Sunday 31 January 2016


Here we go again, back on the road: this time down to Hungerford, new territory for the Poppies and the PRATS. A 10:00am start from Maison du Fuggles, but not before Parker and Citra got out of the Pratsmobile to admire the new feature on Fuggles auto, an enormous dent in the side as a result of some bloke deciding not to stop when entering a roundabout. The exchange of dialogue between Parker and Citra, was sounding a bit like Dudley Moore and Michael Caine having a bit of a chinwag. “Nice dent that “said Citra, he continued, “If I was in the market for a dent, that is the type of dent I would aspire to possess”. “It’s the striations that do it for me” chirped up Parker. “Nail, head, hit, on the” replied Citra. Parker added “Any bloke with a smidgeon of ambition would yearn for a dent like that”. “I’m in a state of overwhelming yearnment right now” said Citra “Now let’s get on the bloody road pronto Tonto”.
Pharp was gathered in at around 10:30am and at around midday we arrived at a CAMRA national pub of the year finalist the Five Bells in Wickham. A lovely thatched roof pub, looking every bit quintessentially English.
Once inside we were greeted by a the IVIF, the Inbred Village Idiots Faction, Dave Tailby and co playing a game of cards, Happy Families by the look of it. A nice looking pub, low ceiling with 100’s of used pump clips adorning a considerably large area of the ceiling. It was a single long room, looks very much like several rooms knocked in to one. A nice long row of hand pumps along the bar, with 3 serving the house brews from the Innformal brewery at the back of the pub. Inn Deep chocolate stout, SanFrinnsicso west coast IPA and a Red ale, also on the bar was 360 Degrees brewery 360 Pale ale, Red Squirrel’s Scottish Ale, Windsor & Eton’s Guardsman, Hop Stuff’s Arsenal pale ale, plus another ale called Maltz, we’ve forgotten the name of the brewer. Fuggles and Citra started with the 360 pale ale, very nice and tasty, it started with a good head but disappeared very quickly. 3.9% pleasant enough but not a show stopper. Pharp went for INNformal Red ale, a good creamy head with a rich colour, the head once again fell away after a few sups, but it didn’t affect the taste. Parker had the Red Squirrel Scottish ale, a nice looking chestnut red, with roasted malt flavour coming in at 4.3%. Next up Pharp and surprisingly Citra went for the chocolate stout, a rather robust 5.0% dark chocolate flavoured ale. A creamy head clingling on loosely to the glass, packed with flavour lingering on the palate well after the gulp. Fuggles went for the Guardsman, quite nice tasty and tangy, coppered colour ale coming in at 4.2% a loose head generally hanging on until the end. Our third and final pint here, Pharp went for another strong ale the Maltz, sadly we didn’t note the brewer, but this was a deep brown ale coming at 4.7%, Pharp was getting g quite talkative with all the strong ales. Fuggles and Citra went for Hop Stuff’s Arsenal Pale ale; looking at it you’d think this was a wheat beer, slightly hazy yellow/orange ale, quite bitter and citrusy, nice and refreshing at 3.8%. Parker went for a milky coffee, very nice. That was it for this lovely pub, quite a few dining, including the IVIF, the prices seemed quite high with a burger and chips at around £15.00. The food did look very nice and plentiful.
We now moved onto the next pub just a few miles up the road to the Tally Ho in Hungerford Newton. The car park was almost full just once space thankfully. A full car park generally means a full pub and so it was, it’s good to see a Community pub doing well, the Tally Ho is owned by around 160 of the villagers, helping to keep the village local going. This former Wadworths pub was doomed to become flats. But the villagers rallied round and bought the place plus further investments to install the bar and kitchen. Mostly staffed by volunteers the pub is now quite busy with diners and drinkers. 4 ales on hand-pump, local brews included Ramsbury Gold, West Berkshire’s Good Old Boy, Binghams Twyford Tipple and from slightly further away Hook Norton’s Hooky. Fuggles started with Ramsbury Gold, refreshing 4.5% golden ale, quite pleasant easy drinking served in excellent condition, Pharp and Citra went for West Berkshire Good Old Boy, a fairly standard brown bitter at 4.0%, in decent nick, malty taste but not really setting the world on fire. Next up for us all was Binghams Twyford Tipple, another easy drinking ale at just 3.7%, malty with some citrus coming through late on, very pleasant and in good condition. That was it for this delightful pub and very friendly staff. The toilets were so smart you would expect to find them in an upper class hotel. All in all a good experience and we look forward to coming back here in the future. It was time to move on to the ground just 10 minutes away quite close to Hungerford town centre.
The game, well like most games the PRATS have travelled away to watch this season the result was once again disappointing. Our away results this season is bordering on relegation form, it’s enough to turn a man to drink. We huffed and puffed, but were wasteful and at times disorganised. Unlike the Crusaders when even down to 10 men for most of the second half never gave up running and chasing giving us very little time on the ball. We could have come away with a decent draw but in the end an unfortunate handball resulting in a well taken penalty determined where the points would be going. Hungerford will be in and around the play offs come the end of the season. Best of luck to them, but if they don’t get promoted the PRATS will be looking forward to coming down this way again next season.

