Saturday 31 December 2016



It’s been a few weeks since the PRATS were last on the ale trail, St Ives was our last outing and on that trip one of the guzzlers was in the first days of spending almost 7 weeks, quite unwell, hospitalised. It didn’t seem appropriate to do a write up without Citra. The good news is that Lemonhead is now home and is almost back to his hogswilling best. Oakham ales have been through a torrid time with sales plummeting, coinciding with Citra’s arid spell. Visiting Citra during his period of tonsil dehydration in Northampton general, it looked as though he had a secret supply hidden beside bed No12093. The plastic bag looked to be containing a rather putrid Watney’s Red, it was flat, hazy, a slightly fizzy head, warm, with a sort of yellow golden glow, we don’t have tasting notes. In the early days, Citra had all sorts of tubes connected to him, entering his carcass through far more orifices than he was born with. There was a strange looking bag dangling from his nose. Apparently, it was a new green looking product from Bird’s Eye, bile in the bag, lovely. Citra was back in the pubs before Christmas, keep an eye out for the brewer’s stock market prices, they’ll soar over the coming weeks.

It seems fitting somehow that we start back in St Ives, albeit playing against Cambridge City. St Ives is a good place for a few ales with loads of good pubs within easy walking distance. We have to visit the usual places, The Oliver Cromwell, serving half a dozen ales. A stroll along the river and up into the town we come across the Nelson's Head. A Greene King pub but it also has other ales available usually from Nene Valley brewery. Just around the corner is the delightful Royal Oak, another half dozen ales with Oakham Ales always on tap. If you like your Elgoods then along the Broadway towards the ground is Floods Tavern.
Perhaps the closest pub to the ground is the Merchant House, they give discount to CAMRA card carrying members. Worth a try, just a short walk away from the ground leaving town is the Seven Wives, also known as the Husbands Nightmare, Summer Lightning is usually available as is the ever popular Bloody Doombar. The clubhouse at St Ives always have a half decent selection of bottled ales, a reasonably lucky ground for us, fingers crossed.

Sunday 16 October 2016


It’s Saturday and is FA cup day, however, it was full steam ahead in the Fuggles kitchen, Mrs Fuggles was making the Christmas puddings, not for the coming Yule time but the one after. She always makes them 15 months in advance, they taste better apparently, well that’s what Delia says anyway. The whole process started on Thursday, Fuggles had to fetch the alcohol that goes into the giant mixing bowl, this year we used Elgood’s Scotch Ale, coming in at a whopping 9%, we are using this instead of the barley wine. For the stout we are using Guinness Export with a strength of 7.5%. Now Mrs Fuggles only uses 125ml of each which means Fuggles has to swig down what’s leftover. Mrs Fuggles pours the bottle remnants into a pint glass and hands the brown foaming concoction over to a reticent Fuggles. My god, it was like drinking a pint of Covonia, it took a bit of getting down, but a man’s duty is a man’s duty. Early Friday morning there was a bit of turbulence in the air, the motion sensors were in over-drive and by mid-morning all hell let loose. It was like the siege of Moscow, the 1812 overture, such was the emotion it brought tears to Fuggles eyes, it’s fair to say the whole experience was a pain in the arse.
Parker arrived at around 11:00, the PRATS have travelled to many delightful parts of the country, but for every Ying there is a Yang, today we go to Solihull. Is it solly or sowly? we much prefer Charley. Damn and blast our pre-match plans have been scuppered, we had planned to go the micro-pub the Pup & Duckling in Solihull but they don’t open until 5:00pm on a Saturday, 5:00pm on a Saturday, are you sure?

Instead we went to the Bulls Head Barston a nice village local which has been in the Good Beer Guide for 24 years and winner of the Solihull CAMRA Pub of the year 2016, the 7th time it’s won the accolade. $ hand-pumps in the bar, Adnams Bitter and Purity Mad Goose are the regulars, the guest ales were Hooky from Hook Norton and Bootleg Brewery’s Lawless. Fuggles went for the Lawless, a pale ale with a hint of citrus. Traditional session ale coming in at 3.8%, it didn’t have a lot to say for itself. A very slight aftertaste, refreshing but that’s about it. It was in decent condition, nice and clear with a good head. Pharp and Citra went for the Mad Goose, a delightful blonde ale coming in at 4.2%. a very slight haze was the only thing we could find wrong with it. A zesty ale, loads of Citrusy notes, right up Citra’s street. Parker went for a very large mug of coffee. Within a few minutes the Inbred Village Idiots Faction arrived, Vlad, Vladling and Broughton’s most inspirational half-wit and model railway enthusiast Tailby OO entered the bar. For the next thirty minutes we solved all the problems on the pitch, easy really. We had another pint each, this time we all had Mad Goose, Parker had another very large mug of coffee.
It was time to move on, our target pub was the Vaults in Knowle, only a couple of miles away. After a few minutes of driving up and down Knowle High St we finally came upon our destination, but drat and double drat is was closed, no lights on, doors shut and a for sale sign adjacent to the building. Soddit, so we quickly scanned Whatpub on the Iphone and came across the Acres just a few miles away and near the ground.

