bloody mess in the kitchen!  It certainly inspired the barmaid to join in the conversation, she was a great people person, and with a York pub trip booked, we were soon advising her on where to go (though she seemed to know).  She told us about a micropub potentially opening on York's pretentious 'Bishy' Road, something I hoped I'd never hear, York doesn't need one like certain places rhyming with Giddlesbrough do.  Next, I heard a strange "eeeeeee  .... calm down" sound coming from my bag.  Of course, it was my Scouse pie made from the locals themselves!  Very tasty, but in stew form, impossible to eat without cutlery so I just stuck my face in it.  If I'd done this in about 80% of UK pubs, I'd have been chucked out.  A really good pub this.

My claims that this pub was opened in 2015 were made to look unlikely by sign in window....

The insides of a pigeon
Bit of confusion next as our third Crosby pub wasn't listed on the GBG app.  My first thought was that it had been de-guided already, but a check online at least showed it was open and selling ale, so we went along, hoping it was just a CAMRA error.

Chris arrives at Corner Post.
910.  Corner Post, Crosby

Well, if you want to have your faith restored in micro pubs, Crosby is the place to come.  Another wonderfully cosy and friendly establishment, even on a grey Autumn day, and nothing to suggest this shouldn't be in the GBG.  Only seconds in and a couple were confirming the sad details of the Lion Tavern's demise, plus the Grapes is being refurbished which means I'll have to re-think the Liverpool stag do pub order in a fortnight.  Seems that a 'perfect storm' series of events led to the Lion's demise.  As I was told it, Pub Co and landlord both acted like chumps, Liverpool CAMRA focussing so much on saving Roscoe Head that this slipped under radar, compounded by Moorfields station closed for refurb meaning it lost loads of passing trade.  Sad times but it might be back.  But I had bigger problems,  The 'Havok' beer I ordered absolutely killed me, 5% but like paint stripper.  Ugh, Chris offered me chance to change it but to give you an insight into my mental state, I revealed a voice in my head wasn't allowing that.  Not only that, the voice I could hear belonged to Rolf Harris!  If this wasn't bad enough, my bag was leaking Scouse Pie residue, all over my GBG.  If you've ever tried to lick Scouse Pie off a GBG, don't, it tasted too gluey.  And made me look a bit special.  At least the landlord was a friendly chap and had tissues and a rubbish bin at the ready, though learning about an annoying gang of West Midlanders who wear beer towels and visit tonnes of pubs wasn't going to improve my mood.  It's testament to how good this pub was that I came away feeling anything other than very pissed off!

Avoid that green pump directly ahead, it'll kill you.
A friendly, chirpy lass helped us find the railway station and we went back as far as Waterloo.  She was about to start work there, and liked the idea of BRAPA like anyone with any taste would.  Obviously.  A jolly chap on his phone enjoyed learning we were Hull City fans as he was telling the carriage Liverpool were 3-0 up after 35 mins.  The lass (think a more tanned, less red headed Sonia from late 80's Stock, Aitken and Waterman fame) pointed us in the direction of our next pub......

Dad, Tom and Chris about to go in.....
  911.  Stamps Too, Waterloo

I'm glad we have the above and below photos as evidence we came to this pub, because to a man, me, Chris and Dad had no recollection of it once we'd sat down in pub 912.  Wow, that Havok really was strong (or this pub was lacking any memorable characterful quirks!)  Even Tom seemed very hazy on the details and he'd been on the cordial.  Like a brain injury victim, the photos helped a few memories come back, none of which are interesting in the slightest,  Here goes.  Chris was excited by the Marble beers, I told him I refused to order "Pint" on the basis it always gets confusing and jokes about ordering 'half a pint of pint' always go down like a lead balloon.  I did a quiz on Hull City's first half stats as they were so utterly dire it was hilairious.  I read the half time scores James Alexander Gordon style.  Chris pinpointed some Twilds but Tom downgraded them due to their well behaved natures.  Some Archers pump clips got us reminiscing about the pubs on Spring Bank in Hull.  But all in all, what we in the BRAPA field call the "Elm Tree Syndrome".

