Wednesday 23 November 2022


Q : When do you most want your Good Beer Guide to look like this? 

A : When you are in a Sam Smith pub!

It was the shortest walk from Tiny Rebel in Newport centre to this gem, but they were world's apart in almost every way.

Olde Murenger House, Newport (2428 / 3992) really makes me sad that there aren't more Sam Smith pubs in the GBG, an unpopular view I guess, but the combo of eccentric unpredictable owner plus just the one cask on (OBB) are perhaps too much to bear for most CAMRA branches.  Shame, but as the Cheeky Girls would comment 'touch my bum, this is life'.  Their buildings are generally stunning old time warps, and this was a fine example.  Despite the 'no electronic devices' rule, I manage to sneak two photos (instead of my usual 4-5) early doors, pubs this beautiful deserve to be seen by the widest audience possible.  If this rule still exists in five years time, I'll be shocked.  Dimly lit, beautiful wood panelling, old settles, stained glass, I was purring like a kitten as I shoved my phone firmly back in my pocket, savoured my excellent pint, and read my GBG like a novel.  A surprisingly deep pub too, a walk to the loo taught me that, and in every nook and cranny, a warty old bloke with long hairy ears.  One chap at the bar is explaining that he lives in Malta these days, but he's back for the free healthcare, before pointing graphically towards his prostate.  I had to chuckle that my pint in Tiny Rebel had been cheaper (closer to £3 here the heathens!), I'd have put money on the opposite at the start of play.  

Still in GBG?  It sure is, Newport CAMRA you absolute enlightened legends!

Time to go the wrong way out of Newport (AKA not towards Abergavenny OR Chepstow), where I had two ticks conveniently situated on the same train route.

This was the first .....

Commercial Inn, Pontymister (2429 / 3993) had an eyesore Covid throwback of an exterior, and once inside, it was a pub lacking any distinct personality or zhush.  Perhaps a bit harsh to dismiss it as an identikit dining pub, what with the flashing screens, cocktail and food offers .... but a real return to reality after the Murenger. I'd later discover a pool table, jukebox, and a heariter locals atmosphere to the right, which was some consolation.  It reminded me of the kind of place you find in the 'burbs of Cardiff, and I guess I was getting closer.  My pint was decent, Pig & Porter are one of those breweries following BRAPA around the country at the moment.  The pub experience almost entirely passed me by as I tried to work out which of the young staff's 'drink, food, music' combo is least horrific.  I think I'll go with Ginny providing the wine is red, the chilli is mild, and 'Dancing Queen' turns out to be some punk cover and not the original.  Fifth pint syndrome may've been a factor, but just when I was about to try and quicken my drinking speed and piss off, a huge group of ladies arrives.  "We have this table reserved, sorry" they tell me so matter-of-factly, I don't even argue despite the lack of table reservation sign, which I'd expect in a pub of this ilk.  In fact, wouldn't it normally be a staff member who move you in this situation, this isn't the LNER to Peterborough pals!  They end up asking me to stay and join them when we get chatting BRAPA, me now hovering awkwardly, GBG in hand.  But I politely decline, all bar one was a loud Welsh clucky mother hen.  That is when I discover the vaguely pubbier right side, and the late intrusion had sobered me up a bit too, so all in all not a bad ending. 

Still in the GBG?  No, and I'm not hugely surprised.


Colin : ESB / Mini Cheddars / Cauliflowers Fluffy

One more tick before the end of day three in Gwent, and one more stop on the same train line took me to Rogerstone.  It was a surprisingly long confusing walk, but when has a brewery tap every been located in a reasonable place? Very much like modern day football grounds.

And this place was akin to Wembley Stadium, flippin' massive to navigate the perimeter and find the entrance, welcome to Tiny Rebel Brewery Bar,  Rogerstone (2430 / 3994), more like a warehouse.  In some ways it reminded me of the time I nearly inadvertently broke into Sellafield.  The place was exactly as I expected, a right industrial monster.  The one big surprise was how poor the cask was, not too many on but the Peleton Pale was dishwater, ugh, I'd rather have had a pint of Coors, not sure they sell it.  Bit embarrassing they can't get cask right in their own brewery tap, for two pub tickers messaged me to say they'd both had exactly the same experience!  The theory is that people come here more for events, food, cocktails etc. and the ale doesn't get the same turnover the one in Newport centre gets.  But no excuse is it?  The music tried to cheer me.  Billy Idol's Rebel Yell must be their anthem, got stuck on repeat a bit in a Ghost Town/Father Ted style loop, before the unlikely combo of Billy Joel and Metallica tried to raise my spirits.  I resisted the temptation to buy my mate a Tiny Rebel t-shirt for his birthday, or some craft cans for my hotel room.  This was a damp squib of an ending to an interesting, mixed day three.  

