Wednesday, 30 December 2015

HANG ON! ALL CHANGE WE'RE GOING THERE

 Bloody hell, a quick fixture reversal and we are off to Bedworth this Saturday, so an equally quick short and sweet, but hopefully informative PRATS blog.


With Latimer Park likely to be hosting the bog snorkelling championships again this weekend its excellent forward thinking by the clubs to sort this out so quickly. Which means instead of sitting at home skulking about whilst Mrs Fuggles does the hoovering, we can now enjoy a decent day out watching footy and guzzling a few ales down. It’s just a short trip to Bedworth, no more than an hour from God’s chosen town. 
 There are quite a few excellent micro-breweries in the area, all with tap rooms for us to sample their wares. So the first port of call has to be the Church End Brewery,always a good selection of their delightful brews available. The Poppies Travel club used to frequent this delightful brewery-boozer on previous trips to Nuneaton.
 Then just a couple of miles away is The Lord Nelson Inn at Ansley home of the Sperrin Brewery we had a couple of their ales at the last Poppies beer festival.
They usually have 6 or 7 hand-pumps with at least 4 of their own ales on tap, plus a couple of guest ales. They also sell Chadwick’s pork pies, lovely. With a bit of luck the Chadwick’s will be open as we make our way to the Oval, home of the Greenbacks. Then when the game is over, we can make our way to the Wood Farm Brewery no more than 15 minutes away. We’ve been here before on several occasions. Hopefully, they’ll have at least 8 of their own ales available. They also sell a decent pork pie. Sounds like we’ll have a good day out, if we get home soon enough we’ll have time to pop into The Alex to wrap the day up nicely.

Monday, 28 December 2015

LINNETS DIDN'T WINNIT

It’s Boxing Day, probably one of the best footy days in the footy calendar. Always loads of away day supporters, all usually in good spirits after being overwhelmed by the previous day’s over indulgence. It’s nice to get away from the chaos and get a bit if fresh air and maybe a pint or three. As with most Boxing days games they are local derby’s: for the PRATS we travel to King’s Lynn the most Northerly team in the Southern League, just 90 minutes away. It was around 11:00 when Parker and Citra made their way to Rushden to scoop up Pharp and by 12:15 Fuggles had joined the merry troupe on the outskirts of Posh town. 45 minutes later we were parked up in the puddle ridden car park at the Walks and making our way to the Live and Let Live pub.
What a delightful hostelry, two/three rooms, one a small bar with two adjoining rooms the other an even smaller lounge. The landlady was only too pleased to offer us tasters of the 5 ales available. There was couple from Elgoods, the mild Black Dog and one of their Xmas ales Reinbeer, Moongazer’s Winter Porter, Tydd Steam Yooligan and Wolf’s Edith Cavell. Pharp had the Black Dog, we used have this on pressure at Latimer Park but it was never as good as this on hand-pump. One of the tastier mild’s about, this was beautifully clear, dark with a very tight head with strength of 3.6%. Citra, Parker and  Fuggles went for Wolf’s Edith Cavell, not the sort of ale Parker would usually drink but certainly up Citra and Fuggles street, pale, hoppy, citrusy, lovely at 3.7%, once again in excellent condition. It’s clear the ales at the ‘Live and Let Live’ are well looked after. By now the Weebles had arrived plus a few others closely followed by supporters off the coach, the lounge was now heaving with the Poppies travelling horde.
There was a scary moment when Pharp raised his right buttock, fortunately he was only adjusting himself to cross his legs, needless to say there was a sigh of relief throughout the tightly gathered throng. Next up Pharp had Tydd Steam Yooligan, obviously a seasonal ale with an image of a demonic looking Santa on the pump clip drawing on a glowing fag. At 4.5% this dark ale has a spicy sweet finish, quite hoppy and in good nick, maybe even Saint Nick! Citra and Fuggles went equally festive with Reinbeer, dark and rich with an almost whiskey like finish, a creamy coloured head clinging down to the bottom of the glass and a warming 5.0% that was going to keep out the winter chill if there was any. Some Poppies supporters had now returned to the ground to be replaced by a few Linnets supporters. All very friendly and chatty, naturally we wished them all a merry Christmas and a crappy afternoon. It was time to stroll to the Walks and within 5 minutes we were there.
The Walks is a very good set up, probably deserving of a higher league. Ex Poppy, King’s Lynn born Gary Setchell is still in charge, he’s been here a few seasons now; in fact he may have been with the Linnets since they re-formed back in 2010. Seems incredible this ground was entertaining UCL footy back then. Did I say the ground is owned by the local council, novel? They also contributed, along with the chairman considerable sums of funds to get it up to the current standard.
The game, well we dived a couple of time, once in the box, much to the aghast of Poppies supporters and considerable jeering and hissing from the Linnets. We scored 3 times, they didn’t score at all. We are starting to look strong now, mustn’t get too optimistic though, not yet. But since a Little Bideford tear let us down, we’ve picked up 13 points from 6 games. When will we play again, who knows? The Rains of Ranchipur are due this week, the chances are slim. Nothing like up North though so I suppose we should consider ourselves fortunate.
Time to go home but not before we stop off in Posh town for a swift couple, we arrived at the Oakham Brewery tap at around 5:50 and to our astonishment it was shut, not even a Christmas light flickering on a tree, disaster of disasters, Citra was going into melt down. Quick thinking and before we knew it we were on our way to the tap’s sister pub on a barge Charters.
Thankfully it was open, and absolutely buzzing with Posh supporters. A large chalk board listed all the ales available along with half a dozen ciders and a few craft beers. There were 4 Oakham ales, JHB, Citra, Inferno and Bishops Farewell, plus Tydd Steam Golden Kiwi, Grainstore Red Kite, plus a couple more which escape our memories. No need to say what Citra had to drink, Pharp had a Red Kite, a deep red coloured mild style ale coming in at 3.8%. Fuggles went for Golden Kiwi, as the name suggests is made from New Zealand hops, 4 types in fact, which give this straw coloured ale it’s very citrusy flavour, very refreshing and in superb condition as was Citra and Red Kite, Kiwi has a strength of 4.1% and can easily compete with the Oakham pale bitters in the grapefruit hoppiness stakes. Parker was on Pepsi that was nice and clear and very very fizzy, but had no head. A dark pop coming in at bugger all % with a sweetish finish. Parker didn’t look impressed, just sober. We had a little chat with a few Posh fans who immediately went into a tirade of abuse towards the football club formerly known as R&D, If you think I’m typing the names you’re very much mistaken. They were going on about one of the later owners destroying football. We just nodded and went for another ale, Pharp stayed with Red Kite whilst Citra and I went for a favourite of Fuggles Bishop’s Farewell, winner of more awards than you can ‘shake a stick at’. Not quite sure why you would want to ‘shake a stick at’ it but there you go. Perhaps if I went to the foot of our stairs it might make a bit more sense.  Bishop’s is a wonderful premium ale, pale coloured coming in at 4.6%. Hoppy, fruity, bitter, sweet with a dry finish, lovely, could sup this all night given the chance. I’m not sure how Oakham do it but their ales always look incredibly clear, no matter where you buy it, absolutely pristine.
Much to everyone’s astonishment they rang last orders at 6:30pm. There was a collective “whaaattttt” from all in the bar. A minor flurry of activity, but sadly not for us, we already had full glasses, so we drank up and were on our way home by 6:50pm.
Well that’s all the footy in 2015, quite good really, won a league, added a load more goals to our FA cup tally, I don’t think Aston Villa will close the gap this season. We are within touching distance of the play offs, and we had some fantastic pissy-arsey days out watching the Mighty Reds. Happy New Year from the PRATS.