Internal pub shot - and the memories come flooding back (sort of)
912.  Old Bank, Waterloo

Dad had a train in mind for getting back, so we only really had time for one more pub tick if the rest of us were to join him, and let's face it, I felt drunk enough,  So we choose here over the next door Spoons.  This pub was a lot more promising in than out, and another great local hubbub as folk milled around a bare-boarded bar area to see the football scores coming in, one woman telling me she could not believe Everton could lose to a team like Bournemouth.  We sat in a raised area, but my beer tasted like tomato and basil soup.  After a third of a pint trying to work out whether that really should be the case, Chris took it back for me and the Sandgrounder replacement from Southport was better in that it actually tasted of beer.  At least Rolf Harris's voice had stopped me sticking with it this time.  Maybe we killed him off in Stamps Too, and that is what wiped my mind.  Dad said that the piped music here was almost EXACTLY what was on his iPod.  The toilets smelt like parmesan, or was it sick?  Anyway, no sooner had a decided than a bit of a furore swept over the pub as Benteke scored a 94th minute winner v Sunderland.  Sorry, where are we again?  West Croydon?  Anyway, after a bit of Dad rage when a terrible version of 'Sounds of Silence' was played. it was time to go for the train.

Dad and his amazing jumper at the Old Bank

Jeff Stelling captivates the locals in the Old Bank

GBG listed pub in "Cask Ale Now Available" shock horror!

I claimed this was incredibly artistic when I took.
 After some classic Tom train jiggery-pokery around Lime Street, we were back over the Pennines even quicker than imagined.  Me and Chris popped into York's usually brilliant Maltings where a barman was having his leaving do before his big money transfer to Three John Scotts in Hull.  Got talking to his mate, a nice lad who was a big Harry Maguire fan and for a Sheff Utd fan, remarkably civil.  The ales from Alloa and Rudgate on fine form.

It was fish n chips and football league show for me, and an early night.  Great day out, and Merseyside doesn't look too much of a difficult 'county' to complete.


Wednesday 21 September 2016

BRAPA - Hoyland Heaven

Saturday had been a great day n all, but it certainly had been lacking something for all the quirkiness, humour and six GBG ticks.  And that something was "a proper pub".  So that was what I was craving this Tuesday evening, and Hoyland delivered.

Elsecar seems as much of a popular South Yorkshire pub base as places like Donny and Sheffield despite the modest size of the town, but it packs a real ale punch.  4 great pubs, Harley and Wentworth are both walkable as I proved earlier this year, Birdwell and Hoyland Common probably are too, and now this, less than a 10 minute walk from the railway station!

The walk was fun as a miserable shopmobility scooter man tried to mow me down, then he played chicken with a yappy dog (and won), he hit the curb and temporarily came to a stand (sit) still, before he raced past me on the other side with a cheeky grin.  I meanwhile observed a house clearance of a recently dead old lady, but she didn't have anything worth taking so I carried on.

Arriving at the Furnace
 907.  Furnace Inn, Hoyland

It was one of those situations where I walked in, the locals gathered at the bar turned round with welcoming smiles on their faces, thinking that being 5:30pm on a Tuesday, it'd definitely be one of their "crew" arriving.  Then, noticing it was a stranger, turned away with a hurt expression, as though I had in some way deceived them / murdered their imagined friend and taken his place.  The landlord was from the 'dying breed' variety, an elderly gent who had a voice which permeated the pub's otherwise gentle hubbub, wore a smart buttoned black and grey cardigan, seemed constantly busy despite the relative calmness, and pulled the ales through with a vigour belying his fragile frame.  I sat in the right hand room, displaying some 'artwork' which was apparently 11th century but looked like it had been drawn by some maniacal local schoolkids.  There was no music, just local chat, one lady started a story about a young lad they'd all been introduced to who was "a friend of Dorothy's" but when I listened more closely, it did appear that he was ACTUALLY a friend of Dorothy, presumably one of the other local old crones!   Had I sat closer to the action, I may have heard more and at one lull in the chatter, I coughed.  The pub turned around expectantly as one, I raised a hand in apology, and everything carried on as it has done for the last 100 years.  I left to friendlier smiles from locals and landlord seemed pleased I'd enjoy my ale.  Lovely place.

About to enter, masquerading as a local.

My pint of Brad's Trad was excellent.  Not sure about The Sun.

View of the locals at the bar.

Terrifying 11th century / schoolkid artwork.
Despite a less than ten minute walk back to the railway station, I saw two people having to pick up dog poo, whilst children who looked like extras from Ripper Street played in the local park.  The train home went pretty smoothly, though locals from Wakefield Kirkgate and Normanton won awards for managing to "out-weird" both Barnsley and Castleford folk.  Someone described Pontefract as though it was some beautiful mythical land.

I'll be back after Saturday for a Tom Irvin birthday special in the North West, whilst next Tuesday sees me do a similarly named South Yorkshire place and that'll be it for September.


Monday 19 September 2016

BRAPA : the archives (375 - 382)

For the first time since November last year ..... a review of pubs I visited before BRAPA became a "thing".