Time to go home, Parker had to be home early this evening so it was straight back to Kettering, sadly missing out on going to the Mason’s Arms in Headington, Oxford. Never mind we are travelling down to Chippenham in two weeks, another tough game, but it gives us an opportunity to get to the Masons. Next up is a rather short trip to Rothwell in the Northants Senior cup next Tuesday, we take on Rowell Corinthians, can we get a win?

Wednesday 27 January 2016


The Five Bells at Wickham, I suppose we better pop in for a pint or three
Yet another away game our sixth in a row. This week the PRATS will break through the 4000 miles barrier, already over 75% of the season’s mileage under our belts. We will have to google map Latimer Park it’s been a while since we were there. Michaela Strachan has been up there doing a bit of wader watching in the perfect habitat of reed beds. Although it’s not a Bittern you can hear booming in the distance, it will be groundsman grumpy Graham having another funny tern. “How many more times have I got to fork this bloody pitch, we’ve got more sand than the sodding Gobi desert” he grunted.
We don’t often play footy surrounded by the countryside of Berks, although Sluff are Berks, they play in Bucks. I think Maidenhead may have been the last time.  This weekend we have an easy drive, retracing half of last week’s steps before we take a sharp right just before Newbury.
 Hungerford is a new club for the Poppies to face and a town with a few decent alehouses for the PRATS of frequent, but before we get there:  Our first port of call is the Five Bells in Wickham, home of the Innformal brewery; they serve 9 ales and 8 ciders all on hand pump, yet another brewery tap. Next up and going slightly back the way we came; just off the M4 is the Tally Ho in Hungerford Newton, looks as though it serves a good selection of local ales. This is a community run pub, so they deserve as much support as possible, I’m sure we’ll make a decent contribution.  Once we get into Hungerford we could try the other Innformal pub the John 'O' Gaunt
Next up, an Arkells pub the Downgate. Will we actually get a pint this time after the disappointment in Cirencester?  The Three Swans Hotel serves locally brewed Ramsbury ales so might be worth a visit, especially as they also serve Fullers London Pride, I know one or two Poppies supporters like a pint of that.  Most of the pubs in the town are within 15 minutes’ walk to the ground. Not sure if the clubhouse serves any ales. After the game we are heading to Headington, Oxford. We are going to the Masons Arms home of Old Bog brewery, a new one for the PRATS and yet another brewery tap.

