21st May 2022 was BRAPA judgement day in Hertfordshire. And as long as nothing silly happened (by which I mean pubs being unexpectedly closed, or barring me for swearing or using electronic devices), I'd have a fully green Herts by teatime.
Our old BRAPA illuminati Simon Dewhurst was at the wheel. It was important that Simon was here to share the possible glory. He'd been so instrumental in helping me complete Essex, but had missed the final Bures climax.
He'd already helped me with the likes of Allen's Green and Green Tye, and may I just say it is purely coincidental that he normally appears when the pubs have a limited public transport service!
I wasn't meeting him until 12:30 so time to squeeze in an early London opener, get the day off to a good start. The Sunderland fans (en route to Wembley for the play off final) had been extremely well behaved on the way down, but I couldn't shake them off. Every Tube stop, every street corner, even at Lambeth North! Poor Wycombe were gonna be seriously outnumbered.
Pub one was a very London-esque looking Fullers house ......
The door was wide open as you can see, at Hercules, Lambeth North (2215 / 3777) but being only 9:55am, I respectfully hang around for five minutes looking at wedding dresses in a nearby window in a non-committal way. Big Ben bonged 10, and I stroll in all casual like alongside a lady with a laptop and a takeaway coffee. "Hiiiiiiiiii" she says to the barmaid. "Hiiiiii you!" says the barmaid, "it is my last day working here!" "Wooohooo, well done youuuuuuu, I'm late for work but I don't care because I'm the one who opens up anyway lolz" says laptop lady trying to sound like a business owner. A barman joins in. "Youuuu guyyyyss" he says, channelling his inner Goonie. He's the most London looking twentysomething ever. Poor BRAPA (that's me) is merely a bit part character in this jolly morning scene. I order a Hophead (£5.80, should I even be surprised?) and trudge off, bowed head, to a far away table. The beer is good for London. I often notice beer quality in London GBG pubs is one of the most variable (which is a polite word for shit). I'm not alone for long. A bloke sits on the table adjacent to mine. Maybe he wants company, or my radiated body warmth? He's ordered three thirds. One black, two murky. I bet he's an Untappd filth merchant! My curiosity gets the better of me and we get chatting. I was right. Nice guy, his son has a music lesson across the road, so this is his Saturday morning routine, and he gets new beers to try each time in here. I detect an accent. European? I'm thinking Dutch. I ask. "Ah, zat eez difficult!" he says. "Go on, I won't judge" I assure him. "Russia!" I assure him I won't 'boo' him, though I do finish my drink before I go to the loo in case it gets Novichocked. Joking of course. Looked more of an Polonium man. Time for Herts? I think so.
|Come on youuuuu Spiders!
After a short wait, Simon D appears. Sadly no Daddy Dewhurst day today but he is here in spirit.
We start at the pub that shuts at mid afternoon, even on a Saturday, so you can probably already guess it is remote, independent, run by people who are getting a bit long in the tooth, and has had the same regulars for the last 50 years. i.e. My kinda pub!
And I wasn't disappointed, Chequers, Wareside (2216 / 3778) was a cracker, if a bit weird. But we like weird. Wareside already had their bunting up for the forthcoming jubilee because "nothing else happens here." There are low beams, the old classic 'newspaper rack' (when Simon last came here, they had to fish the newspaper out of the bin so a demanding customer could read the obituary of someone I can't remember, Simon will know). The best room of the lot is a sort of 'library', huge book shelf, sadly a couple waiting for cheesy chips are stopping us from getting a closer look. The bar is low, and there is much snackage behind including the new weirdly branded Pringles, a bit like a village shop set up. The landlady pulls me a pint of the house ale 'Treacle Mine IPA'. Can anyone enlighten me as to why it is called that? Great drop, in a Bass glass too. She is both very engaged, and very absent, at the same time. Singing to herself, eyes glazing over, at various moments, proper chatty in others! The pub phone is ringing off the hook. What a popular place. She generally ignores it, until one moment she rushes towards it. "Hello Roger!" she squawks. A local starts chatting radish and lettuce. Simon says I should keep Colin well hidden. I apply a bit of aftershave in the gents, I don't think the top has been off it since the 70's. It makes me smell like a Persian prince. Time to go. Quite a whirlwind pub experience!
