Wednesday 30 September 2015


Our short trip to Dunstable started in the Britannia Northampton, the usual lack lustre ales on tap. I suppose Tribute is passable and generally refreshing but it is getting dangerous close to bloody Doombar status, so Citra and I sipped our way through the pale Cornish ale. It was in decent nick, clear with the head clinging loosely to the glass. This was Citra’s first pint in a while as he’d been shouting hooey down the pan for a few days. And yes Citra confirms diced carrots where in evidence. Parker arrived to collect us just after 4:00pm it took about 45 minutes to get to our first Dunstablian pub the Victoria Inn, we had intended to frequent the Globe but limited parking opportunities swayed us away.
The Victoria is a PUB in every sense of the word, very clean and tidy, immaculate in fact lots of attention to detail. The brass and copper pipework in the toilet was gleaming. Not a posh pub but one for the locals and they are well looked after. Nice bar area with plenty of ‘what’s going on’ signs, TV’s and decent grub available at a sensible price. Four hand-pumps on the bar, the house ale brewed by Tring named Victoria Ale, with two from Cottage Brewery, Golden Arrow and DB4, plus Courage Best. Parker went for the house beer, Citra and I went for Golden Arrow. Both ales were in beautiful condition, pristine clear, good head, good temperature, perfect. Golden Arrow is just one of many Rail Ales they brew. Lovely premium pale ale, nice and hoppy, citrusy and refreshing coming in at 4.5%. So nice we had two. Parker didn’t say much about the house ale; he raised the glass and nodded towards the inner-glowing ale with an air of approval. The TV’s were scrolling notices of forthcoming events to be shown over the next week. One said World Cup rugby 6th Oct, 20:00 KO Fiji vs Uruguay. ‘Free chilli at half time’. Citra thought this was a political statement and commented further that he’d enjoyed a couple of glasses of the finest Pinochet just a few weeks back. Oh dear, Parker and I looked at each other and decided it wasn’t worth the explanation.
We moved just down the road to the Pheasant, a pleasant pub we plucked from Dunstable pubs list. Nice enough boozer which has now appeared in the last 3 Camra GBG’s and in once again listed next year. Six hand-pumps one adorned with; yes you’ve guessed it; I’m not even going to mention it. Another had Tribute on it, with a third sporting Courage Directors pump clip. The fourth pump clip was turned around, boo-hiss as it looked like Wychert an ale from Vale brewery was once drawn from this pump. However, there was some salvation; we had two world cup rugby themed ales one from Tring ‘Up & Under’ and the other from Vale brewery ‘The Good Game’. I bet the breweries spend hours coming up with these inspirational gems. ‘Up & Under’, is more closely associated to rugby league not union. ‘The Good Game’ did Brucie come up with that belter? Parker had a cup of coffee, Fuggles and Citra went for ‘The Good Game’, it was a nice ale, light copper/amber, with a thin head at 4.1%. Not special but easily drinkable and was served in good condition. A couple of other Poppies fans were just leaving making their way down to the Victoria, they would enjoy that pub. Next up was ‘Up & Under’, pleasant enough coming in at 4:0%, amber, light bitterness with a floral nose. This will no doubt get quaffed in great numbers during the rugby world cup. During our stay at the Pheasant both Parker and Citra went to the toilet both returned with puzzled looks on their faces, It wasn’t until I also went to dispense the previous hours consumption that I realised their consternation. Surely this couldn’t be the only bog in a large pub like this, just one pan and a wash basin that was it; a uni-sex toilet. Some of the white tiles had been painted with silver paint turning them into scratch tiles, graffiti on every tile, most unusual. We didn’t traipse around the pub looking for something with a little more grandeur to piddle in; we just went to the game.

