Thursday 31 January 2019

BRAPA - January Review / February Preview (2019 Edition) / Disposable Camera Update

Jan Review

The transfer window slams shut on another cold and lengthy January, never the most productive or pleasant month for BRAPA and in truth I'm welcoming Feb with open arms!

As so often happens on 31st Jan, that rumour mill is churning right up until midnight.  Oscar's Bar in Morley looked a done deal but failed a late medical when a girl from Hebburn made a guy from Rotherham put up some blinds instead so he couldn't join me and the whole thing got cancelled.  I wish I was making this shit up, but I'm not.

And earlier this week, BRAPA was stood up discussing Bradford's amazing 4-3 win v Shrewsbury at work with a Bantam.  Well, the Si Sports News reporters assumed that meant I was off to Thackley that same night, but it was more a red herring than a Black Rat.

The fax machine then broke at the Yorkshire Ales in Snaith.  It's in East Yorkshire, NOT North Yorkshire.  Idiots.  So scrap my earlier claims that I'd finished E.Y.

Our most welcoming signing with the 1975 Good Beer Guide, pictured here:

I'd like to say a big thanks to 'agent' John Clarke (the Eric Hall of his day but less Monster Monster) for facilitating this move and thus, completing my collection.  Great quality too, despite some 'binding' concerns which I'm sure was the reason the 2019 was delayed back in Aug/Sept, not saying CAMRA haven't learnt from 44 years of mistakes but you know.

Speaking of 'agents', others who have helped facilitate BRAPA this month should be congratulated.  Martin Taylor of Waterbeach F.C., Megan Lockey of Crofton Utd, Bernard Everitt of Naburn Minstrels, Neil Harris of Birmingham Pint Shoppers and Ian Sutton of Outer Blackburn Raiders have all played their parts and deserve honouring.

Megan and Martin arranging late transfer deals probably
Ever noticed that pub artwork is getting weirder as they try to 'offer something different' and 'stand out from the crowd'?   York's second newest outlet, the House of the Trembling Madness Craft Beer Mansion on Lendal certainly had a good go at it .....

But here comes the real science bit...... 26 new pubs, quite a modest total by recent standards but one better than last January and just below the 28.4 average, though how you visit 0.4 of a pub I'm not sure, but I suggest you try some of Altrincham's newer offerings as a guide.   More positive were 3 decent pre-emptives which I'm sure can all make the 2020 or future edition of the Good Beer Guide - these being Dog Inn at Whalley, Pint Shop in Birmingham and the Darton Tap in well, Darton of course.  Terrible pictures of this one at the bottom of this blog.

So which pubs have I enjoyed the most and which have not been such a success?  Or, if I'm to labour this transfer window comparison, who are the Salah pubs and who are the Sala pubs?  Too soon?  Probably.  Cyrille Regis was.  

Top Three ......

1. Angel, Ramsey
2. Duke Inn, Sutton Coldfield
3. Hare & Hounds, Blackburn

Angel in Ramsey, somehow totally brilliant
Botton Three .....

1. Starling, Harrogate
2. Brewhouse & Kitchen, Sutton Coldfield
3. Old Bakery, Mapplewell

Honorary mentions go to the staff at the Rising Sun in Leverington, my recent Saturday trip to Blackburn and surrounding area, and Swan with Two Necks in Pendleton for great beer, location and staff.

Pint of the month in Pendleton

Feb Preview 

So I have a bit of work to do to get back on track with my quotas, 28 days in Feb, so let us say 33 pubs is the minimum I'm looking for, but confident I can achieve it.  And this is because, coming soon, the 2019 BRAPA Winter Festival......

So yes, I'll be back in Dorset but east this time after my fantastic adventure to the west of this wonderful county in October.  5 or 6 pubs a day for 5 days, that's gotta be the aim hasn't it?

Before that though, I'm looking to get Thackley done on the 1st before a great landmark as I aim to finish Cambridgeshire on the 2nd plus a bit of cheeky North London 'Spoons action later on.

There may well be ticks to had on Mon 4th as I'm up in Glasgow for work.  Paisley?  Crossing the Rubicon?  Coatbridge?  Who knows.

