Monday, 29 February 2016

ONCE MORE UNTO THE SLUFF

It’s another away game so the PRATS are back on the road and returning to Sluff. Tuesday night games limit the choice of pubs we can get to visit before the match. We were down here a few back, but the game got rained off, so the PRATS went on a day long razzle. We must confess we were a bit unsteady on our feet when that day finished.
There is the temptation to go back to the White Horse in Hedgerley, a great pub with 8 ales all served by gravity. But perhaps we should try a different pub close by. Here's a list of pubs within 3 miles of the ground and with a Locale filter. If you don’t know what Locale is have a look here.
One of the most historical pubs in the area is The Royal Standard of England at Forty Green. An incredible Tudor looking building just under 3 miles away. Good place to take the better half. One or two Midsomer Murders scenes have been filmed here, as was The Theory of Everything. There is also supposed to be a micro-brewery located here, the Britannia Brewery.  Two pubs closer to the ground are the Jolly Cricketers in Seer Green and the Jolly Woodman in Littleworth Common both less than 5 minutes drive away.
Alternatively just pop across the road to Beaconsfield services and visit the Wetherspoons pub The Hope and Champion. On previous visits to this ground they’ve served Rebellion ales in the clubhouse.


Will we get a decent result? Who knows, our away form is not good. 