Err, the game, well what can I say, I don’t usually mention much about the footy in these blogs but what the heck.  This season we look as though we are sponsored by the Performing Arts Society, beautiful to watch with flowing passing footy but very little to show for their efforts. Unfortunately our games remind me of the scene from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the lost Ark. Indy’s in a very busy Tunisian market place, full of thieves, fakirs and ne’er-do-wells. He’s working tirelessly to find his lost love, then suddenly there’s a clearing in the gathered throng. An immaculately dressed Arab warrior appears in full regalia; wielding a sabre. His sword is rhythmically swishing and swirling cutting through the air drawing ‘oohs and aahs’ of adulation from the ragged crowd. This warrior is clearly skilled in his martial art, an incredibly dangerous threat to Indy’s life, so he pulls out a gun and shoots him. That’s Kettering; full of sword swishing but with no productivity. We danced, we frolicked, we moved the ball about beautifully, we lost 4-0, Poppies in action

So the game was over, we drove just a few miles up the road to Toddington, once a village where most Poppies Travel buses stopped on their way back up the M1; that was when the Sow and Pigs was still open. Marvellous Greene King pub, back when they used to have them.
Anyway we went into a newish pub the Cuckoo; housed in the 15th century listed Old Town Hall overlooking the market square. The Cuckoo is a small two roomed pub, one is a pleasant lounge with oak looking furniture, the other is a small bar area with 8 hand-pumps all numbered 1 to 8. With 6 ales and two ciders, the six ales available were Cuckoo bitter brewed by the Leighton Brewery, Fullers Seafarers and Chiswick, Hornes Triple Goat Porter, Nobby’s Tow'd Navigation and 3 Brewers St Albans Golden English Ale. We all went for the latter. Delightful golden ale as the name suggests, served in perfect condition. Clear with a tight white head clinging nicely to the glass, very refreshing pint. Easily drinkable coming in at 3.8%; could be a good session ale. We met others PRATS there, Petit Chemise and Marshall, they’d been to The Globe before the game and easily found a parking space, balderdash, never mind next season. Marshall was drinking the Hornes Triple Goats Porter, he was talking too much to tell us how it was, Petit was also on Golden English Ale. On another day we’d have sampled the pork pies and scotch eggs but it was late, maybe next time. That was it for the night, some decent ales and some disappointing footy. 

Sunday 27 September 2015


This week the PRATS have a jolly little jaunt just a few miles down the M1. Fortunately we both avoided FA Cup replays by winning last Saturday. Citra and I will make our way to the Britannia in Northampton very close to Poppies HQ, this is where Parker will collect us. The Brit is Ok, a bit of a foody pub, no doubt the ales will be run of the mill stuff. Will it be bloody Doombar or GKIPA, it’s bound to be one of them. Pharp is making is own way there direct from work so we won’t need all the usual breathing apparatus. Heading directly to Dunstable,The Globe seems to be a good place to open our account. Owned by Banks and Taylor there should be a few decent ales available.
The Victoria also looks promising and is Locale accredited which means they will have some locally brewed ales on tap.  The Pheasant and the Wheatsheaf get a mention on the Southern League Facebook page by some of the old gits in Dunstable who appreciate a decent pint. Dunstable pubs
On the way home it has to The Cuckoo in Toddington,
we stopped here a few times last season. A delightful pub with the hand-pumps numbered 1 to 8, with a notice board listing the ales and ciders. Hand-pumps 1-6 assigned to ales and 7-8 serving ciders. The Cuckoo house ale is brewed by Leighton brewery. They also serve a very nice pork pie, albeit produced in Yorkshire. 

