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.