Looking forward to our next away day down to Slough (Beaconsfield) and visiting The White Horse at Hedgerley. Marvellous.

Friday, 25 December 2015

AWASALE LYNN

It’s Boxing Day, headache, indigestion, wind, footy match, more beer. Here we go again off to King’s Lynn for the first time in a while. Just a short journey thankfully, an hour and half tops.
Pharp is very disappointed he spent Christmas Day at home instead of being on board the International Space Station. PHARP passed all the tests to be a Gastronaut, he was able to successfully refill the fuel tanks on a daily basis. Unfortunately, PHARP was unable to let rip in a controlled manner. “There is a time and place” said Russian veteran spaceman Volatily Arsimov, PHARP would just vacate wherever he happened to be floating, he has no emission control whatsoever. We would be at the training camp in the zero gravity chamber, just minding our own business floating about when suddenly Pharp would shoot across the chamber in a matter of seconds; leaving a vapour trail in his wake. Mrs Pharp is not overly happy either as the aftermath of Christmas dinner can be a tad challenging. Turkey, stuffing and in particular brussel sprouts add to the already highly combustible atmosphere. Mrs Pharp is glad to have him go out for the day.
There are quite a few half-decent pubs around, the nearest to the ground has to be the Live & Let Live just a 5 or 6 minute walk from the Walks, with 5 ales and a cider and is Locale accredited. There are a couple of Spoons pubs in the town The Lattice house and the Globe just a few minutes apart but just over 20 minutes walking from the ground.
On the way home we pass by Peterborough which has an enormous choice of pubs but I rather suspect The Oakham Brewery Tap may well be the destination if Citra has his way.


Monday, 14 December 2015

THE SAINTS FORGOT TO MARCH

It was just after 11:00 when Parker arrived at the Fuggles residence, Citra was already on board, and Pharp was last on the pick-up list. We forgot to tell Pharp what time we were picking him up so we had to hang around in Rushden for a bit longer that we would have preferred. Nevertheless, Pharp was on board by 11:30 ish and we were on our way to the town of borrowed bones. I say borrowed, I suspect that St Neot’s remains will never be returned to Cornwall. We were parked up in the Waitrose car park around 12:20pm, rain was in the air and the wind was picking up, that was not a Pharp pun.
The Pig n Falcon is just a few yards away so we were slugging down our first pint very soon after. The Pig ’n’ F have eight ales available, 4 on hand-pump and 4 on gravity. Potbelly’s Best and Beijing Black, Lacons Extra Stout and GKIPA were on hand-pump whilst Batemans Gold, Hopback’s Citra, and Blue Monkeys BG Sips and Ape Ale were all being served direct from the barrel. This is one of those pubs where you just want to stay for a decent amount of time, loads of good ales on tap, even if the d├ęcor leaves a lot to be desired. There’s a bit of a ramshackle outside which looks like recycled sheds turned into an outdoor drinking area cum smoking pit, loads of assorted seating and tables. Today it was bloody cold, so not too many outside enjoying the shanty ambience.  The band that had performed in the pub the night before had turned all the radiators off, so needless to say it was just as cold indoors encouraging the teeth to chatter. Nevertheless the temptation to hang about rather than trudge around in the wet and windy weather was strong.

Not the actual list, we forgot to take a photo Doh!
Blue Monkey Brewery’s BG Sips was screaming out at both Citra and me so we had to sample it. This fine pale ale was the first to sell out at the Poppies Halloween Beer festival back in the winter of 2010; we’d just gained a 2-1 win away at Newport, so it brought back fond memories. Parker, ever the adventurer went for a beer from Kettering; Potbelly’s Best whilst Pharp was going for something much darker; the Lacons Extra Stout. All the ales were in good condition if a little on the cold side, the BG Sips is 4% golden pale ale, quite bitter, refreshing and easy drinking. The Best and the Stout being drawn through the hand-pump had tighter heads clinging to the bottom of the glasses. Lacons Extra Stout has a very rich roasted malty taste, naturally dark with strength of 4.5% with a slightly bitter, smooth dry finish. Potbelly Best is a good standard session bitter, chestnut coloured ale at 4% all very nice. Next up for Fuggles and Citra was Batemans Gold, 3.9% golden/blonde ale almost like a lager. Nice and hoppy and with citrus bursting through, quite dry, in good nick. A few more Poppies supporters were now in the pub, the Weebles, the Poppies TV commentators and Fleco popped in for a pint. Luckily for us the landlord also arrived and promptly turned the heating on and the placed warmed up. Citra went to fetch the next ale using his CAMRA card for member’s 40p discount on each pint and came back with Hopback’s Citra, who’d of thought. As you would expect with a beer with this name it was very citrusy and very easy drinking, 4% blonde ale, slightly loose head but still clinging to the glass, perfectly clear, lovely. Pharp was content to sup the stout so had another one. With no real time to go elsewhere we had another pint here, Fuggles went for Blue Monkey’s Ape Ale a powerful 5.4% pale ale with loads of citrusy hops, this ale had won many awards, far too easy to drink considering its strength. Citra had another Citra, naturally. That was it, Parker had sat and watched us all boozing whilst he just had his usual pint punctuated only by nipping outside for a crafty drag on a fag now and again.
It was just a 5 minute drive to the ground; well it would have been had Parker not missed the turn. So we had to drive round a bit before we got there. The ground is now surrounded by houses and shops. When we came here for the first ever game there was a whole lot of open land, with very high curb stones marking out the future road infrastructure, now you have a job to find your way in through the maze of boxes on top of boxes next to even more boxes. It’s a nice set up all the same, although no decent ale in the clubhouse, you can’t have everything I suppose, not even a match day programme, it’s on-line apparently.
The game, well it was a very windy affair which was decided by a super strike, a positively powerful thunderbolt of a header or was it a tap in, was it an own goal, or did Rene’s bootlace actually make contact with the ball, does anybody know? A good turn out by the Poppies faithful who witnessed a battle against the elements and watched their team come out on top.