Sunday 24 January 2016


It’s a long journey down to Weymouth today 23rd January, exactly 3 months until the end of the season. Dorset will be playing a big part in the play offs this season, especially if Poole blows up again and allow Chippenham or maybe Hitchin to sneak to the top. With Poole, Dorchester and todays opponents Weymouth all in and around the play-off spots and hopefully us, we could be down this neck of the woods a few times come April. We are already down at Dorchester on the last Saturday of the season.
We left Fuggles Hall at around 8:00am and made our way to pick up Pharp in Rushden, Pharp was wearing his Kettering Tyres shirt. A couple of hours later of clear roads yet quite misty in places we arrived at the Little Chef just south of Newbury. It didn’t take long for the awesome foursome of elite athletes with their fine honed physiques to go for the Olympic breakfast, 2 rashers, a sausage, 2 eggs; fried of course, no toast for us we much prefer the healthy option, fried bread it is, mushrooms, beans and a large portion of fried sliced potatoes, all washed down with a pot of tea, marvellous.  
Suitably stuffed we drove on and arrived at our first watering hole The Royal Standard in Upwey just after midday. As we entered the bar we were greeted by the vision of a Kettering Tyres replica shirt worn by Dave Tailby, what a lovely sight, the shirt not DT. Unfortunately that was the only DT we was going to get today. The Royal Standard is home to the DT brewery; sadly they weren’t serving any of their ales, they were all at the bottling plant, what a big disappointment. Never mind they had 5 other ales available, local brewers Sunny Republic’s Red Bus, Wadworth’s Dray Bells and Yeovil Ales Star Gazer, also available from the cellar was St Austell’s Tribute and Proper Job. The temptation to go for Proper Job, but no, we must try the local brews, so Citra and Fuggles went for Yeovil Ales Star Gazer, a pleasant copper coloured standard bitter coming in at 4.0%, it was in decent nick but not a shop stopper. The pump clip for Star Gazer is the same colour green as our old rivals the Glovers. Every time I see anything related to Yeovil I’m reminded of the time they came to Rockingham Rd in the early 70’s. Yeovil were pushing for promotion to the football league through the annual voting system. On this occasion the Yeovil team came out of the player’s tunnel each with a letter, they lined up to spell ‘VOTE YEOVIL’. Big Ron Atkinson ran out of the tunnel leading the Poppies and promptly blasted a ball at the lined up Glovers, they immediately scattered like pigeons, much to the amusement of the Poppies faithful, happy days. Enough nostalgia, Parker and Pharp had a pint of Wadworth’s Dray Bells, this sounds like a Christmas ale still doing the rounds. This is a typical type of ale for both Parker and Pharp, mid-amber colour, 4.0% strength with the usual seasonal tastes, also in good condition. Next up for Fuggles is Sunny Republic’s Red Bus, a red IPA strong ale coming in at 4.8%, sadly this was a cloudy as pigswill so Proper Job it was, Citra had the same. Always a favourite, very bitter premium ale, citrusy with a strength of 4.5%. This was drawn straight from the barrel so the head was quite loose and struggled to hang on to the sides of the glass, nevertheless it was still delicious. Pharp went for the Yeovil Star Gazer. By now Marshall and Petit Chemise had arrived, we had 3 Kettering Tyres shirts in the bar including Pharp’s, hopefully we’ll see a few more in the ground. Time to move on into Weymouth, we parked up around 1:30pm and trudged for a couple of minutes to our next destination. As we turned onto the quayside we were greeted a bus load of Poppies supporters enjoying fish and chips, before we had a chance to walk into the Royal Oak the Poppies travelling horde broke out singing the PRATS chorus.
We pretended we didn’t know them. A sign above the door said Brewery Tap, surely not another one? What a great pub, a proper pub with low painted beams, very busy. On the bar was 4 hand pumps all serving Dorset Brewery ales, they also give 20% discount for CAMRA card carrying members, good old Citra brought his with him. Available was Frosted Jack, Jurassic, Flashmans Clout and Portland Porter. Citra and Fuggles went for Frosted Jack, a pleasant hoppy pale ale with a fresh taste but a little sweet our usual palate, easy dinking at 4.3%. Pharp went for Jurassic, a crisp golden ale at 4.2%, slightly more citrus hops than the Frosted Jack, Citra and Fuggles followed up with Jurassic. It was time to go to the ground.