As we approached our new destination we received a text from the Weebles saying they were in the Vaults, treble drat and quadruple drat, it wasn’t shut. Several expletives later after driving through a 60’s housing estate, we came across a pub, where on earth were we? We gingerly walked into the bar, a large room which could easily double as a night club with the lights on. Tall flowers in thin vases on every table, a few chaps milling at the bar and there in the distance, leaning on the bar was a bloke in a Poppies shirt, it was Gretton Poppy. According to Whatpub they have 4 hand-pumps with a good selection of ales. A quick scan up and down the bar, then a second scan up and down the bar. Aaaaaarrrrrrggggghhhhhh, it suddenly dawned on the PRATS, only one hand-pump had a pump clip, 5-tuple drat and six-tuple drat. Bloody Doombar is the only ale available. The Poppies match against a team 2 leagues higher is not the greatest challenge to be undertaken today. We ordered the stuff, held our noses and sipped, It reminded Fuggles of the dentists, although there was nothing to spit into. At least the pub and the landlord were pleasant, a huge tray of hot spicy wings was placed on the bar for all to enjoy. We didn’t indulge, we just sipped quietly with accompanying grimaces. The stuff was duly consumed and we moved on to The Automated Technology Group Stadium. Not a bad ground I suppose, although probably needs a bit of work doing to it if the Moors intend to stay in the National Conference for long. There was the merest hint of kerosene in the air, Brum airport is just a few miles away, aeroplanes can be seen and heard jetting off to exotic idyll’s, such as Barbados, Antiqua, Isle of Man. Citra asked if there was rain in the air, Pharp pointed to the 747 passing nearby and suggested someone had flushed the toilet, Citra hoped the macerator was functioning correctly, splat! oh dear.
The game, well the Poppies were clearly second best, not on effort but purely on class. The Moors had more time on the ball, rarely hurried and made very few errors. They will probably consider their day as a professional job well done. We didn’t let ourselves down, we had our moments and could have scored more than just a solitary goal. But that is the cup run over for another season. Hopefully next time we come here it will be as equals in a league game.
Time for home, we decided not to go to the Pup and Duckling and chose instead to go to the Woodfarm Brewery tap, we arrived just before 5:45pm. Hang on, what’s afoot, no ales whatsoever from Woodfarm or Kendrick’s brewery. 7-tuple drat and 8-tuple drat, the brewers have moved out and gone to the Pig ‘n’ Muck a few miles away in Claybrooke Magna. Still there were 4 ales to choose from, 2 from Dowbridges, brewed just down the road in Catthorpe, one from Milesone brewery of Newark and another from ‘we forgot’ the name of the brewer but it was called Howler and Pharp went for this. A red ale coming in at 4.5%, it certainly looked rich and fruity, it was clear and a very tight head. Fuggles and Citra went for Milestone’s Pekko, a delightfully refreshing pale ale, just 3.9% easy drinking. Quite a good citrus aroma, slightly sweet with a bitter finish, very nice. Parker had another cup of coffee, he’ll be awake all night. Next up, Pharp and Citra stayed with what they had whilst Fuggles went for Dowbridge’s Ratae’d, 4.3% a golden-pale ale, quite tasty with a hoppy aroma. Served in good condition, very clear with a tight head. That was it for the night, we were home around 8:00pm.

Thursday 13 October 2016


The PRATS are back on the road in the FA cup, this time it’s the 4th Qualifying against Conference side Solihull Moors. A newish club formed in 2007, an amalgam of Moor Green and Solihull Borough.

They thought about calling themselves Moor Solihull, but were advised against it, who the hell wanted anymore Solihull. The ground is called the ‘H’ stadium because it’s in the middle of nowhere. Less than on hour away so we should see a decent turn out from the Poppies faithful.

Last time we were here in a competitive game was during our Conference North championship season, it was on Boxing day 2007 and we sung ‘Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, oh what fun it is to see Kettering win away’, we won 3-1.
Fuggles remembers this game well because his mate Sphericals ate for the world that day. We called into the White Lion Inn in Hampton in Arden, (I’m sure there a joke there somewhere) Sphericals chomped down a huge plate full of faggots, mashed potatoes and mushy peas, on arriving at the ground he thrashed down two gigantic jumbo sausage hot dogs, by half-time he was munching on a couple of Mars bars, only to eye up the burger van for further sustenance before the end of the game. Now you know why he is called Sphericals.

Not many pubs near the ground, the closest is the Acres, it’s about a 10-minute walk away, they boast a decent selection of ales so might be worth the trudge. However, there is a micro-pub in Solihull the Pup and Duckling, for an up to date ale list you’ll need to refer to their Facebook page. They have 6 ales plus 5 ciders so should be a good pre-match sup.  UPDATE, THE PUP & DUCKLING DOESN'T OPEN UNTIL 5:00pm. After the game, well we may pop into the White Lion mentioned above or maybe pop into the Greyhound Inn just off Jct. 3 on the M6, they serve local ales from Bryatts brewery which is just a mile away from the pub.

Sunday 18 September 2016


It was around 10:30am when the PRATSmobile pulled up outside Fuggles abode. It was a mild day but the wind had the potential to cut through you; so jumpers and cardies were the order of the day, Autumn is upon us. FA cup day and a shortish trip up the M6 to the Black Country to Rushall. We were within spitting distance of Walsall when that old joke reared its ugly head. Here we go, a police car pulls the driver over, the driver winds down the window. The officer asks the driver, What’s your name? Goodall. Where have you come from? Walsall. Where are you going to? Rushall. What sort of car is this? Vauxhall. What have you got in the boot? nothing. Hopefully, that horrendous attempt at humour can be put to bed for another couple of decades. We arrived outside our first watering hole at around 11:45am, we were early the Black Country Arms didn’t open until noon. There were, what looked like a couple of parking spaces, other cars were parked here, but we weren’t sure if this was a proper parking area. We asked a local chap about parking the PRATSmobile. Well, he scratched his head, then set off on what can only be described as a high toned wailing recital. He pointed up the hill and gestured around the corner, he turned around and pointed up another hill and around another corner. We all said thanks, three of the PRATS looked at each other and shrugged their collective shoulders. We hadn’t got a clue, fortunately Citra used to live around these parts so he repeated it all again for our benefit. Parker, Pharp and Fuggles looked at each other and shrugged their collective shoulder, we still hadn’t got a bloody clue. So we took the car to the ASDA car park. We hung around outside the pub looking like desperate vagrants waiting for it to open. Then a couple of Walsall fans arrived, they started to talk to us, we nodded. We managed to deduce that they were playing Bolton Wanderers, and low and behold a few minutes later a group of Notlobians arrived, they started to talk to us, we nodded, said “yes” occasionally, but respectfully altering the inflection to give the appearance we knew what they were talking about. Fuggles looked at Citra for guidance, he shrugged his shoulders and said “dunask me”.
At Last the pub opened and the twenty thirsty throng thrashed through the slightly ajar door, bowling over the diminutive apron adorned maiden who was opening up. Fuggles slowly walked in after the rest, giving the appearance of complete control, pretending not to be gagging for an ale. In the bar, the barman asked who’s first, like clambering school kids the thirsty throng all hollered “me sir, me sir”, waving their folding money in the air trying to catch his attention, it looked like the stock exchange floor. Here’s a question, have you ever heard a Brummie or Black Country accent spoken in a deep tone? Why do they all sound as though they’re wearing a pair of underpants three sizes too small. There is a person at the Poppies, who lives out by Dudley way, we won’t reveal her identity as we might get sued. She is from god’s chosen town and generally speaks with a ‘Ketrin’ accent but occasionally drifts off into a Black Country lilt and every time she does her voice goes up a couple of octaves.

