Tuesday 28 August 2018

BRAPA : Newcastle-under-Slyme Part 2 (NuL but not Void)

Paul Robinson is ticking his new GBG, but where's my copy?
Halfway through our Saturday then as local tour guide Matthew 'Seethelizards' Lawrenson navigated us through the mean streets of NuL for the final three pubs in the 2018 Good Beer Guide as I tried to put as much distance between my end of year 2016/17 figure of 1236 and the current 1470 in readiness for the great 'cross-ticking' due soon.

I say 'navigated us through the mean streets', pub 4 was directly opposite the awkward yet strangely great Bridge Street Ale House .......

1471 / 2217.  Hopwater Cellar, Newcastle-under-Lyme

"One ale, you've only got one ale, CAMRA want you to fail, you've only got one ale!"  This was the chant that went up from nobody in particular as we wandered into this friendly airy modern bar, and not strictly true as despite this one ale, it had won a recent CAMRA seasonal award, thus cementing it's place.  And full credit to local CAMRA, for I can tell you it is increasingly rare to find 'one ale' entries in the GBG.  The small handful of Sam Smith pubs (and I bet I'm talking single figures), the thing in High Offley, and that gorgeous old heritage pub not far from Wembley, but usually, it's a case of '12 handpumps you say, quick get it in the Guide, no need to taste 'em!'.  Certainly in my local branch that seems to be the case but I'm being slightly facetious.  A pale from Neepsend of Sheffield seemed a nice neutral thing to have on, but Matthew told me they'd recently had some toffee porter (or something) which may be a more acquired taste.  The owner was a thoroughly engaging chap, even giving Tom a blackcurrant free run down of the non-alcoholic things in the fridge as Dad secreted himself into a corner which actually made him invisible.  We chatted at the bar and the owner tells us how he plans to extended the bar, get 3 or 4 ales on in the coming months, so with the weight of #pubmen across the UK on my shoulders, I felt the need to say things like "sometimes less is more" and "quality not quantity".  Oooh, that Bass was really kicking in wasn't it?  Tom drank something Elderflowery, the Neepsend was top class, and this felt nicely relaxed and unchallenging after certain other pubs today.

Great bloke pulling pints, what could be better?

Tom in his amphitheatre of beer (copyright 2016)

Can you see Dad?  No, neither could we.

Jeez taps, get a room! 

Our next pub if not a cellar, was a vaults, and it is funny I have all these Lymestone pumpclips and beermats at home, but I'm unsure I'd ever tried their beers before.  It was down a narrow side street, felt a bit like going into a bar in Barcelona, if Stoke was Catalan which it kind of is in many ways.

1472 / 2218.  Lymestone Vaults, Newcastle-under-Lyme

Special mention for our young host, who on seeing us eyeing up these new, exciting ales decided the time was nigh to wear his Lymestone heart on his Lymestone sleeve and make a concerted effort to impress.  I'm not sure we were underground at all, it just felt like it to me, but he had those eyes and jaw like one of those deep sea fish who crawl along the darkest ocean floors looking for plankton and stuff.  Me and Dad had asked for a cherry beer, and he didn't seem convinced by our choice, so gave me an additional half which was half of this with half a 'Stone the Crows' bitter to 'let it down'.  "That's what people tend to go for!" he said, indicating these wise Lymestone drinkers who didn't really exist.  I took me long enough to polish off this extra half, that when I did come to my 'official' pint of cherry, course it was suddenly too sweet, and we stayed here a while waiting for me to finish!  The pub itself, despite the obvious modern concessions, was cosy and opened up into a back room where old biddies dressed as Tom, dogs yipped, and middle aged doofus's with better behaved twildlife spilt drinks left, right and centre.  Or just centre.

Cherry Stone - the beer of much controversy

Three old dears who'd come disguised as Tom

Mopping floor drama

The type of folk not to be trusted not to spill their ales
One last push then before the bus back to Stoke proppa, and I was feeling free.

"As free as a bird.  On a wire.  A blackbird that is drunk in a midnight choir.  I've tried in my way, for a pee.  In this bog you can not change.  Fuck knows I can't change (my trousers)."  (I think I might be mixing songs up here but you get the gist).