On the way home we decided to go all the way back to Rushden and go to the Rushden Historical Transport Society bar. This is a gem of a bar located in the old railway station, the whole placed is bedecked with memorabilia, huge enamel signs adorn the walls and 8 hand-pump fill the small bar. There is an old carriage on the platform which is used as the lounge. The Weebles arrived just before us and were just about to down their first pint. Pharp, Citra and I went for Phipps’s IPA, whist Parker had a Woodforde Wherry. The Phipp’s ale was brought back to life about 6 years ago, around 40 years after Grotney’s replaced it with a keg wazz called Special Bitter, god that was awful stuff. The IPA was initially brewed at the Grainstore brewery in Oakham but is now brewed back in Northampton just up the road from the original Brewhouse. Phipps’s IPA is delightful 4.3% golden pale ale, very refreshing with just enough bitterness to quench the thirst, and it was in very good condition, clear as a bell with a tight head. Parker’s Wherry looked just as good. Next up for Fuggles was Church End Brewery’s Woldbane, a light brownish colour with a strength of 4.7%, quite malty and very tasty. It goes without saying the ale was in very good condition that is the norm here at the RHTS bar a former CAMRA National Club of the year winner. Citra had Rudgate Odins Voyage, a deep chestnut coloured ale coming in at 3.7% not his usual style of tipple, he didn’t seem too impressed but I’m sure it was ok. We decided to have just one more each, Citra returned to Phipp’s IPA whilst Fuggles had the stronger Phipp’s Gold Star, 5% golden ale a stronger version of the IPA but perhaps slightly sweeter. Well that was it for the day, or at least we thought it was, for just as we were about to leave a new ale became available. Dark Star Hophead, oh no, Citra and I looked at each other and thought soddit. So we encouraged Parker to take Pharp home who’d both had enough ale for the day and then come back for us, and so he did. Hophead has to be one of our favourite session ales, golden pale in colour, 3.8% in strength, clean and fresh on the palate. Marvellous, a great day rounded off beautifully.

Friday, 11 December 2015

THE OUSE BOOZE

The PRATS make just a short trip to St Neots this weekend which will be the 2nd of 4 Ouse Booze’s this season. The first was at St Ives a few weeks back in the FAT, we travel to Kings Lynn on Boxing day and then return back to St Ives later in the season to take on the Lilywhites.
There will be a full complement of PRATS on this trip; there is always a good choice of pubs in St Neots. We’ll be parking up at the car park near Waitrose. Here we can start an easy walking circuit of five pubs starting with one of the PRATS favourites the Pig 'n' Falcon with 8 ales to choose from plus a load of ciders.
Just around the corner from the Pig is a Wetherspoons pub the Weeping Ash usually good for decent priced ales and snaffle. Next port of call will be a sister pub to the pig, the Hog & Partridge with about 4 ales on tap, last time I was swilling them down in this pub it was called the Lord Russell and if I recall it was predominantly Batemans ales on tap.
Along and around the corner is The Olde Sun which was the local Hunts Camra branch Mild/Dark ales pub of the year champion in 2014 so well worth a visit. They have 5 ales available here, usually serving Woodforde Wherry which is always a nice pint.
The final pub on the circuit is the Coach House  with 5 ales.
I understand there may be ale at the ground, maybe our favourite Bloody Doombar, never mind.

On way home, well who knows, we will be dropping Pharp back home in Rushden so maybe the Historical Transport Museum or the Green Dragon in Higham, you can always get Oakham ales in here, but will be mobbed if there’s any footy on the telly.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

CENTURION'S GUARD HOLD FIRM

Off we go to the Cotswolds although with a change of plan as Parker had to go into work, so we left the Britannia in Northampton at 3:00pm. Not before we had a chance to sample their delights, sadly there weren’t any. One good thing is that they only had two boring ales to choose from instead of the usual 4 boring ales. The only stuff on offer were Greene King’s IPA and Abbot Ale, oh dear. Citra and Fuggles suffered great derision from Mrs Fuggles who had popped in for a quick gulp down of something orange. We decided to have a half of GKIPA, yes a half, much to the aghast of Mrs Fuggles who persisted in generally taking the piss. Needless to say the good lady was sent packing back home. To be honest it’s not a bad pint of half pint, it was in decent condition so once Mrs Fuggles had buggered off we had another half. Parker arrived before Satan tempted us with another and we were soon on our way. By the time we were driving though the leafy lanes and over the undulating hills of the Cotswolds it was almost dusk, so we didn’t get to appreciate what the scenery was all about. I’m sure it was lovely; we spotted a few pubs that might serve us well on our way home and made mental notes accordingly.
We arrived in Cirencester at around 5:00pm, duly parked up and made our hasty 10 minute trudge to the first pub, The Wheatsheaf, a very pleasant establishment with inordinate amounts of footy memorabilia across all the walls, programmes, shirts, you name it, it was hanging on a wall somewhere near us. A good selection of ales on 5 hand-pumps, although 2 had the same ale on Butcombe bitter, also available was Wickwar Falling Star, Dorset Brewery Tom Browns and Marstons Christmas Pudding. Citra went for Butcombe, we had this on the Paulton trip so we knew all about it. Parker tried Tom Brown and I went for Falling Star. Tom Browns is an amber ale coming in at 4%, good condition with a reasonably tight head, slightly bitter but perhaps more sweet than bitter, hint of toffee, lovely, well Parker didn’t complain. The Falling Star is a refreshing premium bitter golden ale at 4.2%. Quite drinkable without bursting the palate, perhaps more pleasant than outstanding, ok though. All ales were in good condition and well kept. We were nearing the bottom of the glasses when both Parker and Citra starting talking about the next potential port of call, the Arkells owned Brewers Arms. Both whipped out their phones to plan the route, little did they know it was just 100 yards away across the road. Using all the skills they attained during acquisition of their Duke of Edinabucket awards. They eventually managed to find the pub on the phone maps but couldn’t quite establish if we would be turning left or right when we moved on from the Wheatsheaf. As it happened we came out of the pub and turned left and crossed the road. We reached the Brewers Arms in a matter seconds later, we peered inside and didn’t really like what we saw, nice enough on the outside and on the inside I suppose but there was no one in the bar other than a lad playing pool. A glance at the bar we could make out 3 hand-pumps but only one adorned a pump-clip and that was 3B. Oh dear, not for us, maybe we wouldn’t be drinking Arkells tonight, quite disappointing really.
Undaunted, we trudged on for just a couple of minutes when we came across the Twelve Bells. What a delightful brewpub, home of the Ciren Brewery. 4 hand-pumps, guess what, you’ve guessed bloody Doombar was there to contaminate the bar, nevertheless, Cottage Brewery’s Scrooged and Ciren ales Bells Bitter and Best Mate improved things considerably. Parker was now on the coffee, whilst Citra and I went for the house brews Bells Bitter. A nice enough ale but not a show stopper, fairly typical session ale for the locals to knock back, it was ok with a strength of 3.8% and in good nick, nice and clear with a loose head just about clinging to the glass. We thought we’d better try the other house brew Best Mate, there was a bit more depth to this ale, more rounded with malty roasted flavours, decent bitterness quite pleasant actually, a dark amber ale and very clear with a loose head. A nice pub with food a very important part of the turnover, a glowing open fire to warm the punters on a cold winter’s night. A couple of other PRATS went to the pub just after we left, Marshall, Petit Chemise, Betweenthesticks and another chap.
We were now pacing out way back towards the car, but first we had to find the Marlborough Arms, we missed it when we first arrived even though we knew it was close to where we the car parked. Low and behold it was across the road from where we’d parked up and what a fantastic pub, bustling with after work ale guzzlers. The sign on the door had us enter the pub with some caution ‘Swings Both Ways’ I looked at both Parker and Citra, “what do you reckon”, I asked, “Bugger it” Citra replied. The range of ales was superb, 8 hand-pumps adorning the rather hectic bar with just one chap beavering away trying his best the serve everyone. At the end of the bar was a wall of cider boxes, not sure how many there was but the selection looked good for cider lovers. The 8 ales looked very interesting, North Cotswolds Windrush; we had that during our visit to Stratford. Box Steam Piston Broke we’d seen somewhere on our travels this season already, however we hadn’t seen Going Conker before, but being a dark chestnut ale and with Parker not drinking that was given a wide birth. Sarah Hughes Ruby Mild is always a beauty at a whopping 6% but not tonight. The Cheltenham Brewery or is it Battledown? I’m not sure which, as both names adorn the pump clips, nevertheless the Porter looked interesting but none of us are Porter drinkers, however, Natural Selection was selected, naturally by Citra. I went for Yubberton Goldie and also picked up half of the Heck brewery Shankar IPA. Parker had a coke. Natural Selection is a 4.2% golden ale, spicy and hoppy with slight citrus finish, Citra would enjoy this. Yubberton Goldie is a lovely golden ale with a strength of 4%, quite hoppy and very refreshing and in superb condition as are all three ales. We had a half pint of the Heck Brewery’s Shankar IPA as it’s a whopping 5.9%, both Citra and I had a sup, quite sweet, a bit like drinking barley sugar with a very hoppy yet dry finish, lovely. What a great pub the Marlborough is, the walls were adorned with all sorts of breweriana, if we come back to Cirencester next season I think we’ll just set up camp here, not a pun about swinging both ways I might add, and so on to the Corinium Stadium.
We arrived at around 7:15pm only to find that the Poppies team bus had arrived late and the kick off was now 8:00pm. A decent set-up with a new bar and events room, all very smart, easy to be envious. The ground was clean and tidy, although if you ever wondered where the Berlin wall went, it’s here all around the ground concrete wall/fencing even in front of the terrace at the top end of the ground, what’s that all about. The game, well, we huffed and we puffed, even when the Centurions had a man sent off it made no difference whatsoever, a bit like a eunuch in a brothel, no penetration. Whereas the Centurions battled hard throughout and earnt their 1-0 victory.
It was time to go home and drawing on our mental notes we advised the disgruntled Poppies flock towards the Village Pub in Barnsley. Definitely a swanky pub for the well-heeled, the clientele looked as though they had a few bob.  All the tables had enormous candles flickering away and most set for diners. 3 hand-pumps all serving local-ish ales, 2 from Hook Norton, Lion and Greedy Goose and another from North Cotswolds Shagweaver, the name of the latter drew us in so that’s what we had. A lovely 4.5% pale ale brewed with 3 New Zealand hops, this would prove to be a delightfully refreshing tasty hoppy ale. By now the Poppies horde had arrived scaring off the locals, in all 10 grumpy fans turned up, Marshall, Petit Chemise, Betweenthesticks, and the other chap. Pharp blew in, then in came Flopper, (no he hadn’t walked there), with King Edward Shorty, one of the clubs common taters. Citra was getting all excited; he asked the barmaid if any of the local Barnsley celebrities frequented the pub. She hadn’t got a clue and asked which celebrities he was referring to “why no other than Michael Parkinson and Umpire Dickie Bird of course, two of Barnsley’s most famous sons” Citra proclaimed. Oh dear, time for home.


