Thursday 29 September 2022


59 pubs for the month, my best 2022 tally and third best ever .... and I would easily have broken my record of 61 if it hadn't been for a demonic combination of wedding do and dentist (not at the same time).  

Talking of 'BRAPA crappers', another train strike on Saturday (and next Wednesday, and I think the Saturday after that) is threatening to put the brakes on my penultimate BRAPA holiday of 2022, in a county I have zero ticks in.  Have you guessed what it is yet?  I'm very excited anyway.  Can my liver handle eight consecutive days BRAPing?  It's just going to have to sup up and shut up innit?!

I also managed three pre-emptives this month, all of which are a bit Richard Griffiths (pie in the sky, please keep up) , yes my jaw will be on the floor if any of them appear in the next GBG.

Speaking of which, not long now .... I'm predicting the week commencing 17th Oct, it may be sooner, you never know.  I've heard there can be a lot of tedious waiting around when you're on jury service.  Cross-ticking mid trial?  A new book is much needed anyway, as the front cover which had been hanging by a thread finally fell at the very nice Ship Centurion, Whitstable

Represents the labours of my most intensive ticking year to date

My yearly total stands at an astonishing 426, only 24 off my 2019 record of 450 pubs.  I should be past that sometime next week.  Do they do free livers on the NHS if you carry a CAMRA card?  I'll even swap it for a sheet of 'Spoons vouchers.

The aim is staying above the 50% GBG mark (2250).  I'm currently on 2415, that'll be up around 2450 by the end of next week, so unless the churn is horrific, I'm quite confident I can manage that. 

The hardest part of a top ticking month is picking five to put forward for the New Year's Eve 'pub of the year' awards ceremony, so I've decided to pick these eight out because you know, they just felt special at the time ...... it could've been as many as 15 really.

1. Railway Tavern, Carshalton

2. Cob & Coal Tap, Oldham

3. Andrew Buchan, Cardiff

4. Rifle Volunteers, Maidstone

5. New Inn, Canterbury

6. Bell & Jorrocks, Frittenden

7. Shipwright's Arms, Hollowshore

8. Elephant, Faversham

Makes me kind of thirsty for the month ahead seeing those photos again.  Sober October?  Could never be me.  See you in a weird location on Saturday, if I make it. 

Take care & keep supporting the pubs, 


Wednesday 28 September 2022


Cardiff seemed pretty wired on this particular Saturday night.  No doubt they all wanted to give QE2 a resounding send off in the only way they know how, by getting smashed. 

Daddy BRAPA had made the sensible decision to head back to the hotel at this point.  I cannot afford to be so sensible, it isn't in the spirit of pub ticking.  His final act was to photograph me outside this particularly lively Wetherspoons ....

Party time at Central Bar, Cardiff (2379 / 3943) , it could be the Saturday before Christmas judging by the huge groups of yoofs - women in Welsh jumpsuits, men with square shoulders and huge bodies but tiny pinheads and skinny legs.  I'm so astonished to get served without delay, I forget to hand over a Mudgie voucher, but the Oakham JHB is on song and exactly the sort of ale I need in this, my seventh pub.  Of course, folk are generally sheep, possibly in Wales more than other places, and are all congregating around the bar and middle of the room.  I slither through the crowds like a Yorkshire snake and find a welcome amount of space by the far wall, not far from the bogs.  I can observe these curious beasts from a safe distance now.  And the next 25 minutes passes without incident, which rarely in the world of BRAPA, is exactly what I was hoping for. 

Could've been £1.99, but never mind

Is that a dragon?

Not quite what the locals were wearing, but you get the idea

I'd spied a GBG pub just across the road.  Pub eight?  Ugghh.  But it'd be rude not to pop in and get it ticked, providing my eyes were focused and not at all drunk .....

Good to go ... let's crack on. 

Bit of a surprise how fuzzy the pub looked on arrival, considering my extreme sobriety, I guess it looks just as blurry during the day.  If you've ever been, I'd be interested to know. 

Funny how crossing a road can make such a difference.  Flute & Tankard, Cardiff (2380 / 3944) must have an invisible forcefield surrounding it to keep the Spoonsie scum out.  A gentler, calmer, loungier Saturday night atmosphere this close to a throbbing city centre you could not wish to find. A man with the voice of an audiobook serves me a pint of 'Rush Hour', heavy traffic on the pump clip, again it was in huge contrast to the surrounds.  The only customer on the move is an oldish man with a glass of red wine.  He looks a bit lost and has the gait of a gorilla, his arms brushing against the floor as he walks aimless around.  There were so few folk about, I even felt quite comfortable eating my pickled onion monster munch quite openly, which I'd recently purchased from a nearby Tesco Express.  I'm not sure that in all circumstances this pub would have enough to hold the BRAPA interest, but late on a Saturday night, eight pints to the good, there's nowhere I'd have rather been.