At last we got ale, Fuggles and Citra went for Black Country Ale (BCA) BFG, nothing to do with Roald Dahl, BFG stands for Bradley’s Finest Golden, and before you ask, no we haven’t a clue who Bradley is. As the name suggests it is a golden ale with a tight white head clinging to the glass. It’s very clear and refreshing, quite citrusy coming in at 4%, very nice. Pharp went for the BCA’s 4.2% mild, Pig On The Wall, deep brown colour, when asked, Pharp described it as “like licking a field of almost burnt stubble”, quite! I’ll leave you to work out what that means, but next time you hear Jilly (hollyhocks) Goolden use it to describe the finest Chablis, you’ll know where you heard it first. Parker went for the old classic M&B’s BrewXI. Bloody hell we haven’t seen this for years, it used to be brewed in the Cape Hill brewery which was situated just down the road, now I believe Brains knock it out under contract to Milson Coors. It was a session ale in its day, brewed for the men of the Midlands. 3.8% golden amber ale, it doesn’t say a lot but it will satisfy many palates, it looked in good condition.
Whilst supping the first pint Citra and Pharp scanned the menu and duly ordered the faggots, creamy mash and mushy peas, we rejoiced in the knowledge that this was a short trip, very little time for fermentation. The snaffle arrived, all very symmetrical, 3 ice cream scoops of mash down one side of the square plate, 3 faggot swimming in onion gravy down the opposite side with a green lava flow of mushy peas down the middle, it certainly looked wholesome. More beer, Citra stayed on BFG, Fuggles went for Whiter Shade of Pale brewed by Bad Company, close. Coming in at 3.2% Fuggles was not going to get inebriated on this, it was OK with very little taste, it was in decent enough condition. Pharp decided to try Bartrams Black Forest Porter, as you would expect with a porter loads of chocolate, but with the name you would also expect cherries and you wouldn’t be disappointed. Dark and rich with a good tight head coming in a 4.5%, lovely. Time to move on, we trudged back to the ASDA car park, passed a couple of boarded up buildings. if it wasn’t for the droning accent coming from the shoppers you could easily believe you were in Merthyr.

Just a couple of miles away to the ground, we parked up in the club’s car park. We decided to walk to the pubs just down the road, no more than 200 yards away by the canal. As we left the car park a coach arrived full of vagrants, ne’er do wells and Eli, the supporters bus was here. As we approached the pub the first thirsty Poppies lout raced passed us, it was Captain Kirk’s boy Dick. A couple of seconds later a rather tall young lady followed in hot pursuit. She looked desperate, Pharp shouted “are you chasing Dick”? she waved back, which was nice. We were all surprised, we didn’t realise Carla only had a middle finger on her right hand. We arrived in the Boathouse, to be followed by the miscreants who appeared to get preferential service. They all got served before we could get our order in. Just 2 ales to choose from but not too bad, Citra and Pharp went for Marston’s New World Pale Ale, a very nice refreshing ale, using Australian hops which will always bring out a zesty citrusy flavour, at 3.8% it has become a very popular addition to the Marston range. Fuggles went for York brewery’s Guzzler, a 3.6% blonde ale, very nice quite refreshing, easy drinking, a little bit of grapefruit in the aftertaste. In good condition. Parker settled for a coffee.
We only had the one pint, but whilst we were guzzling in the Boathouse, Poppies radio, in the guise of Companion accompanied by Oswald were lubricating their vocal cords just down the tow path in the Manor Arms. Said to be one of the oldest pubs in the country, been around since 1105 and they’ve held a licence since 1248. A unique bar, there isn’t one, just an open serving area. We asked Companion for his opinion, “marvellous” is all he said. Sounds like we may have gone to the wrong pub.

Time for some footy, Dales Lane stadium is OK, portacabins painted white make up most of the buildings, the clubhouse opens up into the ground. A long covered terrace down one side with two stands, one on each side but as far away from the clubhouse as you could be and still be in the ground. One of the stands had an ‘Evolution’ sign running along the top. The pitch has a very steep slope from side to side and clearly affected the play, the Pics must be able to make home advantage count with a slope like that. The game well, we worked hard and were 2 up by half-time. The second half we were made to work even harder and eventually scraped home 2-1. Our cup run goes on and we add two more goals to our FA cup goals tally.

Time for home, we decided to go to the Fountain in Walsall, the Weebles went in here before the game and described it as a bit of a Forest Gump. Unperturbed, we went anyhow, a pleasant back street town pub owned by Backyard Brewery, and as such their ales were available along with a few others.  Fuggles and Citra kicked off with Backyard Blonde, Pharp said he just to know one of those. A nice fresh tasting ale, loads of citrus fizzing on the palate, in very good condition. 4.1% and a decent price at £2.60. Pharp settled for Backyard’s Hoard, 3.9%, another golden blonde ale but with more malty notes. Once again in good condition. By now the pub was filling up, live music from 8:00, I think the band were in the Snug with us, there was a group of people all wearing bowler or cowboy hats and they were all wearing waistcoats. Just time for one more ale, Fuggles went for just a half pint of Marinka IPA, a whopping 5%, very nice, you could taste the strength with plenty of fruity bitterness. Citra had another Blonde, that was it for the day. Time to go home, Pharp was now percolating inside, the odd rumble was there, but we got home relatively unscathed.

With a win today we won’t be going to Merthyr on the 30th, which means a Tuesday night in November, shame really, the PRATS may not make the trip this season, it’s always a good day down in the valleys.

Thursday 15 September 2016


It’s FA cup time again, this week we are off to Rushall Olympic, in the West Midlands not far from Walsall. Walsall that brings back memories of handbag Harrington ripping a few new anal passages in the Walsall defence.