Still in the GBG?  Yes, and there was a certain air of inevitability to it. 

No #ThirstyThursday tomorrow so I'll try and bang out part 7 - BRAPA holiday coming soon so watch out for my adventures on Twitter from Friday night onwards as I tackle a county where I only have FOUR ticks at present, all in the same town!  

Take care, Si 

Tuesday 22 November 2022


I've pub ticked in Newport Essex, Newport Shropshire, Newport Isle of Wight, and I'd certainly have ticked Newport East Yorkshire if it had a GBG pub.   But I'd never been to the Welsh Newport, perhaps the most famous of the lot.  I once read it was the suicide capital of the UK, but with a solid six GBG entries, that was hard to believe. 

Monday 3rd October 11am, and you know what Monday's are like, scratting around for any sort of pub sustenance.  Luckily, Gwentish options were plentiful so I take myself off to the bus station where suddenly the suicide stats made sense, before making the short journey to Caerleon, which is basically outer Newport.

As you can probably tell from the above photos, location is everything at the Hanbury Arms, Caerleon (2425 / 3989) , the interior was certainly unspectacular, a bare wooden dining place, the only colour provided by our fabulous hostess with the pink hair and piercings, one of the friendliest of many friendly staff members I'd meet all week.  Rev James was about the only ale on, 'groan' I thought, but perhaps it is because I associate it with Ember Inns, because this was a delightful malty drop, best enjoyed outside at high noon, the sun shimmering on the bonny bonny banks of the Usk.  An old man with red socks sits and stares at nothing, he's got the right idea, and when a bloke arrives with a droopy flower it looks like he's yanked from a nearby flowerbed, he presents it to the lady who has come to join him for lunch, giving her a kiss on the forehead in the process.  Romance lives in Caerleon.

Still in the GBG?  Nah, despite the quality of the Rev James, one (or two) ales on often isn't enough for the CAMRA's who have replaced it with a different Caerleon pub offering Landlord, HPA and Butty Bach.   

Although my next pub was actually listed under Newport, it was a short walk from here , it was even on Caerleon Road .....

With a classic inn sign and a lovely plain frontage, from this angle at least, hopes were high for the St Julian Inn, Newport (2426 / 3990).  After all, every time it got mentioned later on in this holiday, or on Twitter, the consensus seemed to be 'cor ain't it bladdy lovely?'  But I found it a bit of a moody gloom pot, and the joys of autumn which swept over me whilst outside at the Hanbury quickly evaporated.  The staff didn't help by refusing to smile or make eye contact at any juncture, even when I was sat alone on a low leather settee just by the kitchen door, which got frequent usage.  My beer was from Bristol Beer Factory, and this pub had quite the range for those of you who sneer at anything too popular.  I didn't think it was fab quality though.  It was a pub of two halves.  A bright shiny conservatory looking out onto the river was inhabited by elderly ladies who not only lunch, but lunch in lycra. A bit like watching a snake eating a rodent, you could see the digestion process in all its horrible glory.  I sat in the larger pubbier main area, where two local Jezza Kyle types with arses hanging out of trackie bottoms played pool and drank lager in a disconsolate manner, despite you could argue, living the dream.  Only a few fruit machine twinkled as blissfully as the Usk in the sun.  I returned my glass to the bar at the end and got a contorted attempt at a goodbye smile from the bloke who'd had the most potential.  Yup, I was struggling to shake this suicide stat.  

Still in GBG?  Course it is, bright shiny beers from exciting places that ain't Brains, Wye Valley or Fullers?  Local CAM's wetting themselves with excitement, probably.

I took a bus back into Newport because they were plentiful and we were still a good 2.5 miles out of town, though I'm pleased to report that my right knee and right hip which I don't like to talk about were much recovered from the weekend's exploits.  Pub three and the final one in Part 5 was nice and central.