Sunday, 28 February 2016

A PANE IN THE GLASS

It’s 11:30am and the PRATS are still in God’s chosen town, so short is our journey today that we were in the Red Lion Histon by 12:20pm. And we were very thankful for the short journey time as Pharp was at his most volatile, the PRATSmobile's windows were up and down more times than a kangaroo on a pogo-stick. You could clearly see in the rear view mirror motorists swerving left and right to avoid the pungent purple haze heading their way. We didn’t talk much on the way there, preferring to keep our mouths firmly shut. We were optimistic of a result today after a very impressive performance last Tuesday. Although recent history so far this season suggested we were due for a mare, after all we were playing against a team languishing in the nether regions of the league. We don’t generally beat these teams.
The Red Lion is a largish two room pub, the landlord is an avid Mariners supporters, even the chimney stacks are painted black and white, but also a nod towards the local team with a bit of red thrown in for good measure. Several Poppies supporters were already in the bar, Fleco Jnr and Snr had just downed a mighty fry up. We got to the bar just in time for McGinty’s Goat to get the beers in, good timing PRATS. McGinty’s Goat doesn’t even drink proper ale, much preferring the fizzy stuff, but today an ale was duly supped inducing frequent grimaces from his fizzog. It was Tring Brewery’s Side Pocket that was causing him such grief, it looked in good knick though, golden, citrusy coming in at 3.6%. Fuggles and Citra started with Oakham Ales Scarlet Macaw, a typical Oakham ale, very hoppy but not as citrusy as most of their stuff. Amber coloured ale coming in at 4.4%. It was served in excellent condition; beautifully clear with a good head. Parker and Pharp opened their account with Lacons Falcon Ale, a lovely auburn coloured ale which won Gold award in the best bitter class at the 2014 Peterborough Beer Festival. Once again the ale is in very good condition coming in at 4.2% so good Pharp stayed on this all lunchtime. Next up for Citra and Fuggles was Butcombe Haka, we had this on our Paulton trip, it’s too nice to ignore so we had to have one. New Zealand hops contribute to the citrusy bitterness. 4.5% blonde ale, and as with every ale consumed so far it was in excellent condition, very nice. Staying with the rugger theme next up for Fuggles and Citra was Batemans Hooker, another golden ale coming in at 4.5%. Quite hoppy with a fresh citrusy finish. So far all the beers todays have been perfectly clear, with a good well-presented tight head. Looks like we’re in for a session, next up is Batemans Gold. This is a very fresh tasting blonde ale, we had this on the St Neots trip, 3.9% easy drinking with a dry finish.
Red Lion's Ultimate burger, you can't beat a snack
The couple at the table next to us were enjoying a huge plateful of decent looking snaffle, two delicious looking sausages, bacon, mushrooms and a couple of eggs plus a mountain of crispy golden chips, lovely. Unfortunately the young lady couldn’t quite manage the second sausage. McGinty’s Goat came to the rescue and woofed it down in one quick gulp. Pharp reassured the young lady saying that he wasn’t likely to offer his sausage in return, she didn’t look too disappointed. One more beer before going to the game so we opted for Tring Side Pocket, McGinty’s glowing report had convinced us to sample it. Very nice, we could understand why he struggled to appreciate the ale, far too much flavour for a fizz guzzler. So onto the Glassworld Stadium, on arrival we were greeted with sad news, Alan ‘Dapper Woggle’ Doyle had been rushed into hospital. Alan will naturally be disappointed having arranged to have all his mates at the game. Get well soon Dapper. Glassworld is a nice compact stadium, with covered terracing around 3 sides and a good mainstand.
The game, well what can I say, our optimism was looking well founded, we were on top for the first 20 minutes, then we conceded a goal. Sloppy defending, followed by sloppy attacking, then continued with sloppy defending, with sloppier attacking yet again contrived to see us lose to a poor side, a poor side that ran their socks off and worked hard. The two young lads that came on needed their nappies changing a couple of times especially when one of them scored the second and third goals. Our dreams of making the play-offs are yet again shattered. The PRATS have been to 18 away league games so far this season we’ve lost 10 of them, not counting the long trip to Bamber Bridge. It’s a good job we make a decent day of it by enjoying a few pints of good ale, just 5 more away days to endure this season.
Time to start the journey home and just 20 or so minutes later we arrived at the Chequers in Little Gransden, home of the ‘Son of Sid’ brewery. A small pub with a couple of rooms, the rugger was on the telly, on the bar was 3 hand-pumps all serving home brews, Brown Showers, Golden Showers 'which as you can imagine brought a few crude comments from Pharp' and English Ale. Pharp went for Brown Showers, which was amber coloured, 3.9% and a bit boring to be honest although in superb condition and perfectly clear. Citra and Fuggles went for Golden Showers, which was slightly less amber than the Brown. 3.9% and a bit boring, once again in good nick. Parker settled for the English ale, 3.7% errrrr amber ale and yes you’ve guess it, a bit boring. If all three beers were lined up you would have a job to tell which was which. One pint each was enough, time to move on. We won’t be getting any of their ales for our beer festival and at £3.75 a pint for a beer brewed at the back of the pub, it’s a bit steep to say the least. Sorry Sid won’t be back, very poor value for money.
It was around 6:30pm when we arrived at the Fox Inn Thrapston, Thrappo to the locals, we sent a text to Sphericals who had purchased a couple of pies from the local farmers market. We would meet him in the Fox to help him woof down the pies. There was a mini-beer festival going on, where to start. It was Ringwood’s Boondoggle for Citra and Fuggles, a lovely blonde ale at 4.2%, citrusy yet slightly sweet. Drawn straight from the barrel it was in very good condition, very refreshing. Pharp tried Potbelly Best, brewed in Kettering so a reasonably well known ale. Chestnut coloured ale at 3.8%, this is more in keeping with Pharp’s preferred choice of ale. Parker settled for Otter bitter, a 3.6% session ale easy drinking, a few hops with a bit of malt, fairly well balanced pint. Next up for Citra and Fuggles was the ever delightful Hopback Summer Lightning; we had this a few weeks back in Chippenham. Spherical arrived baring ‘snaffle of the pie’ kind, two game pies, a bit of rabbit, a bit of venison, a dash of chicken and a couple of road kills to make up filling, you can’t beat hedgehog and badger with sprinkling of gravel and buck shot. Nice crusty pastry, although it may have been a wedge of tarmac. But without any jelly they were a bit on the dry side, so we had another pint to help wash them down. Another Lightning, at 5.0% we were starting to get slightly sozzled, just time for a final pint, this time the delightful Skinners Betty Stogs. A lovely ale copper coloured at 4.0%, very easily quaffable. We’d had our share of ale for the day, perhaps a few pints more that we should have done; nevertheless we needed to wash away the disappointment of the footy, very sloppy.

Next up Sluff again, hopefully we’ll get a game this time.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