Nice set up at the Bob Lucas stadium, covered terracing on 3 sides and a large main-stand down the fourth. The old Pannacotta army seem to have been in more financial scrapes over the past decade than we have, both of us have been rolled over, by George we have.
The game, well the Poppies looked resplendent in the Kettering Tyres commemorative shirts, our first game for 3 weeks and it showed, we were slow out of the blocks and Weymouth took advantage by scoring after just a couple of minutes. We lost our goalie, off to hospital to have eight stitches in a nasty gash. A clash of heads had also seen a Weymouth player taken off as well. Hopefully both will be back in the game soon. With no goalie on the bench it was up to a Poppies stalwart to protect the net. After about 25 minutes play, the Poppies woke up and scored twice. Dominating the game either side of half-time it looked as though we would go on to claim a great victory, but unfortunately we ran out of steam, conceding 2 late goals eventually going down 3-2. Excellent game, sadly we were on the losing side.

Time to go home, after 2 hours driving we arrived in Abingdon on Thames, by the time we’d parked up outside the Brewery Tap a car adorning the Poppies flag was already in the car park. Marshall and Petit Chemise were in the bar enjoying some local tipple. There were six hand-pumps on the bar in this very busy pub, Everards Beacon, Adnams Old, Shepard Neame Amber Ale Winter Warmer, Morlands Original and Loose Cannon’s Abingdon Bridge. Citra, Fuggles and Pharp went for the latter, this is brewed just under a mile away in Abingdon and is sold regularly here. A standard malty session ale at 4.1%, light bitterness, it was Ok but not a show stopper. Next up was the Shepard Neame Amber Ale, this had a bit going for it in the taste stakes, quite fresh with a good finish. All the ales were in very good condition; beautifully clear with a good tight head clinging to the glass all the way down. Time to head for home, however, a slight change of travelling plans, Mrs Fuggles was in Kidlington just up the road, so we met up at Brackley, Parker and Pharp went off home on their merry way whilst Citra, Fuggles and Mrs Fuggles travelled separately. However, as we approached the outskirts of Towcester; Fuggles had a sudden urge to use the latrine; fortunately they had one at the Towcester Mill brewery tap. It would have been rude to use their facilities and just walk out, so we stayed a while. The place was packed to the rafters, nowhere for Mrs Fuggles to park the backside, never mind we stayed anyway. First up was Mill Race, a delightful hoppy pale ale, followed up with the very nice Naylor’s brewery Resolution Blonde. What marvellously pale blonde citrusy ale, 4.4% of delicious bitterness. It was 10:00pm time to go home. A good day out was had by all, next up Hungerford, this will see the PRATS go through the 4000 miles barrier, we must be mad. Where do we play our home games, I’ve forgotten?

Wednesday 20 January 2016


The PRATS second longest trip of the season with a 362 mile round trip, we’re going down to Weymouth in West Dorset on the south coast. Last time we were down this neck of the woods was the first day of the season at Poole. We crawled from Winchester to Bournemouth due to holiday traffic. I recall Parker praying for divine intervention “Saints preserve us” he hollered, we pointed out that we were already in a jam. I spoke to Pharp about the trip, he said he’s a bit mardy, his distant family have had a torrid time of it lately with Judd Trump getting beaten at snooker and Donald not welcome in the UK. I ask what was the family connection, he said “it’s a bit of a long winded story”, no surprise there then.
This will be an early start. We’ve decided to go for a fry-up on the way down, just not sure where yet, probably the Little Chef just south of Newbury I suspect. We need to get some sustenance in us before we get to the first guzzling station.
Out target is The Royal Standard in Upwey, on the road between Dorchester and Weymouth. Guess what, they brew their own ales, DT3 and DT4, another brewery, we’ve been to quite a few this season so far. Strangely enough the post code for the pub begins with DT3 and the post code for Weymouth FC begins with DT4, I wonder? They have quite a few other beers on offer, so it should be a good stopover. They also make their own Scotch eggs, marvellous.
There are quite a few half-decent pubs in Weymouth, I’ve filtered those that serve locally brewed ales.
The Red Lion looks promising as does the Royal Oak. For those that like to frequent Wetherspoons pubs there is the Swan Inn.  The ground is a couple of miles out of town, is there any decent ale in the clubhouse? There doesn’t look as though there are any pubs nearby.

