|"What do you mean I'm not eligible for an award?" says irritated babe.
Well, what a year it has been - my fourth year as a "pub ticker" and a record 401 GBG pubs ticked off, not to mention eleven hopefully useful pre-emptives. Not bad in 365 days is it?
We started the year on 980, we finished it on 1202. And that doesn't allow for the "huge loss" when I cross-ticked the old 2017 GBG to the new 2018 version in early September.
Let us not forget the phantom arse toucher of Staithes at this wonderful time of year
A beer in honour of my challenge?
|...or it might just stand for 'Brazilian Pale Ale'. Shame.
|Don't let anyone know this place exists
And perhaps most worryingly of all, the band:
Hmmm, yes, I do own that shirt to be fair and very comfortable it is too.
Anyway, I'd like to honour those who make BRAPA such a pleasurable 'hobby / task / second job' over the last 12 months so I'll do so in the traditional way of an awards ceremony.
Don't forget Mick Fleetwood and Beetlejuice Sam Fox in Saltburn's New Micropub
I've had to trim it down a bit. The standard in some categories has been poor. Brunettes, PISS Barmaids, Quotes and even Pub Pets have been hard to recall. So none can have been that special.
But here goes .....
BRAPA Place of the Year
You know what it's like in the ale scene. Norwich, Derby, York. The more enlightened person has started including Sheffield. If you are really on the ball, or from Stockport, you might say Stockport. I've heard people make a claim for both L**ds and Liverpool, but it's never quite convinced me.
No, I'd like to put forward three underrated places. Halifax, Chorley, Darlington. Like pubs? Like real ale? You won't be disappointed. The fact all three are in the North is something I couldn't comment on. An overall winner, oooh let's give it to the 'Fax. Gets better year on year.
BRAPA .... "This is the Best Trip I've Ever Been On"
Look no further than my two main BRAPA holidays, 4 or 5 night stays. Gruelling yet excellent. The first was based in Aylesbury, a rather depressing place but the Central-North Bucks pubs and some of the scenery around the Chilterns made it a brilliant week. I walked 50 miles in 4 days too, ugh!
But the overall winner is Cornwall. 25 pubs done, okay so 8 of them got dumped from the GBG by September, but a new county, unique scenery, superb weather and hopping on a plane was a novel BRAPA means of travelling.
|Locals in the Crown in Penzance, a very strange, slightly shit but amusing pub.
BRAPA's Bernard Everitt Moment of the Year
After his legendary "fart arse ponce burger" comment in Bury's hapless Clarence in 2016, it's only right that BRAPA's top 'visitor' gets his own category. After all, I often think Dad should carry around his own GBG and start a rival blog, he gets to that many new pubs. Sometimes without me even!
This year, I particularly enjoyed him telling a homeless man outside the King's Stores in Spitalfields that he looked better off than him, begging us for money with his KFC box meal in the other hand.
But the stand out moment was in the scary Freemantle area of Southampton where he used his gardening expertise to impress locals eyeing up a plant they called a 'Snowball tree' because they are commoners! "I think you'll find ...." said Dad, before clearing his throat "...it is in fact, a Viburnum Opulus" before he shimmied out of the back gate leaving the locals dumbstruck with awe.
Twilds eh? A child in pub who is also a twat. It's a simple formula and they love making my pub life miserable. And there are too many to choose from sadly. But the good news is that one stands out. And that is the pub-owned twild in the Commerical at Thackley, West Yorkshire. With the Mum and Dad having a domestic, a wheezy Grandma was put in charge but overdosing little George on chocolate drops sent him into a sugar fuelled frenzy. Next thing I know, he's fucked off into the car park and Nanna, not able to move as quickly as she used to (her words, not mine), tasks me with getting him back. Oh yes. I became the child-catcher. Amazingly, he took my hand and let me bring him back in, saving him from certain death. Was the pub grateful, not a bit of it, but it was a pretty amusing experience looking back.
|I WAS trying to get a good pic of Nanna/George but it was impossible!
I don't go to as many Hull City games as I used to. The evil Allam empire have made the club so unappealing, yet the true reason of course is that BRAPA is my top priority in life these days. So when I do go, once a month approx, I do really enjoy it no matter what score we lose by.
I really enjoyed Southampton in April where we got to not only see Martin Taylor outside his natural environment (i.e. in a micropub) but post-match, the above mentioned area of Freemantle was a stunning post-match session.
