Sunday 31 October 2021



You break me off from my transformation into something ghastly, before the witching hour, just in time to tell you how October BRAPA went.  Tick or Treat! (I was going to say Tick or Teat, but it sounded wrong).

38 new pubs is a modest total in the grand scheme of 2021 ticking, but with no holidays, two 5 pub Saturdays and less commitment to the 'Thirsty Thursday' cause, it isn't a figure I'm too unhappy with, especially with a pub-heavy November coming up.

October has been a productive month in recent years, with 152 ticks over the three years before this one, but going back further, it was traditionally the weakest BRAPA month of the year.  The 16 I managed in Oct 2016 is still BRAPA's least proud moment outside of Newark. 

The elephant in the room at the time of writing is the new blue 2022 Good Beer Guide, or rather, the lack of it!  The first privilege copies were spied in Hants, London and the Surrey borders on Friday, but as yet, it hasn't arrived at BRAPA towers up here in York.  And to my knowledge, Sheffield, Wakefield and Paisley are experiencing the same 'technical difficulties'.  I heard a whisper of one in the Stockport area, but nothing further north.  Breaking news in today, a copy has reached the fictional town of Newmarket, which likes to think is in Suffolk but we all know it is only on day release from Cambs.

I hope it'll be with me tomorrow, or Tuesday morning latest, as I have Mid Hants creeping up on me with the unnerving swiftness of Jack the Ripper round the back of the Ten Bells bogs.

It all made yesterday's Beds/Herts trip feel desperately futile at times, especially in those pubs that seemed to have a very relaxed attitude to the term 'commitment to real ale' which after all, is how such pubs get selected.  You can always tell the pubs that keep on one ale purposefully to a high standard because of the slow rate they shift it, compared to those who have a handpump in a more 'accidental' sort of way.

Anyway.  Pubs of the month?  I've picked six I enjoyed a lot.....

1. Strathmore Arms, St Pauls Walden

2. Crooked Billet, Colney Heath

3. Congress Inn, Longton, Stoke-on-Trent

4. Cob & Pen, Rhyl

5. Halcyon Quest, Prestatyn

6. Orange Tree, Baldock

I'd also like to say a special thanks to Sports & Social Club, Hoylandswaine, for treating me so nicely (completing South Yorkshire probably the BRAPA highlight of the month), similarly North Mymms Social Club in Welham Green once they let me in, then overcompensated by being lovely. #ClubLife  And Dog & Partridge Marchington for having the friendliest locals.  Oh, and Malt Shovel Horsham for being the pub I (first) brought up the 2000 in.

Mold Alehouse picks up BRAPA Window of the Month.

BRAPA person & pet of the month are Coxy and Lulu for driving me around some of those harder to reach around the rim rural Herts pubs.

Joke of the month goes to Daddy BRAPA for his Prestatyn / Pressed Hat in attempt which has now amassed three likes on Twitter.

The standard of pub overall wasn't as high as usual this month, more reason a brand new GBG might be beneficial.  Many got away with being a bit rubbish by doing good beer, smiling nicely at me or having a lovely hand soap in the Gents, but some had fewer redeeming features.

1. Fox, Darley Hall

2. Crossways Micropub, Blythe Bridge

3. Red Lion, Breachwood Green

4. Greyhound, Haynes

5. Pirie's Bar, Horsham

Right folks, back to my spooky buffet.  Keep your fingers crossed for a 2022 GBG plopping onto my doormat tomorrow/Tue morning, and I will see you all in a Winchester area pub very soon!

Pleasant dreams, Si 


Wednesday 27 October 2021



Rhyl and Prestatyn complete, three pubs down, we'd hit the halfway point in the day.

Decision time.

To Mold or not to Mold?  

The advantage of Molding is that the town has three GBG ticks, meaning we could get the day done in one pub visit.

The disadvantage, getting off the train at Flint, bus services were sparse.  Taxis an unknown quantity.  And getting back from Mold, potentially just as tough with many buses final services circa 5-6pm.

The alternative?  Keep going down the line, hopping off at Chester, Newton-le-Willows and Manchester Victoria for the remaining three ticks.