On the way home, do we stop near Newbury or move closer to home and stop in Abingdon? Just off the A34 is the Three Horseshoes in Donnington which serves West Berkshire ales.
In Abingdon on Thames we have a bit of choice however the Brewery Tap has a good selection of ales to choose from. This hostelry is the former tap for Morlands brewery, which is no longer in the town. That should be enough for the day unless we get the beckoning urge from the Towcester Brewery Tap. 

Sunday 10 January 2016


It was around 9:30am when we received the good news, the match at Beaconsfield, current home for Slooouuu, no sorry, still can’t say it, is on. Hooray, a day away from sodding Sam Smith blasting at top volume all day. Mrs Fuggles was given the CD as a Xmas present and it hasn’t stopped playing since, it’s driving Fuggles mad. I thought wailing was banned in this country. Sam Smith can make a decent pint but for goodness sake, I’ve heard some cat’s chorus’s in my time, but this takes the biscuit, peace and tranquillity and maybe a few beers, lovely.
Within thirty minutes of the call the Prats-mobile was on the road, scooping Pharp up in Rushden at around 10:30am and arriving at our first guzzling station at just after midday.
The Malt Brewery is a new one for all of us and what a delightful place this is. The Taproom looks over the brewery with tanks, pipes, barrels and all other brewing tools scattered around. 5 hand-pumps at the quite chilly bar area, the heater was fighting a lost cause, however, the very friendly staff helped keep the place most hospitable. With Pharp’s love of the browner, malty ales he was guided towards the Prestwood’s Best by the small jam jars placed neatly in front of the hand-pump, each filled with their respective ales. Citra and Fuggles naturally went for the Golden Ale. Both ales were in superb condition as you would expect for a brewery tap, they are after all showcasing their products. Beautifully clear, with an inner glow, a good tight head clinging to the glass hanging on all the way to the bottom. The Prestwood comes in at 4.4%, a chestnut coloured ale; a malty aroma greets you before you get to taste it, a lovely ale indeed. This is most likely one for the Poppies Beer Festival in May. The Golden Ale has an abv of 3.9%, nice and citrusy, apparently made with lager malts and Slovenian hops. Very crisp finish another one for the Poppies beer festival. Parker went for an Ecuadorian; it was at this point when we had to explain to Citra that Ecuadorian related to the country where the coffee bean emanated from and not the style of private hair trim. Next up for Pharp was the Dark Ale, a delightful looking ale. This has won a few SIBA awards including this year’s National Silver for standard mild ales. It’s easy to see why, dark brown and tasty at 3.9% and in good nick with the light glowing deep red through it, Pharp was happy. Citra and Fuggles went for the stronger IPA coming in at 5.0%, and as you expect by now this is a lovely ale. Rich amber colour, slightly sweet with lingering bitterness to finish. Marvellous, we’ll be back here in April when we play Chesham just a few miles up the road. Time to move on, this time on to one of the PRATS favourite pubs the White Horse at Hedgerley only a couple of miles away from the ground. Travelling to the White Horse it started to rain, indeed the match commentary on the radio from just up the road in Wycombe said it was pouring down, and it was. Citra asked “what are those two lions doing walking across the field”? In fact they were being followed by a couple of elephants, two ostrich’s, two giraffe’s with a dormouse on each of their heads perched between the ears. There was a whole procession going on. Had they escaped from London Zoo or were they making their way towards the giant wooden boat we could see on the horizon. This was the day the rains came down, but unfortunately glory never shone.