We have a few decent boozers nearby, but one we must aim for is the Black Country Arms in the centre of Saddlers country. Blessed with 16 hand pumps we are bound to find something we like. No doubt they will have some of their own brewery’s ales available, along with other local breweries, Backyard, Holdens, Kinver and Sarah Hughes. They also do some decent snaffle here, but there is a great fear amongst some of the PRATS, in the menu on the list of Black Country Specialities is Black Country faggots in rich onion gravy with creamy mash & mushy or garden peas. Do not let Pharp see that, I’m not too sure about the grey peas & bacon with a warm crusty baguette either, both potential master blaster fuel.

No Poppies away FA cup day would be complete without the Poppies horde thronging into the local boozer nearest to the ground or the clubhouse, you can’t beat a good throng. Throng, not to be confused with the apparel Citra and Pharp wear when they are gracing the beaches of Skeggy or Frinton on Sea. A throng is a ‘thong that is wrong’ and in Citra and Pharp’s case it is wrong, very wrong. It puts a whole new meaning to the term beach bum. If Pharp let’s rip whilst wearing his gonad hugging silk hankie with the bootlace chaffing deep into a place when no man has gone before or indeed would want to. The pitch is so high that it is inaudible to humans but all the dogs are whining and howling away in what sounds like strangled agony. On the odd occasion when Pharp has been for a dip, you don’t get the high pitch, it’s more like a Duane Eddy thwang.

Anyway, back to the Poppies throng, there are a couple of boozers near the ground, both within easy walking distance, firstly the Manor Arms which has 6 ales available, Banks’s ales and any of the plethora of ales that come out of the Marston’s portfolio, Hobgoblin, Ringwood, Wychwood, Jennings etc. could be available. Just along the canal-side is the Boathouse, a couple of ales here, it looks more like a family pub. There is a clubhouse, not sure if they have any ale available.

Where will we go on the way home?

Sunday 4 September 2016


Here we go again, it’s FA cup day, hopefully the first of many. What a difference 5 days can make, on Monday we were bathed in bright warm sunshine, today it’s persisting down, damp and not at all warm. We are going up north to Leek, and today we are without our usual chauffeur Parker, he is otherwise engaged. Today we are being conveyed to our destination in the retro rocket propelled Pharpmobile, the only vehicle in the country that has both internal and external combustion engines. The driver’s seat has a special chamber beneath it which is directly connected to the fuel tank. It was just before 11:00pm when we drifted out of town, travelling through a constant shroud of grey mist and car spray, not a pleasant journey. As we left the A14 and joined the M6, Pharp turned on his satnav and asked which way are we going. Citra pointed to the horse bolting up the M1. Pharp the Navigator is renowned for knowing every short cut in the country which just happen to be a bit longer than first expected. It’s no coincidence that Pharp’s favourite band Supertrump were playing on the radio ‘Take the long way home’, don’t worry we will. After a couple of hours of virtually continuous downpours, the fear of the game being called off descended upon us. We are now so conditioned that any amount of rain, let alone the deluge we were driving through brings out this fear. But as we enter outskirts of Leek, there is a cessation in the persistence. Not exactly clear skies but just enough to bring forth some hope. It wasn’t long before we were parked up in the town centre, we were on the roof of Wilkos. Walking down to the street level we went down the steepest pedestrian slope possible, Eddie the Eagle went flying passed us on a practice run.

Leek is blessed with an inordinate number of pubs, with only a couple of hundred yards to walk to get to the first one. Through an alley from the car park and we were on the main street and there before us was two pubs, the Cock Inn on the left and directly across the road was the Roebuck. First port of call was the Cock Inn a Joules pub. A nice typical town centre, quite smart with a long restaurant area towards the rear. Cumfy leather chairs and wooden stools around the tables, all very nice. 5 hand-pumps graced the wooden panelled bar, 2 guest ales, Draught Bass and Sarah Hughes Ruby Mild, plus 3 ales from Joules Brewery, Pale Ale, Slumbering Monk and a new seasonal ale No1 Stone Ale. Joules are now based in Market Drayton but they were originally in Stone, so this ale is brewed to celebrate their heritage. Pharp went for this, beautifully clear with a good head, this is brewed with 2 New Zealand hops so will be quite bitter. Fuggles and Citra went for an old favourite Joules Pale Ale, it had a slight haze but tasted fine with a good head, an easy drinking ale coming in at 4.1%. In the bar snaffling down the extremely good value for money food was Petit Chemise on his way home from a camping break in Wales. In tow was Chemise’s better half Petit Pantalon, wearing a replica Poppies shirt, marvellous, clearly well trained. Pantalon was duly introduced to the PRATS, it was clearly perceptible that when it came to Pharp’s turn, a grimace slowly spread across her face, you could see her step backwards. Pharp’s infamy preceded him, was he walking backwards? There were a couple of Scottish chaps sitting in the corner chatting away in their broad accents. It was difficult to understand what they were talking about, it was either football or duck walking, something to do with the Waddled Cup. Time to walk across the road to the Tudor looking Roebuck.
This pub is owned by Titanic Brewery and just to prove the point the bar was adorned with 10 hand-pumps with 8 of their own ales available, plus a couple of their craft beers. Another nice pub with food forming a large part of their business. With so many ales to choose from it difficult to know where to start so Pharp went for Steerage, a 3.8% easy drinking golden session ale. Quite refreshing with a good balance of malt and hops. Citra and Fuggles settled for Iceberg, a pale zesty ale coming in at 4.1%, very much up Citra’s street. Both ales were in excellent condition perfectly clear with good tight heads. Only time for one ale as time was moving fast. On our way back to the car park we spotted the Leeky Tap tucked away in the corner, bah humbug! not enough time we had to get to the ground.

Harrison park is a very nice ground, the pitch looked perfectly flat and green, apparently it’s had £100K spent on it. Nice high stand, the game always looks better when looking down onto the pitch, there’s covered terracing on three sides. All around are adverts for EsterChem just to annoy the chemical works across the road, they make Formates, Acetates, Agitates and Irritates.