I was edging Mold, and so was Daddy BRAPA, though if you ask him now, I'm sure he'll tell you I forced him against his will.  I was later told off by Mummy BRAPA for pushing him too hard over the last three weeks.  #EvilSi  (Nonsense of course, but for the sake of peace in the family unit, I'm happy to play the bit-part villain).  

I have to admit though that these last three weeks HAVE been a bit much.  Car days around North Yorks and Lancs have been hastily pencilled in over the wintertime!

Anyway, Mold it was.  How many times can I write Mold in one blog?  

Farewell Prestatyn .....

Hello Flint!  A gloomy place I visited in 2013, nothing had changed, not even the rain, when I ticked off the Royal Oak as part of my 'L is for Llandudno .... Si's A-Z Aleway Adventures' day, which I'm sure hasn't been in the Guide since.

With 40 minutes until the next bus, I prayed taxis would be plentiful.  They weren't!  Five companies I phone, four picked up, all four said no cars available for at least an hour.

Dad walked down the high street keeping his eyes peeled.  Nothing doing.  I needed a wee.  Time for a slow half before the bus? 

Looking like quite a well appointed Marston's house, George & Dragon, Flint (3445) was quite different in reality.  Note the 'gross' pub number of 3445 (sadly not net!) this is because it is a Post-Emptive as verified by Axholme Rob on Twitter after some sterling work.  He tells me it featured in the 1982 - 84 and '86 editions.  

Let's take a look at its previous entry .....

Basic 'men only' bar for men doing manly man pub things, grrrrowl.

"Spoilt for choice, lolz?" chirps our garrulous hostess, seeing the panic in my eyes as I scan the bar for signs of real ale, even a vinegary Pedigree would do.  "Arf a guinness" I quiver, as do all ale drinkers in this situation.  Dad orders a J20.  A pissed up bloke to my right slurs "you do right mate, gotta be 'ealthy" or words to that effect.  Friendliest 'most alive' pub of the day, everyone you look at says 'hi'.  Keg only pubs, always the friendliest and scariest.  Pubs with 20 cask ales on?  You'll be lucky if they spit on you, they'll probably not notice you.  It soon becomes clear Dad's J20 order hasn't been registered, it did feel like that type of pub.  He wisely doesn't question it.   Remember he has a new phone so his Google Maps would be more effective for navigation on his Boozy Brum Boys tour next week?  Well, he chose this moment to get me to help him set up his fingerprint unlocking system.  Making him the most modern man in Flint.  My 'Arf er Guinness' drank well, but we have a bus to catch.

I'd like to put on record now that whilst real ale is my favoured tipple and I'll always choose it, it isn't what I most want out of a pub.  I use the GBG  because it is a great proper book, where you can tick stuff off.  If a beer book existed called 'Britain's 4500 Most Bonkers Keg Boozers', I can tell you now, I'd be ticking the buggery out of that!

Opposite the pub, and onto the bus, the driver seemed surprised anyone would want to go from Mold to Flint.  The card reader, he told me, didn't work, we were purely 'cash only around here, soz boyo'.  He then told Dad his Pensioners Bus Pass wasn't valid either!  We sat atop the wheel arch, as the bus bounded down bumpy country roads into increasingly leafy parts, Mold the surprisingly large town at the end of it all.

A bit like Leek in terms of bus ride, location, nice bustling town, and being a one word town with four letters.  Sadly its GBG pubs couldn't compete.

First up, this oddity .....

I'd been to a Fat Badger in Harrogate once, and this Fat Boar, Mold (2016 / 3446) had a very similar kind of atmosphere, I see there is a Wrexham one too so perhaps part of a small chain.  The kind of place where ladies fresh out of the sauna walk in wearing fluffy white dressing gowns and slippers, face packs on, cucumbers for eyes, and lean on the bar as smartly dressed respectful young staff carefully sculpt them a creamy cocktail with a coffee base and frosted rim, carefully placing two passion fruit segments in the top.  And then, ten minutes later, you (or in this case Dad) asks for an ale and a J20 and they breathe a sigh of relief.  Dad gets his card out, ready for the contactless charade, and to our immense surprise, the staff are suddenly flustered, reaching for distant card machines, eyeing us like we're the most modern men in Mold straight outta Shoreditch.   Bastion, my third Big Hand beer in a row, and surprisingly for a 4th tick of the day, the first pint I genuinely enjoyed.    A nice rich traditional bitter.  Some awkward perched high stools look our best bet for seating, beyond that some ladies who brunch tottered between dark conservatory, patio, and a sort of out building.  One loo for the entire pub?  Surely not!  I went outside to ring for a taxi for later.  I made Chester the destination to speed the day up.  Again, it was a massive trial.  Even though I was booking for over an hours time, no one could do the time I wanted.  I eventually had to agree on half an hour later.  I returned to break the bad news to Daddy BRAPA.  Another late finish!  