Easily the best of the two local Tiny Rebel bars I visited today, Tiny Rebel, Newport (2427 / 3991) benefited from having a fair few people turning over the cask, even on a Monday.  They had special Bez and Shaun Ryder themed all day 'happy hour' going on (Happy Mondays, I might've made that up), and it £2.50 for a nice pint of something wheaty and murky.  I say this with some surprise because some of the worst beers I've had all year are Tiny Rebel - my fault entirely, not theirs, I always know what I'm getting myself into ordering stuff like 'Battenberg', 'Pink Grapefruit' and 'Oat Milk & Rusk' flavoured brews, they always pique my interest, I go full pint of course cos it is the only way to drink, and regret it quarter of the way in!  Can you be too experimental?  I'm talking about beer so much because the place is exactly as you'd imagine, hip young things, cool music, terrifying Roy Keane mural, cute yellow dragons, shabby chic industrial bollocks (not literally, though that'd be interesting wall art I'd not put past them).  I even got a free taste of the Banoffee cider but I wasn't rushing to say yum, sickly sweet.  A bit cosier downstairs by the loo, probably nicer on a busy evening this place, and respect where it is due to TR. 

Still in GBG?  Course it bloody is, untouchable I'd guess in the year 2022. 

I'm seriously considering moving blogging operations away from Blogger and onto Wix in the near future .... uploading photo errors must be adding a good 20 minutes to each blog I write.  Wouldn't be bad if Twitter goes under, I could have a totally fresh start in 2023.  

No Thirsty Thursday or Wobbly Wednesday this week, I'm being sober and good, well, until Friday night so will keep the blogs coming up until my latest holiday.  See you tomorrow for more from Newport and Tiny Rebel. 


Monday 21 November 2022


 2:20pm on 2nd October, and it was time for my third and final of Brecon's GBG pubs ......

And the Clarence, Brecon (2423 / 3987) would prove to be my 'Goldilocks' pub.  The George Hotel had been a bit too Wetherspoonsy, the Brecon Tap had been a bit too Microey, but the Clarence was just right.  My only sighting of Wye Valley Bitter all week, despite the HPA and their glassware being rather too omnipresent, and it was immaculate.   The barman was a gent, the carpet was an 8/10, even the pile of logs wasn't too random, a wood burner in close proximity.  The front room at least, was pure pub.  A ginormous group of pre-booked foodies filled a less cosier back bar, but out of sight out of mind was my motto here.  Okay, so I was a bit jealous that they got the benefit of piped Kylie and P.M. Dawn, but for the most part, I was a picture of contentment.  Sunday afternoon is a great time to be in a pub.

In 2023 GBG?  Frustratingly not.  Brecon CAMRA seem to have gone full crafty, leaving in Brecon Tap and ditching this and the 'Spoons in favour of a 'Hop in Beer & Gin House' which I almost certainly won't get to in the next twelve months.  I'll do it with Bwlch in 2035.

As much as I would've loved to stay on this bus route and tackle the likes of Bwlch, Crickhowell, Llandgynidr, Pencelli and Groesfford, a sparsity of bus services plus my aching bottom half (which I don't like to talk about) meant that a return to Abergavenny was the only option. 

Slim Pickens, as the cowboy said to the actor (oh I miss Wine, Westerns and Wotsits nights, didn't have to leave the house!) so I had to be imaginative and come up with the decent pre-emptive.  This was the non-GBG pub that kept being mentioned, and actually was in the 2021 Guide.

I knew from the moment I pushed through the 'Vaults' room door at Station Hotel, Abergavenny (pre-emptive) that I'd struck gold.  And that was even before I tasted the Bass, which was an A* Bass and I've drunk enough of it this year, mostly good ones, to know.  Someone on Twitter's father-in-law agreed with my assessment, and as Bass king TheWickingMan said, FiL's are the most reliable sources.  Only my most recent pint of it in East Markham was on a par.  I'll probably get to writing about that pub next Easter.  The Station had a bawdy local atmosphere, though a 'sensible' youthful guv'nor, and it was only this earlier sober hour which prevented it from becoming a full on balls-to-the-wall Y Cantreff experience from the previous night.   Suddenly Brecon's Clarence seemed distinctly less pubby.  Folk played cards in the back room, a smoky smell took you back pre-2007,  folk talked about shopping, washing and household chores, and it was only when there was a mass migration for the exit door that a bloke with a short body but long arms, think a Welsh Mr Tickle, decided to ask what my game was.  Give this pub a more vibrant colour scheme, ditch the spider lights, and you've got a pub of the year contender.  A real step back in time and I couldn't stop smiling.