These are pubs which now find themselves in the 2017 Good Beer Guide, but were not in 2014-16 editions and/or I didn't deem them as pre-emptive ticks when I first visited them.  I have 24 to review, so 8 at a time......

375.  Coach & Horses, Dronfield

In the pre-cursor to BRAPA, my "A-Z aleway adventures", the letter D was (eventually) for Dronfield on April Fools Day, 2013.  I say eventually, because the plan was to watch a Sheffield F.C. game and our plans were cancelled due to postponement after postponement from about October onwards!  Non league football grounds eh?  I was joined by John Watson and Krimbo, swelling the crowd to a massive 213.  Post-match then, after a straightforward 3-0 home win, the highlight being a pre-match hot dog and a half-time spicy chicken pie and we piled into, what is in effect the club house, for a mint flavoured Thornbridge Stout which was virtually impossible to drink on top of this food.  It was a nice traditional dark pub with friendly old women serving.  The Kidsgrove Athletic players piled in for the post-match buffet a lot quicker than the home side, the quickest any of their players had moved all day!  We certainly weren't rushing for buffet food.  

Kidsgrove's number 11 looks forward to the Coach & Horses
376.  Woodman, Durham

I'd not been into the Good Beer Guide for long, and had recently upgraded to the 'modern' 2002 edition having been using a 1999 second hand one with varied success, John Watson was in the same boat and had invited me to Durham to stop over and give me a tour of the real ale pubs in town.  We started our evening crawl here as it was furthest out of town, and uphill.  My memories are vague, other than we were both underwhelmed by the whole experience and sat at the end of a large sparse room with very little furniture and very little clientele, despite the threat of  a student invasion constantly looming ,but then, I guess they'd all gone home for the summer, maybe.

377.  Kemble Brewery Inn, Cheltenham

And you have to go even further back to April Fools Day 2002 for my visit to this unassuming but very nice pub, tucked into the backstreets of town.  Me and Dad sat on some stools near the bar initially, enjoying Archers ales (ahhh remember them?), they were staples of Hull's then fantastic, soon dodgy Hole in the Wall so we were well aware how good they could be.  An old home fan spied by away top and we had a nice chat about football and how they'd probably beat us (they did) but as the pub filled up, it became increasingly smoky and being low roofed and a sunny day, we sat outside on one of the most carefully manicured lawns I've still ever seen in a pub, felt like a bowling green and I remember feeling guilty every time I stood up.

378.  Rose & Crown, Bury

Bury town centre on the morning of New Year's Day 2003 was a depressing place to be.  Streamers, empty bottles, confetti and puke on every street corner.  Me and Dad took on the fairly long walk to the Dusty Miller but despite being gone 12 noon, it was obviously sticking to it's weekday 2pm opening (lazy bastards, we were freezing).  A harsh early GBG lesson in pub opening times!  Instead, we went to the Rose & Crown and it was a cracker we still remember to this day.  Dad still remembers the Leyden Nanny Flyer as one of his all time favourite ales.  I remember one called Raglan Sleeve.  A real proper one roomed (but quite open) pub, we returned the following season of course for a midweek game, Oct 21st 2003, but the magic had well and truly gone - beer less good, more foody, and I noticed it had been de-guided in the 2004 edition.  It'd be great to go back (well, it isn't the Clarence) and see if it is back to it's New Year's Day '03 magic.

379.  Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham

I'm going 7th October 2005 for my first visit here but could have been sooner.  After all, I was very excited about a trip to the Trip with it's stories of cursed galleons, pregnancy chairs and the so-called "a pub since 1189" claim.  Love a good pub ghost story / historical tale.  I had this amazing book called "Britain's Strangest Pubs" or something and that probably helped shape my BRAPA-like existence today.  John Watson is also the kind of chap who this place would appeal to, and I seem to remember sitting in this cobwebby ceilinged room with a crazy bayeaux tapestry going around the wall.  The Hardy & Hansons beers weren't that amazing if I'm honest, and I think beer has never been so great here.  We then went to watch the now defunct Groovie Ghoulies play the second of two amazing gigs at the now defunct Junktion 7 (Student Housing being planned).  Other experiences in this pub as follows.  With my sister, a chair moved on it's own (honest!) and a Chinese girl with no English sat in the pregnancy chair - should we tell her, errm let's just laugh at her instead.  Another time with my sister, she was really ill after a week in Camden Town and slept on a bench seat whilst her boyfriend went to Boots to bring her drugs back.  She then puked behind a burger van all the way through Gogol Bordello.  Very vegan behaviour!  And most recently, April 2014 a group of us came here for a bank holiday beer festival only to find out it wasn't starting til 5pm.  WHAT KIND OF PUB DOES SUCH A THING?  I'm unlikely to go back as I can think of about a million better Nottingham pubs off the top of my head despite the great quirks.