We arrived at the pub around 1:30pm, there were quite a few Poppies supporters in there already, the Weebles were in the busy bar, and we went into the lounge area with the other half dozen or so fans. Eight ales available, Parker sampled the Rebellion IPA, brewed 10 miles away in Marlow and regularly available here. Copper coloured session ale at 3.7%, malty with some hoppiness, nice and with a clean finish. Pharp decided to go for another brown/amber ale, this time Wentworth brewery’s Penny Pincher, 3.8%, Pharp’s comment was “nice”.   Even though Oakham Inferno was available Citra and Fuggles decided to go Celt brewery’s Chieftain Batch V: Citra.  A pleasant ale at 4.5%, dark golden, a few citrusy notes but not overwhelming, decent enough though. It was half way through drinking this that Fuggles received a phone call. The game was now off, Fuggles passed the message through the pub and was greeted with a muffled tirade of expletives, quickly followed by a rousing chorus of the Dr Busker classic, “MORE BEER, MORE BEER, MORE BEER, MORE BEER”. It’s one of those few songs where everyone knows the words. The words never change unlike ‘Happy Birthday’ they change every time you sing it. Undaunted by this news the boozing must go on, so this time Citra went for the Oakham ale, however, Inferno had gone off and Citra had come on, you couldn’t make it up could you. Citra was now grinning with his usual Cheshire cat smirk. Even his suicide haircut couldn’t diminish the glee. We asked Citra about his haircut which was severe to say the least, a No2 setting was used but there were clear signs of unevenness. We wondered whether he was auditioning for the convict character Abel Magwitch in the forthcoming Dickens classic Great Expectations, Citra wasn’t amused, he just drank his beer. Fuggles went for Vacant Gesture, brewed by Idle Valley brewery. Blonde and bitter, 3.8% lovely zingy taste and in good condition. Pharp stayed with the IPA.
It was now time to move on: up next was the Land of Liberty, Peace and Plenty. To get there we had to go on the M25 for the first and last time this season. Last season we seemed to be on it almost every away game, getting caught up in horrendous queues, thankfully not this season. We’ve frequented the LOLP&P on a few occasions so we knew we would be in for a treat. Pharp had a pint of Downton’s New Forest Ale, bronze coloured 3.8% bitter, a standard ale good for a session. In good condition with a good head, however, we’ve noticed here before the head never clings to the glasses, it must be the stuff they use to wash them in, all the beers are the same. Doesn’t affect the quality of the ale, the landlady here knows her stuff, she’s a judge at the Great British Beer Festival. Fuggles and Citra went for Redemption brewery’s Rock the Kazbek. Blonde ale using the Czech hop Kazbek, hence the name, 4.0% quite zesty and refreshing, very nice. By now the Weebles had arrived. Next up for Citra and Fuggles was the delightful Buntingford brewery’s Polar Star, we’ve had this a few times now, once appearing at the Poppies beer festival a few years back. Always popular ale along with their Twitchell, Polar Star comes in at 4.4% delicious blonde ale, very hoppy and citrusy and very nice, lovely and clear.
That was it, time to go home, but we still had time pop into the Cuckoo at Toddington. Pharp managed one more, he went for the house beer brewed by Leighton Buzzard brewery, and the ale is imaginatively called Cuckoo Ale, 3.9% copper coloured looked ok, Pharp didn’t complain.  Fuggles and Citra had Gun Dog brewery’s Jack Spaniel, yet another blonde ale, just 3.8% but a lovely fresh tasting ale. Almost enough ale for the day, just one more for Fuggles and Citra, this time it was Slater’s Top Totty, more blonde ale we’ve had quite a few today. 4.0% quite hoppy and grapefruity, just right to wrap the day up nicely. So home we went arriving back into Kettering around 7:30pm and good news, Fuggles couldn’t hear any cats singing.

Wednesday 6 January 2016


Back on the road again, this time we’re off to Beaconsfield to play against Sloouu, Sloouu, sorry can’t say it, still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, enough to turn the PRATS to drink.