Dad had gone a-wandering by now, Littlehampton style, but I soon found him knocking on the window of a little cafe where he was enjoying a life-giving coffee.  

It had at least given me chance to observe the true stripped back blurry Mold.

Our next pub looked more like an amusement arcade ...... 

And I was still cooing "ooh, doesn't feel much like a Wetherspoons" as we walked through the narrow dimly lit, booths on each side entrance at the Gold Cape, Mold (2017 / 3447) though it did in fairness, open up into the Spoonsiest Spoons everIt is actually called the Gold Cape because they found a 4,000 year old solid gold cape under this pub, which is funny because most people were obsessed with Bronze, knifes, beakers and spearheads around then.  The cape was discovered in 1831, and it first appeared in GBG the following year, Tim Martin cutting the ribbon with William IV and Eliza Courtney.  BRAPA fact.  I'm talking shite cos there's not much to say.  A 'Spoons fifth tick of any day is gonna be like that.  My Peaky Blinders beer was like razorblades in the throat.  It wasn't busy enough to be fun, or intimidating, the place had partitions a plenty which made observation difficult (yeah ok so Dad had Boris and Theresa sat behind him but what of it?)

AND I forgot my 50p off vouchers

One pub to go before our taxi, plenty of time, and ended up kinda glad I'd not had to drink at 25 mins a pint cos I wasn't massively enjoying my beer today.

Dad distracted by dog insanity at crucial moment

Easily the pick of the Mold trio was the Mold Alehouse, Mold (2018 / 2448) , not because it had loads of beer choice or anything so crass even though it did, but I just really really liked the building in which it was situated.  Reminded me of taking my cats to the vets when I was younger, Grade II listed and some sort of chambers of secrets.  Taxi lady didn't have a clue when I said where we wanted picking up from the Mold Alehouse, but as soon as I said Earl Chambers, she was like 'yup boyo'.  Someone tells me this used to be the Chester Chronicle offices too.  Disservice to call it simply a 'micropub'.  We probably missed some sign on entry, fighting our way through the lively wide-eyed crowd to the bar.  "MASKS ON!" came the cry.  We apologised, as my sister found on a recent trip to Scotland, rules still a bit stricter outside England.  I later put on Twitter we'd been told off, the pub saw it and said it was hardly a telling off, just good job we didn't order Fosters!  Oh how we llol'd (laughing out loud in Wales), we'll call it a stern reminder then!  Happy place though, ale of the day, no idea what I ordered (not Fosters) but hardly matters six pints in does it?  Hardly going to be fire up the ole' Untappd at that stage of the day.  Sad that out of six GBG ticks, I'd only enjoyed two pints.   But a positive note on which to end, if you are only in Mold for one (I can't imagine such a scenario), I'd pick this.

Smile like Daddy BRAPA and the world smiles with you

BRAPA Window Of The Year (WOTY) contender

The taxi back to Chester did its job, and I'm glad I was six pints in to numb the cringe of the bit where our driver started speaking on his crumbling marriage and being a captive audience, we had no choice but to sit through it.  

I did briefly contemplate my 'Cavern of the Curious Gnome' debut, with the next Manchester-York connection not for ages, but I agreed with Dad when he said let's get out of Chester and start getting back towards Manchester (psychologically as much as anything, to feel you are getting in the direction of home).

Even six pints in and tired out, the tickers brain never stops ticking over, and bit of mental maths later, I realised we could jump out at Newton-le-Willows, have 40 minutes to get the pub done, and get on the connecting train which took us straight through to York.  Top planning!  Especially as it wasn't far from the station ......