THREE TO GO!
Next for the awkward journey north, but for once Google Maps SatNav lady is being very detailed and vocal in her instructions. We are impressed. She totally ignored Daddy BRAPA when he asked her about Appleton Wiske the following day. Typical southerner. Think nothing north of the Watford Gap exists.
Pub two looked a little bit like this, a font almost as spectacular as Chequers A-Team tribute .....
The most northerly and remote of the day, Blind Fiddler, Anstey (2217 / 3779) was a new one for Simon too, so we had no idea what to expect. We're faced by a smiling couple behind the bar, and two local barflies acting as bookends, for once, they seem genuinely pleased to see some new faces they don't recognise. It is the friendliest pub today, and I can tell the locals approve of Simon's interest in the Eagle IPA a lot more than my 61 Deep choice. I foolishly show an interest in the two draught Martini cocktails - passionfruit and espresso. To my surprise / horror, the landlord pulls me one of each. If these were tasters, they were extremely generous measures! I get stuck into them, but everyone is laughing. Seems they didn't expect me to down both! Phew! Bit wasteful though. The pub interior is quite bland considering the colourful characters, but no bother, the garden is a delight, the far end backing onto fields, no fence or partition, a farmer could just jump off his combine harvester straight into the pub. Superb views. After an awkward piss in the West Ham sponsored gents alongside our friendly guv, I can finally sit down and enjoy my pint. Rural Herts at its most obscure!
Speaking of rural and obscure, my second favourite moment of the day happened next.
"I've got a very, very pre-emptive for you" announces Simon, by which he meant it was a total long shot for future GBG inclusion, rather than a nailed on 2023 cert.
It was down the thinnest of country lanes in the middle of nowhere, probably nearest Great Hornmead which has a shut former GBG entry. The type of road where grass grows in the middle and if you meet a vehicle head on, someone's gonna have to back up for a mile to find a passing point. Reminds me of the Belchamps in Essex or Mummy and Daddy BRAPA's recent trip to Upper Llanover's Goose n Cuckoo.
Simon is doing some brewery liaison officer style work for them, and wants to pop in and buy some cans. I joke we could do with 'drinking in' for the tick to count.
Simon makes a bold proclamation. "I tip these guys to be as a big as Verdant". I nod sagely like I understand what this means. He steps out of the car, the building looks deserted and locked, he tries ringing a number whilst I pose and offer no help whatsoever.
Turns out that Mr Baron is on a stag do in Brighton, but have no fear because the lovely tousle haired Miss Baron, formerly of Cheltenham and Edinburgh, appears. Welcome to Baron Brewing Co. Not only does she let us in and force me to buy three cans when I only want two #PubWoman, but gives us a can of this 8% stuff called Hen's Tooth not fit for public consumption. Tasted amazing to me, no way this can be 8%, and with Simon driving, I have to drink the majority. After those Martini cocktails too! Hic! Maybe missing my ESB later wouldn't be such a bad thing? We have a lovely chat, I make myself unpopular by suggesting Glasgow is twice the city of Edinburgh (which it obviously is). I ask if they have a loo, more in hope than expectation, and I'm let into the house! She apologises for the bric-a-brac chaotic state of flux scene that greets us, but I only want an empty bladder and to admire the full size snooker table in the corner. Apparently, the pockets aren't big enough for it to be used at the Crucible. We all stand chatting a bit more, yes the outdoors does currently have a 'gypsy commune' style feel, but I bet they're planning on building a taproom. I say I just hope they don't build it in another part of the yard, or rules state I have to come back! After more wise nodding from me (this time something about a collab with a secret London brewer), it is time for us to thank her and get back to the Si-mobile.
|Ready to wheel my three cans back to York
Everything had been so quirky so far today, it was probably time that we had something of a lull, which is what happened as we arrived in Buntingford (which unlike Wareside, didn't have any bunting up, which just ain't right is it?)