Sunday 20 September 2015


Another Saturday, another footy match on the road again to Somerset. We left Kettering around 9:00am taking the fog bound motorway route M6, M42, M5. Our first port of call was the newly opened Gloucester services Farmshop. What a magnificent place, the deli counter had more pies than you’ve ever seen in your life, every conceivable variety was available. Cheeses, crusty breads, patisseries with all sorts of tasty looking delights. Preserves, chutneys, mustards, beer, cider and some very spicy sauces. You name it they flogged it all produced locally. Although if you had a very fat wallet when you went in, you’d have a very thin one when you came out. Quite pricey indeed, but well worth it I’m sure.
Onwards to our first pub of the day, we arrived at the Crown Inn Churchill around 11:45am. Now this pub is a throw-back to the 80’s and beyond, the cobwebs are all part of the d├ęcor as are the lead lined power cables coated in several decades of cream gloss, well it might be white gloss with a heavy covering of smoke stain. This is all part of the charm of the Crown with all ales served by gravity. Our first exchange of dialogue with the very pleasant landlady was an unusual one, Pharp enquired if they had a business card of their decorator, the land lady’s reply was “ it might be a sh!t hole but it’s my sh!t hole”.
There was a pause for several seconds before we all complemented the very very  pleasant landlady on her very lovely sh!t hole. With eight ales to choose from, we tried to stay reasonably local, Pharp and Parker went for Palmers IPA (Best Bitter) which is brewed about 55 miles away in Bridport Dorset, OK maybe not local but we Kettering folk don’t see Palmers ale it too often.
This is a typical English ale, malty and hoppy coming in at 4.2% with a loose head clinging to the glass and in excellent condition. Citra and I went for Exmoor Gold, ok we can occasionally get this in Kettering but very rarely served straight from the barrel. Brewed a bit closer at Wiveliscombe Somerset around 43 miles away, so fairly local.  Always a lovely pint, one of the first gold ales to be brewed in the mid-eighties, bucking the trend for brown, pale or darker ales.  Soft caramel, citrusy flavour at 4.5% once again a loose head clinging to the glass and in great condition.
This pub certainly knows how to keep and present gravity served ales. Next up Citra and I went for the more local Hewish IPA knocked out by the RCH brewery just over 6 miles away. A light brownish ale nicely hopped with a slight sweetness, at 3.6% a very nice ale with a loose head clinging to the glass, excellent condition. It was time to move on to the next pub, the Ring ‘O’ Bells in Compton Martin. On route we passed a sign for Cheddar Gorge, at this point Citra chirped up proclaiming he was considerably peckish and could we go there. We explained that Cheddar Gorge is a rather nasty gash in the local landscape and not a ‘fromage free for all'. Passing through the Mendip countryside was a delight, living in Northamptonshire we are used to green fields but to see high hills, wide valleys with reservoirs sitting in the basin, plus the many types of foliage is a site to behold. In a few weeks when the leaves start to turn the vista must be spectacular.  That’s enough of that, let’s move onto the ale. The Ring ‘O’ Bells is owned by Butcombe Brewery, so naturally we went for their ales. Citra and I went for Haka, as soon as we see any ale with a Kiwi sounding name we know we’re in for a tasty light golden hoppy ale and in Haka we weren’t disappointed, lovely: coming in at 4.5% and naturally in good condition. Pharp went for Butcombe bitter:  this has won a few prizes in its time including bronze medal at the GBBF in 2013. A standard bitter/best bitter at 4.0%, a clean malty bitter, you either like this beer or you don’t, often considered a bit thin, nevertheless this was in good condition, tight head clinging to the glass. Citra and I stuck with Haka, whilst Pharp moved onto Box Steam Brewery’s Old No8. The description on the pump-clip suggested this was a chestnut best bitter, it looked a bit lighter than chestnut. Malty with just a few hops thrown in at 4.1%, not a show stopper, but ok, Pharp seemed content.
A nice pub, they have a Grumpy hour on Sunday afternoon, this being the time of the weekend when you realise it’s back to work tomorrow. Beautiful gardens at the rear with a green hill as a backdrop. All in all a pleasant stop, I suspect a few bikers and walkers might make this a stop off point during their day. Time to move onto the ground in Paulton. It was during this phase of our journey that a deep sense of concern enveloped the PRATS, this was our second outing since Pharp’s return from his trip to the Shetlands and up to now Pharp had not unleased the ‘vapours from hell’. There was an occasion when Pharp sneezed violently, in an instant we all reached for the gas masks, but nothing. We were expecting the reverberations of the sneeze to send ripples through his finely honed Spartan like physique. If buttock clenching was an Olympic sport, Pharp would be on the British Airways flight to Rio, albeit sitting at the very rear of the plane. You know how the air conditioning works on these flights, anything that gets unleashed in first or business class gets vented out in economy class. Anything that gets unleashed in economy class gets stored in a pressurised container and then pumped into the Ryanair departure lounge. Nevertheless, Pharp had become somewhat dormant, the occasional rumble with the deep expectation of an eruption sometime soon. We arrived at Paulton Rovers, a nice tidy ground with a very large clubhouse, very much the centre of all things that go on in Paulton. The clubhouse has 1000 members and an enviable turnover of around £20K a week, crikey, that would keep the footy going for a while. Although we didn’t have a drink in the clubhouse we did see a couple of hand-pump. One sporting a local brewery; Bath Ales Gem pump clip, the other, yes you’ve guessed it, bloody Doombar, never mind. The game, well we won 1-0, decent first half, awful second half. Paulton playing with 9 men for a large part of the second half seemed to be invigorated by the uphill challenge that faced them, we let them have the freedom of the park.