The latter part of the month is more mysterious.  Sat 16th should see something but how will my liver have recovered from Dorset?  If the answer is 'very well', could it be time to start Derbyshire properly.  If I was Bob Holness (I'm sadly not), then A is flashing, and the question is which town is famous for its Royal Shrovetide Football Match?  In fact, an 11th hour update informs me Millwall's FA Cup run means Hull City have no home game that day, so Father BRAPA is offering chauffeuring services.  Is East Lancs flashing now?  I think it is!

I'm looking to finish West Yorkshire later in the month with that Morley tick that just won't fall.   And the month ends with a trip to good ole' Brentford where there's plenty o' West London options to go at without being too silly.  By which I mean, without Tom being too silly.

Numbers wise, I have a huge landmark coming up in Feb.  The 1,500 mark.  This will signify one third of the GBG complete for the first time, which I predict will happen towards the end of my Dorset holiday.

Then, the aim is to put enough distance behind it that when we get to cross-ticking in late Aug / early Sept, I don't fall back below it.  But this could be a tall order bearing in mind I'm likely to lose 200 pubs based on current projections.  Pub ticking, I don't recommend it!

Bonus Pics

Our long time BRAPA friend Christine Andrew dug a great old pub photo of the archives to prove I did go to pubs before 5th April 2014.

This shows me and Father BRAPA on 28th Jan 2009 pubbing in London before an evening kick off defeat at West Ham.  I'm pretty sure the pub was the Elephant on Fenchurch Street (though could've been one called Wine Lodge nearby) and yes, we did use the 2009 GBG to find it:

In worse pictures, remember I had to take a disposable camera to Darton & Mapplewell last Friday.  Well, I got the pics developed today.  At huge expense.  All I can say is 'oh dear oh dear oh dear':

Pre-emptive fun at Darton Tap, squint and you can see the sign!

My pint of Barnsley Bitter Old Co-op, also in Darton

Attempted long distance shot of bar and groups hogging the wood burner - epic!

Old Bakery at Mapplewell

Annoyingly difficult sensor device in gents at Mapplewell

First pub of night, Old Co-op Ale House in Darton

Blokes at bar in Darton Tap.  I had to apologise for the flash and loud click to bloke on right after this.
So there you go.  Was it all worth it?  Comment below!


Tuesday 29 January 2019

BRAPA - Paint it Black(Bern's Birthday BRAPA Bonanza) Pt 2/2

Arriving at Hare & Hounds
I love those pubs which are situated in the most unlikely places.  And by that, I don't mean nestled in a wooded valley, 'twixt trout stream and old grain mill, or stood alone on a barren windswept hillside. 

No, I mean those pubs which are hidden amongst rows of houses or on estates.  The type which have probably been there for centuries, harking back to an age when local communities actually used their boozers in that 'vital lifeblood' kinda way which makes today's beery keyboard warriors misty eyed as they grab another can of Punk from the mini cooler.  And so unlikely are these locations to a 21st century audience, they've been able to remain, undisturbed, for those locals in the know to enjoy. 

Our next pub (the 4th of our pre-match Blackburn outskirts adventure) had more than a bit of that feel about it, even more thrilling, an old football ground behind the car park belonging to Old Blackburnians AFC.  Do they still exist?  Duncan Mackay has seen them whether they do or not.  They could've beaten Hull City today. 

Weedy and overgrown, like Danny Graham (he's gonna score today isn't he?)
1472 / 2442.  Hare & Hounds, Blackburn

Yes, not enough genuine Estate pubs in the GBG for my liking.  A friendly square barmaid of homely qualities was on hand to pull the ales as Dad gave his bladder one of its final outings as a 71 year old bladder.  The price of £2.40 a pint startled me, even in brilliant Blackburn, so the barmaid proudly told me about a confusing colour coded pump system so you knew how much each ale cost.  It was far too subtle a system for me.  And I must be honest, I didn't expect a great deal of a Moorhouses house beer with a 'Hare' theme but by gum, it was gorgeous.  We walked up to the slightly raised area to enjoy the swathes of bench seating in one of the lighter windowed areas of the pub, most of it was delightfully gloomy!  Derby v Accrington was entertaining a an old bloke on one screen, and just a few feet away, Chesney Hawkes blared out on some 90's pop video channel.  I know plenty of people who wouldn't like this place sadly, but its mixture of Atherton Arms plus Spider's Web in Grimsby with just a little bit more joy and love than both really won the day for me.  