ONE PUB TO GO!! C'MON!!
My Herts adventure for a good few years (that's what I said when I completed Essex, but me and Simon are already devising a summer mop-up operation!) ends in the sleepy little village of Braughing, mainly because the pub doesn't open til 3pm on a Saturday THE ABSOLUTE MONSTERS.
The sun is shining as we pull into the side of the main street. A bright pink (think RetiredMartin Stabilo) pub is glimmering at us, plenty of people drinking outside the front of the pub.
But hang on, I glance at the name and this isn't the pub I need, this is something non GBG!
We glance in the direction of the GBG pub, hidden behind some cars, no signs of life. "Uh oh, it doesn't look very open!" says Simon. "Please don't say that, can't be beaten at the final hurdle!" I squeal like a pregnant otter.
We cross the road ..... and thankfully, there is a different door from the one Simon was looking at, and this one is slightly ajar. Phew!
The door creaks open at the Brown Bear, Braughing (2219 / 3781). A beautiful looking pub inside, the tiles, fireplace, decor all chime with the sound of a rural Herts bygone age, not unlike the Wareside Chequers. One problem. Well, two problems. It is quite dark. And it is totally deserted. And I don't just mean zero customers, who are all next door at the Pink Stabilo Arms and obviously don't own a GBG, but no one behind the bar either. We stand and wait. I've come this far, I'll lean over and 'do a Duncan', as it is known in the trade, if needs be. A few seconds later, a landlord appears. Puffing and blowing, but with the kindliest face in the business. I bet when he was a baby, people said "he'll be perfect for a customer facing role when he grows up". Such a nice man. Takes me too long to decide between Boltmaker and Harveys, I go the former cos having a northern constitution, Harvey's sometimes upsets my gut, even if I've had my morning Actimel. The pint is great, but I've savoured it too long, time has really gotten away from me, think I've been in an olde worlde pub trance! Simon's looking at me like 'you planning on finishing that any time today?' 'Quick, back to Hertford North!' I think, suddenly feeling guilty as I promised to buy my Sunderland friend a celebratory Parcel Yard ESB before his train home.
HERTS COMPLETE! And it is all the more satisfying that there aren't any I've had to cross out due to long term closure or other GBG deletion reasons, so it really is fully green.
Oooh, 'interesting' stat ..... it was exactly a year to the day since I fully greened Surrey.
Back in London, my Sunderland marra has decided to dash off anyway so I promise I'll buy him a pint in Maltings when we're back in York in midweek. "At Parcel Yard ESB prices, you might have to buy me two!" he says. Nice try!
I realise I'm on the Grand Central, which goes direct to Sunderland! Uh oh, this is gonna be fun(!)
But it is a strangely chilled out journey! A dry train, boo, as I was gonna drink my Baron cans to make up for the lack of ESB. I fully expect the Mackems to not care about the dry train rule and go mental, but they observe all the rules, ordering Tangos and Coffees galore.
I'm on a table of four, and three lads stick some Sunderland Fried Chicken on the table and invite me to dig in. When they finish it quickly, they announce "well that was short lived!" and I'm thinking they mean the chicken, but they actually mean their time sat with me, as they then leap up out of their seats and sit with their mate a few tables down. End result, a table of 4 to myself all the way to York!
What's more, when one bloke cries "WE'VE ONLY BLOODY GONE AND DONE IT LADS, CHAMPIONSHIP HERE WE COME!" the other Sunderland fans in the carriage hush him up, one even shouts across "can we please wait until we get back to Sun'lan before the party starts?"
I could never have envisaged a journey back quite so uneventful and calm.
I've decided in the absence of Parcel Yard ESB and cans on the train, I'll pop into York Tap for last orders. But the station is crawling with racegoing pissheads, so I go straight home, planning to have a can of Baron with a bit of Keto supper, but when it comes to it, I decide I'd prefer a glass of lemon barley!
Thanks for reading and see you all on Sunday for more county completion joy.