HISSED ON

This week we travel just up the road to visit Histon, no not Blumenthal, a village north of Cambridge. 40 minutes’ drive should see the PRATS supping the first of the day. One or two Poppies connections with the ‘Stutes’. Current manager is ex-poppy Steve Fallon making his return although with considerably less bunce this time around.  Our Chief scout Alan ‘Dapper Woggle’ Doyle was manager here for 10 years, he also kicked the ball into the net a few times. Alan, who is renowned for his untamed wit, ‘Don’t walk away Rene’ gets repeated at every possible opportunity: also dumped ex Poppies manager Gary Johnson in one of his earliest games in charge, how very astute.
Histon is blessed with quite a few decent hostelries, with the Railway Vue being no more than 300 metres from the ground; this would be good for the supporters’ bus with three ales on hand-pump   Next closest is the Rose & Crown an Everards pubs only 700 metres away, you’ll know what you’re going to get here.
But by far the best pub in the village has to be the Red Lion although almost a mile away from the ground. It has 9 ales to choose from and some decent snaffle, get there early for a fry up. They also have a few German and Belgian beers on draught.
After the game, well there are loads of excellent pubs in Cambridge but getting parked up will be a nightmare. On the outskirts and only just over a mile away is the Carlton Arms serving 4 or 5 ales plus a load of ciders, might be worth a try. Milton Brewery have a pub on the outskirts with parking the Haymakers, they have a very extensive selection of their own ales available plus a few others. We could go back to the Falcon in Huntingdon, always plenty of decent ales, about 15 hand-pumps. Maybe even go home on a slightly indirect route via the Chequers in Little Gransden near Sandy, brewery tap for the ‘Son of Sid’ brewery.
It wouldn’t be a PRATS day out if we didn’t frequent a brewery tap. We might even get to meet slippery Hissing Sid and get ’hissed on’. Nearer to home there is a beer festival in Thrapston at the Fox Inn, 13 ales and a few ciders, I suppose we might have to pop in.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