Sunday, 6 December 2015

GUZZLING BY THE CHURN

Off the PRATS go to the Cotswolds, a jolly little saunter down to Cirencester; an ancient roman town sitting on the River Churn. I thought I better put that bit in else you wouldn’t have a clue what the title meant. This may well be the Poppies first visit here; I certainly can’t remember being here before. It’s an early start as Parker is on holiday so we’ll be way by around 2:30pm, we should be parked up just after 4:00pm.
There are a few Arkell’s pubs in town, it’s been a while since we supped some of their ales, so looking forward to downing a couple especially if they have Kingsdown Ale on anywhere and for the lager boys they brew their own 1843 craft lager. One such Arkell’s pub is the Bees Knees, with the ground being out of town this may be one of the closest pubs, about 5 minute drive, 30 minute walk; unless of course your name is Flopper, he’ll walk it in about 15 minutes.
Other Arkell’s pubs in the town centre include The Talbot Inn, The Brewers Arms and The Golden Cross.
Ciren Ales Brewery
However, there is a brewpub in town, Twelve Bells is home to Ciren Ales brewery, looks interesting, has to be worth a visit. Another interesting pub which boasts a good selection of 8 ales is the Marlborough Arms I notice they sell Windrush here; Pharp may not get to Cirencester in time to compete with this fortunately.


So it’s looks as though we’re going to have a decent evening out here in the Cotswolds, looking at photos on the Centurions website it’s looks as though they may have a decent ale available as well. With a longish drive home, getting another pint in may be one too many, we’ll have to see.

Friday, 27 November 2015

NO NOT PSORIASIS OR EVEN A MATCH

Unfortunately the Valley Stadium was double booked with the World Bogsnorkling Association, so they take precedence over footy.

We'll have to sample the delights of Redditch early in the new year.
Did you know that Psoriasis is an anagram of Pissarsio, quite appropriate I suppose.






Monday night footy, we don’t get them too often. This week the PRATS are off to Redditch, not so far away, just over an hour journey.
One of the best pubs around the Redditch area is the Weighbridge at Alvechurch, sadly it doesn’t open until 7:00pm, so we won’t be able to go in there before the game but we may be able to sneak in afterwards. Well worth a visit located by the Alvechurch Marina, they usually have 5 ales on tap, including ales from Weatheroak brewery not to be confused with Weatheroak Hill, that’s later. In the town centre is the Royal Enfield one of two spoons pub in the town, this one is not too far from the ground, even closer is the Queens Head but they only serve Bloody Doombar.
So for the PRATS it’s the newly opened Black Tap Brewpub serving their own ales. A 15 minute trudge from the ground, there are a few car parks nearby including the Kingfisher shopping centre which isn’t too far away and is free to park after 5:30pm. This pub adorns the cover of the autumn edition of the local Camra rag Pint Taken. We’re looking forward to trying some new ales, never had any of these before. The menu looks interesting, traditional, award-winning pork pie gold award last 3 years running or even fresh Scotch egg traditional or with black pudding, yummy, sounds good, we might have to sample some of those, and if we get there before 6:00pm they do a BOGOF on the pork pies.
After the game, well is it the Weighbridge at Alvechurch or the Coach and Horses at Weatheroak Hill home to the brewery of the same name?
Not the Weatheroak brewery which used to be brewed here at the Coach and Horses, this is now in Studley, confused? Bit of a fall out I believe a few years back. Fuggles has been to the C and H on a few occasions and the favourite ale was always Keystone Hops, sadly that went with the brewery. They do the most magnificent faggots here, although I doubt we’ll be snaffling at this time of night.

