BRAPPY New Year all! 2022, wow can you believe it? Well I can't, especially as it is 19:41 on New Year's Eve when I write this intro, a can of 'Shifting Tides' by Burnt Mill to my right, some cherry tomatoes, Wensleydale cheese from Hawes, chutney and crackers to my left.
The mascot gang including debutants Reg the Drunken Monkey and Chris the Woke Cow are arguing over who should go to Blackpool tomorrow.......
|Alex is like "WTF Col, bit presumptuous packing yourself already!"|
2021 was a much more 'normal' pub ticking year than 2020, if anything in the world of BRAPA can be considered normal. Of course, we got off to a very lockdowned start, and even now, you are not quite sure what new restrictions might be lurking around the corner to scupper early 2022 ticking.
My grand total ends on 379 new ticks for the year, plus 12 pre-emptives. I'm very happy with that, yes there are tickers out there who'll end on astonishing totals, but in the grand scheme of the lifelong quest I'm undertaking, I've got to be chuffed. I beat my 2014-2016 totals when pubs were open 365 days, and easily surpassed the 258 I managed in 2020. 'A pub a day keeps the doctor away' (+14) as they say.
I ended 2020 on 1735 pubs, and I'll begin 2022 with my 1990th pub, that's gotta to be progress hasn't it, especially when you consider the 'loss' that always occurs during the yearly cross-ticking.
Anyway, enough of the boring science bit, on with the review.
January - March
Errrm, not a lot going on here! Pubs as shut as shut could be, dead as a Dodo, and I'm not even talking the micropub in Hanwell I STILL haven't visited. It seemed there was no end to lockdown in sight in those bleak midwinter days of Jan-Feb.
Fear not though, for those of you who followed #WWWSI will be able to recall, amazing how much fun you can have with a dice, a bag of Wotsits, a TDK tape, a bottle of red wine, some elaborate cuisine, and a good old Western film.
And no, I didn't know my hat was drug themed. I just thought it was a nice pretty floral pattern!
Even #WWWSI bored me after a while, but have no fear, #SiFiPieFri was just around the corner. Yep, you guessed it, me watching Sci-Fi films whilst eating a pie on a Friday. Genius! How have I not patented these things? Twitter decided what ales I'd drink from a list, and I ate Pom Bear crisps, then Scampi n Bacon fries, though looking back it should really have been Space Raiders. Fail.
|All those exciting Tiny Rebel cans and Twitter make me drink 'Yorkshire Bitter'. #PubMen|
At least March provided optimism. More sunshine, pubs re-opening albeit outdoors only in April, and further getting me in the mood was CAMRA's 50th birthday celebrations, for which the lovely Laura Hadland interviewed me (a year previously) about what it's like to be a weirdo pub ticker in her fab book which I kept reading whilst I was supposed to be doing important banking stuff .....
The anticipation of Monday 12th April didn't quite match 4th July the previous year, but it was close. I booked the day off work (should've been a free 'life event' day for a guy like me) and the #PubMan to end all PubMen Martin Taylor offered to drive me around a few required South Yorkshire ticks, along with wife Christine, and of course, that cheeky little Cauliflower.
I couldn't get into the whole 'outdoor only' ticking malarkey. Unseasonably freezing weather, a constant worry of whether they'd have the space to accommodate you, pre-booking fiascos, and even more importantly to me, the feeling that I wasn't really 'experiencing' the pub by simply sitting outdoors or in some dodgy flappy brown stained marquee.
Total Ticks - 3(!)
Pub of the Month - Roland Arms, Aston. As GBG ticks go, it was utterly dreadful, but as a first day back pub experience, the three of us found it quite hilarious. A lack of cask meant John Smith's Smooth was my first pint back (I loved it, don't judge me!) but they couldn't even sort out Martin with a soft drink without a faff. Staff were lovely but clueless. The locals were loving it, a group of about 12 ladz drank about 77 pints of Stella in the half an hour we were there. An experience I'll not easily forget!
Hull City's unexpected promotion from League One helped distract me from the fact that I was immensely frustrated by the lack of indoor pubs.