Have you ever Googled the meaning of Sloouu, Sloouu, soddit Sluff? It doesn’t paint a pretty picture, 1. The cast-off skin of a snake. 2. A mass of dead tissue separating from an ulcer. 3. Something that may be shed or cast off. 4. A swamp or bog. 5. A situation characterized by lack of progress or activity or maybe just a town in Berkshire. No wonder they play elsewhere. Still there are a few decent hostelries for us to imbibe ourselves within.
We plan to start the day around mid-morning and make our way to The Malt Brewery in the village of Prestwood close to Great Missenden. The tasting bar is open from 10:00am so we should get a pint reasonably early. I don’t recall supping these ales before. Then it’s onto a favourite pub for the PRATS, been here a few times over the past two seasons The White Horse Hedgerley just a couple of miles away from the ground. Eight ales available all served directly from the barrel. This is a delightful pub, they always have at least one ale from the Rebellion brewery and so far on every visit ale from Oakham Brewery, Citra should be happy.
There’s a rather impressive food display in the bar with a wonderful display of pork and game pies, quiches and other tasty delights, all very tempting. Opposite the ground is the Beaconsfield Motorway services and there is a Wetherspoons on site the Hope and Champion. Well worth a visit for those travelling on the supporters coach. Having said that; the clubhouse at the ground, usually have a couple of Rebellion ales in mini casks on the bar. After the game it’s back to another
PRATS favourite The Land of Liberty, Peace & Plenty a hidden gem just a few hundred yards off the M25 at Junction 17. There are seven or eight ales on hand-pump, pork pies, pasties all the way from Cornwall and jars of tasty peanuts and sundry treats, marvellous. If we get time we may also pop into the Cuckoo at Toddington just off M1 junction 12, we’ve been here before this season after the Dunstable debacle. It looks as though the PRATS are in for a good day out, and if we get a result I may be able to type Sloouu, Sloouu, well maybe.

Sunday 3 January 2016


Well that’s all the festivities done with, ate too much, drank too much and spent far too much. Still, looking forward to turkey curry for the next 2 months. Its New Year’s Day plus one and instead of traipsing up to Latimer Park to sit in the bar doing nothing we’re off to the home of Baron Silas Greenback in Bedworth. But first the PRATS have a tour of micro-breweries to undertake. It’s around 11:15 am when Parker and the gruesome twosome (Pharp and Citra) arrive at Chez Fuggles.
Just an hour’s drive listening to Pharp telling us about his new kitchen; which is on target for being the longest ever installation project of all time and still no splash backs. (It is assumed he was referring to the kitchen when he started talking about splash backs) We parked up at the Church End brewery just a few miles north of Nuneaton in the village of Ridge Lane. With 8 of their own ales available: Rein Beer, Goat's Milk, Grave Digger's ale, What The Fox's Hat, Vicar's Ruin, Silent Night, Fallen Angel, Rest In Peace, it’s a struggle to know where to start, however, Citra soon spots an ale he first tried on our trip to Leamington early on in the season. Goat’s Milk, he had a supercilious grin on his face then and it was no different this time around, Fuggles also had this fine pale ale, at 3.8% a lovely citrusy pint to kick the day off nicely. Pharp sampled the dark red Grave Digger’s ale, 3.8% chocolate and roasted flavours whilst Parker went for Silent Night, a nutty brown ale rich and smooth at a premium bitter strength of 4.5%.  As you might expect at the brewery tap all ales were in superb condition, perfectly clear, with a good tight head which remained right down to the bottom of the glass. By now the snacks had arrived on the bar, home-made pasties, scotch eggs and more importantly pork pies. Well we say home-made these delights are produced by the chef at the nearby Church End owned pub the George and Dragon at Stoke Golding. Needless to say we had a couple of pies and very nice they were too, although Fuggles prefers a tad more peppery taste. Also available are a couple of locally produced cheeses, with a favourite Sparkenhoe Red Leicester one of them, a marvellous proper flavoursome cheese, nothing like the mass produced ear wax which is often labelled as Red Leicester, proper craggy and tasty cheese. Time for another beer, this time Fuggles and Citra went for What The Foxes Hat, had this a few times and it never fails to be nothing other than a fine quality ale, 4.2% and a very tasty golden ale and of course in good nick. Pharp had a Silent Night. It was time to move on, as we were leaving the Weebles arrived, they could be tailing us today.