Hopefully a good night out, but could be a tough game, the Reds are in good form.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

A DAY OF MIRTH AND BEER

Here we go, the PRATS on the road to the hills and valleys of Cymru. It’s bloody cold, just 2 degrees, winter’s here. Get out the warm clothes, thermal vest, thermal long johns, woolly jumper, scarf, gloves and Paddington bear coat, all sorted.
Parker arrived around 9:00am, Citra and Pharp were on board, I suspect Pharp had already gone through Friday’s food consumption and you can bet your bottom dollar he had mushy peas. There was a buzz in the car with all the new signings, Citra was looking forward to seeing a Brazilian; I wonder what images are going round his head. Just 30 minutes into our journey Pharp was at it, the car windows were down before we could say “you dirty bar….”  Apart from a 15 minutes stationary spell on the M5 our journey to the first pub was quite straightforward, having said that the car windows were kept quite busy, it transpired that Pharp had double mushy peas. As we approached the end of the M50 we could see Ross on Wye on the left, in the foreground was the wide river flowing quite fast after the recent rain and snow. In the far distance we could just make out the snow lying on the hilltops of Wales, all very picturesque.
We’re looking forward to seeing some Welsh flags, especially where the red dragon has been replaced by a symbolic image of Wales’s favourite TV personality Anne Robinson’s ruddy physog, god that’s scary, still maintaining the dragon connection though. We had a short chat about the lovely Anne as we passed through Offa’s Dyke, Citra told us about a story he’d read. Anne was on safari with the family when she was chased down and swallowed whole by an unfussy lion. After a few seconds the lion started to convulse violently and immediately regurgitated Anne completely intact, the bag was let out of the cat.
We arrived at the Bridge Inn LLanfoist at around 11:30am: we were greeted by 4 hand-pumps Wye Brewery’s Dorothy Goodbody Golden Ale, Hancock Brewery’s HB and Wickwar Brewery’s Cotswold Way, with a locally produced cider on the 4th pump. Citra and I went for the Golden Ale whilst Parker and Pharp settled for HB’s. Both ales looked superb, very clear with an inner glow. When ales are as clear as these they seem to draw in all the available light and then reflect it back out again, marvellous. Although both ales were a tad on the cold side they were in good nick and tasted OK but not particularly exceptional. The Golden Ale was 4.2% whilst HB was a gentle 3.6% easy drinking bronze coloured session ale. Pharp and Parker seemed content, with the former having a second pint, Fuggles went for the Cotswold Way ale, whilst Citra preferred another Dorothy Goodbody’s, now there’s a surprise. The Cotswold Way was copper coloured ale coming in at 4.2% it was pleasant enough and once again in excellent condition, not as cold as the previous ales. Malty, slight bitterness, not my sort of ale but for research purposes one has to try these, but it was drinkable. That was it for this pub, very nice and friendly, the landlord remembered us from our previous visit in May, nice to know we’re unforgettable, so onto Merthyr.
The Welsh road signs must be twice the size of any in England; they all have both Welsh and English translations. But what seems strange is why they bother with both languages on some signs, Caernarfon and Caernarvon, FFlint and Flint, they must have plenty of cash in the road signs budget. We English are not so thick we can’t work it out, I wonder where this is Wrecsam?
We arrived in Merthyr at around 1:15pm and spend a little while trying to find somewhere to park, eventually ending up in the Tesco car park. A hasty trudge through a shopping arcade, a quick ‘Henry Cooper’ a right followed by a left, then  just in the near distance a large 18 gallon barrel was spotted in a back yard, you don’t see many of those. So we made our way towards it, then realised we were at the back of the intended destination. As we were just about to come out of the yard a Welsh voice chirped up asking if we needed help, we said we were looking for the Winchester, he pointed to the back door and we’d arrived. It turns out that the guy pointing the way is a Director at MTFC along with several others in this bustling pub. The Winchester is owned by the Rhymney Brewery and they had 4 ales on hand-pump. Hobby Horse, Bitter, Dark and Export. Pharp went for Dark whilst Citra and I settled for Hobby Horse a light coloured ale with a strength of 3.8%, reasonably pleasant but not a show stopper. In very good condition with a very tight head clinging to the glass, slight bitterness, slight sweetness, it was OK. Pharp had the Dark, crikey, this has an amazing aroma of rich dark chocolate; I had to have a sip. What an incredible ale, probably classed as a mild, maybe even a stout, but with much more taste than your everyday malty stuff, this had a long lingering taste. This ale had been champion ale of Wales a few years back and you can clearly taste why. Once again in very good condition with a very tight head all the way down the glass. We chatted with the locals in the pub but to be honest it was difficult picking up what was said through their  dialect. Most seemed to be having a bet on the horses and watching the footy on the 3 tellies. A nice little town centre boozer. The locals seemed to be drinking the much stronger Export, so Citra and I had one whilst Pharp had the Bitter, this meant we’d tried all 4 available ales on tap. The Export is a deep amber ale coming in a 5.0% but it was very deceptive and dangerously drinkable. Richer and slightly sweeter than Hobby Horse, very pleasant, easy to see why the locals quaff it down, another very tight head clinging all the way down. The Bitter looked good and was more a premium ale than standard bitter with a strength of 4.5% as with the other ales it was in good condition, Pharp didn’t volunteer to let us have a sip, he must have been quite satisfied and kept it to himself. The price of the beer was just £2.35 a pint, no wonder it’s busy. That was it, time to go to the game, preceded by a swiftly paced route march back to the Tesco’s car park.
We arrived at Penneydarren building site at around 2:30pm, nice friendly people, with clearly a lot of redevelopment going on courtesy of the local council. The facilities will become more of a community establishment; well that’s what the blurb said. Due to open next spring, it should be a very nice complex which includes a year round usage 3G pitch.
The game, well the Poppies came out the traps and looked as though they were going to overwhelm the Martyrs, so it follows that we were 1-0 down shortly after. A good battling 2nd half earnt us a well-deserved point, although waiting until the 94th minute to equalise can be a bit frustrating. When the sun went down it started to get bloody cold, I didn’t want to take my hands and hankie out of my pockets to mop the drips on the end of my nose, but pride got the better of me. The locals weren’t happy giving the officials a bit of stick. There was an ugly moment as the players left the pitch, but best to leave that to others to deal with, time to start for home, via another pub naturally.
Merthyr is the home of Poppies legend Cohen ‘the dribbler’ Griffiths. Cohen is probably the Poppies greatest dribbler of all time and it was caught on the MOTD cameras. Although the way Citra is gawping at the rather voluptuous raven haired Welsh maiden the dribbling crown could be shifting his way. Citra asked “is that what you call a Welsh valley”; referring to the cleavage of course. Calm down Citra, somebody mop his chin.
We arrived at the White Lion Wilton at around 6:15pm, a very pleasant hotel cum restaurant cum pub. A large lounge bar area built from stone, the pub sits on the banks of the River Wye just a few miles from Ross. Wye Brewery ales on tap, Butty Bach and Wye Valley Bitter were available. Pharp had the bitter whilst Citra and I had a Butty. At 4.5% the Butty should have had a lot of character, but not very much was happening, are my taste but out of kilter? So far today; none of the ales had really done anything for me, nothing really zesty just slightly bitter stuff. Nevertheless, Butty was in good nick, clear and golden, with a freshness that washed cleanly over the palate. Perhaps I’m being unfair there was a little bit going on, this ale has won quite a few champion ale rosettes in the past. The bitter looked good, light chestnut colour, coming in at 3.7% with a slight bitterness, clearly a trashing down ale in the summer months. Both ales had a quite loose heads, just about clinging on to the glass.