As long as we didn't linger too long in this comfort, we could get my central tick in as well before kick off.  Five pubs, a joint BRAPA pre-match record.

We parked central in this giant car park near the bus station and walked around a corner until it came into view ......

1473 / 2443.  Drummer's Arms, Blackburn

More 'bar' than 'pub' in truth, but the atmosphere, homeliness and amount of old school brewery memorabilia scattered about made me realise that in Blackburn, even bars are about as pubby as they can possibly be, if that makes sense!  It hadn't felt remotely like we were going to a football match today, so a bustling atmosphere full of Rovers fans was a nice way to get ourselves in the mood.  "Wahey!" they kept saying, as though they worshipped Chris Evans 'Don't Forget Your Toothbrush' years, and I suppose the few female folk were probably trying to be Sarah Cawood Girlie Show years.  But there were no Wankers of the Week in here, everyone was great, Dad was accosted up the stairs for some gentle Tiger ribbing, not as painful as it sounds.  Nowhere to sit, but unlike us, we simply didn't care, happy to perch and observe the goings on, kept my drinking speed up I guess.  The Three Witches from Macbeth came in dressed as Bryan May from Queen and soon became bar blockers, but they moved around just enough to make them hard to photograph as you'd expect from these motivated Shakespearean types.  Nice little place, not seen it in GBG before so must be new or hugely improved.

Two of them was the best I could do

Lancs blokes and Whitbread staircase

Mysterious door thing probably not a door

Love a Brightside but pretty sure I didn't order this or the Big Clock

Dad as Joshua Tetley, I'm in the mirror... "hi!"

Look how cute everything is!

We managed to get a taxi to Ewood Park and I could've even squeezed in a pint of fizz and a pie if the queue hadn't been so long, that's how well we'd done for time!  Sadly, Hull City didn't perform anything like as well as we'd done, barely turned up, and were roundly beaten 3-0 oh dear.  Shame after recent form, no one really complained.  Rain walking back into town towards the car was the worst bit! 

Not much to see here
But what a fantastic day, am sure these pubs'll stick around the GBG for years to come and it whetted my appetite to get some rural Lancs summer trips done, perhaps in car if Dad agrees, such a rewarding part of the world for pubbing.  

I'll be back tomorrow with my month end review, it's not been a bad January all things considered.



Monday 28 January 2019

BRAPA - Paint it Black(Bern's Birthday BRAPA Bonanza) Pt 1/2

The Northern Rail strikes have never been kinder to me from a pub perspective.  Father Bernard BRAPA Everitt thought we should go to watch Hull City's away fixture at Blackburn Rovers (after our recent form, what could possibly go wrong?), he'd have to drive but it was his Birthday weekend, his decision, so was MORE than happy to agree to the plan.

Thing is, when you go by train, you are plonked in the middle of Blackburn, with barely a GBG pub within a mile of you, making pre-match pubbing difficult, or impossible.  Today, I could capitalise.  Not only that, Blackburn CAMRA (not TWAMRA) legend Ian Sutton had even offered to drive us around himself, giving us the benefit of his experience of the best local pubs, but as it turned out, he couldn't meet which was saddest for him really cos Mother BRAPA (now owner of a new Magi-Mix) had made the best Dad Birthday cake ever (not lumpy) and we'd packed him up with a slice. 

I met the Birthday boy at York's Designer Outlet at 8:45am on the dot.  He was 72 on Sunday, and the good news kept coming, I'd received a telegram from Phil Windsor saying Dad had 25 years at least driving left in him.  Cheers Phil!  A BRAPA bonus.  By 2044 , I'll have a self driving car anyway which can also fly and turn invisible so I can finally get to Stockport without being seen! 

We powered up "Slow-Joe" (the worst SatNav in the world) not because we don't know where the M62 is but because we like to laugh at his crazy ways.  Today, he decided to send us via Wetherby, Harrogate and up through Nidderdale.  So we patronised him. 

We arrived in the tiny hamlet of Great Mitton (which didn't show up on a map even when I zoomed in) at exactly 10:30am, the time that the pub opened.  Can I just say at this stage how glad I was to be reunited with my 'smart' phone.  I disposed of the disposable camera as quickly as I could.