Most recent trip to the Olde Trip, with it's historically dodgy claim featured on front.
380.  Cask Corner, Doncaster

It had only just opened (with "Dive Bar" on the end of it's name) when we visited on 28th August 2010, think we'd had a tip off from one of our Welly gang so we gathered at this pre-emptive pre-emptive before Hull City's regular defeat to the small-minded scroats known as Donny Rovers.  Dad and I had snuck in a swift father son pint at the Little Plough and were probably wishing we'd stayed when we saw we were drinking in nothing more than a warehouse - the toilets still not properly built.  Lots of beers on, that is the main thing for people like Ben, but not us.  It was pre the Kraft Kraze (not cheese slices) but in a pre-cursor, Ben liked to supplement his ales with a "continental bottle" or pint of Erdinger - and got me into Floris Chocolate which I thought was incredible but everyone since including lame girls at work tell me is too sickly sweet.  We needed this though as the Cask emphasis was on Toad brewery, a terrible brewery in anyone's book.  They simply couldn't brew (a fact they knew in Hull's Hop & Vine but sold us them anyway because idiots like us will drink anything, to only slightly paraphrase the owner).  No, am afraid although I returned here for a slightly cosier session the following season, Cask Corner v Plough is a case of less is sometimes more.

381.  Isaac Wilson, Middlesbrough

Post match on 27th November 2010 after one of the craziest away days ever, and the walk from the Riverside BT Cellnet Whatever back towards the station felt like a scene from Narnia, mainly due to all the snow but also because there is something quite C.S. Lewis about many of the Boro' folk.  Popping into a 'Spoons near the station didn't look like changing that, and was a joyous scene of people eating Parmo's and drinking quality real ale.  I got a bit separated from Dad and Ben and spent most of the time chatting to an old pigeon fancier which was, well, interesting and different!  I also like the Swatters Carr Spoons, and the Micro revolution is no doubt a good thing for the town, but I always come back here and on my most recent visit, rated my Dark Star ale here as the "drink of the day" (you could say it was a 'Revelation' ha ha).  Fully deserved entry in the new GBG, well done Isaac.

382.  George Hotel, Hull

Not quite sure (yet) when I first visited here, probably the first year I spotted it in the GBG when me and Dad wanted a break from the Welly for an 'old town' day (proof I was pub ticking in a sense, years before BRAPA).  I'd guess about September 2008.  I'd walked past, through the excitingly named 'Land of Green Ginger' as a younger lad, to admire the "smallest window in the world" on the edge of the building.  The pub has been up and down during my visits, from crazy hen do's with inflatable toys, bad beer I had to take back when work people came over after a Watford 0-0, and most annoyingly, when the pub door was open at 12 noon as advertised, we squeezed past some washing baskets into the pub, only to be told "sorry, we're not open yet!" by some slobbish women.  Don't think Dad has forgotten this incident, as whenever I suggest it as a possible old town venue, he turns his nose up in disgust.  More proof to me that Hull has been allocated more GBG pubs than it really needs, though nice to see it back and would be happy to give it a second (well, fifth) chance.

 So there we go, 8 down and 16 to go so I'll be back for the 2nd volume next Monday with delights from places like York, Plymouth, Blackpool, Manchester and Ipswich,  You have been warned.


Sunday 18 September 2016

BRAPA - Going Out on a Lymm

I was glad I'd taken an earlier train out of York to Manchester on Saturday morning, when an announcement suddenly sounded on the tram advising we were terminating at Timperley rather than Altrincham as planned.  The reason was unclear, but Alty Alistair Sim looked deeply angered, and kept shouting "LATE!" randomly until the replacement eventually turned up.

Altrincham bus station was thankfully attached to the trains, and 25ish minutes later, I was in Lymm.

Lymm Cross, about 11:50am Sat 17th September 2016
Having previously insulted a lady by asking whether Lymm was in Greater Manchester, I was unsurprised to see a pretty well-to-do little town where the locals loved themselves a bit too much, lots of tannnig, muscles, and bright white teeth on display, everyone walking around with their noses in the air, the canal boat people thought they were George Clooney and wife in Monaco.

