Tuesday 30 April 2019

BRAPA - Mumbles the Word

Iechyd da boyos and girlos!  See, I learnt the language whilst I was down in Swansea for my first real taste of how great Wales can be, despite several visits (though mainly to Cardiff which is more English/European than Welsh in feel ..... don't tell them I said that, they'd be cross).

I was down with Dad (and later Tom) for the last Hull City away day of the season, but a double overnighter allowed for the chance of some imaginative Glamorgan pub ticking. 

Dad claimed he had never been to the Liberty Stadium before - he had, 4th April 2015.  He had no recollection of the day.  So when we arrived, a bit early to check-in to our Premier Inn, I took him to the pub we did that day, No Sign Bar, to refresh his memory.  It worked, pub-wise at least!

It is a very long  pub, has a sign saying it is called 'No Sign Bar' which is surely wrong, and the only people on Twitter who've done a more popular piece on it than me today are John Hartson (inviting Celtic and Swansea fans to drink there in harmony) and Brian May off of Queen who was here to save foxes or something with that dude from Eastenders.  I drank a Welsh red beer and we got to smuggle some snacks when the staff weren't looking cos we are English rebels. 

Anyway, I don't want to kill you with words about a pub I've reviewed previously, so instead, we'll talk about the staggeringly quality area of Mumbles.

That's where we headed after checking in, on the bus, beautiful scenery, we passed a pub we'd done in 2002 called West Cross which doesn't seem to get in the GBG anymore, probably cos all the regulars from then will now be 110 years old if still alive.  A bracing walk along the prom took us to our first pub ......

Oh yes, the Pilot (1592 / 2561) was a real touch of class from the moment we entered.  I was dying for a widdle so Dad was under strict instructions to order me a Draught Bass having read about Martin Taylor's visit here.  Like so many pubs selling this cult ale, the pump doesn't sit with the others, but is hiding behind a locals beer gut, a guide dog collection tin and a vase of plastic flowers.  No wonder when Dad persisted, the characterful barmaid gave him a knowing nod and wink, and may well have lifted up her underskirts to reveal a red triangle, which sounds a lot ruder than I intended when I started writing this sentence.  We sat in the early afternoon gentle hubbub of the wooden seafront pub, full of seafaring decor of yesteryear.  I thought a local had started speaking Welsh as if often the case when English people walk in, but he was just clearing some stubborn phlegm from his clack hole.  A real gem.

Bass on Carling

After enjoying our sandwiches on a bench with views out over Swansea Bay, which led to a nice rendition of local Bubblegum Pop Punk act, Helen Love, I scanned my GBG and was suddenly confused!  My paper based copy said Mumbles had FOUR entries, but the GBG App said only THREE.  It seems two had merged, Mumbles Ale House becoming part of our next tick, the Victoria Inn (1593 / 2562).......

What the GBG App would have you believe

The reality of the situation - I'm on the dregs of white wine (can I count that as a tick without going in?)

Oh yes, if the Pilot had been marvellous, the Victoria gave us the kind of reception which made this even more memorable and special, pub of the day you'd have to say.  As we peered around the gentle old blokes at the ale pumps, they all turned around like faulty spinning tops, shook our hands, and didn't let go for about a minute!  They loved the BRAPA concept, and were even more impressed we were on the Bass again, telling me tales of a pub on York Shambles which sells the stuff (well, did 40 years ago) and vague talk of an away day 30 years back to Boscombe and Christchurch where a landlord with a casual attitude towards the drink was scared with the name of some famous Bass person of yesteryear and promised to put it on.  It just emphasised the culthood around this bloody drink!

Bass in Pride
 This all set the scene for the weekend.  Everywhere we went, people were so content with their lives, slower paced, happy, there were no barriers or guards up, people were just very open and very real! Sort of Isle of Man / Portland-esque, a bit Dorset, a bit rural Lancashire.  Wonderful. 

The barman deserves a special mention, Colin the cockney Spurs fan who did a better Yorkshire accent than us.  He likes Hull City cos of Tom Huddlestone and Michael Dawson links, and told us because we were 'Yorkshire', we had to go to his other pub, Railway Inn in Upper Killay and drink their strongest beer cos the locals down here can't handle it!  More on that one tomorrow .....