We wished a pleasant evening to the assembled bouncer crowd, and walked straight in to my first Merseyside tick in yonks, Kirkfield Hotel, Newton-le-Willows (2019 / 3349).  It was surprisingly dimly lit, but I approved, with all the hustle and bustle you'd expect from a Saturday night.  Salopian's often drink well, and this Charm Assault was no exception, though I tried to order it in a tongue-in-cheek swaggery charming way, I'm glad looking back that she didn't seem to notice.  It was cosy and carpetted and felt kind of clubby, the GBG entry bangs on about coming here for breakfast (well mentions it briefly) and you can tell they were struggling for things to write, as am I.  It had a few 'themed' areas, we were in Headingley which confused us a bit with its print of Vinny Jones grabbing Gazza's balls, I s'pose VJ played for L**ds but beyond that, hmmm.  Safe to say though, one of the best pints of the day and a happy, cosy place.

And there you have it!  Was that my final pub tick using the 2021 GBG, with the 2022 supposedly being sent w/c 25th Oct which is like now?  Exciting times.  Get your Stabilos ready. Bring on the cross-ticking.


Tuesday 26 October 2021


Sorry for the lateness of the hour, I've been imbibing in the Swan and Slip in York, two lovely pubs, and lost track of time.  If you love this blog title, please give credit to a Mr Martin Alsop.  He's a simple man, buy him a pint by way of thanks,  here's what I wrote last night .......

"Daddy BRAPA will be relishing next Saturday where he gets to go to 'OnlyHull' (it is like OnlyFans but less sexy) and can just spend a leisurely couple of hours drinking in one single boozer, before trotting off to the MKM whatever-it-is-called-nowadays stadium to watch the latest miserable defeat.

This after a third consecutive BRAPA Saturday of back breaking pub proportions.  Horsham / Littlehampton seemed a tough day at the time.   But was nothing compared with Uttoxeter day a week later.  And now, we had this, North East Wales.  Which was supposed to be Crewe, but wasn't.

The highlight of the long, but not overly arduous journey was a stop in Manchester Victoria for a BRAPAcino and some healthily buttered malt loaf to warm the cockles.

Rhyl was our furthest point west, and we walked to the furthest of two pubs, about a 15-20 minute walk from the station, timing it about right for 12 noon opening. 

What a shame then, that it didn't.  SHUT PUB ALERT!

Google confirmed these exact stingy micropub hours at the Dove at Rhyl making me think I'd not been diligent enough in my research.  Still, I'll have got 12 noon from somewhere, but in pub planning, the last few months have told me you can do worse than to treat Google as your most accurate source, especially if the pub's Facebook is inconclusive.

Google Photos is more annoying, failing to acknowledge that pubs are my main hobby ....

Opposite the station, the other Rhyl 'tick' was so open, it was positively gaping ......

And a strong contender for pub of the day too, Cob & Pen, Rhyl (2013 / 3442) was a just a great all rounder - strong in every category.  When you walk into a pub and there's a group of old blokes who look like they've been here since 6am, it is always going to be a pub to rise above mediocrity.  Bit of a joke with the barmaid about forgetting how to pay using actual cash, exchanging nods with a chap called Malcolm, definitely in the top 20 of reassuring pub bloke names.  I went for a pint of Hop Kick, I wasn't a fan, it had a weird hoppy kick, kinda seemed churlish to complain given the name.  Chelsea and Norwich are about to start playing football, a respectful minutes 'applause' for Jimmy Greaves ensues as beers are swigged, just how he'd want it, although my phone changed his name to 'Jimmy Graves'.  There are snugs and side rooms leading off in all directions, lush Welsh tiling, I learn 'Tafarn' is Welsh for Tavern, making it my third Welsh word I've learned after Heddlu and Toiledau.  Malcolm asks 'where to next?' and when I say Prestatyn, he says "you can't go wrong, it is one street".  I say "Malcom, can't stay to chat, Daddy BRAPA has left the building".