We had one for the road then that was it for the day, a nice day out although perhaps a tad long, by the time Parker got home he’d been out for 13 and half hours. Unusually Citra wanted to go straight home instead of the Alex; he said we wanted to go see the end of X factor! He wanted to make sure any bits hadn’t fallen out of Rita’s dress; at least I think he said bits.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

YOU SAY TO MERTHYR, I SAY TO MARTYRS

This weekend the PRATS travel out of the country and into the land where leeks and daffodils have some importance. A land where you will find a 14.7586mm square masonry drill bit, a rare bit indeed. Look you, we’re on our way to Merthyr Tydfil or as the local’s spell it Merthyr Tudful, I’m glad they put the both spellings on the road sign, we wouldn’t want to go to the wrong Merthyr.
We were down here in May for the championship trophy, one of those competitions that nobody really cares about, as Max Boyce would say “I know because I was there”. We lost 1-0, that long day back in May, but at least we found some good pubs and are looking forward to returning to them.
On the way there we’ll stop a few miles before Merthyr and go to the Bridge Inn at Llanfoist, a very nice friendly pub sitting by the River Usk. We were made very welcome here before. 4 ales including their regular Hancock HB, there’s usually Wye Valley ale on as well.
There next stop along the Heads of the Valley road will be Merthyr itself. Merthyr’s ground at Penydarren Park is only a stone’s through from the town centre, but if you want to go and fetch that stone you’ll have a decent trudge. Once in the centre there are a couple of pubs worth visiting. Wetherspoons Dic Penderyn is fairly typical; but this pub must have had both positive and negative effects on the local boozing landscape. There aren’t many pubs open, the Imperial Hotel doesn’t open till 4:0pm, why so late for a Saturday?
The surrounding area by the spoons pubs has been tidied up quite a bit whilst other areas look run down, quite a few boarded up shops. Just along the road by the Castle Hotel is the Winchester bar, this is owned by the Rhymney Brewery with 4 of their ales available. Even back in May the open fire was like a window into Dante’s inferno, the raging red ‘magma’ glow was incredibly hot. No one sat anywhere near the fire it was so hot, so imagine what it’s going to be like this Saturday on a cold November lunchtime.

There weren’t any decent ale at the ground last May so we’re not expecting anything this time round although they do have some half-decent bottled ale. On the way home we have a couple of choices, do we go back to the wonderful Coach and Horses Inn at Weatheroak, we called in here on the way home from our Paulton Rovers trip. Or do we stop earlier close to Ross on Wye? The White Lion in the near-by village of Wilton just off the A40 looks interesting serving Wye Valley ales.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

THE SAINTS GO TRUDGING OUT

It’s just a short trip for the PRATS to Brackley, no more than a 45 minute drive from God’s chosen town, yet, Citra is en route at just after 2:00pm, he’s going to the usual pick up point The Britannia in Northampton  by bus. Catching the X4 to the county town centre then jumping on a local service out to Brackmills arriving in good time around 3:40pm Citra had arrived earlier than planned. The usual ales are on tap with the exception of Tribute, this has been replaced by yet another World Cup Rugby themed ale Greene King Scrum Down. An auburn IPA at 4.2%, pleasant enough and in good condition but pricey at £3.70 a pint. Citra decided to make this last until it was time for Parker to arrive at just after 5:00pm.
It was around this time when the Fuggles started out on their epic Cawsand/Kingsand pub crawl, with the first port of call just 70 metres away from our holiday cottage. The Cross Keys sits on The Square in Cawsand village, a pebble’s throw away from the beach. A fairly typical Cornish pub, slate floors, wood everywhere with the walls adorned with all things coastal, images of Rame gigs throughout the bar area. The regulars are already in there after a busy day reading a book or walking the dog, a few workers come in for their usual after work guzzle. The pub has 4 hand-pumps; but at this time of year just 2 ales and a cider are available. Fuggles starts with Dartmoor Best, it was in very good condition, very clear with a good loose head. However, it was a tad cold, nevertheless quite refreshing amber ale coming in at 3.7%, nice and bitter with a hint of toffee, could be a good session ale, this is definitely one for both Parker and Pharp. Next up was Dartmoor Legend at 4.4% this is a rich; full flavoured dark golden ale, fruity, malty nicely balanced. Once again the ale is in good condition but colder than perhaps it should be, yet easily drinkable. And so on to the next pub….

Parker and Citra made their way to Brackley arriving around 5:30pm, during the journey the main topic of conversation had been the goings on over the past few days in the world of KTFC. Parking up in the Market Square, the Plough was the destination. The pub looks small from the outside but TARDIS like, once inside it becomes quite large. A pleasant hostelry with Bloody Doombar and Tribute on offer, Parker would be pleased and duly went for Gloombar. Fortunately for Citra; there was another ale on tap, Vale Breweries GMT, on the pump clip it proclaims this ale is a ’London Style hoppy bitter’, what’s one of them? At 4.3% it was pleasant enough but not Citra’s preferred style whether it be a London style or otherwise.

The Fuggles were now climbing a short hill towards the next pub just 300 metres away, at the top of the climb were good views across Plymouth Sound, although getting dark by now you could clearly see the outline of large; well-lit ships; making their way to and from Plymouth docks. We trudged down a longish slope to the Halfway House pub. We had now just crossed the old county boundary from Cornwall into Devon, well we would have done until 1844 when the boundaries changed, hence the name of the pub, originally partly in Cornwall, partly in Devon. This pub has been refurbished over the past year or so and is now a smart restaurant/pub. White paint with duck egg blue trim abounds. All the tables have scrubbed bare wood surfaces with everything below painted white. Chairs were also painted white as was the bar; a large central fire was warming the place up nicely. Four hand-pumps and yes, you’ve guessed it Bloody Doombar and Tribute, just like the Plough in Brackley some 230 miles away, however, Halfway  also have Sharp’s Atlantic IPA, so this is what Fuggles went for. This is a tasty, light golden ale, very hoppy coming in at 4.2%, in very good condition.
A delightfully refreshing IPA, very clear with a loose head clinging all the way down the glass. The landlord here is always going on about the virtues of Tribute so I had one, well it’s only brewed 36 miles away in St Austell so it counts as a local beer around these parts. Having said that Sharp’s brewery is only 45 miles away, so relatively local. Tribute is quite a pleasant ale and is always very drinkable, pale amber, 4.2% hoppy yet slightly sweet as well. Once again it’s in excellent condition, lovely. The Fuggles will be back here before the week is out as they have a selection of 9 cheeses to choose from on the cheeseboard all from Cornwall.


Parker and Citra took a slow stroll down to the Red Lion, a Charlie Wells pub, hoping for a guest ale on top of the usual CW stuff, maybe something from Youngs. Sadly nothing of any special merit, Eagle bitter, Bombardier and Courage Directors . Parker went for a coke, whilst Citra tried the Eagle. The first sip sent Michael Jackson like spasms throughout his frame, the second sip generated another spasm, a third sip and Citra was now rippling in perfect descant harmony.  Jack Douglas would have been impressed.  Needless to say, Citra didn’t finish it, glad I wasn’t there with them.

The Fuggles now took a short 150 metre stroll to the Devonport Inn, passing the famous Kingsand clock tower, sitting right on the sea front over-looking Plymouth Sound. This is very much a bistro type pub, with food being the dominant feature here. Once again recently refurbished after being battered during the February 2014 storms.  Three hand-pumps, Sharp’s Atlantic IPA, Bays Brewery Autumn Ale and Rebel Brewing Sail Ale.  Fuggles went for the Sail Ale, a lovely straw coloured ale, zesty with a citrusy finish coming in at 4.0%. This was quickly followed by the Autumn Ale, completely different taste, russet colour, dry malty and sweet. A good premium ale at 4.4%, lots of flavours, very nice. Both ales were in good condition, perfect. One more pub to go…………….