But the best day was Norwich. We had a few of us, it was like 'the old gang back together' with Tom, Ben and Christine all there and only lacked Mark "Beefy" Bainton for added brilliance. We got round plenty of pubs in this fine city, not all amazing, but loved Murderers and Plasterers, even got to Peterborough post-match for a shit micro, and was proof you can do football + BRAPA and still be productive without resorting to NFFD (Non Football Football Days) which are also brilliant by the way. The score? I can't remember. Doesn't matter mate!
BRAPA - Comedy Moment of the Year
Impossible! The whole of BRAPA is one giant comedy moment.
Standing in a doorway in the pouring rain outside Berkhamstead's Rising Sun with about 10 other people sticks in the mind. Pushing in front of Mary Berry's hubbie at the bar in the Squirrel at Penn Street and then have her stare at me evilly was another highlight. And who can forget the woman passed out on her table at the terrific Poachers Inn in Bollington?
But taxi drivers won the day this year. The pooing Jizzard at Royal Oak, Perrenwell. The nervous pooing Muslim driver at Aldbury's Valiant Trooper. And the old bloke who took me wrong way to Rose & Crown at Allgreave in the fog and then joined me for a pint but sulked when he didn't get a free pub pen! Legends.
|Catching up on your sleep dear?
BRAPA - Pre-Emptive Pub of the Year
Pre-emptives are overrated nonsense. There, I've said it.
How else can last year's winner, Scottish Stores at King's Cross still not have made it into the GBG? Okay, it might have it's faults but compare it to other pubs in the area that are regular entries and I just don't get it maaaaan.
Even talking to people who are involved in their local CAMRA's like Christine of Barton fame and El of West Brom fame makes me aware even they can be powerless to predict what might get put in the next GBG when things like 'local politics' come into the equation.
In my opinion, if a pub in Redcar or Mossley sells the best quality beer in town, then it should be in the GBG, regardless of disputes with staff of these pubs. Egos of certain power-crazed individuals really do the core values of CAMRA a real disservice on occasion.
And 5 of this year's 11 pre-emptives are just shit pubs that would need a massive makeover and takeover if they ever got in the GBG, which would make me want to go back anyway!
But a few seemed decent, if not excellent, shouts. St Andrews in Norwich, Gun Bar in Saltburn, Draft House in Milton Keynes, Chilli Devils in Hull and Hops and Cheese in Hartlepool all have potential for a place in a future GBG from what I saw on my visit.
But overall, the Draughtsman in Doncaster impressed me so much more than I was expecting. Best Station 'tap' ever? Certainly cosiest and friendliest.
|Man wears green suit so he can camouflage from his wife in the Draughtsman
Oh, okay then, I'd better give it a go.
My natural bias wants me to allow a cat to win. But pub cats have been few and far between this year, the little thing in the Cottage, Norwich, seemed a bit flakey, and the ruff-clad thing in Seven Stars Chancery Lane just slept. Pub Cats - you must do better in 2018.
I can't bring myself to give the award to a dog / twog. Of course, efforts like Dribble Dog in Wibsey, Dad's overly friendly friend in Southampton's Waterloo Arms and the Twild teasing one in the Castle at Harrow were all good value.
But overall, we need look no further than the female parrot at Marsworth's Anglers Retreat. It even seemed to go missing in it's own cage, feigned sleep so I didn't bother it, and hated all the barmaids apart from the ginger one. Hours of amusement!
|Boring parrot, as I described her at the time
Oh dear, without a doubt it was Stamford / Rutland day. Everything went either wrong or was weird. Jolly Brewer was a nice pub, but apart from pushing in the queue at the woeful Tobie Norris to escape the diners, I can't think of anything nice to say and don't want to re-live the horror!
I always feel a bit guilty choosing to sit outside at a pub on a BRAPA day, like I'm not properly able to judge it unless I'm within the four walls. And am not sure, looking back, that I did sit out that much. But there were plenty of nice moments on my Cornish trip - Trewellard, Stithians, Boddinick, St Mawgan, Vogue, Polkerris to name a few. I think I'd give it to Old Ferry Inn at Boddinick cos that walk upstairs to the amazing view over the river to Fowey was wonderful:
|Nice outside at the Old Ferry Inn
For every pub where locals / staff make you feel welcome, there's always ones where even with 3.5 years BRAPA experience under your belt, you think "shit, can I just get out of here before I get murdered" and this year, Wrexham's huge Wetherspoons the North & South Wales Bank did just that. My iPhone even pretended to die so it didn't have to take photos but I worked out it's game. Seriously, in their own ways, each individual was terrifying and made trips to the equivalent Spoons in town Elihu Yale, and those in Wombwell and Keighley, look like a walk in the park.
