Wednesday 18 April 2018

BRAPA - If the Twild is United (Sandbach to Winsford)

Cheshire loomed large for the umpteenth time in BRAPA history as I looked to chalk off a few more to bring us down into single figures.

Eleven to go at the start of play

The blog title is a nod to fellow pub bloggers Mackay and Beermat, who have managed punk efforts in recent weeks, and as someone who's going to Manchester Punk Festival on Thursday, it'd be an embarrassment if I didn't join in.  The title does make sense, but you'll have to read / scroll down to the middle.  

Sandbach (pronounced Sandbatch, and not Sandback) is a lively if slightly irritating little town on a sunny spring morning, and nowhere near as far a trek from their anti-social railway Elworth station as I remember last year.  Back then, I was off to a Brunning & Price.  This time, it was a micropub.  Sandbach sure knows how to 'bring the fun'(!)  As I tried in vain to avoid leaflet giving Brexit campaigners on every corner of the market, and a woman who chased after me with a dud train ticket I'd dropped, it was a struggle to find somewhere to perch and eat my pasty.  

11:59am found me stalking the pub from across the grottiest street in town, which smelt of arse.

1319 / 2065.  Beer Emporium, Sandbach

There was no doubt about the warmth of reception I was afforded by mine host, Liam/William/Ian, who in true 'first customer of the day in a micropub' asked me the ole' "style of beer" question.  When I ordered a pint of the brownest drabbest looking thing on offer like the honorary old man I am, it did not massively surprise me when this engaging bearded ginger dude told me he didn't drink pints, only halves or thirds, of the strongest beers he could see.  I did at least concede that this made sense from a bladder point of view on bus journeys, thinking about my coming day!   As in the Dog Inn in Burton, he told me my beer was at least "a good place to start" so I thought it expedient to explain BRAPA now so he didn't wonder why I wasn't staying for an alldayer.  He was a great guy despite the fast talking, and dealt with his only other 'customers' swiftly.  First was a local pie man who came in to ask him to sign something on a clipboard.  And then a joyless young couple came in and scanned the bottles (yes, it started life as a 'beer shop', how micro!) in silence for an age, finally buying two Salopians (beers, not livestock), grunting and leaving.  As this was BRAPA, something had to give.  And it was Liam's girlfriend's back!  Oh no!  Oh yes, a panicked phonecall, she was hyperventilating being unable to move, and he had to turn first aider, ring various parents (presumably ones he knew), in-laws and eventually his boss to try and restore calm to the situation, which he did expertly.  The various instalments from each phonecall kept my interest for a bit longer, until the bus was due, and I told him thanks so much for his hospitality, good luck with the back, and I left post-haste.  

What followed was a sweltering bus ride at the top of a double decker to Winsford, a place I'd only been to once before for a pre-season friendly (Hull City lost 4-1, obvs) and all these years on, it retained that slightly Wild West feel.  

I actually hopped off the bus early, when I saw the huge pub from across a car park of Blackpoolian vastness and misery.  But it was a Wetherspoons, hurrah!  I think.  (Well, Dad wasn't here to ruin it).

1320 / 2066.  Queens Arms, Winsford

And sure enough, like flies round shit, the locals were using the first day of 2018 with any discernible warmth in the air to pretend they were in Torremolinos.  The scene was pure 'Spoons joy, tribal tattoos, surf n turf coming out of the kitchen quicker than you could blink, three quarter length shorts, crazy carpets, 18 year old chavs who don't know bar etiquette, tans belying the weather to date, all washed down with a mixture of Carling, Koppaberg and Strongbow Dark Fruits.  Say what you like about posing tables, I mean I don't approve of them any more than the next man (the 'next man' being Pub Curmudgeon in this case) but as a pub observer, they make me feel that little bit more king-like, looking down on my subjects!  I was disappointed though by one factor, as a friendly barman tried to engage a local into entering the Grand National Sweepstake.  He'd never heard to such a concept!  "Sweep Steak?  What IS THAT?" he ranted, like he was expecting a squeaky dog friend of sooty to be brought out carved on a plate.  Speaking of which, a girl with gravity defying eyebrows was cutting up her disabled grannies lunch, whilst on the other side, a young man brought his tiny mother to a posing table.  "I can't get up there!" she complained, and a bloke in denim shorts turned round and gave her a fireman's lift onto the stool.  This was glorious stuff.  And just when I thought it couldn't get any better, a claret and blue full kit wanker twild ran in with his dad, desperate for an emergency toilet stop.  And who did he support?  Scunthorpe Utd. I recognised that SUFC and Iron steely logo anywhere. They were away to Charlton!  It was 1:45pm.   I don't understand.  Then again, I don't understand anything about this weird and wonderful place.  

Because Winsford feels like one of those deliberately difficult places, it wasn't shocking to find they'd plonked my other required tick at the far end of town on the edge of a scary roundabout.

I should've mentioned back in Sandbach, our friendly hero of the day Liam recommended two 'pre-emptives' for me, one being the Red Lion in Winsford.  I trust him, and if I was starting a county like say Cambs, I'd take such advice on board, knowing full well I'd still be ticking this county in the next GBG.  But in the case of Cheshire, we are getting so close to the end, I can have it done by the time the new GBG comes out so pre-emptives aren't so priority at this stage, as I might not 'hit' Cheshire again until, say, the 2030's! 