Fast forward to the following Saturday, and the first of two quick-fire BRAPA holidays was just about to get underway in Sittingbourne, although with hindsight, basing myself in Maidstone would've made more sense.

I've often heard Kent referred to as the 'Garden of England'.  But having now been to Gillingham thrice, Maidstone, Ashford, Chatham, Hythe & Dymchurch, I can't help but wonder if the garden in question belongs to Fred West.

Despite sleeping in by two hours, missing my alarm and my train, I made up the time superbly and arriving in Gillingham for 12 noon hadn't seemed possible three hours earlier. What is more, the Gills were at home today to (bloody rubbish) Mansfield, which increased my chances of ticking this football pub of peculiar opening hours ....

If the frontage and fontage seem to have a decidedly 'eastern' feel at the Will Adams, Gillingham (2381 / 3945), it is no coincidence.  Will is Gillingham's most famous export (well, unless you count James Jordan off Strictly) - an explorer who went to Japan, made it big, became a samurai, and weirdly, never felt compelled to return to the town.  I walk in and confuse the locals with the Hull City badge on my jacket.  There isn't a visiting Stag in sight, only five Gills men littering the bar and laughing heartily.  The vested barman serves me this glorious Oakham guest (first truly good pint I've ever drunk in the town), a local asks me about Tom Eaves, and the barman passes me a story book on Will Adams but tells me not to lose it or spill on it or burn or tear or destroy it, because it is their only copy.  He's heard about my GBG hasn't he? I'm feeling the pressure.  But finally, a Gillingham pub I can truly call great (yes, I liked the Past & Present pongy micro for what it was) but as true pubs serving good ale with good folk, Gillingham has a winner.   

I made my way across to Sittingbourne, but still way off my 3pm check in time, so I decided to get a couple of Micros ticked off, although lugging your heavy bags around any pub isn't ideal, especially micros.

Yellow Stocks, Sittingbourne (2382 / 3946) picked up where Will Adams had left off with a cracking, homely welcome.  An excitable young chap with the same voice as Cockney Rejects lead singer causes shocked gasps when he declares he isn't a huge Goachers fan, one of the leading local breweries around these Kentish parts.  We bond over a delicious liquorice mild.  He causes more gasps my declaring the Paper Mill his favourite Sittingbourne pub - top marks for bravery.  The couple who run the pub are fabulous though, and soon I'm regaling the small room with BRAPA this, BRAPA that (the poor buggers), even though a sourpuss of an old woman behind scowls at me in a 'Harry Enfield doing an impression of Deborah Meaden' type of way.  As the other customer's slope off, a young lady appears from the garden and says "can I get/grab a .... <insert drink name here>.  Landlady hates this particular Americanism import, which reminds me I must stop calling people 'guys' every two seconds.  I'd forgotten Hull City are playing, early kick off at Swansea, 0-0 58 minutes gone.  I spy this pub has a 'real' lager on called Racing Tiger.  "I better have a half, push us on to victory" I tell our hosts.  Soon, they are chanting 'Come on youuuu 'Ullll!' as I take my first sips.  Five minutes later, we are 2-0 down.  Oh dear, never trust lager.  Loveliest lager I've ever tried ever, mind.  They send me off to Donna's Ale House, saying I should definitely ask if you get a free gin with every pint, just to wind them up.  So I say I will. 

Little did I know at the time of my visit that Donna's Ale House, Sittingbourne (2383 / 3947) would possibly be my most divisive pub of the week.  THREE people, all independently of each other, would tell me a tale of woe that has stopped them from every returning here.  One guy was even accused of stealing stuff when he swears he hadn't!  Crikey.  I didn't think the layout was particularly conducive to the kind of conversation Kent's plethora of micropubs are famed for.  Partitioned, dull, chilly, meandering.  I ask for a pint of 'Huell Melon' (Hull City 3-0 down now, playing like a bunch of melons).  I'm pleased when a jolly bloke behind me pipes up "you have to say it like you are puking up ... like HUEERRRL". That rare moment of bonhomie gives me the confidence to ask the barman "I've just been in Yellow Stocks and I've been asked to ask you if it's true you get a free gin with every pint?"  (This place is more famous for its gin range than its beers).  Of course he tells me no.  I walk away with a "ha, thought not!", but he's not finished yet.  "Would you go in Yellow Stocks and ask for a whisky with every pint ... no you wouldn't!" he shouts after me.  Ooops, the lame joke / mischief making didn't translate.  I sit outside, cos the inside is depressing.  Outside is quite depressing too.  A young family are playing Uno, but the cards keep blowing away.  When the Dad, who has sent his Mum n son to get him a pint of Dudda's Tun cider, can't get the specific flavour he wants, he abandons his even younger daughter to go inside and quiz the staff on the Dudda's range.  The Wetherspoons opposite looks more enticing at this point, I must admit.  At least it is now 3pm, and I can check into my hotel.