BRAPA's Bad Staff Award
When you take a pint back and you are given a hard time about it, I don't think there's much more dispiriting in the world of pubbing, especially when it is so obviously off, it's a no brainer. So the old barmaid at Beehive. Droylsden deserves an award this year. A recent trip to Red Lion, Dagnall was so uninclusive to the point of rudeness - "mince pie anyone? That's anyone except that northern twat in the corner" (not a direct quote, not that I heard anyway!) And then there's the plain weird. Elephant & Castle in Kensington for example. "Well the toilets aren't down this way mate!" I'm told. It's a common error I make time and time again in new pubs. But to then not be told where they ACTUALLY are, but just smirked at was very annoying. And the very weird Millstone in South Gosforth. Why did he hate me so much? Just cos he gave me the wrong change (probably deliberately) and got called out on it by his boss when I questioned it. Dickhead. They even had to send three local priests in.
It is 2017 and you know what that means. You can't have awards like "pub man", it's sexist. Twitter would say so. We need LBGT Vegan Pub Heroes, and stuff. But in the absence of that, we'll compromise and give the award to a dangerous "foreigner". Yes, no awards this year for men with sensible shoes from the middle England.
I'm delighted how many North American readers I seem to have. The brilliant Russtovich comments on my blog, sometimes before I have written them! There's Dickie and Dave, ahhh they seem so nice (cos Martin Taylor told me so). There's Nick in Erlangen. He's American, not Dutch or German. Did you know that? Who cares he carries a sword. What a bloke, has anyone more bonkers attended a BRAPA day? Matthew Lawrenson isn't American, but if he put on an accent and a John Wayne walk and hat, he could easily win this award. But the winner HAS to be Mark Crilley. He's been reading my blog for ages now, and I know that must require patience due to their wordy long drawn out nature. He's a famous illustrator too and he has a real affinity with pubs. It's wonderful. Thanks Mark. And always has a good comment to make too.
Thanks to all of you, oh gosh, I'm welling up. I feel like Gwynny Paltrow. Waaaah.
BRAPA's People People of the People of the Year Award
People. They make pubs. Staff. Locals. Interlopers. The most average pub with the most average beer can suddenly become a pub of the year contender if you feel valued by other human beings.
Amazing so many pub companies haven't cottoned on to this cheap and easy means of making their pubs better, instead of spending thousands on Prosecco Promos, Sky Sports, Piped Tunes, Lobster Thermidor, Heated Smoking Areas, Multiple Hand Soap Dispensers and the like, served by faceless gormless morons in smart outfits.
I've had a couple of beers now so am ranting a bit.
So let's look at some of the pubs where the staff and / or locals went properly out of their way to make my experience that bit more special. They all deserve awards, and I may have missed some:
Rose & Crown, Ivinghoe
Nag's Head, Bunbury
Chiverton Tap, Cheadle Hulme
Old Town Hall Vaults, Whitchurch
Stratton Arms, Turweston
Black Horse, Lacey Green
Platform 3, Claygate
|Free pint and treated like royalty, in Bunbury - a rare 'proper' pub in rural dining Cheshire
BRAPA Worst Pub Experience 2017
I use the word 'experience' cos I admit that just because I visit a pub and find it crap one day, someone else might have a fantastic experience there later in the year. Unlikely but it can happen.
I've been in a good few pubs this year where I've thought "is that it?" as in 'it's okay, but didn't really leave any impression. You certainly can't say that about these eleven pubs, they left an imprint of dog shit on my conscience, and that is not a nice imprint to have ......
High Cross, Leicester
Chester Arms, Chicheley
Bird in Hand, Princes Risborough
Font, Chorlton cum Hardy
Draft House Seething, Tower Hill
Golden Eagle, Marylebone
Tilted Wig, Warwick
BRAPA Best Pub Experience 2017
So, the one they've all been waiting for where I cop out and say 'there's too many to choose from'. Narrowing it down to 15 was hard enough and some really good pubs haven't been mentioned, but how amazing were these pubs on my visit? Very is the answer. Beer, People and Atmosphere were all first class. Here they are in no particular order:
Rising Sun, Tipton
Tynemouth Lodge Hotel, Tynemouth
Land of Liberty, Peace and Plenty, Heronsgate
Olde Vic, Stockport
Farmers Arms, Birtsmorton
Wellington, Kelham Island, Sheffield
Lower Angel, Warrington
New Inn, Tywardreath
Boar's Head, Newchurch
Split Chimp, Newcastle
Wenlock Arms, Hoxton
|Lower Angel, Warrington
And there's ya lot! Time to get ready to bring in the New Year in half an hour. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!