The game, well it was just what you hope for in a cup tie. End to end stuff, the Poppies were moving the ball around well but Leek also had their moments, it was one each at half-time. The second half was just as intense, at two each the Poppies missed a penalty to win the game in extra-time. But no cup tie is without drama, step up the penalty villain to blast home a Poppies winner in the 93rd minute. General jubilation amongst the Poppies supporters, the Leek supporters decided to give the ref a bit of stick. Marvellous!

Time for home, we decided to go for pot luck and made our way to Ashbourne. So with the trusty I-phone looking for pubs on the Whatpub app we plumped for a new pub the Artisan. We eventually managed to get parked up in the town square which is surrounded by pubs, tea rooms and chip shops. It was just a short walk to the Artisan, this pub only opened in June this year and is housed in a former hairdressing salon. Quite an old building, the bar area was quite small no more than half a dozen tables. All the furniture looked as if it had been knocked up from recycled wooden planks with some wrought iron legs thrown in for good effect. There were 4 hand-pump on the even smaller bar area. The cat in the back yard had bandages all around it’s head, someone obviously trying to prove a point. The bar staff we wearing radio-active blue polo shirts with hair colour to match. On offer was St Austell brewery’s Cornish ale, Dark Star’s Dark Star ale, Bristol Beer factory’s Milk Stout and Hanlons Yellow Hammer. Pharp went for the Milk Stout, as you would expect in a stout, chocolatey sweetness and coffee bitterness coming in at 4.5%. Very clear, rich and dark brown with a very tight head, it looked delicious. Fuggles and Citra enjoyed the delightful Hanlons Yellow Hammer, a lovely 4.2% golden ale packed with zesty bitterness. In the bar was a small group that were dining on what looked like a delightful platter of crusty bread, a selection of cheeses and some home-made scotch eggs, with a few olives and pickles thrown in for good measure. Mmmm, it looked most convivial, should we have one? Maybe next time we’re up this way. With no seats available down stairs we climbed the rickety stairs to the lounge, another small room with some more home-made tables and benches on a very uneven floor, clearly a very old building. In the corner was a group of young chaps and chappesses, talking and laughing very loudly and having a jolly good hoot, back to university in a few weeks I suspect, OK yah? All in all, a very nice pub, well worth another visit one day.

That was it, we’d had enough for one day, time for home. An excellent day out, a good game of footy and some decent pubs, what else could we ask for. We have started on the FA cup road today, where will it take us this season.

Thursday 1 September 2016


It’s FA cup time again, so far this season goals have been hard to come by, will the Poppies add to their record breaking goal tally? This season we start our hopefully long campaign in Staffordshire taking on former Conference side Leek Town, although they were only in it for two seasons 97-98/98-99. We won 3 and drew one, hopefully we can keep that trend going.

Leek town centre has a loads of decent pubs, just like last season at Market Drayton we will get the opportunity to sample some Joules ales in the Cock Inn
just along the road about 20 yards away is the Titanic brewery owned Roebuck, loads of ales here. A pub crawl is on the cards with far too many good pubs to go in them all, maybe we could try the Cobblers, 6 ales available here. Leek have a micro-pub the Leeky Tap, it only opened a few weeks back with 5 ales available all served on gravity. If you fancy a taste of Belgium then the Den Engel
Leeky Tap Micro-pub
might be the place for you. Owned by Titanic Brewery you will get a couple of good old English ales, but they also have over 100 bottled beers and 10 foreign ales on tap for you to choose from. There’s more, no town centre with this many pubs could get away without having a Red Lion, owned by Hydes Brewery. Then we could try some ales from the Whim Brewery so it’s off to Wilkes Head. All these pubs are within a 6-minute walk and we’ve walked past a few. How many the PRATS will frequent is difficult to know, maybe half a pint in each. Maybe some before and some after the game. The good news is that the footy ground is only a 15 minute walk from the town centre, the bad news is the weather forecast. The rains of Ranchipur have followed us up the M6 from Latimer Park, bring your Pacamac you’ll need it.

Tuesday 30 August 2016


A lovely August bank holiday Monday, the weather was set fair, a pleasantly warm afternoon was in store. It was just after 11:00am when Parker arrived, already on board was Citra and Poppy Parker, the chauffeur’s young’un. Poppy doesn’t say much, unless she becomes peckish, then you have a job to satisfy her avaricious appetite. Unfed, Poppy can deliver a low oscillating whine accompanied by the glare from hell, turning most unsuspecting souls to quivering wrecks, fortunately Parker can return a similar glare.

We collected Pharp and made our way via the flatlands to Nelson’s County. It would seem the butchers from this part of the country produce rather competitive snorkers. As we approached King’s Lynn we were greeted by a considerably long slow queue of traffic making their way to the Adrian Flux Stadium to watch Big Banger racing. That old racing sage Lincs Links passed Curly Cumberland on the line, Curly was ok on the bends but struggled on the straight.
We arrived at the Live and Let Live around 1:15pm, the Weebles had already settled in, Marshall, Petit Chemise, Cardiac and Wort had made the trip. This is a decent back street pub, a couple of rooms, we were in the Snug. The landlady was beavering away just as she was on Boxing day last season. This is a pub for the locals, I suspect most of the regulars live quite close by. We ordered some ales, 5 ales and 2 ciders were available. Citra and Fuggles went for Wolf Brewery’s Edith Cavell, a 3.7% pale ale, quite thirst quenching, we couldn’t quite put our finger on the taste, vanilla was one suggestion, in the end we decided that as the ale was named after a famous nurse the taste was medicinal like. It was nice and clear with a very tight head which clung on to the glass right down to the bottom. Pharp went for Wolf Brewery’s Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing, a 3.7% mild. Not as much malt aroma as expected but with a slightly hoppy finish. A rich brown colour, perfectly clear and once again a very tight head. Parker had a pint of Oldershaw Brewery’s Newton’s Drop. A very nice 4.1% chestnut ale, loads of caramel flavours with a decent bitterness at the end. As expected the head was very tight and the ale was delightfully crystal clear. They certainly know how to look after their ales here.