Legendary locals

Colin the amazing Spurs barman
Oh, and the merger with once award winning Mumbles Ale House had all but fizzled out when the couple running it did what all former Micro owners do, buzzed off to Gloucestershire.  Felt like plain old Victoria, lovely old pub, and we couldn't have been happier).

Hidden close by in the side streets was our third and final Mumbles tick, unlike No Sign Bar in Swansea, it didn't have a sign but it did have a name......

A building which might be the Park Inn

Park Inn (1594 / 2563) was our third wonderful pub in a row, another ultra friendly barmaid, smiling locals and had one of those smells like what pubs used to smell like before 1st July 2007 and was all exposed wood and threadbare carpets, simple benches, the kind of pub any proper pub lover would appreciate and the Titanic White Star was a nice change from that crazy Bass stuff!   I can't tell you much more, but I had the BRAPA bit between my teeth now properly for the first time since 7th April so rung us a taxi from the wonderful Valley Cabs recommended to us by one of Victoria Inn old locals "never let mi down in 50 years" and sure enough, they were just the job to get us out to Bishopston.

Day glo dreams

Joiners Arms (1595 / 2564) was the first of two GBG entries after a surprisingly leafy rural taxi ride took us to this village, and this was the one which came most highly recommended.  Surprised to see how popular it was with early evening drinkers, bar blockers dressed as Neapolitan ice cream (though Chocolate seemed to have gone to the loo).  But once more, it was a proper old boozer, and most of the time was spent being stared at by a particularly judgey french bulltwog.   I was starting to feel it by now though (the drunkness I mean, not the dog!) and could have easily collapsed into my Lenny Henry sponsored Premier Inn bed with Mark Williams and a bag of Monster Munch!

But now was not the time to have such thoughts, had to power through, though forgive me for reviewing Valley, Bishopston (1596 / 2565) and Woodman, Blackpill (1597 / 2566) as one, sort of.  Drunken feelings or not, neither pub could capture even a sober Si like the Joiners or the Mumbles trio had.  Valley was decent in truth, Woodman less so. 

So what can I remember?  Valley, I was surprised how decent the Sharps Atlantic was though I think there was quite a serious drinks spillage by me!  But went to get us a glass of water each to help them down which was a good move, and that doesn't happen much in BRAPA unless I'm in Leighton Buzzard where I always end up feeling strange.   It looks a much lovlier pub outside and in from my photos than I remember, which shows what the mind can do .......

Looks like gorgeous proper pub, what am I on about?

A taxi as far as Blackpill, on the road back in to Swansea sounds a bit like Blackpool with more pills (which probably isn't possible) but the Woodman was a bit of a roadside attempted dining pub ......

And as the ales went off one by one, we were forced into a spot of Greene King IPA which is never a good pint in my experience, but ok at this stage!  Felt a bit better by now, I sat us down but was told this table would be reserved in half an hours time so I moved now cos I don't like being moved by apologetic looking diners.  We kept a beady eye on the table from afar and no one EVER sat there.  Growl.  I took one indoor photo, not sure what it was supposed to represent, blingy handbag?

Oh well, hey ho, SIX pubs done plus a revisit, and we got back to our Premier Inn for a late supper, a bit of snooker, and an ok nights sleep before we'd do it all again on the Saturday!  Join me tomorrow or Thursday for tales of that little cracker of a day ...........


Monday 29 April 2019

BRAPA - The Ache 15 From Manchester : More Punk Pub Tales

"Manchester Punk Festival for a third time in four years combined with Good Beer Guide ticking, you're bloody mad, it can't be done!" said the ghost of Sid Vicious, on the train ride over t'hills.

I was in Eccles for 10am on a baking hot Easter Saturday.  I'd sneered at people outside the first pub, a Wetherspoons called Eccles Cross (Net pub number 1587, gross 2556) last year en route from the gorgeous Lamb Hotel to something less memorable in Monton, so it served me right they'd banged it in the GBG this year to teach me a lesson.