901.  Brewery Tap, Lymm

Considering I was stood on a bridge watching this pub open dead on 12 noon, I''ll never understand how I was not the first customer - a man was already swilling round a half of 7% cloudy beer and making intelligent "beer approval noises" like hmmm, aaahhh and ohhhh.  You know the type!  Had he slept under the bar?  He had a scruffy dog too.  Maybe he lives here.   A helpful young barman wanted to me to do the whole "try before you buy" on a milk stout, I did my old "no, I'm being brave" routine, though it sounded like I didn't trust the beers.  He smiled a lot and was polite, but wondered if it'd been trained rather than came naturally.  The two room bar was modern but cosily green, cream and brown and I sat in a sunny front window, not yet warm enough to laud it over the canal scum above me.    An old man on crutches clocked me, said hi nervously, then revealed he had gout.  Man with dog said "don't come near me".  He was assured gout wasn't contagious.  I think he was a benefit cheat though probably retired too.  The next two men who entered were also on sticks, drank pints in 10 minutes, then hobbled out whilst a sour faced woman with nicer hubbie sat reading papers.  I read a beer menu (very Sam Smiths!) and discovered this was Lymm brewery tap, not Dunham Massey I probably had chosen the wrong ale, even if it was delicious.  The good music obscured any further conversations, but a man started bringing pork pies to people outside.  Promising start .....

I then took one of the more interesting walks to Agden Wharf, sticking as close to the canal as I could - the outskirts of Lymm into woodland went from Tilehurst to Beenham alarmingly quickly (sorry but I can only use Berkshire analogies when walking around the UK these days):

Walking through canal side woodland
Apart from a bit of mud and balancing on wooden planks, it was a nice walk and I was excited about pub two, as I love owls as you know:

Carved owl - sadly not stuffed or on a spike
902.  Barn Owl, Agden Wharf

Well, it didn't look hugely like a pub from the outside and although you could walk to the bar and choose from a great range of local ales, this was a restaurant.  Not even a pub with a restauranty feel.  I guess the canal running directly parallel to the back window is the added draw, as you munch down your lobster thermidor.  Goodness knows where I'd have sat on a cold winters day, but as it was glorious, I sat out the front with another carved specimen, a brown bear, for company.  A chauffeur-cum-waiter man walked past and told me "you've got the best seat in the house!"  Must've been a pub man,  The pub was doing a good trade judging by the number of cars pulling up, and I did spot a canalside outdoors area to the rear but it seemed full of Hooray Henry's and Geronimo Jessica's.  There were a couple of other owls around too, but none of them stuffed or on spikes, this wasn't the Green Owl by any means and proof that just cos a 'pub' has owl in the name, it's not bound to be marvellous.  My Storm beer was frustratingly perfect.  Like so many pubs of this ilk (North Rigton springs to mind), it also had unnecessary sexy lady photos in the gents and a most confrontational hand drier called "Rips the Skin off Your Hands" or something.  When pub toilets are accidentally the most interesting part of a pub, you have to have your doubts.

Another walk next in the heat, this one felt harder despite apparently being 0.1 miles less than the last one according to Google Maps, and I was soon walking down a country lane in Lower Bollington.

Not far to go....

A pub of interesting characters
903.  Swan With Two Nicks, Lower Bollington

What the difference is between a Nick and a Neck is I'm hoping some pub sign expert can tell me, as you tend to get both but on reflection, I prefer the good old traditional Necks of Stockport.  A pint of Old Tom in the heat here certainly might have finished me off for the day.  Again, diners dominated though at least this place had some allusions to being a pub.  It was a sunny Saturday lunchtime so what did I expect?  At the bar, we had early drama as a man rushed his runny bottomed child into the gents, only for the barmaid (a stern faced woman who was actually quite pleasant) to say only the Ladies has baby changing facilities.  Well, what if he'd been a single father?  Just as I was imagine a beer bellied man dressed as Batman abseiling down the pub wall chanting "Justice for Fathers, Give Gents Baby-changing Facilities", Mum appeared on the scene to save the day.  Shame.  Next to me on the other side, a young interracial gay couple were celebrating their first pint of ale together since the 2017 GBG release (or some anniversary).  It was a moment for CAMRA to embrace, and reflected the eclectic mix of the pub.  An old couple of chaps with sticks (so probably from Lymm) appeared just in time to check out the arse of a brunette beauty with Prosecco.  It got a bit too much though when a South African Twild, supposedly searching for rocks(!) disturbed a snail from it's "home" and had to be reprimanded by a Mum with the voice of Oscar Pistorious. Because the human race are sheep, everyone had squashed into one small section of the beer garden so when I went to the far end table, all nicely isolated, all the fore-mentioned characters stared as if it say "I can't believe he's actually sat there!"  Okay, there were enough wasps to give my Dad nightmares, and I was eventually invaded by a family of bikers (the boys in Liverpool shirts had set up temporary goalposts using cars and had a penalty shoot out) so it all made for an entertaining pub experience.