Blasting out from the pubs jukebox was an antipodean entertainer of ill repute, he wears thick rimmed glasses, has a beard and likes blowing his didgeridoo, recognise him yet? It was an odd tune about 'the fascinating witches who put the scintillating stiches in the britches of the boys who put the powder on the noses on the faces of the ladies of the harem of the court of King Catactacus, who just happened to be passing by'. Or words to that effect. I haven’t got he foggiest idea what that means or who on earth put it on the juke box, let alone put money in to listen to it. Live and let Live I suppose.

The Poppies supporters bus had arrived and just before 2:00pm a load crammed into the pub, mostly into the very snug Snug bar. Business must have been appreciated because within 20 minutes a bowl of piping hot sausage rolls appeared on the bar. Unbeknown to the very industrious landlady; standing at the bar was Kettering’s snappiest dresser, the swarthy, bottle bottom bespectacled, Eli. Eli’s attire put’s an entirely different interpretation to ‘the fifty shades of grey’. It doesn’t matter what colour shirt he is wearing; it will look grey. Eli is also a human food hoover. If there is any food about, whether freshly produced or leftover from some event, no matter what it is, Eli will snaffled it down. We had another round of ales, mostly the same as before although Fuggles went for the Newton’s Drop, this was followed up by a half pint of Grainstore Brewery’s 1050, this is regarded by some ale aficionados as tasting just like the famous original Ruddles County. Marshal has other ‘quite loud’ opinions. Nevertheless it is a delightful mahogany coloured ale a whopping 5.0%. There were a few locals in the bar now, there was one curious moment when one of the locals arrived on his bike. So as to deter the would be bike tea leaf he chained it against conveniently positioned drain pipe, he then hung his shopping onto the handle bars and walked into the pub, doh!

That was it, time to stroll down to the Walks home of King’s Lynn Town FC, they didn’t use the Town in their name until an acute shortage of spondulicks forced out of business back in 2009. They have bounced back well since they reformed in 2010, the stadium is probably one of the best in this league, always a pleasure to attend. One of their sponsors in Woodforde Brewery, with Wherry available in the clubhouse, nice. They also have a supporter who shouts considerably loud. He stands behind the goal unleashing a long bellow, literally bending over backwards in an effort to launch his voice to the other end of the ground. He doesn’t seem to care who is standing around him, he carries on unperturbed whether it be home or away supporters. Well actually not many home supporters stand that close, they know what’s coming. The game, well the Linnets had the best of the first half going in at half-time one up as a result of a super volley. On many other occasions the ball may well have ended up somewhere near Snettisham, this time it almost took the back of the net out. The second half was a different story, a few substitutions and a very influential former Poppy going off injured swung the flow of the game our way. It was clear during the final half hour the game was only going to go one way, the Poppies ended up winning 2-1. Apparently the Linnets haven’t triumphed over the Poppies since 1971, marvellous. Time for home

It was around 6:10pm when we arrived in the delightful typically English country village of Barnwell, former home of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, although they still own the Manor they’ve now buggered off to Kensington Palace. The Montagu Arms, the Montagu’s were a bit chummy with Henry the Eighth. A nice pub, flagstone floors, sandstone walls and low ceilings, considering the association with Henry I’m surprised there wasn’t a ‘Mind Your Head’ sign. They had 4 ales on hand-pump. Adnams Southwold bitter which Parker went for, a typical English session ale coming in at 3.7%. Brewed using Fuggles hops and East Anglian Pale Ale malt barley, quite pleasant but the ale lost its head very quickly. Citra and Fuggles went for 4T’s Pale Ale, 3.7% of very little to be honest, not much flavour at all, quite disappointing, it was also quite flat, the head melted away within minutes. It was clear, if you were gagging you would be grateful, but not today. Pharp got up and made his way to the latrines, whilst we were quietly sitting in the Montagu it became quite evident that Pharp had not unleashed the insidious vapours from the bowels of Armageddon. They’re called the bowels of Armageddon because that’s what people holler when they see Pharp approaching. You can clearly hear “Armageddon” but then all you see is a plume of dust spiralling away in the distance, we never get to hear the “out of here” bit. So why was Pharp dormant, the conclusion we came to was that Poppy Parker’s presence had either nullified the gas production or Pharp was working overtime clenching his buttocks, either way none of us wanted to be around when he released the tension on his left buttock. Most of us regretted not going to the latrines before Pharp, fortunately, Citra managed to sneak in just before him. Why was Pharp walking with his shoes pointing in opposite directions, was this clear evidence of the clenched buttock affect?

Citra and Fuggles had one more pint and went for the locally brewed, not even a mile away, Digfields Ales Fool’s Nook. A quite tasty pale ale coming in at 3.8%. refreshing with a citrusy finish but once again the head disappeared straight away. A shame really, a very nice pub with a great location on the village green, adjacent to an old stone bridge crossing a babbling brook, but the ales fell short of perfection, which was in complete contrast to the Live and Let Live. What is concerning is that this pub clearly like to serve a good selection of decent ales as the ‘ALES COMING SOON’ board suggested. Fuggles may have to bring Lady Fuggles out for a visit just to check and hope this was a one off. The Wednesday £10 steak night looks good.

That was it, a good day out, we won a game, had some ales all bathed in warm sunshine. Next up we go to Leek up in Staffordshire for our first and hopefully not our last encounter in the FA cup this season. There are quite a few excellent pubs in Leek town centre all part of the Locale scheme, Titanic, Joules and Whim breweries all have pubs in the town centre. Lovely, in fact marvellous.

Sunday 28 August 2016


It’s bank holiday Monday, one of the great footy days when the Mighty Red (grinding to a halt) machine play in a local derby, fantastic. Today the Poppies have a nice local game away at King’s Lynn …..screeeeeetch, hang on a minute, King’s Lynn? That’s a 134-mile round trip, what’s local about that? Unbelievably there are 9 other clubs in our league closer to Gods chosen town than King’s ‘bloody’ Lynn. We could have gone to St Ives, Cambridge City or even Biggleswade, OK maybe not BIggleswade, there are limits to our suffering. I guess we are one of the closest clubs to King’s Lynn, a settlement that endured the scorn of stone age NIMBY’s no self- respecting Neanderthal wanted the hermits of Norfolk anywhere near them. Norfolk is the birthplace a couple of famous people, Horatio Nelson inventor of the famous wrestling hold and perhaps the greatest vocalist and songwriter ever to set foot on this planet;
Singing Postman entertaining the hermits
Alan Smethurst, otherwise known as the Singing Postman. His classic
"Hev Yew Gotta Loight Boy" from 1964 is often performed annually during the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall.