Better than the actual frontage, and probably next year's Eccles tick in background!

Turns out the actual Eccles Cross was an ancient neglected monument, but no one cared about it til a van accidentally ran it over in the Second World War.  Then, as so often happens, everyone got their knickers in a twist so they built the above replacement, which may also been a fancy public urinal.

You don't have to go far from Manchester for people to start reaching peak weirdness, and here, a man with one of those accents only train geeks have explained he was going to watch a live orchestra perform the Imperial March.  Then he hummed it.  Loudly.  For ages.  He had pig trotters for hands.  Welcome to the North West. 

I drank a 'This.Is.Eccles', very nice, a group of 18 year old lads made an exhibition of themselves trying to order breakfast and find a seat (first time in a pub?) and it was a surprisingly calm, clean and well-to-do 'Spoons when you think how rough n ready the neighbouring Lamb is. 

Next, I caught a very strange smelling bus to Higher Broughton for one of those 'try before you die' ticks just North of Manchester centre. 

Wow!  Glad I didn't visit under the cover of darkness or doubt I'd have got out alive.  Rubbish was strewn across every pavement, a group of kids of bikes snarled at me and one threw a projectile frisbee style at an old woman's window.  Then a topless tattooed Dad told his daughter to get her arse back in a paddling pool.  The pub was hidden down a warren of backstreets.

It kind of DID look like a Joseph Holt's pub, but also a bit like a prison for the Mancunially insane.  But I loved the Duke of York (1588 / 2557), it might not be for everyone, but the edgier pubs are for me, a breath of fresh air in a GBG filled with Micropubs, Cafes, Brewhouses and Kitchens.  I tried to look 'ard. striding in confidently where a young hapless lad was trying to 'woo' the barmaid with Easter chocolate, but she had some allergy or 'intolerance' to the stuff, he looked crestfallen but she told him it was a nice gesture, and gave him a quick peck on the cheek.  The ale selection was reassuringly straightforward, Mild or Bitter or Three Hoots, I went for Bitter cos I got mild last time in a pub like this, but then remembered I'd had this same ale yesterday in a Kidderminster micropub!  Fail. 

The pub reminded me a bit of afore mentioned Lamb in Eccles, only slightly less pretty, more Eagle & Child in Whitefield, Lord Nelson in Urmston or Railway in Broadheath.  Classics one n all! A bloke asked if I could look on my 'gizmo' to see when Man City kicked off.  When I said 12:30 and not 3, he sulked, downed his pint and left.

Romantic pub shot of the season

Man City aren't kicking off under the table lads!

The only concession to decor

Now, I walked further north to a Metrolink stop I'd spied called Abraham Moss who sounded like a Jewish Wetherspoons, and the mean side streets and estates gave way to an Asian community.  Sadly, the Metrolink lines out to Rochdale, Bury, Oldham and the like were all closed for the bank holiday!  So bang went my plans to get my ticks in Prestwich and Failsworth.

I didn't have the stomach or bladder for replacement buses, so I headed back to Manc to check in my hotel and enjoy a day of punk rock in the sun.

I'll have a pint of Ear Plugs IPA

My sister and her boyfriend (far right in above pic) found a nice pre-emptive right next to the main venue called the Salutation.

Spent A LOT of time in here over the next two days, Titanic Plum Porter and Cherry Dark plus some nice Brightside Pale helped immensely.  Cambridge Utd's punkest fans had been in the gents cubicles .....

Charlotte Bronte started writing Jane Eyre here, but couldn't finish it til she got to Haworth because the ales were just too distracting ........

Now, I'm not saying the festival goers are idiots but they are idiots.  Why oh why stay in hot sweltering venues with limited metallic seating supping £5.50 'Draught Beers' and the like out of plastic cups when a 1 minute walk takes you here?  Still, nice to have an almost empty pub to ourselves.  Not saying I didn't sample the venue beers, am pretty sure this Punk IPA actually spoke to me at one point ....

After a good night, I slept well in my Premier Inn (that is how punk I really am!) and after a very average Full English, I climbed the steps at Deansgate Metrolink 11am on Easter Sunday, or 'Zombie Jesus Day' to give it its real title.   Time for early pub ticks before the punk begins!