Anyway, stop waffling Si and get in t'pub lad......

1321 / 2067.  No 4 Bar, Winsford

This part of the country seems to like it's Euro style bars more than most, I've realised. Some work, some don't.  It's life.  The weather was right for some continental style outdoor drinking, and the 'Chorlton Rejects' (possibly the worst punk band ever) were at least  creating a facade of pure enjoyment.  My stripey (albeit grey and black) trousers had been getting the odd glance all day, and it went up a notch here as two young lads by the door (one pictured far left) tried to find something amusing to say, but ran out of time, for I was in.  Four bar blockers, and I mean blockers, were guarding their territory, but edged outwards by 1%, to allow me the faintest sliver of real ale pump coverage, and they did the barman's job for him and asked the age old 'what ya after?' question.  As I saw one called 'Free Beer', I made the obvious joke "is it really free?" and despite hating myself inside, it went down reasonably well with all but the young barlad, a kind of 21st century Noel Gallagher who'd hopped in a Radox bath with Ian Huntly.  In the end, I went for a "Azacca" cos I wanted to say the word out loud.  I considered that decorating your fairly spartan bar with a few La Chouffe and Leffe empties doesn't necessarily mentally transport you to Brussels, and whether it was Winsford itself or what, this place didn't quite nail it like say North Bar in L**ds or that Cask place in Manchester does.  Any GBG entry with a number in it's name is viewed with suspicion on my part, so perhaps I was prejudiced before I went in, but my overall feeling was this place didn't quite 'fit' with Winsford.

Alreet cockers, time to negotiate the blockers


I really shouldn't have complained, three pubs done in fairly good time.  The day could easily go drastically wrong, but I'm sure you don't want to hear about that.

Oh you do?  Well, okay, join me next time to hear about the second half of the day and my misfortunes.



  1. "The title does make sense, but you'll have to read / scroll down to the middle. "

    That's one way to get folks to read the whole thing (just kidding). :)

    " ring various parents (presumably ones he knew), in-laws and eventually his boss to try and restore calm to the situation, which he did expertly. "

    Gad. That sounds a lot like me last month sitting in a pub in Nanaimo trying to arrange a nurse for my Mom after botched cataract surgery as my darling sister couldn't be arsed to assist or even send one of her two children (18 and 21) to help out, even though they live less than 5 miles away and I live on the other side of the bloody country! (grrrrr)

    "to pretend they were in Torremolinos. "

    You nicked that from Monty Python. (LOL)

    "decorating your fairly spartan bar with a few La Chouffe "

    I LOVE La Chouffe. (the Houblon Chouffe to be precise)

    "join me next time to hear about the second half of the day and my misfortunes."

    Lately your 'second halfs' seem to be just that. :)


    PS - "was cutting up her disabled grannies lunch"

    Apostrophe on grannies dear boy. (and where's a photo of those gravity defying eyebrows?) :)

    "seems to like it's Euro style bars"

    You can drop the apostrophe here.

    "with a number in it's name"

    No apostrophe needed.
    (It's weird I know, but 'its' shows possession with the apostrophe).

  2. Shame you didn't go to the Red Lion, it's a sister pub of the King's Lock in Middlewich of "cheery cute barmaid with flowers in her hair" fame (BRAPA 1085, 24/Apr/17) - she works at the Red Lion as well. Bigger than the King's Lock and more of a "general" pub if you know what I mean.

    Is the bottle shop adding draught lines such a rarity in other parts of the country? It's almost the norm in that part of Cheshire - Barley Hops in Congleton, Brewtique and the short-lived Beer Station in Macclesfield all come to mind. There seem to be some similar round St Albans - which I guess is similar demographics, rich enough to support a shop selling £4-5 bottles of Belgian beer back in the noughties/early teens, then as online beer shops improved they turned to draught to attract a more "pubby" crowd. Still have something of a different vibe to the true Herne Rules micros though.

    The Emporium have just opened a place in Holmes Chapel, so there's a good chance they'll displace the Ember there! Where else did he suggest as a pre-emptive?

    @Russ - Houblon Chouffe isn't proper La Chouffe, it's just a shameless attempt to pander to the North American market by bunging lots of hops in their beer....

    1. "@Russ - Houblon Chouffe isn't proper La Chouffe, it's just a shameless attempt to pander to the North American market by bunging lots of hops in their beer...."

      Tsk, tsk; I beg to differ. :)

      In all honesty I quite like it. That being said, I like a nice ESB as well, plus a good stout, Belgian Sour, Dunkel, Weisse bier, Gose... and even a Lager at times! :)

  3. Great description of Wetherspoon life in the Queen's Arms. That's a rather unusual Spoons as it's more like an estate pub, and Winsford doesn't really have a proper town centre in the usual sense.

  4. Mudgie is right about that Spoons description, classic lines. Was thinking about "Blogging King" on high table in Cleethorpes Spoons reading this; getting to hear the banter AND see the fuss at the bar.