Still we must make the best of what’s before us, to be fair there are a few decent boozers in close proximity to the Walks. But it’s very difficult to see passed the Live & Let Live, just 5 minutes’ walk away with a good choice of ales.

Will the Poppies turn up? So far this season we have been very inconsistent, considering the number of players we have from last season we expected a steady start. Far from it.

Palmerston's cellar
On the way home we have some great pubs to choose from, there's plenty of Elgoods pubs in Wisbech, but we have their ales in our clubhouse so we’ll give it a miss. Peterborough offers a great choice, Citra will be hankering for some Oakham ales brewed locally, the Palmerston Arms on the Oundle Rd is a great boozer with all 14 ales served straight from the barrel. But we may by-pass all these and make our way to the delightful Barnwell village pub the Montagu Arms.
They usually have 4 ales with at least one brewed locally.

Hopefully a good bank holiday day out, the ales will be OK, not sure about the footy.

Sunday 21 August 2016


Just after 10:00am and we are on our way to Basingstoke, we picked up Pharp then made our way down the usual route. Every season we seem to have a well-trodden path to away games. For years it was the M6, a couple of seasons back we seemed to be crawling around the M25 every second week. Now it’s the A34, but not for so long this time around. We stopped off in Newbury for our pre-match imbibing. We had expected a bit of holiday traffic, but nothing really, a good steady run down. Easy parking and we were supping in the King Charles Tavern just after midday. On the entrance to the pub is proudly displayed ‘West Berkshire CAMRA Pub of the Year 2016’ lovely. A very nice smart pub, two rooms, one with comfy leather sofas and another with scrubbed wooden tables and chairs. The menu says ‘Fusion food’, probably got a nuclear powered oven or something similar. Not unlike Pharp’s complex internal system, it might not work in quite the same way but the end result is the same. The mushroom cloud bap looks good.
Wells Bombardier and Wickwar Falling Star missing off this list

There was a good range of ales, 8 in total. Fuggles and Citra started with Roosters Californian Common, 4.2% a delightfully refreshing ale. Golden coloured, the head was quite loose and fell away quickly although what was left clung to the glass. The ale is described as a ‘West coast amber ale fermented with lager yeast’. It was malty and fruity with a decent enough bitterness, very nice indeed. Pharp and Parker went for West Berkshire Brewery’s Good Old Boy, this is probably WBB’s flagship ale, at 4% it’s an easy drinking ale. This ale has won quite a few prizes in its time. Amber in colour, well balanced, it held its head better, we drank this ale during our trip to Hungerford last season. Next up Fuggles went for Wickwar Brewery’s Falling Star, a lovely golden ale coming in at 4.2%, quite zesty with some citrusy fruits on the palette. Citra decided to stay on the Californian Common whilst Pharp went for St Peter’s brewery Ruby Red, this had a good nose full of dark bitter chocolate aromas and the richness stayed with it in the taste. Beautifully clear red ale and surprising refreshing and rich, easy drinking. That was it for pre-match supping, across the road from the KCT was a delightful looking bakery shop with an array of crusty bread and other delights on show in the window. Pharp went and purchased a huge Lardy cake, we prayed he wouldn’t tuck into it early, he had a quick munch but thankfully not too much, the internal combustion developed from this could be somewhat thunderous.

Meanwhile, whist the PRATS were here the Weebles got closer to the final destination and popped into the White Hart in the village of Charter Alley. A lovely country pub which now appears to have its own brewery, although it is very difficult to find out any information. On the pub clip is says ‘Secret Brewing Co. Golden Light. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any tasting notes from the
Weebles, they then moved onto the Plough in Little London, another nice country pubs with some ales drawn straight from the barrel, there is also a brewery in this village but sadly none available today.

The match, unfortunately the team coach never arrived at the Camrose stadium home of the Dragons, but fortunately we did have a team of dragon slayers with us so they played instead. Well when we say dragon slayers we actually mean ‘dragonfly’ slayers. Unbeknown to us George had switched sides, he popped up for a couple of goals in the first half. On loan from ‘Honah Lee by the Sea’ was the magical Puff; who frolicked in the barmy breezes then flapped his wings a couple of times before extinguished any flickering flames we may have had. It would seem the Little Jackie paper is covering up the cracks with his sealing wax. We had a quite a few crosses flash across the face of their goal, but just like the Autumn mist, so did we.

Time for home, Pharp fell asleep, but this didn’t stop the Lardy cake from working away and on several occasions we were forced to wind down the windows accompanied by some gasping expletives. This country has no chance of meeting the greenhouse gas targets whilst Pharp is on this planet. According to the scientists, Pharp does more damage than a 200 strong herd of Friesian cattle. The Chief Executive of the Climate Change Committee said, “what chance have we got, I am in the process of lobbying parliament to put a ban on mushy peas and now Lardy cakes”. If only we could harness the energy, we wouldn’t need the French to build Hinckley Point.

 As Fuggles was taking the better half out for some pub snaffle, we returned straight back to our fair county and went to the White Horse in the village of Old, this is where the Fuggles are dining. Joy of joys they have 4 ales on hand-pump, so the PRATS all went for Hoggleys Northamptonshire bitter. When this ale first came out a few years ago now, Fuggles was interviewed by Anglia TV in the Alexandra Arms Kettering, it was shown on the local Monday night news. Fame at last even if it was beer related. This is a nice session ale, very refreshing 4% amber ale, easily drinkable and thirst quenching on a warm summer’s day. Pharp, Parker and Citra went off home whilst Fuggles continued. There were 2 Lacon Ales available, Affinity a powerful 4.8% chestnut ale and Encore a more sensible 3.8% session pale amber ale. Fuggles went for this, a very refreshing and easy drinking ale and in very good condition. That’s what Fuggles stayed on for the rest of the snaffling session.