Just a 3 mile drive and we arrived at the Lord Neslon Inn at Ansley, also just north of Nuneaton, home of the Sperrin brewery. We were greeted by another array of hand-pumps 9 in total, with 5 Sperrin Ale available, Ansley Mild, Head Hunter, Band of Brothers, Third Party & Thick as Thieves. Plus 2 guest ales, Oakhams Bishop’s Farewell and Burton Bridge’s Stairway To Heaven, 2 pumps had nothing on them.  Citra and Fuggles had Band Of Brothers, very nice although Citra’s was probably the last one out of the barrel has it had a very slight haze whereas Fuggles was perfectly clear.  4.2% golden ale quite hoppy, very nice with a good head. Pharp went for Head Hunter an amber ale at 3.8% nice and clear a good session ale with a tight head. Chadwick’s pork pies were on the menu so we went for a pork and stilton and very good it was too, very peppery with reasonably strong stilton coming through. Parker wasn’t impressed as he doesn’t like stilton so more for us. Parker just sipped on his coffee. Next up for Citra and Fuggles was Third Party, a 4.8% robust ruby coloured ale, malty and bitter and very nice indeed, however, the first pints were as thick as pudding so the barrel was changed, thankfully the second batch was perfect. Pharp had another pint but we’ve forgotten which one it was, getting old! By now the Weebles had arrived shortly followed by Vlad and Bluesbird, making up to 10 Poppies faithful going out of their way to sample some decent ales. The Pork pies were proving to be very popular as well. The barman offered to show us around the brewery but unfortunately time was against us, maybe next time.
It was time to move onto the Oval, just 15 minutes away, Bedworth play on a 3G pitch so games postponed due to bad weather are very unlikely, we definitely would not have played at Latimer Park. The game was played through persistent rain, a very large Poppies gathering making their voices heard, mostly berating the referee, questioning his parentage on quite a few occasions. His haircut also got a mention from a very vociferous Pharp. Most supporters were content to let him vent as much hot air as possible, which considering all things is a rarity. The Poppies goalie decided to rugby tackle the Greenbacks centre forward, an ex-poppy, the resulting penalty was duly despatched. A second half which saw the Poppies parked up in the Greenbacks half finally bore fruit late on to earn the mighty red machine a well-earned point, time to go home.
But not before we frequented out third brewery tap of the day. It was just after 5:00pm when we arrived at the Woodfarm Brewery with just a couple of punters in the bar. 10 minutes later, the Poppies horde had invaded the place, well 14 of us anyway. They had just 4 of their own ales available, Best Bitter, Victorious, No8 and Scrum, although the board suggested Webb Ellis was available but to Citra’s disappointment it wasn’t.  It was Best Bitter for Fuggles and Citra, Victorious for Pharp and a giant cup of Columbian for Parker. The beers were in good condition, nice and clear, we’ve been here a few times now so know these ales very well. Best Bitter is a nice clean ale coming in at 4.2%, golden and citrusy. Victorious is a dark amber also 4.2% with a malty palate a good standard ale. Citra and Fuggles finished off with No8, a powerful 5.0% hoppy ale with a malty finish. All very nice but time to go home, Pharp is going to a Pizza party.
It was around 6:35pm when we arrived back into Kettering, Citra & Fuggles decided to pop into the Alexandra Arms, whilst Pharp and Parker went home. Delight of delights, Salopian Hop Twister was available, so we both had a pint. This is a beauty, a mouthful of lemony grapefruit with a lovely dry finish coming in at 4.5%, so good Citra had another, Fuggles followed up with Grafton Breweries Sir Hector at 4.2% a lovely pale ale with loads of hops. That was it for Fuggles as Mrs Fuggles had arrived to wrap the day up. However, Citra stayed around for a while, he later texted Fuggles that Oakham Citra had just come on, I guess he hung around a bit longer. All in all an excellent day out, 3 micro-breweries, 2 pork pies, the Alex and a point at the Greenbacks. Lovely!