Phoning home with predictions for Luton away, the smart money is on a defeat

Malcolm in the corner (not the middle)

A pub of some quality

Should've gone Bastion, but I'd get another chance later

Back on Rhyl Station, Dad had been debating whether to become a Tik-Tok star on the train over, makes me film him doing a 'Pressed Hat In / Prestatyn' joke which moved everyone who saw it on Twitter to hideous tears.  "You might go viral" I told him.  He looked scared and pulled his facemask back up.
Two 'likes' on Twitter for this, deserved at least three

Malcolm wasn't kidding.  Prestatyn was one main street, a bit more colourful and vibrant than Rhyl which isn't too hard to achieve.  A long street though, plenty of quirkiness, Hallowe'en definitely approaching by the looks of it, should've brought new mascot Pumpy if I'd known everything would be so garbed in pumpkinny stuff.

Amy Winehouse - according to Daddy BRAPA

Dad was using his brand new phone to direct us, using Google Maps and remembering the training session I'd given him in Uttoxeter a week ago.  Apart from a left turn, it wasn't a tough one to find, NOT the next pub had much in the way of signage to suggest it was anything other than a low key hotel .....

Halcyon Quest Hotel, Prestatyn (2014 / 3443) is the rather fabulous name, and surely people must call it the H.Q. and then wink at their nearest cauliflower.  A bloke sat all alone in the middle of the room watching Pensioners maul Canaries looks up and says hello.  'Friendly punters' I make a mental note, but then, he jogs around the bar to serve us!  Same thing happened on the way with a young lad propping up the bar.  We return our glasses, I'm like 'poor bored looking lad' and then he says 'cheers gents, enjoy your day!'  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Pubs where you can't distinguish staff from punters = instant classic.  In fact, this was the only pub today to rival Cob & Pen, and in my view, probably edged it.  Warm atmosphere, hotel bar doesn't do it justice, pub all over.  A boat on the ceiling above us says J.R. Hartley's Fly Fishing.  I wonder if it is the one from the Yellow Pages advert.  Was there one actually including a boat?  Or was it just a codger on the phone?  In keeping with a rather unfortunate theme today,  the ale was again well kept (top lacings!) but I just didn't like the flavour.  At least being called 'Glas Haf Fwll', I could hone my ever burgeoning grasp on the Welsh language.  

Dad used a dangerous combination of Google Maps and his imagination to get us to our other Prestatyn tick which was close by.  He must've not liked the look of it from afar as he asked me to stop for the obligatory outdoor photo before we'd even crossed the next road!!

Bar 236, Prestatyn (2015 / 3444) was actually 'Two 3 Six' when you get to the building, which kind of gave me a sad headache.  A little 'reception desk' blocks our progress, but the best staff member of the day, a sort of Rylan Jordan Henderson, lets us approach, corrects my assertion that Big Hand are from Chester (Wrexham actually Si you nob) and serves me my third excellent condition pint, which again is not enjoyable due to the style.  I am questioning whether I still liked real ale at this point!  This bar was a throwback to the pre Micropub GBG days that came along circa 2011.  Don't be fooled that prior to this, the GBG was wall-to-wall pubs full of old tosspots in flat caps supping Flowers whilst smoking twenty woodbines and playing dominos.  No.  I remember plenty of new entrants circa 2002/3 like this.  Knight's in Hartlepool stands out.  Sun shining in through huge windows, clomp clomp clomp of heels against wooden floors, an array of 12 giant silver lager and German beer fonts, with two local handpulls with drawn on pumpclips.  No one ever knew who brewed them.  There was always a young woman sat alone drinking red wine with a dog, letting it play with her frizzy hair as a fake dog toy.  OutKast and Linkin Park tested the questionable acoustics.  Women discussed how their Atkins diets were going, laden in ponchos.  Pimply 17 year olds in outdated Kappa would appear and nervously order Fosters.   Okay, so Bar 236 was a bit toned down for 2021, but you get the gist.  My favourite bit?  No one gave a stuff about Chelsea, but instead, streamed out as one disgruntled mass once full time sounded in Cardiff 0-3 Middlesbrough. Warnock v McCarthy?  Great to see a new generation of football manager coming through.

It was time to say farewell to Prestatyn, I have to say I thought the town had a really nice feel.  We'd reached the halfway point, and were at a crossroads in the day.  Decision time!

To find out more about that, join me tomorrow for more tales of BRAPA North East Wales."