Me holding my red mittens in Great Mitton

1470 / 2440.  Aspinall Arms, Great Mitton

The peaceful rural setting was accentuated by two roaring fires at either end of the pub.  A grand hall like building, leather armchairs, rugs, quirky old prints on the walls, random piles of logs trying to do something?  Hmmm, my BRAPPY senses were tingling - and then I spied Brunning & Price bitter and all became clear.  Pleased for Dad really, being in a stronger example of the chain I mean, his one previous B&P was the Physician in Edgbaston which I'd rank on the B&P scale of their tied houses as "utter shite".  This was "very pleasant".  We were under no illusions that if we were here 2 hours later at peak lunchtime, it might be a different story.  Alas, in this pub-ticking game, you can only take pubs at face value (we'd taste the other side of the same ale-flavoured coin later on today).  A friendly Scotsman pulled us two pints of some IPA from t'other side of the t'hills and it came with a warning "it's supposed to be cloudy in case you were wondering cos a few people have asked!"  Well, that shows how useless those jam jars are cos all those 10 day old samples are cloudy whatever you order.  And B&P just LOVE their jam jars more than any other chain (apart from Ember obvs).  But beer eh?  It's a mugs game innit?  We settled into armchairs, Dad refused to use his catchphrase "I could settle here for the rest of the day!" but it was warm, relaxing, and a positive opener.

Dad gets nicely relaxed

View towards the bar

The Japanese have got Fullers .... pass it on!

Study of the Mittens and Best Highlighter Pen Colour in the world.
South of Great Mitton but North of Blackburn was this funny little place called Whalley.  

It had a great local feel to it, the people walked around with a look on their faces of "isn't it great to be alive?"  This is slightly different from nearby Langho, where the stock expression is "How am I still alive?", Wilpshire's "I'm alive but I wish YOU weren't" or Blackburn itself "Please can someone end it all now?"

The good Ian Sutton had suggested a pre-emptive 11am opener, and after such a good start in G.Mitton, why the hell not?  

Dog Inn, Whalley

Kind of great that the first thing you saw on entering a pub called the Dog was a dog slumbering on the floor.  It had the expression of Danny Graham during his loan spell at Hull City, with an element of contorted Chris Martin, and wasn't moving for anybody.  His owner, a gnarly local character in what was a rather splendid traditional Lancs boozer with more cracking (below 4% abv) ale, seemed, rather controversially in these parts, to be a Burnley fan.  We were just safely away from the bar into a pleasant side room with a wonderfully tiled fireplace when the poor bloke gets surprised by a huge group of excitable Manchester City fans.  "Waheyyyy, all set for ya cup final today!" they tease him with those lovely Lancashire vowel movements (which reminded me, I needed a bowel movement until I went to the loo and realised how chilly they were, really should've gone in B&P).  Soon, they are putting Northern Soul on the jukebox and the jokey ringleader does this crazy dance whilst the others  stand in a circle and clap him on.  He even seeps into our room.  No wonder I drank so quick again, still not 12 noon, our Blackburn pub we were planning to go to next doesn't open til 12:30pm, don't fancy fighting my way back to the bar in here, and in probably the moment of the day, me & Dad realise there's a pub I've ALWAYS wanted to go to, hard by public transport, only 3 miles away!  Quick, quick, let's sup up and go!

Look at their little faces!

Hiding from the Citeh fans

My kinda pub!
So a short drive took us to the tranquil little rural community, where the air smelt of glorious manure and farm life, a canal trickled (I think), a goose honked in the distance, and I knew of this pub because it was the first CAMRA Pub of the Year Award after BRAPA started.  All those times staring at my map to see how walkable it was from Clitheroe, and here we were , doing it ad-hoc from Whalley in the car,  You just can't tell what's in store in the world of pub ticking!

If this was blankety blank, I wonder what the fifth word was?

