Friday 27 November 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


“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?

Sunday 1 November 2015


It was just after 4:30pm when Parker and Citra arrived to pick Fuggles up for very rare Friday night match. The FA Trophy is with us again and this season; just as we did 2 seasons back, we are playing St Ives, although this time away from home. Pharp is once again making his own lonely odour ridden way there. By 5:15pm we had parked up and were thrashing out a hasty pace. Crossing over Market Hill, looking to our right was a reminder of our first pub of the evening, the Oliver Cromwell. Ollie was sort of pointing the way and he wasn’t in a fine mess, no thanks to Stanley.
The Oliver Cromwell was very busy, bustling in fact with what looked like a mature clientele just popping in for a pint or three on their way home from a day at the office. A good selection of ales including Oakham Ales JHB and Green Devil IPA, Adnams Bitter and Ghost Ship, Hobgoblin and of course bloody Doombar. Parker went for the Adnams bitter whilst Citra and I had JHB. The Adnams was on at £2.50 a pint or at least that’s what the sign read, the lack of much change out of a tenner suggested otherwise, however, as it was ‘happy 2 hours’ and we were given 3 x 50p tokens off our next round. The ale was looking very good, very clear, always a popular pint is Adnams Southwold Bitter to give it’s full name, coming in at 3.7% a good session ale. The JHB, well what can I say about this champion ale, it’s pale, it’s zesty, it’s in good condition and always goes down well as do most Oakham’s ales, 3.8% Jeffrey Hudson; Bitter to once again give it’s full name is one of the best session ales around. Jeffrey was a famous little chap from the 17th century, Think Rutland think Jeffrey_Hudson. "Multum in parvo" ("Much in little"). We had another JHB, well we had to spend the 50p tokens, and got some more. Doh!.
We moved on to the Nelsons Head, just a 5 minute walk, along the riverside. There was quite a few houses and luxury flats overlooking the river, oozing (or should that be Ouse-ing?) charm. A couple of nice boats moored up, we’ll probably see the owner of one of these in the pub at some point. He’ll be dressed in all the regalia, check shirt including anchor motif, with a navy blue jumper draped over his shoulders wearing pristine white slacks and sunglasses perched on the top of his head. We walked passed the West End DIY store, nothing of great note I hear you say.  Well maybe not, however, Marshall used to work for this DIY chain. We were a tad pleased he wasn’t with us otherwise he would have gone on about Walpamur whitewash paint, Anaglypta wallpaper and the virtues of LAP cold water paste all bloody night, small blessings. The Nelsons Head was also packed with the same sort of clientele, thrashing a couple down before going home. Hallowe’en was in evidence, either that or the spiders had been very busy the night before and the staff hadn’t had time to get the feather duster out. This is a Greene King pub but with a few guest ales also available. 8 hand-pumps serving 3 from GK, including IPA, Abbott and an interesting Black IPA, Hobgoblin again, Morlands Old Golden Hen and a couple from the Nene Valley Brewery, their bitter NVB and Simple Pleasures. The eighth pump was serving one of Cromwell’s ciders, local stuff. Citra and I went for Simple Pleasures, delightful pale ale, very tasty and as you might expect very citrusy. Coming in at 3.6% and in excellent condition, good loose head all the way down. Citra had another one of these whilst Fuggles tried the Old Golden Hen, had a few out of a bottle but never on tap, what a disappointment. Hardly any flavour at all, or had the Simple Pleasures overwhelmed my taste buds? No, gulp after gulp, it didn’t get much better, there was nothing wrong with the condition, it was in good nick, it just lacked any real character for me. Parker enjoyed is coffee. The Poppies media team had now entered the bar, and asked “did you know kick off was 8:00pm” No we didn’t, sounds like an extra pre-match pint. Next port of call on this mini pub crawl was the Royal Oak, not very far away on a parallel street with a single row of shops separating the two streets. We walked passed a chippy restaurant, it looked very busy, went around the end of the street did almost 180 degrees and started down towards our destination, this is when Citra had one of his moments. “There are a lot of chippies around here” he chirped. Parker and I looked at each other, and almost in perfect harmony we said” You daft bugger Citra it’s the same chippy”. Citra looked back and scratched his head, in a Stanley Laurel sort of way.
The Royal Oak looked like a good old traditional pub, we entered into the first small bar cum snug, and it would seem that the spiders had been even busier in here; although their webs were a strangely purplish colour, all that blackcurrant juice they’ve been on. With 6 hand-pumps mounted on the bar with some lovely ales on tap . 3 x Oakham ales, yippee! Dreamcatcher a whacking 6.9% red ale, Hawse Buckler 5.6% porter cum stout and Inferno, plus Wells Bombardier, Bloody Doombar and as it’s Hallowe’en Hobgoblin was on at the third pub out of three we’d been to so far this evening. Wychwood must brew an enormous amount of Hobgoblin at this time of year even though it’s available all year round. Needless to say Citra and I went for the Inferno, refreshing 4.0% golden ale, fruity, dry, and bitter, very much a typical Oakham ale. The ale was in very good condition, clear and clinging. Parker nipped out to the cash machine, so we sneaked another half-pint of Inferno. Parker clearly doesn’t realise we  know he’s sneaking out for a swift drag on a fag, always going back to the car to fetch something and a no doubt have a suck on a glowing weed, at least he’s not vaping! St Ives is a very nice place to have a few ales we could easily spend the night here thrashing a few more down, but we have a match to go to.
The match, why didn’t we stay in the pub? Well we won a very scrappy game, the pop fuelled Westwood Kop ‘Darby and Jones branch, were in good voice. There was a tune about one of our players wearing pineapple on his head, not sure about that one. They clearly enjoyed giving Dubi a bit of stick and taking the piss about our lack of ground, but it was all done in good spirits. That wasn’t a Hallowe’en pun. The game was over and so we moved onto Huntingdon, just a few miles down the road. We were lucky to get parked up directly outside the Falcon. Always a very busy pub and so it was as you would expect on a Friday night.
With 15 ales to choose from it’s difficult to make an instant choice. It’s also very difficult to list them all. Once again Wychwood Hobgoblin was available; however, this was the golden version along with Dirty Tackle. Not long now before we lose the Rugby World Cup themed ales. There was a couple from Potbelly one of which was Pig’s Do Fly, the Poppies won the Conference North drinking barrel after barrel of this stuff always a favourite. Also on tap were Downton’s Pumpkin Ale, Phipps’s Steamroller, Julian Church More Tea Vicar, Marston’s Empire and Nobby’s Biggus Dickus, plus a couple more including one from Great Oakley. Fuggles went for Biggus Dickus, 4.2% golden ale with plenty of hops, in perfect condition, very clear with a clinging head. Citra was singing the praises of Hobgoblin Gold earlier last week so it was inevitable that is what he’d drink. 4.2% golden refreshing and citrusy and in very good condition. Pharp had now arrived along with the Weebles, Petit Chemise, Marshall and Betweenthesticks. Pharp had Dirty Tackle, not surprised there, dark amber 4.0%. Downton Pumpkin Ale was the choice for Chemise and BWT, can’t remember what Marshall had. The Pumpkin was almost the colour of a pumpkin with an orange tinge, very hoppy at 4.2%. All the ales were in good nick. We had a few more before we trudged home leaving at around 11:25pm and arriving back in god’s chosen town around midnight.