But Monday 17th May was the day, I'd booked the week off work, and I headed down to Surrey for 'unfinished business' having come so close to 'fully greening' the county a year ago. The cross-ticking here had been particularly cruel. I wasn't the only one excited as I packed the BRAPA bag .....
And so it was, that on 12 noon, Monday 17th May, I walked into the Haycutter, Broadham Green, a classic rural Surrey posho Brunning & Price, and sat down with an indoor pint whilst posh oldies who'd pre-booked scuttled around ordering champagne and sea bass. Always the wrong type of bass.
In normal circumstances, this pub would've bored me to horrible tears, but I was in heaven.
|Isn't it ..... errm .... wonderful?|
|Theydon Oak, Coopersale (Wales are playing in the Euros on a giant screen but no one cares)|
|Cricketers, Littley Green (the one with the evil staff but great beer and amazing looking food)|
Pint of the Year - Ridley's Rite, Andrewsfield Milibar (the only ale on, I'd been anticipating this tick since 2017, and I wasn't disappointed. Unique, great guv'nor, I thought it might be a bit crummy but it was actually great).
|Don't turn around Col|
|I might be drunk, but I've got it back!|
|Oi Martin, Belchamps are this way! Come back!|
|The Oakham Citra in the Red Lion, Belchamp Otten, was another pint of the year contender|
|Vinyl Tap, Preston (bonus extra photo from the vaults of Daddy BRAPA)|
I got some awkward Essex outliers done I'd missed earlier in the year to pave the way towards my big finale, and then a cracking trip to St Albans got me thinking 'oooh, Herts could be a good county to get done next?'. Dad being called on stage to join the band in an 'I Want to Break Free' Queen rendition at the Farmer's Boy must be a yearly highlight for him. If only he'd brought his leather hot pants!
|Simon gets his Stabiloing game on at the slightly odd Bell Inn, Great Bardfield|
|Last Essex tick! Eight Bells in Bures Hamlet. Celebrating with a Sarson's|
|Beer garden at Cock n Bull, Amble|
|Dad's shoe/shorts combo took the pressure off me from getting the usual fashion faux-pas Twitter comments!|
Can't really remember what drove me to stay a few nights in Stafford, but I'm glad I did. Got some very solid pubs done .
BRAPA Town of the Year - Leek (Wow, colour me impressed! I know it's a long bumpy bus ride, but I promise you, it is worth it - all 4 GBG entries were well above average).
|Mmm, beiger than an Ember Inn on the outskirts of Sutton Coldfield|
Where was I? Oh yes, October. An overnighter in Hertfordshire confirmed to me that this really is the county I want to focus on now. BIG THANKS to 'Stephen Pie' Coxy for driving me around the rural pubs west of Stevenage area despite having a bad hangover and having to be patient with my pint drinking! The good news is all six pubs we did remained in the following GBG.
|Strathmore Arms, St Paul's Walden|
A week later in West Sussex quite randomly, I achieved my 2000th net GBG pub at the Malt Shovel in Horsham, hurrah!
|I even made a '2000' card!|
Fitting that Tom 'Clag Monster' Irvin should be with me for this moment. He was the original BRAPA supporter back in 2014 when no one else had heard of it. He even joined me on one of the two BRAPA 'trial runs' when I was working out whether this is really want I wanted to do with my life! His train knowledge over the years has been second to none, saved me a a fortune, he's a really top friend, unique, so sincerely, thank you Tom.
I'd like to say I slowed down a bit after that, but no chance! Back in West Sussex with Tom and Daddy BRAPA, then there was more from Staffs as that Stoke area continued to surprise me with some top quality, and I got to meet Six Towns Mart totally by chance which was perhaps that greatest BRAPenstance moment of all time.
|Wankered with Irvin at the excellent Anchored in Worthing|
|Thirsty Thursday fave Keane Lewis Otter makes friends at Pot & Glass, Egglescliffe|
|Barman wants a pint - the unique Queen's Head at Allens Green|
|Spreading the BRAPA word at the surprisingly classic Unicorn in Hanley|
|Daddy BRAPA gets them in in Redmire|
And how good is Tamworth and area as a pub town? Absolute crackers, and that's just the locals. And earlier in the month in Dickensian Central London. Atmospheric and old pubs of the utmost quality.