With the disappointment of the Red Lion still reverberating through Citra, it was time to go to the ground. Arriving quite early meeting Mr and Mrs Sadman who had just driven up from Padstow, daft sods. The game was played mostly with the Poppies U21’s with a few old farts making up the numbers. The Poppies were triumphant moving into the semi-final of the county cup, glory days are here again.

Look at that hill, Rising Sun just on the right
For the Fuggles the walk to the next pub would be challenging, a very very steep hill was between us and the Rising Sun only 150 metres away. So steep is this hill at times you’re not moving forward, just treading up and down on the same spot. Thankfully there’s a wall outside the pub, we could sit here for a few minutes to gather our breath. If we’d gone into the pub we couldn’t have asked for anything. Once inside we were greeted by a simple pub, clearly the village local and three hand-pumps, once again Sharp’s Atlantic IPA, Rebel Brewing Malty National and Skinners Brewery Heligan Honey. The latter is a lovely ale so I went for one of these, I also ordered Chicken Jalfrezi whilst Mrs Fuggles had her favourite Lambs Liver with an onion mash. Heligan Honey is a lovely refreshing pale amber bitter, coming in at 4.0% , hoppy with a hint of honey, just right for a curry. The jalfrezi was bloody hot and spicey, I was dreading the next morning, It’s a good job I had a decent pint to help it down, in fact I had to have another and it was in good condition. That was it for the night, our walk home was mostly downhill with just an occasional rise.

Pharp had now joined Parker and Citra and they were on their way to the Towcester Mill brewery tap
.At last, a chance for a decent pint. All the usual beers were on, Parker and Pharp went for their usual Bell Ringer whilst Citra went for his usual Mill Race. As usual all the beers were in superb condition. Unfortunately they only had time for one before closing time.


Tuesday, 10 November 2015

BRACKLEY TOWN reserves SAINTS


This week we travel just about as far as you possibly can and still remain in the county. Brackley Town Saints in the Hillier Cup, this competition rarely encourages supporters to make the journey, but the PRATS will be there although not Fuggles. No I’m down in Cornwall this week so Citra, Parker and Pharp will be doing all the ale guzzling, well Citra actually as the other two will be driving.  There are a few pubs in Brackley town centre;
The Plough isn’t a bad place to start, although parking near the pub is near impossible. So parking in the Market Square and walking is probably the best thing to do. The Plough has several ales on including Bloody Doombar but on the occasions I’ve frequented this boozer either Cherwell or Vale ales have been available. Just down the road in the square is the Charlie Wells pub the Red Lion.
The food is good here and they usually have at least one guest ale on tap.  Across the road is the Crown Hotel and closer to the ground further down the road you’ll find the Loco Inn, they usually have Hook Norton in here but just a single hand-pump. The ground is only a short walk from the town centre, so parking up here and walking back into town could be a good option. Will we put out the first team or the U21’s, is there a difference as most of them have had first team experience?
On the way home, well there’s only one place to go really. How can you possibly go past Towcester without popping into the Towcester Mill Brewery Tap  but note, it closes at 10:30pm so pray for no penalty shoot-out.

The Fuggles will be having a few beers in the twin villages of Cawsands and Kingsands which is on the ‘The Forgotten Corner’ Rame Peninsula sitting on the coast of Plymouth Sound. Four pubs so we might as well have a crawl, we should have around 10 different ales to choose from and with a total walking time of 15 minutes, door to door including all 4 pubs, marvellous. 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

LITTLE BIDEFORD TEAR LET ME DOWN.

Showing my age with that title, Little Bitty Tear. I thought about going for the more footy terrace related ‘When the Red, Red Robin goes bob bob bobbin along, shoot the b……………..  But hey, soddit, old farts R’us.

It was mid Friday morning when the Fuggles along with Doug the dug, set out on our trek to the West Country. A fairly easy journey to our overnight stop in Weston Super Mare, just one on route stop at the wonderful Farmers Market at Gloucester services on the M5. Our first pub was not the Woolpack in Worle as originally planned we veered off towards the Mendips and on to the edge Sedgemoor passing Thatchers Cider Farm on the way, to the delightful country pub
The Swan in Rowberrow. Owned by Butcombe brewery this quaint stone built pub had 2 largish rooms. We met Fuggles sister Julie and hubby Dave a former Poppies reporter many years ago covering the Atkinson and Dougan eras through to Peter Morris’s first stint, there are a few tales to be heard there. Three ales and a few ciders on offer, obviously Butcombe ales including their bitter and the joint venture with BBC’s Countryfile presenter/farmer Adam Henson’s Rare Breed. Also available was an Oakham Ale Citra, oh the temptation to go for Citra was there, nevertheless, it would go against all the PRATS principles to not go for the local ale, so Rare Breed it was. A lovely amber-pale ale, hoppy, fruity bitter, very refreshing coming in at 3.8% and in very good condition. The Oakham Citra was beckoning and so I succumbed. As with all Oakham ales they are very hoppy and as you would expect with an ale named Citra, it was very citrusy. I just had to text Citra, I knew he would be irritated at not supping one of these himself. If you like your early morning grapefruit juice go for this, you’ll go to work with a satisfied smirk across your face. It was obvious the locals enjoyed the locally made ciders; most of them were swigging cloudy orange coloured stuff. The food was OK, the enormous Dagwood filled a hole. So that was it for the lunchtime, I didn’t have a pint of the house bitter as I was going to another Butcombe put in the evening. So after a few hours chopsing about stuff and drinking copious cups of tea, we went out again this time we were making our way to another Butcombe pub the Lamb in the historical town of Axbridge.

This is a very old coaching inn dating back to 1480 standing opposite King John’s hunting lodge, very nice. A busy pub with many folk returning from a local firework display. Once again a couple of Butcombe ales, the bitter and Haka, plus yet another Oakham ale, Hawse Buckler. There must be a reciprocal agreement going on between Oakham and Butcombe breweries. The Friday night food deal included a pint of Butcombe bitter so that’s where we started. A really good traditional bitter, plenty of flavour, amber colour, hoppy, malty with a dry finish and a little zip at the end. 4.0% Bronze medallist at the 2013 GBBF, delightful especially with steak and chips. Next up was Butcombe Haka, we’d sampled this during our trip to Paulton. Typical New Zealand hop, citrusy, very pale ale, very refreshing, beware at 4.5% strength quite easy drinking. Whilst the others went for pudding I chose the Oakham Hawse Buckler, wow! 5.6% it was like drinking a chocolatey fruit punch and what a punch. An enormous amount of flavour, dark colour with a very tight head and in superb condition. This is a very busy ale with an awful lot going on, it’s difficult to describe it. That was it for the evening; I didn’t need my usual Ovaltine.

