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.

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