Time to lock me up

1473/ 2219.  Freebird, Newcastle-under-Lyme

When you are starting to 'feel it' (and I mean, really feel it), the last thing you want is a pub that seems more garish than your own wardrobe.  Bright purple walls, retro games machines, American pool tables, throbbing with the threat of DJ's or live music, hairy leather bikers, more saucy seaside postcards, comic strips, ladies in blue shoes, huge windows letting in far too much light.  It's like someone had been let out of Newcastle for a day trip to Birmingham on a fact finding mission to find out how young people want their pubs to look like in 1978, and he'd come back 40 years later with this blueprint.  I quite liked it, a happy atmosphere under the circs if you think of some equivalents like the Alma in Bolton or the Purple Turtle in Reading, not at all moody or up it's own arse, and a nice little suntrap for Dad to go and play in if he needed to escape the yoof of yesteryear.  Tom must have vanished too, buying slimline oatcakes no doubt, as I can't remember much else apart from me and Matthew playing pool and I played a lot better than I was expecting.  Lynryd Skynryd? Who???

Matthew does the honours with the green pen

"Oi lads, we're on next and don't you forget it" I whisper whilst hiding behind Matthew

So there we go.  I ate an oatcake raw and got chucked out of Stoke in record time.  I ate a pie I can't remember, but a nice coffee in Manchester helped me see the world in a clearer light and it was off back to York well before bedtime.  A fun day, and attentions now turned to a bonus Bank Holiday West Brom themed day in Scarborough.



  1. There, told ya N-u-L was the place, didn't I. Shame all those Proper Pubs had to die to get the weird places in the Guide. Bit like Wigan really. Glad you told them Less Is More, One Is Sometimes One Too Many etc etc. The two taps thing is genius.

  2. You did! Only realised standard of beer was exceptional the next day. I see only one pub was in the 2014 GBG for NuL, and it wasn't any of these. Mona Lisa or something? Yeh, can see the Wigan comparison though Wigan still has Anvil, Berkeley, Raven I guess. Yeh, I honestly can tell I've been influenced by likes of you and Mudgie as when BRAPA started, I'd never have opted for Bass, and would never have thought one or two handpumps might be better than five or six! Two taps. Haha. As if they need to be so close! Halfway through Scarb Sunday write up, better get back to it.

  3. Bass is often very dull, only as good as in Hop Inn a few places (Buzzard, Tynemouth etc). Castle Mona was the basic place in NuL.

    1. Heresy! Occasionally, maybe, but certainly not often.

  4. According to CAMRA’s email earlier today, don’t expect your Privilege Club copy of the 2019 GBG to arrive any day now. Maybe it’s Paul Robinson’s fault for breaking the embargo.
    Chrissy (hoping for alphabetic advantage when they do have some to send out)

    1. Oh yes! Seen email when I got home and saw all the twitter comments on my way home, what a fiasco. Can I sue?

      Flippin' Paul Robinson, the Kean's Head, Nottingham of Neighbours cast members (that is the first pub that has revealed it is in the 2019 GBG, thus breaking the embargo! I've done it btw). Chorlton pre-emptive, here we come ;)

      Let me know how alphabetic advantage goes!

    2. Which Paul Robinson was it? The Millwall meathead centre half or the Beverley born white shite goalkeeper?

      You were better at pool then I expected Si. Matthew wasn't as good as I expected.

      Thank you for the tremendous compliment in comparing me to the lovely old dears.

  5. "Can you see Dad? No, neither could we."

    Good Lord. Did he borrow a paisley shirt in order to blend in with the wallpaper?

    "indicating these wise Lymestone drinkers who didn't really exist."

    Well, to be fair, if he's like a fish who crawls along the darkest ocean floors he obviously can't see very well. :)

    "Three old dears who'd come disguised as Tom"

    What? All three?

    "Time to lock me up"

    No argument here. (LOL)

    "Lynryd Skynryd? Who???"

    You're forgiven as you're from over there. Sheesh


    PS - "thus cementing it's place."

    No apostrophe needed.

    " I took me long enough"

    It looks to me the first word should be it. ;)

    "or up it's own arse, "

    See PS #1. :)