1471 / 2441.  Swan With Two Necks, Pendleton

And if the location was superb, so was the welcome as we wandered in and not one, not two, but three ladies behind the bar all jumped to attention to welcome us, pull our pints immediately, and make sure we knew where we could sit.  I have to mention the latter point because the surprising point (to me) was the huge number of reserved tables on the right hand side of the pub, all but the one we were sat at had a 'reserved' sign on, only those closest us were eating, looked like some pretty nice fish n chips.  Dad winced and had to avert his eyes to stop himself ordering some!  So perhaps a surprise to find a CAMRA pub of the year so dining led, but as I mentioned in Great Mitton, that's the other side of the coin as it was now lunchtime, and let's not labour the point cos truth be told, it was a glorious pub.  The left hand area with the bar was amass with local gargling and laughter, quirky barmaids showing off their big stemmed plants - Dad even encouraging me to ask her for a photo which she kind of agreed to!  My Mapplewell nightmare and disposable camera of the previous night felt very much a distant memory.  The gents were outdoors (always a hallmark of a classic pub) and when I peered into the garden, am sure I actually saw a swan with two necks, I bet they breed them specially in a factory in Darwen.  And the beer, oh yes, well on a day of five above average quality pints, this was perhaps the finest.  Not so much lacings, as negligee worn by the classiest Clitheroe temptress (don't say it Russ!)  One of many pub of the day contenders.  

And time was somehow STILL on our side.  Time to get ourselves into Blackburn ...... and I'll tell you all about that, oh and the football (it didn't feel like a football day at this point) in part 2 tomorrow.


Sunday 27 January 2019

BRAPA - Disposable Camera, Not Disposable CAMRA : Darton to Mapplewell

Friday morning, the train to work, and like a total idiot, I'd put my phone into my wrong bag and didn't have it with me.  "Oh well, that is Friday night BRAPA cancelled" I reflected. 

But hang on, I thought, the pub tickers of yesteryear couldn't rely on Google Maps, train apps and camera phones to get themselves around.  How did Taylor & Mackay get themselves to Netherton in 1974?  It doesn't matter, but they did.  Surely I could manage with modern technology for one night?  I just had to pretend it was the 1990's all over again. 

I printed off two maps, looked up some train times, and thanks to one bright spark at work, went down to Boots (this retro chemist if you've not heard of it) at lunchtime for a disposable camera.  I didn't even know they still made them!  The girl at the counter blushed when I asked, and blurted out "but....but.... when you want it developing, you'll need to go to BIG Boots, we don't do THAT here!"

Destination Darton

Come 4pm, and armed with my swashbuckling bag of tricks and a metaphorical flask of weak lemon drink, I headed for the darklands of North Barnsley, Darton to be precise.  It had a railway station, a micro, and Mapplewell was a 20 minute walk which also had a micro.   My Darton debut, place had a homely pleasant feel.

And not a bad area to be with a disposable camera I figured, pretty sure if said Apple or Windows to someone in these parts, they'd think of a round green fruit or something that you peer through at your sexy cousin.

My map of Darton
It is hard to 'map-read' when you've been used to following yourself as a blue dot for the last five years, I was so out of practice, and had no idea if I was walking in the right direction until I saw the pub across the road .....

I pressed the 'flash button' on the front of the camera, a red light came on with a low squeaking noise, I peered into the tiny shutter, a large click and flash of light, I'd taken a photo!  And no-one had seen.  Hurrah.  I wound on the film triumphantly and prepared to enter .....

1468 / 2438.  Old Co-op Ale House, Darton

The door was unnecessarily stiff, and made that annoying shop door noise as you enter.  A dark haired lady near the fire chuckled as I struggled to get in, she did this with every other customer too and I wondered if this was the pub Martin "RM" Taylor thought was shut when it was in fact open.  A smiley young tall bloke served me a pint of good ole' fashioned Acorn Barnsley Bitter.  I thought £3.40 was a bit steep for this part of the world  They had these homebrews on called 'Grumpys' but not sure I trusted them.  A beer bore asked him about a recent pub award win and what beers had he brought back from some visit, the answer was, thrillingly, Cappuccino something and Espresso something else.  "Haha, like your coffee beers then!" replied Mrs Bore, but I'd realised I was still brandishing my disposable camera which was stranger still.   Sadly, the cosy wood burner was being monopolised by chuckling brunette and her mate, and two blokes on another table.  So I sat at the chilly far end, so I could take an indoor snap or two.  Then I realised I didn't have a pen, so had to scribble notes using my green highlighter.  I felt like Bear Grylls.  This was BRAPA in Ultimate Survival mode.   What I thought was a schoolgirl coming in to use the bogs turned out to be a barmaid starting a shift, and is so often the case when the staff are baby faced, they decided to ID this young lad with his Dad despite the fact he was definitely a #PubMan of the future.  But he kept giving me the 'irrits' (as we say in Australia) by looking at my camera in a weird way.  I took a few snaps which I'll get developed next week.  Not much else happened, was a bit chilly, but I feel this place did have something going for it, but micropubs suffer in January even more than other months.