Time to go home; we decided to go back up the M5 to the Coach and Horses at Weatheroak Hill. As we trawled through Bristol the sky was full of hot air balloons, we prayed that Pharp wasn’t going to unleash, we didn’t want to join the balloons floating over Bristol.
We arrived in Weatheroak around 7:00pm, The Coach and Horses have their own brewery ‘Weatheroak Hill’, a very busy pub with many sitting outside soaking up the evening sun. Once in the bar with 8 ales on offer we decided to sample the home brews. Pharp and Parker tried the Hill Top Best, a mild ale at 3.5% nice enough for the strength, tight head clinging to the glass. Citra and I went for the Icknield Pale Ale, a lovely session ale with a bitter finish coming in at 3.8%. I could easily drink this all night. But we didn’t, we moved onto one of the regular guest ales Holdens Golden glow, another bronze medallist at the GBBF. 4.4% strength this is a very drinkable golden ale with a slightly sweet yet citrusy finish. The ale was in very good condition and the perfect pint to finish off the day. The Coach and Horses is a great country pub overlooking the Vale of Evesham, yet just a few miles away from the outskirts of Birmingham. Excellent food, I can recommend the faggots, proper snaffle. We arrived back in Kettering around 9:00pm and good day out for the PRATS with 3 excellent pubs.

Wednesday 16 September 2015


Paulton Rovers Ale Tasting Session
Another long trip, the PRATS have already done 1011 miles after just 5 weeks into this season, only another 3550 to go, plus any cup games that may come along. Paulton Rovers another new opposition for the Poppies. Paulton set in the former Somerset coal field. Now when you think of coal mining, what images and sounds do you conjure up; flat caps, whippets and “by eck” or maybe, daffodils, leeks and “yaki dah”? Certainly not a smock with 3 crosses on it or flagons of cider, “ooh arr”. As we say in Ketrin “it dawn’t cumpoot”. Probably more to do with our naivety, apparently the worse you are at coal mining the more coal you dig out, the more faults the better.
Which way to go down to Somerset for the second time in three weeks is the big question? There shouldn’t be any holiday traffic, there, that’s put the kybosh on it now. Probably get caught up in a monster jam on the M5 and have to listen to a stringed quartet jam session.

There is a temptation to take the M5 and go via the Crown at Churchill. Lovely old pub, unchanged for decades, 8 ales served by gravity, sounds good. The pub hasn't changed since 1984, very old fashioned, toilets outside across the yard. Very popular with walkers and cyclists so can get busy quite early, that’s our travel route sorted.
There are one or two pubs in Paulton, the Lamb and the Red Lion both serve real ales. Both of these within easy walking distance from the football ground. The clubhouse looks as though it has plenty of sport on the many tellies, not sure if they have any ale on tap.

 Butcombe, Courage and maybe Bath Ales can be found around this part of the world, with a bit of luck we may find some ales up from Cheddar brewery as well. Not too far away is the RCH brewery so a Pitchfork might be on tap somewhere. No doubt bloody Doombar will also put in an appearance somewhere. 
Further afield towards the west you’ll find a Butcombe pub the Ring'O'bells at Compton Martin, we may well come this way from Churchill. There is also the Old Station and Carriage, only about a mile or so away in Hallatrow, looks a pleasant pub.
On the way home we could go back the way we came up the M5 and along the M42 and call in at the Coach & Horses Inn at Weatheroak, a great pub and home of the Weatheroak Hill brewery. Or maybe take the Bath, Swindon, Oxford route. We have several temptations on the way; however, our favourite brewery tap Towcester Mill is holding a beer festival. Closer to home the Red Lion Broughton is also having one, even closer to home the Three Cocks Kettering is holding their third of four festivals this year, all coinciding with the Solstices and Equinoxes, decisions, decisions.  