A great pint of Dunham Massey Obelisk amid the entertainemt.
I then found a bus stop on a hair raising bend opposite Dunham Massey Hall and National Trust park to take me back to Alty.  An old couple joined me who tried to make me responsible if we didn't succesfully flag it down as it sped round the corner.  But we were okay.  Fair play to Dunham Massey, one day they are winning awards for their stout, the next, they have a huge hall and gardens, even some deer,  presumably out of the proceeds from generous CAMRA!

The bus journey went okay even if I discovered Hull City were losing, and I was back in Alty but where was this "pub", I was confused.  Surely not just a stall in the market??

904.  Jack in the Box, Altrincham

On my last visit to Alty, I feared it had finally waved the white flag to trying to retain it's own identity and was happy to go down the Chorlton route of upmarket, young and hipster.  The days of drinking a lunchtime Wobbly Bob in the Old Market Tavern whilst a scroaty man with headphones and a Glasgow Celtic shirt sits on your knee because you are in "his seat" are long gone.  Now it all Costello's and Pi's ,complimentary peanuts and outdoor blankets, and now this place, making Tap East in Stratford look like the Atherton Arms.  Depressing to me, but not the vibrant young folk of Alty living the trendy market dream.  Each "space" looked the same, most visitors simply refering to Jack in the Box as "the beer stall".  To the right, people drank fancy wines like there was no tomorrow - this one was called "Reserve".  There was a "Great North Pie co.", there was a "Wolf House Kitchen", and a "Tender Cow".  Wasaabi Popcorn was on sale next to me for £2.  There was not one seat in the whole place, so I stood facing the bar wedged between three barrel tables, somehow still in the way.  The staff were good, the ale from Hawkshead was  probably my pint of the day, but how could I possibly enjoy this experience?   One old chap was sat at the bar with his headphones in ignoring the world, oblivious to anyone.  Perhaps he was Glasgow Celtic man.  He had the right idea.  I feel like I'd seen a hellish vision of the future!

Nice colourful straws make the pain go away....

A snapshot of hell.
Shaken but not stirred, I took the tram as far as Stratford where I rang Mum to tell her of Hull City's fightback.  By the time I found my 5th pub, we'd conceded two more!

As close as you'll get to an external pub shot

It's up the stairs we go......
905.  Sip Club, Stretford

And WHAT a place to try and find!  I wandered upstairs and whispered to the friendly young lady behind the bar "is this the Sip Club?"  It felt like I was entering a secret society.  Her Mum was sat in the corner, giving the illusion of a lady in a rocking chair knitting, even though she wasn't!  I chatted with them for a while, it was all the brainchild of the young lass, with one of those entrepreneurial power business woman names like Heather or Hazel or Margot.  I can't remember.  I encouraged her not to put a "Sip Club" signed outside, though she told me she felt a bit guilty when people arrived traumatised and drenched from rainstorms because they couldn't find it, despite being stood outside.  She told me most visitors demanding a sign were from Chorlton-cum-Hardy.  "Stuff them" I told her, "they have enough one syllable bars in their own town!"  I deserved a bigger laugh for that comment.  "And why only open at 2pm?" I asked her, "Is it to keep the Man Utd fans out on matchdays?".  "No" she laughed, "I just like a lie in!"  I went through to the other room, where sun was shining in.  It was all gingham tablecloths and scratchy 50's rockabilly coming out of a beat up old speaker.  It would have been perfect if not for two boy Twilds divebombing off a chair onto  a leather sofa.  'It'll only end in tears', I thought, and it did, but not quite as I imagined.  In propelling themselves off the chair, it flew backwards and smashed their Dad in the leg.  He wasn't very brave.  Made me laugh though as he hobbled out, his wife telling him to man up.

Back on the tram, I jumped off one of the Manchester stops which seemed to be just a few minutes walk from my final "pub of the day".

 906.  Pie & Ale, Manchester

Okay, so I wasn't expecting a dark traditional pub full of Steptoe types drooling over polystyrene tray filled with steak n kidney pies, topped with mushy peas and a bit of optional mint sauce if you are like me.  The place smelt nice and all, but I got the distinct impression that "Pies" here were probably about £20 a go, filled with things like Braised Lamb and Raspberry Jus on a bed of Rocket.  I didn't see or hear the word gravy once during my almost 45 minute stay here, that saddened me.  What also saddened me was the fact that I had to walk through two rooms, and peer into two serving hatches selling food before I finally found the room with the bar.  I was feeling a bit worse for wear by now so ordered a "Pick Me Up Coffee Porter" and waited and waited for it to "Pick me Up",  It didn't.  It was almost like I was putting more alcohol inside my bloodstream or something?!  A group of Geordies behind me were being drunkenly obnoxious, to each other, but eventually left and it was quiet as most people were in the separate dining area eating their pies.