Luckily, 'posh' Manc was still open on the Metrolink so I decided to upset an old lady by saying "give it 2 more days, and we'll be begging for colder weather again" (she went to sit in a different carriage).

West Didsbury was my next destination, the first of 3 ticks I got done today, my first concern was 'I need to draw out cash!' but luckily, a cashpoint was right next to the pub, which was open, 11am even on ZJD, love it when a plan comes together ......

But the highbrow sounding Wine & Wallop (1589 / 2558) was a 'no cash' bar, first time I've witnessed such a thing outside of London or Reading Uni up north.  Well,  I say 'up north', but anyone who has been to Didsbury or neighbouring Chorlton will know it is about as northern in spirit as being stuck in a jellied eel factory with Ray Winstone and Janet Street Porter, whilst Jamie Oliver licks your face.

You can't deny Wine & Wallop had a great welcome, even if all the staff looked they belonged to a travelling Romanian Circus, the barman even said 'great top' to my Swingin' Utters t-shirt.  Less said about my holey trousers which got criticism all day from punks and townies alike, the better!  To quote my sister "what the fucking hell are they?"  Ale here was quality, more from Brightside, such a great brewery, though I don't like handled glasses.  A couple behind me loudly invented a scenario where they had a life threatening disease and what action they'd take.  It was all rather bizarre.  Couldn't be much different from Duke of York in Higher Broughton, but that is 'Greater Manchester' pub ticking for ya!  Keeps you on your toes at all times.  And you can generally rely on the beer.

Back in Manchester PROPER, I had one remaining City Centre tick to complete and it was very well thought of according to Twitter people who saw I was there.

Just like the Brink on the opposite side of the road, I descended down a flight of steps ('slippery when wet' as hardcore punk rockers Bon Jovi once said) and a relief to be underground and in the cool.

'Subterranean drinking den' The Gas Lamp (1590 / 2559) did have a classier feel than the Brink, lovely old tiling like one of those picturesque public bogs, and a guy who was pleasant but perhaps a bit shy and therefore not the most peopley person served me summat 'pale and modern' and you know what, I paid by card even though I didn't have to, cos that is what Didsbury had done to my brain.  Never before, never again!  There was only one other customer, he sadly didn't do anything weird, I wish I'd sat in the back parlour which looked 'the place to be' but I only spotted it late, so all in all, yes, a bit of a BRAPA non-event but that's not to say it ain't a pleasant place to go and have a pint.  My friend back home compared it to York's Blue Bell.  I think that might be overdoing it a little bit. 

Very pale

Random pile of logs doing very little

Other customer, wish he had a tick or tourettes or a knife or something

Best Parlour since Ray

Next (and finally for the Punk Fest), I strode out to Rusholme which I'd heard of but never been to.  It was a good but achievable yomp from Oxford Road, where most of the Punk Happenings were.

On the way, a dishevelled student who may well have been drunk passed me an aqua blue mobile phone, battered and from about the year 2000.  "It's for you!" he instructed.  "HELLO?  HELLO?" I said.  There was no one there.  I passed it back to him and walked on.

Rusholme looked like it was well on its way to becoming studentrified, despite there being zero appetite for such a course of action from the locals.  That said, the GBG Wetherspoons I was here for, the Ford Maddox Brown (1591 / 2560) felt more like a Pizza Hut.  A red and green colour scheme, staff with t-shirts with "PIZZA" written all over them, and more adverts and menus for the things than beer itself. 

If it hadn't been for blokes with tattooed calfs in three quarter length shorts supping lager galore, I'd perhaps have forgotten I was in a 'Spoons.  The folk were very watchful, some looked downright suspicious, staff smiled to a minimal degree, but overall, it was a nice cool place on a hot day to chill out before I got back to the Punk mayhem. 

Actually got this for £2 even without a voucher!  Happy hour? 

So I'd only done 5 pubs from my wishlist of 10, but under the circs, not a bad return as I wasn't really here for BRAPA at all!  Plus, I had Swansea to look forward to with plenty of opportunities which I'll tell you about next time.