Then I realised I'd only gone and twisted my bloody back.  That's what happens when you are on high micropub stools and have all your heavy baggage with you.  I blame my new elaborate peach and mango shower gel, heaviest bottle ever!  Oh well, I could rest for a couple of hours because one of my Isle of Sheppey ticks didn't open til 7pm.  Even on a Saturday #HobbyPubs

I'd love to tell you about that soon, but tomorrow is 'month end review' and then I've got to think about YET another BRAPA holiday ... amidst more train strikes, and then I'm on jury service for two weeks.  Ugh!  So no idea when I'll next get to write about my Kentish adventure but it might well be dark and snowing. 

See you tomorrow for month end review,


Monday 26 September 2022


I suppose that looking back now, one of the most pleasing aspects about these Glamorgan Good Beer Guide pubs is that even when they are cited as having 'an emphasis on dining' or 'serving food to a high standard', what this actually means, in the Cardiff area at least, is that you can get a pork pie on a plate.  And possibly a drop of English (Welsh?) mustard if there's enough left in the jar.   And a knife balanced on your plate precariously, which will inevitably fall floorwards with a massive clang as you make your way to a seat at the opposite end of the room.

Penarth itself, overlooking Cardiff from the south, was surprisingly kitsch.  Flowery little artisan bakeries, hand crafted nautical trinkets, prints of lifeless kittens and scented candles dominate every corner. Posh Cardiff if you will.  And even this hadn't stopped the scaffold-clad Golden Lion, from being a true pub in the strictest sense of the word, as I told you last time out before I drank 40 pints of Kentish ale last week.

The Pilot (2374 / 3938) was perhaps the weakest of Penarth's GBG thrillogy, but not useless by any means.  Most of the customers are soaking up the remnants of an already forgotten hot summer out the front.  A motivated beard serves us.  There's a smattering of wheezy obese Welsh folk with bums hanging out of loose cargo pants to remind you that when it comes to South Wales, folk embrace their boozers, and if you make eye contact, you'll get at least an 'arite boyo' and a kind nod in return.  Problem with the Pilot is, unlike its Mumbles namesake, it is airy, the decor is pale and insipid, sage with no stuffing if you like.  But as Dad follows the test match online commentary ball by ball, punctuated by chesty coughs from the next table, a 'Well Drawn' pint of Providence Pale going down the hatch nicely, you would have to surmise that all was well with the world here in this little corner of Penarth. 

Dad spies a delicious view across to Cardiff as the street adjacent to the pub slopes down towards the Bay, and suggests we take a closer look.  I interrogate my bladder to ensure it isn't going to spring any sudden urges on me, and it promises to behave, so we go and take a look.

Cardiff, at a safe distance, is really quite beautiful.  I'm put in mind of a watery Knaresborough.  Dad wants to know where the Senedd is lurking.  Out to the right I think.  Less obvious than he'd expected.  

Daddy B. obviously still had Senedd's on the brain, because as I wait patiently for him to take the standard outdoor photo at pub #3, we eventually realise he's got it on video mode by mistake.  Result?  Five seconds of me jiggling up and down.  Hot BRAPA action.  Luckily for you, Blogger doesn't like videos so the hasty follow up photo must suffice.

It all worked out perfectly anyway.  I'd been wanting to pay tribute to Retired Martin's GBG completion with an honorary tweet to make him sound like our late Queen.  No better to place to do that than a pub named The Windsor (2375 / 3939) - suddenly my jiggly dance just appeared to be part of the 'celebration'.   Again, despite the GBG trying to convince me this was some dining emporium, 'basic sports bar' would be a more accurate assessment.  Big effin' Welsh flag on the window, smaller surprising Newcastle Utd one above a door to offend my honorary Mackem sensibilities. TV sport, Chumbawumba, and an ascent to faraway loos which would make Wetherspoons blush.  Once there, a delightful zesty lemon smell like those mini towels you get after a Chinese meal.  The Brains Dark clip is bit of a wide 'un, encompassing all that surrounds it, or the Young's Original at least #EvilBrains but it is the unchallenging 3.5%er I need at this stage.  Chumbawumba might be stuck on repeat, how many times can you get knocked down but get up again?   A man with a bulbous nose puts a bet on, and that is that.  Back to Cardiff for the second half.

Dingle Road to Cardiff Queen Street follows, where we check in to our hotel for the night, separate rooms thankfully (don't want a repeat of THAT Bristol day when the clocks went back, do we?)  A bit of food and drink, and I'm aware the colour of my drink, if you avoid the scratched Oasis label, sounds a bit like the Cardiff suburb we'll be headed for next. 

Can you tell what it is yet? 