In the new GBG?  Yes!  I'd have rioted otherwise.  Can only assume its year of absence was due to change of ownership / temporary closure, or some other technicality. 

The Station folk had suggested I pop into the Railway over the road, but then laughed to themselves and told me that whilst I'd receive a hearty welcome and get some fantastic blog material, the beer was bad, it'd take me ages to get served, and it had no chance of making the GBG any time soon!

Not to worry, because close to my Premier Inn, and about a 20 minute walk from here (25 today as my legs were currently big lumps of lead), my 'local' for the week could be found nestling on the other side of the river across the bridge separating 'Gavenny from Llanfoist. 

Bridge Inn, Llanfoist (2424 / 3988) sums up everything which was wholesome about my week of pubbing in Gwent.  A perfect example of a community local, it had everyone here from grandkids to grandparents - and I don't mean that in an annoying 'grrr, kids in pubs being twats due to twat parents, grrr' usual BRAPA kinda way, I just meant that folk flitted in, laughed, drank, sat, pissed off quite quickly,  it was a living breathing ball of life.  I had a Cwrw first, and pronounced it with the confidence of a man who'd been watching Welsh YouTube language videos for a week, and settled into a recess in this warm sweatbox of a pub.  Folk fawning over a newborn baby upset the older sister, so she was given a bag of Mini Cheddars to placate her whining.   I went to the bar and bought some, I cannot be in the presence of folk eating Mini Chedz or Wotsits or Pickled Onion Monster Munch without wanting my own.  A Welsh flag fluttered joyfully behind me, as two blokes discuss their onion growing.   I hear a 'pop' behind me, then a yelp of dismay, older sister's Mini Cheddars have exploded all over the floor.  She's not having a good day the hapless little loser.   On the other side, I hear a groan.  An old bloke dressed as a canary (well he had a yellow jacket) is trying to stand up, but it is a struggle.  With the heat stifling, I buy a Jemima's Pitchfork and take it outside to the beer garden, and I mean garden, lovely and green and spacious.  The air is so fresh down here too.  SEVEN taxi companies I ring to try to take me to Pantygelli to salvage a late fifth tick (I'd had a second wind by now) but when bloke no. 7 laughs and says 'no chance tonight boyo', I give it up as a bad job.  Two dogs start fighting, a man dressed as Toadfish hits the Madri, and with a cold chill descending on Llanfoist, I decide to call it a night and start afresh, hopefully with better legs, tomorrow. 

Still in the GBG?  Of course, I'd have been horrified if not.

So with the north of Gwent nicely greening up, it was time to hit the Newport area tomorrow.  Would it be a comedown, or similarly beautiful?  Hmmm, join me in Part 5 to find out.

Right, back to the USA v Wales which I've paused on live TV, 0-0 17 mins gone. 


Friday 18 November 2022

BRAPA in ..... THE DAY OF BRECONING IS BECKONING : Gwenty is Plenty Part 3/12

Day One of my Gwent debut was nearly at an end.  I'd walked over 50,000 steps, my right knee and right hip hurt like buggery (not that I'll keep mentioning it!)  The Skirrid Inn had scarred & scared me further, but safely back in Abergavenny having just ticked off the happily uneventful Grofield, the finish line was finally in sight.

But there was no way that this craziest of BRAPA days was about to go out with a whimper .....