Ale but no Pie, at the Pie and Ale
I hadn't timed the train back very well, so "had" to pop in to the always characterful and cheery Bull's Head where I had a swift half of Sunbeam and shared a bench with 4 animated old chaps who were having what they thought a very entertaining political discussion.  One especially loved that I was chuckling along, but what they didn't realise is that I was chuckling cos they were talking utter crap.  So I politely kept saying, "well, you've both got a point" (there may have been 2 of them but I was seeing 4) before quickly absconding after the obligatory "handshakes all round" session.

A great day even if the standard of the "pubs" was not always to my taste, great walking, great weather, the Sip Club was a revelation.  I'd set out to do Alty and work my way back in to Manc, but when I thought (not for the first time) I could get a bus to Little Bollington, that soon became Lymm, and then I noticed Agden Wharf between them, being the first alphabetically Cheshire letter so now, I've got one eye on Alsager wherever that is!  Funny how plans evolve, I'm feeling very much like I want to explore Cheshire now.


Friday 16 September 2016

BRAPA - North Yorkshire - School Adventure Day Trip

11am on Thursday morning and all was well with the world.  A day off work, the kind of beautiful summer's day we never get in summer, my York Beer Festival hangover had subsided, and as Dad was presented with his "two year chauffeur contract", Mr SatNav was at his stoic best, failing to tell us about various country lane turnings until it was too late.

I changed the starting pub three times in the first half an hour, but after a tortuous drive through the centre of Harrogate (very much like a tough piece of beef stuck in an intestine), it was 12 noon and I screamed "STOP!" as we tore past pub number one on the main road.  A quick U-turn and we were in the car park.

Me about to get slapped with a ticket for being in the disabled space.
897.  Hopper Lane Hotel, Blubberhouses

Being the first "official" 'tick' of the 2017 Good Beer Guide, I stomped into the wooden floored pub in cheery mood, asking the blonde daughter barmaid how she was today.  "Errm, I'm alright" she said in a pained manner out of the corner of her mouth, trying desperately to flex those facial muscles into a smile - but being a P.I.S.S. barmaid, she obviously failed.  After more painful interaction and me trying to pay using a stray dice I found in a pocket, we found a nice outdoor drinking area (can't quite bring myself to say 'beer garden') backing onto a field filled with sheep who kept hiding behind hedges.  Possibly because the smell of roast lamb was emanating from the kitchen.  Dad was being a bit lame, reckoning it was too hot, and not for the first time today, he played his "wasp get out of jail free card" by saying the insects were hassling us, trying to get into our excellent quality pints of Jorvik Blonde by Rudgate.  Being inside a least allowed me to get a feel for the pub, the quirkiest point being a bust of Beethoven staring down a glass covered well.  I then confused Dad by asking him if this was the Boyzone version of 'Words' or the Bee Gees original.  Mum landlady was even less smiley than her daughter, Dad appeared to be on Crack Cocaine.  The music was awful, the pub average and although Dad sporadically kept making assenting noises, "ooh I could bring your mother here", "quite nice", "decent pub this", as soon as we got back into the carpark, he stated "well, that was incredibly average wasn't it?"  And it was.

Dad - pre wasp complaints.

View of this large multi levelled pub, you can just see the glass well & Beethoven.

The sheep are hiding but a nice view.
 We carried along some rather extreme country roads (I almost feel guilty for making Dad do this driving lark) but we soon arrived at Malham.  And it was HEAVING with bloody school kids.  Where were the teachers?  In the pub.  Of course.

We'd both been talking about various school outings around here from our youths (me at the horrific Bewerley Park in the depths of January, Dad at some cave dwellings probably sometime B.C., he wasn't sure on the year).