Good to hear the Tunbridge Wells Ale Tasting Society has been formed; however, they are still struggling for a name as the acronym doesn’t really work.

Sunday 13 September 2015


Its FA cup day, probably our most important game this season so far, we can’t afford any slip ups, no banana skins please.  Today re-joining Fuggles, Citra and Parker, we are once again in the presence of Pharp back from his vacating in the Shetlands. All necessary precautions need to be undertaken, hopefully we haven’t slackened our guard over the past 3 outings. First check is to establish what Pharp has consumed over the past 24 hours, hopefully no baked beans, mushy peas or Brussels sprouts and most importantly no curries. Second check, the electric windows are in fine working order. Third check, have we got the gas masks? All set we’re on our way, Parker is really pleased with his new car sticker adorning the back window ‘Pharp on Board’.
With Market Drayton being the home of Muller, (no Citra, not Daisy Muller, calm down and button up your raincoat) the yogurt, Rice and Corner producers. Getting mullered must be a great possibility, especially with all the good real ale pubs in close proximity. Just a five minute walk would get you to all 4 pubs on our list.
First port of call and a useful parking slot for a couple of hours is the Red Lion, brewery tap for Joule’s brewery. The brewery was closed for many years after being gobbled up by Bass Charrington.  Those were dark days indeed before CAMRA had enough consumer power to be able to lobby against such travesties, thankfully re-founded again in 2010. Unfortunately, the old brewery building in Stone was knocked down in 1974, much to the annoyance of the locals. However, a warehouse does still remain intact on the canal bank. A new brewery has now been built in Market Drayton with many original recipes and brewing methods made available by Molson Coors who gobbled up Bass Charrington. Plenty of info here: Joule's History. A magnificent new brewery building which must have cost a pretty penny, not just thrown together but a well-designed structure with a considerable amount of oak cladding. Inside the Red Lion is also immaculate, although the old pub is now only a small part at the front of the new extension. Citra went for the Blonde, one we’d supped last week in Stratford, the ale was, as you would expect, in superb condition, pristine clear with a tight head clinging to the glass. Pharp and Parker went for Slumbering Monk, deep copper coloured premium ale coming in at 4.5%, a rich malty ale, once again pristine clear with a tight head. I went for the Pale Ale, the original Joule’s Pale Ale, delightfully refreshing ale, just enough bitterness, just enough malty flavour in perfect condition at 4.1%, lovely.
By now several more Poppies supporters had now come into the bar, all admiring the surroundings, nodding in appreciation. Speaking to many supporters later at the game it would appear that many went to the Red Lion and all had nothing but glowing comments to make. I now moved onto Calcutta 1757 a typical IPA, with Market Drayton’s most famous son Sir Robert Clive as in ‘Clive of India’, this ale is most appropriate. The ale commemorates Clive’s first winning battle in Calcutta February 1757. This light amber ale has some clout coming in at 5.0%, hoppy, honey, spicy, once again in pristine condition, marvellous. Citra followed up with the Pale Ale whilst Pharp stayed with Monk. The Red lion manages to be a good pub for a Friday night out with the lads and also somewhere to take the better half and friends for a decent meal and a few drinks. The Jazz night looks good offering 4 pint jugs of ale for a tenner. Brewery tours also available. The temptation to stay at the Red Lion was strong; however, we had other pubs to try out so we moved onto the Clive & Coffyne.
Or at least that’s where we thought we’d gone; unfortunately, inadvertently we walked into Tudor Rose. It was clear from the outset that we’d come into the wrong pub, but it just didn’t register. The two cake stands with various sponge cakes should have given us a clue. The purple rinsed octogenarians sipping tea should have given another clue. At the bar we expected 3 hand-pumps there was only two, yet still it didn’t twig, we just moaned that it wasn’t what we expected. One of the pumps had run out; this was from the Big Shed brewery Engineers Best, sadly not for us today so we went for Goffs Lancer. The very nice lady serving at the bar tried to convince us this was also brewed by Big Shed, the pump clip clearly pointing out it was brewed in the Cotswolds. We just said we didn’t realise the Cotswolds stretched so far north. Nevertheless the ale was ok, slightly hazy, straw coloured coming it at 3.8%, the head was clinging to the glass, pleasant enough. We were clearly in the wrong pub, ever felt like a prat?