I lugged my giant bag of Tesco shopping into the darkened but very much open Y Cantreff Inn, Abergavenny (2420 / 3984) and although my experiences of Wales are few and far between, I'd say this was the most Welshest pub I'd ever been to.  My arrival causes much consternation, 'a face we don't recognise!' but they soon recover themselves.  I'm welcomed warmly by the pink landlady, and a pint of Grey Trees is a welcome change from Wye Valley, which was more ubiquitous than the most ubiquitous thing you can think of.    It probably helps that I sit on 'phone charger station' table, so people are constantly nipping across for a bit of bonus juice and the odd jokey quip.  A small TV is showing rugby, Merthyr v Newport I think, I'm told we are cheering for the black shirts!  The stand out character is Tommo.  He's lovely, but a walking calamity.  Think Nanny from Count Duckula.  He tries to turn the volume up on the rugby.  But he ends up switching channel, and can't get it back.  He is roundly castigated.   Then, when a giant spider crawls across the mantelpiece to much excitement, he decides to be the knight in shining armour.  "Fear not ladies, I've got this" he announces, leaps out of his seat at our eight legged friend, but misses, knocks a few things off, and the spid scuttles off behind the skirting board.  Classic scenes.  When the rugby finishes, I become the centre of attention.  The younger lady must tell me to go to Hay on Wye, what .... about eight times?!  One for each spider leg.  I spin around to see Tommo behind the bar pulling a pint!  'Are... are you allowed to do that? ' I ask.  'I work here!' he replies.  'Oh I thought you were just a drunk local' I say.  Pub is in hysterics, but I couldn't believe it.  And he can't believe I've done the walk I say I've done despite my robust protestations.  Thinks it physically impossible.  'Did you have that bag of Tesco shopping with you all day?' asks the landlady.  Errrrm, no.   I leave with some vague promises that I'll 'try' and make this my regular final stop off point for the week, but one I doubt I'll stick to.  A whirlwind way to end day one. 

Tommo rises

As my Cantreff friends had predicted, my GBG local, the Bridge Inn at Llanfoist closed at 10pm (even on a Saturday) but to be fair, I just want my bed so happily hobble the 25 minutes back to my Premier Inn.

When I wake on the Sunday morning, it feels like my legs have been replaced by two lumps of lead.  I'm moving like a robot, and there are only three things on my shopping list.  A knee support, plasters and a bottle of water.  Boots has the answers.

Although today wasn't an official train strike day, there are no services running out of 'gavenny and being a Sunday, bus services are incredibly limited.  I want an easy day, so I decide to cut my losses and take myself up to Brecon, even though it comes under 'Mid Wales' rather than Gwent.  Three ticks there, let's have a steady day. 

It is walking downhill which is the real killer on my right knee I don't like to talk about, and that's a shame because our first tick is down a slope.  Owww.

A sleepy Sunday lunchtime lull pervades every sinew of this solid Wetherspoons, George Hotel, Brecon (2421 / 3985).  Is this a library?  An ESB from Suffolk with a heron on the pump clip is a welcome sight, and I chug it down with a couple of Nurofen and try not to think about potential side effects and just focus on numbing my lower half.  I count twelve lads in their twenties sat around waiting for burgers to arrive.  Not one of them says a word, just 'tap tap tap' on their phones.  The atmosphere would be quite eerie, but for 'lady in a booth' who hasn't got the memo, and is loudly commenting on every item on the menu, much to the embarrassment of her male companion.  He's even forced to try her drink.  "The rhubarb is quite pleasant", so he's getting tasting notes as well.  I think I need a wee, I can't really tell because I can't feel much below the naval, so I sup up my ESB and head for the loo to be on the safe side.

Brecon seems a quaint sort of town.  Some pretty buildings like you get in north Essex or Ledbury or something, but with a slight annoying tourist knowingness about it.  I'm not in the mood for twee and pretty, so it is a case of head down, and onto something very different from a 'Spoons for a very different type of experience.

I've not even had chance to mentally scream 'micropub!' at Brecon Tap, Brecon (2422 / 3986) before I'm confronted by an elderly couple eating chicken dinners.  Plates, knifes and forks, the full shebang, not even out of a cardboard box with plastic cutlery from some fuckwit pop up street food van.  Well this all felt rather incongruous, for what let's be honest was a long thin microbar full of board games, odd beers, low slung settees, and the obligatory weird smell.  Cheesy sick?  It did nothing to enhance my ale, a 'Crazy Peacock' or 'Pewin Ynfytn' if you want to say it properly.  I'd been practicing my Welsh pronunciation in the build-up to this holiday, so this was a good time to practice. I asked the barman for some assistance with the second 'y' but he didn't know!  Nice chap though.  But no, I just couldn't get on with this place.  It did manage to survive the 2023 GBG churn, which my other two Brecon's didn't.  So my visit was valuable in that respect. 

One Brecon pub left to do, and I'll you about that in part 4 along with what happened when I got back to Abergavenny.  Hopefully on Sunday.  Is Twitter finishing?  How worried do I need to be?  Do I need to transfer BRAPA operations to thee 'Gram or something?  

Have a nice night, Si