It was Saturday morning when we left Weston at around 10:30 amidst reports that the match being on was 50:50, the pitch had taken a considerable amount of rain overnight with standing water everywhere. We arrived in Bideford at around midday, having passed the team coach just a few miles out of town. Sure enough a posse of volunteers were busy forking the pitch; in fact they were forking about all over the pitch. The players arrived soon after looking errrrrr OK. They appeared to be in ‘WFT are we doing here mode’, but nevertheless, jolly. I think that’s the word.
Two advertising boards offered encouragement amongst the Poppies hog-swilling fraternity; one was for Country Life brewery which raised hopes for the clubhouse and the second was for the Appledore Inn, one of the destinations during our pre-kick off ale supping session.
A short stroll and we arrived at Lacey’s Ale and Cider House, from the outside it looked like a converted shop, but once inside the narrow pub opened up. Citra was already there downing his first pint of the weekend, his trip down the night before had been long and quite late arriving in Barnstaple around 11:00pm.  Once in the pub we were greeted by 4 hand-pumps, 3 ales from the Country Life brewery and a cider. The ales were Appledore Bitter, Golden Pig and Reef Break, Citra was on the latter so we followed suit. Nice amber ale coming in at 4.0%, decent enough malty session ale. It was in reasonable condition with a loose head clinging to the glass. By now a couple more Poppies fans arrived in the pub; Poppynet’s Markfleck and his better half Jane, who sampled the cider whilst Mark had the Reef. Citra and I were very much looking forward sampling the Golden Pig; the description suggested it was hoppy, so we ordered a couple. Bugger and balderdash, after pulling just a third of a pint it ran out, with no more down the cellar. Hang on, this is Saturday lunchtime, how can you have no replacement ale, on a Saturday probably one of the busiest days of the week. Fuggles picked up the glass containing the dregs which looked very clear and had a quick sip; it was lovely, very bitter, citrusy. Citra was beckoned over, “try some of this Citra it would have been lovely” I proclaimed. Citra drank the bloody lot, I thought pig by name drank by a pig by nature, greedy bugger; I was looking forward to another sip. We went for another Reef Breaker, oh dear!  This was also nearing the end, it was dry, it was sour and a bit like Madonna, a little tart. We gulped this down quickly and moved to the Appledore Inn, which was just down the road.
Upon entry we were coaxed away from the seating area by the Thai landlady, we guessed her nationality as they offered Thai food, we’re smart like that us PRATS. We were ushered into the bar area, one glance at the bar and 4 hand-pumps greeted us, two from Sharps including Bloody Doombar and Original, but more interesting was two ales brewed in Bideford. Jollyboat Breweries Grenville’s Renown and Clearwater Breweries Submariner. This was a pleasant surprise; we started off with Gr Gr Gre Grenville’s Renown, delightful malty, fruity hoppy ale, a dark colour coming in at 3.8%. It was in good nick, not Citra or my normal tipple, but it was good condition. More Poppies supporters were now in the pub, Flopper and two friends, plus Tony and his son Jack. It was time to move along the bar, but not too far, not as far as Sharp’s ales, we stopped at the Clearwater’s Submariner. This was more up our street, amber and a decent amount of hoppiness, very nice, coming in around 4.0%. Once again the ale was in good condition with the head clinging nicely to the glass. We were having a good chinwag with the locals, a bit of banter here and there, a very nice pub. You could easily stay here for a good session; however, it was time to move onto the ground. Just as we were leaving Marshall and Petit Chemise loudly arrived in the bar. We arrived at the ground and to our delight they served Country Life’s Appledore bitter, which was very nice, a typical session malty ale coming in at 3.7%, it was in decent condition, marvellous, it’s good to see local footy clubs serving local ales.

The game, well what can I say that is complimentary, errm, we worked hard and that was about it. Awful, woeful, dreadful, hapless, clueless are all adjectives that spring to mind. I said to Citra, “it’s a shame we haven’t got Baldrick playing for us, at least we’d have a plan”. Citra’s reply was “yes but plans that involve parsnips rarely succeed”. He had a point, “so what about Graham Taylor or Sven Goran Erikson?” “Sadly Fuggles” he replied, “One is a turnip and the other a swede”. For fear of going through the entire East Anglian root crop industry let’s just say we got beet.

Time to go home, well for Citra it was, me and Mrs Fuggles were making our way down to south-east Cornwall for a week’s holiday, which means I miss the Brackley Saints game. Am I disappointed after today, just a bit? Why did I allow myself to believe we could get into the play offs, the maths suggested we could the footy suggested otherwise.  Our journey across the Devon and Cornish countryside would have been fairly picturesque but for the bleak darkness. However, there were a couple of interesting moments, the first was when we were winding our way up a hill when we came across a procession of Morris dancers on bikes. It was easier to hear them than see them as they were all wearing bell garters. Where the hell they were going is beyond me as there wasn’t a chink of light anywhere. The second occurred as we approached Okehampton, suddenly coming towards us was flashing lights and for goodness what else, a bloody rickshaw. We were in Devon not downtown Guangzhou or Delhi, the rickshaw was surrounded by police cars, support team and about 4 miles of traffic queues. This was the Rickshaw Challenge, the challenge having nothing to do with the rickshaw, the challenge was for the drivers and passengers in the 4 mile jam not to deliver any more than 70 expletives whilst travelling at 2 miles an hour for god knows how long. Good luck to them.
Cornwall can’t wait for a pint of bloody Doombar.






Wednesday, 4 November 2015

CLOTTED CREAM AND SCONES

“But aye wud drave fave hondred males and aye wud drave fave honnnnndred mewer”. You can’t beat a good tune. This weekend sees the PRATS take their longest trip of the season almost 500 mile round trip to Bideford in distant Devon. But not all PRATS are making the journey Pharp and Parker have been detailed to work duties by their respective better halves. Pharp’s got the builders in; apparently they are working on the back passage, there are a few damp patches so they are fitting some new vents. Shame they’re not blocking it up. Although I suspect the potential internal pressure may cause a few issues, we wouldn’t want Pharp to explode, imagine the fall out. Although he does live in Rushden so you might not notice it. There will be a couple of Weebles to keep us company, Marshall and Petit Chemise are driving down on Saturday morning with an overnight stop on the way home. After this weekend the total for the season to date will be just over 2500 miles, that’s like driving to Rome and back. Fuggles and Mrs Fuggles are driving down on Friday via Weston Super Mare for an over-night stop whilst Citra is going by bus stopping in Barnstable on Friday night, then meeting up in Bideford at lunch time prior to the game.
The Fuggles will pop into the Butcombe pub The Woolpack in Worle a few minutes off the M5 jct 21. If you are ever driving down this way, this pub is worth a visit for a drivers rest, decent ales and the food is very good. From here we have a very short drive to Fuggles sister’s abode. In the evening we are planning a trip into Weston and frequent newly refurbished The Imperial. It looks smart and no doubt Mrs Fuggles will want feeding. For Citra there are a few options in Barnstaple, however, not leaving God’s chosen town until 5:30 will limit those options. Even more so as he is kipping for the night on the outskirts of town. In the town are the Bull & Bear and the Reform Inn both looking half-decent. On the outskirts is the Cedars Inn, Wrey Arms, they don’t look overly impressive but may serve as a port in a storm.
And so onto Bideford, there is quite a decent choice and some close to the ground, the Appledore Inn is a 3 minute walk away. Yes they sell bloody Doombar but at least we are getting closer to the brewery, just 65 miles away. Lacey's Ale and Cider House, is a bit further away, 4 minute walk, this pub is affectively the Country Life brewery tap. Well worth a visit. There are a few more worth a visit, Rose Salterne, Heavitree Arms Hotel, and the White Hart.

See you there. Clotted cream, fruit scones and strawberry jam anyone?