BRAPA notes : gonna put them on eBay for £500 if you're interested

I'd got my bearings and worked out which road led to Mapplewell, though I hadn't factored in the darkness of the evening so my map was next to useless, and I had a crisis of confidence when it all became a bit rural half way down!  Was about a 20 minute walk, and I realised that my phone acts as a kind of comfort blanket / reassurance device as much as anything!

I knew I was on the right track when I saw the Talbot pub, for I'd done this one a few years back.  It was rather dining led, but is in that Pete Brown blokes book of 100 best pubs, not cos it is (not even top 1000), but because he grew up here so it means something to him. 

I finally located pub two, another Micro, not so lucky this time as a young lady in the window saw me take the photo of the pub front (damn micros and those huge glass windows!) and told her boyfriend 'ey up, a weirdo is about to enter'.

Map of Mapplewell, next to useless

1469 / 2439.  Old Bakery, Mapplewell

And if I was off to a losing start from the moment I arrived, it was all downhill from there.  Circumstances seemed to stack up against me to make this a miserable BRAPA experience.  Was the pub so bad?   Perhaps not.  Limited yes, but had I gone in on a quiet afternoon with sun shining in, perhaps I'd have found it a lot more positive, I mean let's be charitable.  But not too much.  The barmaids (including one with newly dyed pink hair and crazy fake lashes) seemed like they could at a push be a hospitable bubbly duo.  It soon became clear no seats were available and I'd have to perch at the bar.  So, in micropubs, doesn't that mean you are 'involved' in the conversation then?  Well, the one local in the same predicament as me had a recent voicebox installed, said he was glad to get his voice back, but had to push down on this button on his neck so much, conversation looked likely to be a struggle for him.  At least he winked and mimed 'cheers!' which was more than I got from most.  When the BM's weren't being friendly to the locals, they were looking at dog pictures on one of those modern bloody smartphone things(!)  "Awww, he looks like Chewbacca!" remarked one.  "Haha, well not sure about that, but definitely a Wookie" replied the other, which even a non Star Wars enthusiast like me found a bit bizarre.  Plan B, I plonked the GBG on the bar and theatrically highlighted it!  That often provokes a reaction.  No, simply accentuated my weird isolation.  Even the bogs upset me, or the tap to be precise.  You had to wave your hand across a sensor to get water out.  Took me 5 mins to fathom it out, upsetting!  Oh, and don't forget two identical ladies with short grey hair, asking for peanuts, and opening them at the bar.  Ok, so they don't know about my allergy but it felt like they were doing it deliberately at the time!  Three quarters of the way down my pint, a really nice personable bloke (the bloke I wanted to be) offered me a seat "if you don't mind dogs".  I told him thanks but no twoggin' thanks.  Then, he had a laugh about gin with forest fruits and bought both barmaids a drink.  "That's so kind" everyone agreed, embracing his effortless benevolence.  By now, I was a twisted wreck who wanted to kill him.  I muttered goodbye to a regular stood behind me, and slunk out, never to return.

I couldn't even bring myself to get an indoor photo in that pub of my contorted face. How did people do Selfies in the old days on disposable cameras?  Did they?  And if so, were they missing out? 

At least there was a more positive note to end the night on.  I was early for the train and I'd seen something called the Darton Tap which I felt looked pre-emptive, so I shimmied on in for a quick half.  Quite a cosy lively place really, beer just as good as the other two, it even had a decent stab at bench seating and plenty of folk who smiled at me.  Darton 1-0 Mapplewell.  With me at a stool and everyone deep in conversation and facing away from me, time to try an indoor photo.  The flash wasn't on, so I aimed towards the bar, to take a general shot.  Suddenly, a huge flash, a loud click and whirr, and all the old blokes at the bar turn around.  "Am so sorry!" I squeaked.  "Ey up lad, it's arite" replies the spokesman, much to my relief.  

I ran out towards the railway station, hoping I never have to step foot inside a BRAPA pub with a disposable camera ever again!