We swiftly moved onto the Salopian Star, the oldest pub in Market Drayton. There can be no doubting that this pub is for blokes, a glitter ball, many spot lights, brass stuff adorning the walls, a couple of dart boards and Sky sports on the two tellies. But most importantly; they had 3 hand-pumps, two serving Battlefield ales, another local brew the other adorned with a hand-written pump clip; Holdens Gold. Pharp went for the Battlefield Amber, you can guess what colour this premium ale is, at 4.5%.  Rich and malty, it was in decent condition, clear and a clingy head. Citra & I went for Battlefield Gold, a nice thirst quencher at 3.8%, reasonably hoppy with a malty taste. Once again the ale is in decent condition with a tight head clinging to the glass.
We only had the one pint and moved onto Greenfields the home of the Gingerbreadmen. The name derived from the large number of bakers that once filled the High St specialising in baking these spicy treats. With Billington’s claiming to be the world’s oldest surviving baker, originally from Market Drayton now knocking them out in Barnsley. A pleasant ground for this level of footy, in one corner was a small stand, sort of tucked out of the way. I guess this is here to ensure Market Drayton have the required number of seats.  More unnecessary expense imposed by the footy authorities, seats in a stand that will probably only get bums sitting on them once in a decade. I was hoping this stand would be sponsored by Muller, they could have named in Muller Corner.
It was at the ground where Pharp regaled us with his tales from his Shetlands fishing trip. He was telling us how strong the wind was; really! On one trip he proudly pronounced that they had been ‘blown off’, you can imagine the sniggers amongst the Poppies supporters listening in. Apparently, ‘blown off’ is a term which relates to their boat being shifted off their fishing ground by the wind? You would have thought Pharp could have used is powers to counteract anything Njord could throw at them. The game, well it was FA cup day and we triumphed 5-0. So we go into Monday’s draw for the next round which is played in two weeks.
After the game we took the short trip to Cheswardine and the Red Lion, home of Lion Tale’s brewery. A small pub with huge steps leading up to the front door, a single bar with two serving areas opens to both rooms with two hand-pumps on each. On the bar where we were sitting was Blooming Blonde and Lion Bru, on the other bar was Ches Brewnette and a Marston’s ale we didn’t really take any notice of it.
The pump-clips were hand-made, micro-brewery in deed. Citra and I went for, as expected, the Blooming Blonde, pale with the slightest of haze, quite bitter with an unusual flavour. We couldn’t quite put our finger what the flavour was, there was some zest, perhaps a little yeast, sour taste, different none the less, at 4.1% it was OK. Pharp and Parker went for Ches Brewnette, dark mild, chestnut redish colour coming in at 4.5%. This also had a sour taste similar to the Blonde, the lads struggled with it to be honest, and they didn’t have another. The Red Lion sells little individual pork pies; the temptation was far too great to ignore them so Citra and I had one each. This was a delightful pork pie, crusty pastry, full of peppery pork, no jelly but that didn’t matter. The pies are made by Matthews butchers in nearly Newport, delicious and well worth £1.35 each we paid for them. Citra and I finished the day off with the Lion Bru, lovely ale 4.6% rich bitter, good condition, tight head clinging to the glass. Whilst there we met the local CAMRA (Market Drayton sub branch) man dropping off 2016 Good Beer Guides. He’d been to the game and started chatting; he was surprised we knew of the Red Lion and the Lion’s Tale micro-brewery. Nothing gets passed the PRATS R&D department.

So that was it for another PRATS day out, Market Drayton is a great place to have a few decent ales at very good prices all less than £3.00 a pint. Next week we go to Paulton, south of Bath, more great ales to be supped.

