Sunday 12 December 2021


With the Port Vale and Hartlepool fans now presumably safely locked inside Vale Park for two hours, the coast was clear to tick off my two required Burslem pubs, having enjoyed the delights of the Bull's Head a couple of times way back in the 00's. 

Today's hero, Six Towns Mart, dropped me off, but said he'd be back later on ferry me on to Hanley.  What a gent.  My only worry now was had today peaked a little too soon?  After all, Etruria's Holy Inadequate and Kidsgrove's Blue Bell had been dyed in the wool classics.

The smiley face on the blackboard wasn't a sign of things to come at the Bursley Ale House, Burslem (1957 / 3521) , a large micropub style place where the staff and locals seemed so relieved to seen off their busiest time of the week, they had no energy left for pleasantries with the likes of me!  A Twild boy ran around, demanding fruit shoots and the like.  He was attached to a long suffering local Mum, and as such, all the attention was squarely on their antics.  Sometimes, having a weak bladder can be a blessing.  In here, being up the stairs, it allowed me to discover a much warmer area of the pub, free from any customers.  In most situations, I'd feel wrong taking myself away from the 'action', but I was so convinced I'd not get a conversation opportunity, or even a friendly smile, I felt a lot happier once I'd relocated up here.  Colin was happier too, sitting atop the dartboard and almost daring people to miss double top, which could have been painful to his poor florets.  At least the Burton Bridge Damson Porter was drinking well, in an unusual kind of way, I notice they also interestingly had a Vale Ale on brewed by Slater's of Stafford, who'd just been criticised by the assembled crowd in the Blue Bell. 'Interestingly' because points of interest here were at a premium.

Just across the square, looming out at me in quite an intimidating way was the mock tudory pub four:

A return to form on the pub front, you can't keep a good Potteries down, and Duke William, Burslem (1958 / 3522) was a peach of a boozer.  Dark to the point of looking half closed, a large semi circular bar was like a greatest hits of my favourite ales.  Titanic Plum Porter, Salopian Oracle, Bass, Thornbridge Jaipur, something by Dark Star I'd not seen before, I went for the Bass obvs because, you know, day out in Staffordshire, rules innit?  Hallways and staircases lead to multi rooms with bell pushes, you really could've been in Halifax, L**ds or Outer Brum.  Grand place.  I stay in the main bar though, in front of the one source of heat, a little fire being expertly managed / poked by our friendly hostess, who's John Motson style sheepskin suggests she knows the pub needs a bit more heating than this, though apparently the bar has a heated footrail I didn't notice.  A little TV screen above me  is showing the big match, Vale v Hartlepool and all going well for the home team.  I even get to admire Hull City illuminati like David Amoo, Nicky Featherstone and Mark Cullen.  Nostalgia.  Kind of.  Six Towns Mart has arrived, just in time to hear my favourable assessment.  Hanley time, the happiest time of all.  Said no one ever before.  But the beers today had been strong.

Hanley! And it felt like about 20 years since I'd taken that bus to Etruria at 1pm, really it was about four hours ago.  It had already been an epic.  But I wasn't done yet.  Again, Mart points me in the right direction and says he'll join me for a pint in the second one later on.

Despite being dark, sleet falling, chaotic post-match traffic, the fact scaffolding is propping up the pub on the right hand side, and a giant work man's hole just to the left for idiot pub tickers to fall into, I hope you can appreciate the fantastic, unique shape of the Woodman, Hanley (1959 / 3523).  It is a bright, tall kind of place, with four different areas though I didn't realise that until I went to the loo, a bit like the Bursley.  I order a porter, and I'm conscious (just about).....  I mean I'm conscious I've been ordering stronger percentage ales today and I've reached 'ESB mental state' a lot quicker than usual.  The arctic weather, my travel woes and just the fact that the Potteries are such a pubby part of the world, are all to blame.  Back in Kidsgrove, when I'd ordered my stout, she says 'do you want to upgrade to three pints for a tenner?'   Like the folk around here treat ale drinking with the same casual nothingness usually reserved for buying a Boots meal deal.  I take my pint to the quieter room to the right, have my back to the bar area, but I think I'm already beyond quality pub observation so it doesn't matter!  

A short walk took me to my final pub, Mart was asking if I was there yet, so I'd had sped up my porter drinking as I'd been nursing it by accident!

The above photo taken just before I left Unicorn Inn, Hanley (1960 / 3524)  on the way back from the loo is instructive, because it 'artistically' represents my memories of this bustling, thriving little former theatre pub, a series of blurry red Bass triangles.  It wasn't the only beer on as you can see below, but it felt like it, I could see it in at least triplicate.  In the absence of much seating, this kind duo Maria and Christian allow me to share their seat opposite the bar, and our hero Mart soon joins us, creating a nice sort of party atmosphere end to the night as I sell the BRAPA dream!   I preferred this pub to the Woodman, it just had a bit more spirit, though specific details are a bit lacking.  What is more, being my 61st pub of November, it was a record breaking BRAPA moment too.  It had been a fine day after a nightmare start, and I manage to drag myself back to a Stoke train, Manchester bound.

Well, I know I sound like a broken record but a rewarding pub ticking county Staffs is.  Especially as Derbyshire has become a bit of a parody county re new GBG entries, Staffs is keeping it real and I've STILL got six pubs to do in the Stoke area, a few rural outliers like Consall Forge, a few in the Burton area, and plenty in the south like Tamworth, Rugeley and Hednesford which I'll hope to get to in the next 12 months.  I'd love to get a fully green Staffs by next summer.

Back in Manchester, trying to check out at Sainsbury's, I bond with the woman next to me about being unable to locate the bagging area.  Turns out she's as drunk as me!  Luckily, the journey home is less painful than the one here, and back home, for some reason I decide to do exercises til 1am whilst watching one of those Channel 5 countdown's of the most badly behaved celebrity animals or something.  

Thanks for reading, and I'll be back to tell you about one of my most perfectly executed Thirsty Thursday's ever, either tomorrow or Tuesday, Covid Booster side-effects dependent! 

See you soon, Si 


1 comment:

  1. 61 pubs saved, permanently, in a month. Sterling work, Si.