So with the football cancelled and much of the day left for ticking, it made sense to do those 'harder to reach, around the rim' Cardiff ticks that you might decline on a match day for fear of it cutting down your pre-match beer intake.

A local train ride ensues, then a ten minute walk down an inconsequential main road, Daddy BRAPA is moaning about the stride out (good job he wasn't with me for Morwenstow) "I don't walk as quickly as I used to" but soon his pain was over, we were here .... or at least the pain was sort of over, as we'd spied that dreaded Ember Inn sign.

Hello Ember my old friend, it has been a while.  February back in boring Park Gate, Hampshire, if I remember rightly.  Deri, Rhiwbina (2376 / 3940) - did you get the Ribena reference?  Dad leads the way to the bar, where we learn that Molly is the pub 'ledgend' (sic) of the month - unless of course she lights up the place, in which case she might be an LED(light emitting diode)gend of the month, which is absolutely fine.  And if you thought mine and RetiredMartin's Ember hatred was strong, get this ..... Daddy BRAPA says "I want to pay by cash for this round".  "How come?" I ask.  "I don't want Ember on my bank statement!" he replies.  Brilliant.  #ProudSonMoment.  As usual, the bright lights, faux-posh diners, cacophony of cutlery and preponderance of pillars are suffocating, so Dad wisely marches our Proper Job / Estrella outside - PJ is the best of a very national range of beers, and weirdly, this is perhaps the only Ember Inn I've been in ANYWHERE not to sell Rev. James.  That's as quirky as it got.  The garden / outdoor area is typically plentiful, and makes the experience bearable verging on semi-enjoyable as the following photo proves.


A bus leads us back towards the centre, I press the button just before and we find ourselves wowed once more by a side to Cardiff I've never seen before, despite at least five visits.  This lead us down wide leafy streets, containing some majestic government and university buildings.  Not unlike the time I finally realised Ipswich was decent.  

Before long, we are in a suburb called Cathays which houses two GBG ticks, and has a distinctly more tranquil feel than the city centre, despite being a mere stone's throw away. 

The one disappointment of today's epic BRAPA crawl was Cathays Beer House (2377 / 3941) because when a pub which puts beer at the forefront fails to deliver on the beer front, well there's not much margin for error.  Through the gate and into a stuffy atmosphere ('needed an open door at the back to get the air circulating' was Dad's feeling), and some quite harsh lighting is hard to adjust to.  The genial barman must see my panic stricken eyes scanning the bar for cask.  He sets his expression to morose and comments "unfortunately, three of the four casks have gone already today, just the one left", indicating a lonely looking Maverick Californium Golden on a blackboard over his right shoulder. It is soon evident this ale is well past its best too, warm & clarty but you can tell it'd be a good ale in ideal conditions.  As I return from the loo, Dad is trying to 'slyly' move us to an outdoor table to befuddle me, but I'm back quicker than expected and catch him moving my stuff!  It is a quirky type of place, I love a tropical fish tank in a pub.  'Tractor-style' seats at the bar, says the GBG.  I must've missed them but cannot imagine they're that comfy!  A bloke born in 1947 isn't gonna fully appreciate Harry Potter themed loos, a 1979 bloke struggles enough.  I like some of the humour dotted about, but the crowd are certainly a bit more, shall we say, 'London aloof' - happiest amongst faces and dogs that they recognise.  I suppose if you spin the experience positively, great to see the cask ales so popular. 

But ultimately, our experience of CF24 would be a winning one as we approach Dad's final pub of the night (but not mine, #HardcoreTicker).  Yes, we were cheered up and merry to the point of being Cathay's Clowns - not enough Everly Brothers humour out there is there? 

A giant floor-dog arises from it's slumber with a huge howling 'wooooooooof' as we mosey on past it and up to the bar at Andrew Buchan, Cathays (2378 / 3942).  "Sorry, sorry sorry" I say to dog and assembled old bloke punters, who are quick to reassure me that it happens to everyone, and not just because we are strange interlopers!  That set the scene for my favourite pub of the day, and the barmaid is a jewel in the crown too, listening sympathetically to our recent beer woes.  Rhymney are the brewery here, and I love how their ales are basically named like Export, Export Light, Dark, Bitter.  I go Export Light, Dad goes Export and is quick to tell me that makes him superior.  Ha!  Love this place, it is more Working Man's Club than pub in many ways, not just the clientele or the gentle friendly feels, but the low roofed, thin basic bench clad surrounds.  Only the frontage is a giveaway that it is a converted shop - we sat far back in the depths, where a funny man with a carrier bag kept disappearing in and out of dark private doors.  A cracker.  

Join me tomorrow or Wednesday depending on whether my friends want to go out for a York drink, where I'll tell you about my final two Cardiff ticks, plus a little bit of North Kent to whet your appetites for the future.

Good night and gawd bless, Si