A half decent day out, the ales and pubs were superb, as was the snaffle. The footy, well nothing more one can say but very disappointing indeed. At least the county cricket team did well winning the Twenty20 trophy. Our next away trip will be to Kings Lynn on bank holiday Monday, I hope we can get a few players back.

Friday 19 August 2016


This Saturday the PRATS are off to North Hants, where we take on the Dragons of the concrete jungle, Basingstoke. There are one or two pubs quite close to the ground but not of any ‘real ale’ note. The Stag & Hounds is a Harvester pub, also close by is the Beacon, you should be able to get a low priced ale in this Greene King pub. However, not for the PRATS, we are going to drop into Newbury.
We will ark up in one of the many car park then pop into the King Charles Tavern, although this is a Greene King pub, they serve 4 of their own ales, which included West Berkshire brewery plus 4 more. They do some decent snaffle for the slightly esurient.
Just a couple of hundred paces away is the micro pub
Cow and Cask.

It’s only half an hour from Newbury to the Camrose Stadium, so a fairly easy driving day. It’s been a while since we last played the Dragons and that was in that wonderful season of ours in the Isthmian league, what a fantastic season that was. We also played them in the FA trophy down there, so inspirational was that game, the PRATS can’t recall the outcome. They were relegated from the Conference South last season, but haven’t started the season as well as some expected. Hopefully the Poppies can take advantage of their poor start. On the way home, well Fuggles has to get home early as he’s going out with Mrs Fuggles, well when we say home we mean dropping off at a pub. So the PRATS may well have to pop into The Piper in Kettering, it’s their annual beer festival. Fuggles and Citra took on the responsibility of undertaking some research. We take these things seriously, so we attended the Friday night session and can say without fear of contraception that they have some decent ales available. We left early on Friday evening so we could prepare ourselves for this weekend’s game. We really didn’t want to leave so early.

Wednesday 17 August 2016


A delightful evening, lovely sunshine just the right weather to watch the Poppies take on Redditch, but not at the Valley. Instead of using our loyalty card at the Black Tap brewery tap Redditch, we’re going to Bedworth, marvellous!

It was just after 5:15pm when we left Kettering, just a short trip tonight with a stop off at the Woodfarm Brewery tap. They had just 4 of their own ales on tonight, they usually have 8 but I’m sure we will make do.

First up for Citra and Fuggles is Webb Ellis, a pleasant hoppy pale session ale and in decent condition, 3.8%, golden with a slight citrusy finish. The tight head held on to the bottom of the glass. Parker went for a Scrum, a 4.0% russet ale, malty and full bodied also in good condition. By now the Weebles have arrived and its good news, Petit Chemise has had is pass signed. We feared that Chemise had hung up his shirt and had become the founder member of the ex-PRATS club. Other Weebles included Marshall and Betweenthesticks. Next up was a new ale from Woodfarm, with their ales now under the Kendricks Brewing banner. Boadicea is a 4.2% golden ale, but this was not in good nick. Citra wanted to take his back to the bar, but decided to persevere, but gave up have way down. Just before we left the changed the barrel, no wonder it smelt like something Boudicca had worn when she was revolting on a daily basis. Now here’s a question, when I was a kid it was always pronounced Boadicea, when did it change to Boudicca? I’m sure Michael Caine would say, “It’s not bloody Boudicca, it’s Boadi bloody cea”. Struggling to down her ale, we decided it was time to move onto Bedworth and a game of footy.

We haven’t done very well against Redditch for a few years and with our start to the season being quite sluggish to say the least we weren’t very confident. So when we were one down after 15 minutes the outlook wasn’t looking good. Then at half-time our manager had a huffy fit, unleashed a barrage of expletives in the direction of the players and hey presto, we play very well and win three one. Not many Redditch supporters made the trip, they were probably outnumbered by a factor of 5 to 1.

So it was time to make our journey home taking in the Wharf Inn at Welford to have a couple of celebratory ales. As we pulled into the car park we could hear a rather loud jazz band strangling a cat, it may well have been a clowder of cats. There, I bet you didn’t know the collective noun for a group of cats, now you do. We hoped the beer wasn’t as flat as the trumpet, thankfully it wasn’t. They had a good selection of ales, but with Citra salivating for something from Oakham ales the Bishop’s Farewell pump clip was drawing him in like a moth to a flame. Both Citra and Fuggles decided to bash the Bishop down their throats, maybe I should rephrase that!!!. A lovely citrusy pale ale coming in at 4.6%, always very refreshing and easy to drink. Very dangerous thirst quencher on a hot summers day. Bishop’s Farewell was brewed to celebrate the retirement of Bishop Bill Westwood, Bishop of Peterborough. Some of the older farts amongst the PRATS more cultured readers may remember him doing ‘thought for the day’ on Radio Four’s Today programme. Parker went for Langton Brewery’s Traction, a typical ale for Parker, chestnut colour, 4.2% bitter. Both ales were in excellent condition. Pharp now arrived, the trombonist from the Jazz band instantly saluted his hero. No one can perform the ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ whilst supping a pint, quite like Pharp, probably the world’s greatest Pharpsophonist. Pharp went for a pint of Marston’s Pedigree, it looked in good condition, lovely and clear. Pedigree has always been a decent ale, it’s been around for decades now first brewed in 1952, often blamed for causing considerably loose bowel movements. Not the ale for Pharp really but as it was close to the end of the day, the rest of the PRATS weren’t in the firing line. Citra went to the bar to get himself and Fuggles another delicious pint of Bishop’s. But a few moments later Citra returned with a face of absolute disappointment, almost in tears. Bishop’s had sold out. He was sent back to get whatever he wants. He came back with Tollgate Brewery’s Talaki IPA, 4.8% pale ale and with a name like that it’s almost certain to have a few new world hops somewhere in the mash. It was very nice, a golden ale, quite bitter at the end, that would be those new world hops kicking in. A decent ale to finish the night off. All in all; a decent night out, some decent ales a good result with a decent performance although I don’t think Redditch will be the force this season as they were last.

Next up we go to Basingstoke, we haven’t been there for a few years.