Wednesday 9 September 2015


Here we go again, its FA Cup time, with our hopes and expectations exceeding probability. As the highest goal scorers in the competition we hope to increase our tally by at least double figures. When was the last time we travelled up the M6 for any great distance to see the Poppies? Have we ever played Market Drayton before, doubt it? The Gingerbreadmen are in form having won their last 4 games, sod it, hopefully not a banana skin under foot.
Pharp has returned from vacating up in the Shetlands so the other PRATS will need to dig out their respirators.  
Market Drayton is home to Joules Brewery, which was gobbled up by Bass in early 1970’s, the brewery was knocked down in 1974 and Joules ales were lost. Having said that I do recall drinking some Joules ale at the Burton Brewing Museum a few years back. However, in 2010 Joules was back on the pump, today we intend to visit the brewery tap The Red Lion Market Drayton. 

Joules have several pubs in town with the Tudor looking buildings the
Sandbrook Vaults looking impressive.

As a lover of almost all Salopian Brewery ales, we must go to the Salopian Star .
Also in the town is a reference to Market Drayton’s most famous son The Clive and Coffyne, with some decent ales in the Tudor bar

After the game we plan to visit another brewery tap the Red Lion Hotel
Cheswardine, home of the Lion’s Tale brewery. You won’t find their ales anywhere else, only here in the Red Lion.
Also in this village is another Joules pub The Fox and Hounds

If  we get time we may pop into the Woodfarm Brewery. 
Here’s hoping we are in the hat for the draw next Monday.

Sunday 6 September 2015


A nice leisurely trip to Stratford with an 11:00am departure arriving by 12:30pm after crawling through some roadworks. Slowly driving round the outskirts of Coventry brings some solace, at least we’re not driving through it. Travelling today we have myself Fuggles, Citra and Parker, with mini parker and her crutches otherwise known as Hoppy. This is our last Pharpless journey for a while, so we need to take in the country air whilst we can. Citra was leering out of the window hoping to get a glimpse of Anne Hathaway. Stratford is a lovely place with loads of tourists, river boats, open top ‘hop on-hop off’ buses; there was one especially for the Japanese tourists that was a ‘nip on-nip off’ bus.
When I think of the Bard, I am often reminded of that world renowned thespian Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi doing a bit of Shakespeare in the film Zulu. 

“Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge
Cry 'God for Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo! Mthethwa Paramountcy and umuntu ongcwele Shaka, stick that up your men of Harlech”. Marvellous stuff.
Everywhere you look there are references to Shakespeare, even Francis Bacon gets the occasional mention, especially on the breakfast menus. Listening to Parker and Citra discussing literary giants, Citra said he’d like to know more about Dickens, when asked what he knew already he said “not much I’ve never been to one”.
We headed for an NCP carpark to be greeted by a car reversing out of the payment barrier, several expletives later we managed to get to the payment kiosk ourselves, several expletives later we were also reversing. £3.00 an hour is extracting the urine, so we popped across the road and paid 80p.
We strolled to the Stratford Alehouse. Alehouses seem to be popping up all over the place now, basically an ex-shop with some tables and chairs and more importantly wooden racks with several rows of barrels wearing insulation jackets. All ales serve by gravity; wonderful. There were a couple of groups of lads in there when we arrived, they looked as though they were on an England rugby and footy bender; could be a good day for them if this pub is anything to go by. Citra and I went for the Froth Blowers Brewery ‘Gollop With Zest’ a delightful blonde citrusy ale coming in at 4.5%, a loose head clinging to the glass. Parker went for Stratford Brewery Stratford Gold, a golden ale with a malty flavour 3.8%. A very slight haze, as advised by the very knowledgeable barmen before purchase, the ale was only tapped on Saturday morning. We followed up with Ticketybrew Jasmine Green Tea, this ale was in pristine condition, absolutely clear with a tight head clinging to the glass, for a gravity served ale this was astoundingly good quality, delightfully fresh tasting pale ale at 3.8%. The ‘Poppies’ return to Stratford in a couple of months for the Red Insure cup, we hadn’t planned on attending that game, however, this pub may well have changed our minds, well worth a visit.
We moved onto The Bear, a pub sitting on the bank of the River Avon, adjacent to the Swan’s Nest hotel. A very expensive smart bar with a nice row of 8 hand-pumps. Citra and I went for Joules Blonde, an ale we will no doubt be supping next week at Market Drayton. This ale is brewed with lager malt and Czech hops, it should be served colder than usual ales, this wasn’t, so probably not being consumed at its very best; nevertheless, it was a decent pint. Fresh tasting at 3.8%, slightly hoppy finish. The price was eye watering, 2 ales, J2O and half of Coke £11.45, ouch. A nice place to bring the better half. One was enough for the wallet so we moved onto the ground and went for a cup of tea. We didn’t go into the club house so sadly we haven’t got a clue if they had any decent ales available, I’m sure some fellow Poppies supporters will enlighten us. The game, once again we played well punctuated by silly errors, another defeat damn and blast.
We left the ground a tad mardy and went to one of our favourite brewery taps the Woodfarm Brewery near Lutterworth.
Eight ales on hand pump all brewed on the premises plus two ciders also hand drawn. Most of the ales have a Rugby theme to their names, Scrum, Webb Ellis, Union, Twickers, Grand Slam, you get the picture, very much a Leicester Tigers affiliated bar, with signed shirts and photos adorning the walls. Behind the bar, through the window the mash tuns of the brewery can be seen. Citra and I started where we usually start with Best Bitter, a lovely golden ale at 4.2%, and hoppy aroma with a bitter finish. In good condition, good head clinging to the glass.  Parker went for Victorious, once again his usual, a dark amber ale with a malty aroma and mellow bitter finish. I followed up with No8 a 5.0% Amber ale, lovely full bodied, hoppy aroma with a malty finish, always in good nick. Citra went for Webb Ellis, a good hoppy session ale at 3.8% with a dry finish. To close the day out we had one more pint, both Citra and myself going for Twickers, 3.7%, golden, citrusy, lovely. One of the highlights of a visit to Woodfarm is the pork pies, 4 varieties available, standard, pork and stilton, pork and black pudding and ploughmans. These pies are knocked out by Sercombes of Rugby, although not part of the Melton Mowbray pie association these are delightful pies.
That was it for one day, shorter than our previous Saturday outings, good to get home early and getting planning for our FA cup encounter next week up in Market Drayton. 

Wednesday 2 September 2015


This week we take the relatively short trip to Stratford upon Avon. Incredibly the Poppies have no home SLP games in September, wonderful planning. Our only scheduled game against Biggleswade has now been replaced with the eagerly anticipated Northants Senior cup clash with Corby. So Stratford is the first of many away days this month. As you would imagine for a town that spewed forth a literary giant; the footy club has a magnificent nickname ‘Town’, marvellous. Shakespeare reminds me of our old ground Rockingham Rd and all those roads and streets named after famous poets, Shakespeare, Cowper, Kingsley, Shelley and Reservoir.
There are some decent pubs in Stratford with the new Alehouse looking very good with all ales being served by gravity and certainly a good selection although the list on the ‘Our Beers’ page seem to have more gone off than on, we’ll have to see.

The Bear adjacent to the Swan’s Nest hotel has been around for a few years and sits next to the River Avon; well worth a visit.

Miles away from the brewery the Old Thatch Tavern is a Fullers pub, but some Poppies fans enjoy a pint of London Pride so no doubt they’ll head for here

There is a micro-brewery in Stratford Sadly their newly purchased pub The Norman Knight is miles away from Stratford, but the ales should be available from The Bear and The Stratford Alehouse.

No doubt there will be an abundance of Japanese and American tourists walking about with enormous cameras and even more enormous lenses strung around their necks. Whether the PRATS do a bit of sightseeing is very doubtful, having said that; Citra is very much looking forward to visiting Anne Hathaway’s house, he likes a bit of thatch does Citra. He’s really hoping the Hollywood actress is in residence on Saturday, oh dear!

Pharp is still away although he is on his way back from the Shetlands, much to the delight of the islanders. However, the Viking Wind Farm is a tad disappointed having generated record amounts of electricity during Pharp’s vacation. Pharp caught an enormous Coalfish around 27lbs a personal best, that would need a lot of batter and even more chips, don’t mention mushy peas to Pharp.