Pretty frontage to the pub, but can it overcome tourist mediocrity? 
898.  Lister Arms, Malham

Having found a free car park but still needing to go "off-road" and park on the grass next to a tree, we had to walk past the schoolkids, who were all about taking selfies with stalactites and testing soil pH levels with iPhone apps, the youthy scumbags!  Anyway.  a square jawed black haired chap of suspicious friendliness (you could see him thinking "pints only, no food, and they aren't teachers, what is their game?") served from a good ale range, my Settle Mainline was very meaty.  We pushed past bikers in shorts and guilty teachers to find a bench seat, but this pub was hellbent on committing a plethora of BRAPA sins.  Pointless piles of logs near a fire - check.  Knives n forks on all tables- check.  Chintzy cushions making it hard to sit on flimsy bench seating - check.  Top Trumps style cards of all the staff pulling funny faces to make them look 'humourous' - check.    Uniformed waiters kept disappearing outside, to serve coffee, scones and jam to old people.  So I hope you are getting a picture of why this wasn't pub of the year, without being terrible.  Saddest thing was the tankard being used to hold 'our' knives and forks was etched with the year 1935 and the name of presumably a former customer when this pub was quite different / better!  My favourite part of the pub was the toilets - underground and refreshingly cool.  Wish I'd drunk my pint in there.

Note the old tankard with it's "new use". 

View to the bar after the teachers remembered their responsibilities.

Coffee, scones and jam more popular than beer here.
Parking in the famous and picturesque village of Grassington was even tougher, we had to pay and display here and still walk in, cursing the hot weather bringing out the tourists.  However, this was a much older crowd.  Topless old gents sucking up vanilla ice cream with sunburnt faces happily staring into the sun with vacant expressions.

Dad needs a wee, but he still manages to pose (sort of).
899.  Foresters Arms, Grassington

After two pubs lacking in what I could say was "true pub character", we were rewarded here.  The barmaid was on her phone as I scanned the bar to find the guest ale, obscured by board at the far end.  She must have seen us come in, for although Dad had long since disappeared to the loo, she turned round to ask "what would you both like?" and quickly looked puzzled as I turned to my imaginary friend and said we'd both love a pint of Wharfedale Blonde.  She did redeem herself by calling me "Sir", a nice addition to September's South Yorkshire pub greetings of "Duck", "Cock", "Luvvie", "Pal" and "Chief". The pub certainly was trying to give a rustic impression of still being in the 1940's, with money saving war slogans, an old typewriter, and pictures and photos of the pub from yesteryear.  It was perhaps a bit forced, but a nice sentiment.  Back in the 21st century, one of my favourite occasional BRAPA moments ensued when an old chap brought his Filipino bride into the pub - "give 'er a pint of blackcurrant!" he ordered (he may as well have added "whether she likes it or not!")  She later escaped his clutches to return to the bar, asking for 'pork crisps'.  After some confusion, turned out she wanted scratchings and there was much relief I can tell you.

Later on, our barmaid shouted from the kitchen area "shall I put the chicken on?".  In the true spirit of Martin Taylor's ace blogs, your quiz question today is "What was Dad's reply?"

Nice but very dry Wharfedale Beer served in correct glassware.

"I've got 300 loaves in my pantry, will that be enough to scare off Mr Hitler?"
 We meandered back towards York, taking a slight detour around the Ripon / Knaresborough area to help me get up my 900th pub - that is 1/5 of the GBG.  And this time, it was a bit of a happier experience than the Dulcimer in Chorlton-cum-Hardy.

We had to wait for traffic to clear for ages before achieving this shot.

900.  Guy Fawkes Arms, Scotton

What is this strange rural North Yorkshire phenomenon?  Yes, I do believe it is a friendly, happy, fully engaged and personable barman.  Well well well.  A rarity.  And what a lovely chap, bit concerned that a beer called Lemongrass Thai might need a "try before you buy", and despite some faint Fairy Liquid lingerings, it was pleasant on a muggy evening.  The pub was a little bit foody with a more traditional drinkers area near the bar being leant on by locals, so we went outside where earlier, a nosy old couple had watched Dad try to reverse into the smallest car parking space ever.  A bit like the low roofed pub, it seemed to have originated from a time when people and cars were a lot smaller!  There was a real calmness about the place despite a busy main road out the front stopping it from achieving full "Criggionesque" levels, and even the slow moving wasps, confused by the September heat, were not being threatening enough on this occasion to force Dad back inside. I did threaten to kill one with my new 2017 GBG but it crawled into an old woman's discarded glass of Prosecco and immediately died anyway.  Probably.

There was no time to pop into the non-GBG listed Fox (no I'll NEVER let that one go!) on the way back as Dad was cooking tea for the ankle invalid, and I had to be well enough for a project at work the next day.

Tomorrow, I'll be back on the BRAPA trail starting in a county where I only have 14 ticks to my name, before moving to one where I have 62.  But I'm looking for the maximum six tomorrow (three in each) so here's hoping for a good day with public transport!  I'll write it up on Sunday.