CHIPPENHAM WILTS

It’s a 10:00am start for the PRATS, we are without Pharp today. He’s at Center Parcs enjoying the Jacuzzi. A cold day today, one of those days where one gives due consideration to the wellbeing of the family crown jewels. Thermal gonad huggers, thermal vest and so on. It’s also the 13th February the day before the accursed Valentine’s Day, the day where the blokes don’t really give a toss about but the better halves do. So the fellas have to focus for a minute or two: otherwise the wrath of the banshee will be brought forth upon us. But what is this Valentine day malarkey all about they are heavily biased in the direction of the more delicate half of our species. It’s important to get a card with a couple of teddy bears having a cuddle, with the daddy bear handing a bunch of flowers to Mummy bear. You now even get cuddly hedgehogs, when was the last time you saw a bloody cuddly hedgehog for goodness sake. Be careful with this, it could be deemed as symbolic, your little precious may regard this as describing her as a prickly customer. Loads of heart shaped boxes of chocolates, single red roses and so on. When was the last time you saw a heart shaped pork pie? If you did see one it wouldn’t be a message of affection it would be a bloody health warning. Can you imagine getting an extra-large sausage roll as a Valentines gift, with a lovely little message ‘To my lovely sage and onion sausagy wausagy from your ever loving snuggly pastry case’ maybe not!
We have a tough game down in Chippenham; we are not overly optimistic and fully expect them to complete the Barney Rubble over us. They’ve been banging the goals in lately.
It was a longer drive down than expected with the road works at Brackley. It was quite noticeable that the more southerly we travelled the wetter the weather became, drizzle turning to rain, grey skies, would the game be on, were we doing a Sluff?
We arrived at the first watering hole of the day at around 12:30pm, as we pulled up outside the Three Crowns; it wasn’t certain from the outside that it was actually open, a pile of rubble in the adjacent parking area suggested some building work was going on within.  However once inside we were greeted by a nice row of hand-pumps and a friendly bar person wearing her welsh top in readiness for the rugger on the telly. Six hand-pumps with one sporting 2 pump clips implied 7 ales available. Citra and Fuggles went for Arbor Ales Triple Hop; the sparkler was as tight as possible so the ale came out with a very large creamy head, which clung to the glass all the way to the bottom. The ale was a tad hazy but tasted fine, refreshing blonde session ale coming in at 4%. Parker settled for a coke. Despite an enormous pile of logs in the fire place, they weren’t ablaze so the place was cold, but we persevered for another pint, this time we went for Gloucester Gold, sadly it went off as our ales were being poured so instead we had Branscombe Vale Brewery’s Branoc. This was in good condition with what seems to the house norm a very tight creamy head. Amber coloured, slightly sweet yet some bitterness at the end, very drinkable at 3.8%. We also indulged in the Walter Rose awarding winning pork pies, a bit disappointing to be honest, very little pepper in the tightly packed pink meat wrapped in a rather pappy pastry, sorry Walter not for us. By now the Weebles had arrived, Marshall, Betweenthesticks, Petit Chemise had returned from Norway and Cardiac was ticking along nicely.  It was a nice enough pub with a decent selection of ales, Corvedale Brewery’s Dark & Delicious, Gloucester Brewery’s Dockside Dark and Celt Experience Brewery’s Horse Cranium.  Reasonably cosy inside with several oval extended dining table surround by comfy seating fitted into the bay windows. All in all a decent pub.
We left the Weebles and moved onto the next pub this time we went to the Old Road Tavern From the outside it looks a bit of a Forest Gump, once inside, a fairly simple pub, simple d├ęcor, a bit of a 70’s throwback perhaps. Still 6 hand-pumps so onto the ales. The bar was split over two rooms, 3 hand-pumps in each room. Citra and I kicked off with Wye Valley Brewery’s HPA (Hereford Pale Ale). Another pale session ale, quite refreshing easy drinking with some bitterness at 4%, it was in good condition. Parker decided to have a drink this time round and went for Baths Ales Gem bitter, chestnut brown colour, very typical beer for Parker, just up his street, 4.1% bitter and sweet with a toffee aroma. Next up for Citra and Fuggles was the wonderful Hopback Brewery’s Summer Lightning, 5% of straw coloured tasty refreshing hoppy bitterness, as soon as it hits your tonsils you know its Summer Lightning, what a beauty this is. Could easily sup this all day, but we’d get inebriated very quickly. Flopper arrived with his better half, we only seem to meet her in pubs, we nod and say hello. Don’t even think we know her name. Flopper was wearing his walking boots, a good thrashing with some cherry blossom wouldn’t go amiss Flopper. You should be able to see you face in them; the only face we could make out was the south face of the Eiger. The other ales available were Otter Bitter, Black Sheep’s Golden Sheep and Gales Ales HSB, Pharp would be disappointed to miss out on this one. Time to move onto the ground, a pleasant set up with covered terracing on two sides and a main stand, but with restricted parking opportunities.
The game, well despite expecting to get well humped we actually won, an early goal, some decent footy at time from the Poppies. A Bluebird got his marching orders for swinging a boot; completely unnecessarily which inevitably made Chippenham’s task a bit harder. Nevertheless the ten men dominated the second half, but we held out scoring a second just before the end of full time. Flipper was no doubt performing double somersaults just off the coast of Brownsea Island; generally extracting the urine from a flock of Bluebirds on their way back from bombarding the white cliffs of Dover. A good turn out from the Poppies faithful, swelling the crowd to Chippenham’s best of the season so far; 527, well done chaps, time to go home.
We were heading for Headington, the Masons Arms home of the Old Bog brewery, marvellous we were looking forward to trying some new beers. When we arrived at just after 6:30pm the Weebles had already taken root, off to the bar, and what a disappointment, no Old Bog beers available. That’s twice now in the last three trips we diverted to a brewpub only to be let down. Firstly on the road to Weymouth the Royal Standard at Upwey had no DT ales and now the Masons have no Old Bog. Nevertheless, five hand-pumps served some decent ale. Citra and Fuggles went for one of our favourites Dark Star Hophead. Refreshing pale, 3.8% easy drinking, another one we could thrash down all day but his time not so inebriated, it was in excellent condition, so much so that Citra had a second whilst Fuggles had a pint of Vale Brewery’s Two Cities, it was pleasant enough, it reminded me of something else but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. This is supposed to be fusion of English malt and French hops, is that the same as frogs? That was it for the day time to go home to our loved ones in the hope that we’ve got the Valentines stuff all sorted. For the Fuggles it’s also a wedding anniversary, 35 years, I know, even Jack the Ripper didn’t get that long. 35 years is the Coral anniversary, I got my dearest a betting slip from the local bookie, thanks Joe.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

RUNNY EGGS, DIP A CHIPPENHAM

PRATS on the road again
Drinking different beers again
Landlord pulling hand-pumps down
We leave the glasses clean
This will be the PRATS 8th consecutive away match including the county cup, not one single home game since the 5th December last year. The last home goal we saw was the wonderfully mesmerising cross-cum-shot by Wilson Carvalho; which sneaked under the league leaders Poole Town’s goalie, marvellous. Today we are off to see the mighty Poppies take on 2nd placed Chippenham Town; the Bluebirds, who hopefully will be unloading their guano somewhere over the white cliffs of Dover and not bothering us.
We are Pharpless; he’ll be giving the folks at Center Parcs a nasal extravaganza, the likes of which they will never wish to experience again. You won’t see many Bluebirds flying over Elveden forest this week end, although the thermals might be conducive to a bit of high altitude gliding.
Just over 2 hours down to Wiltshire and we have a couple of decent pubs on the Chippenham pubs list. The Three Crowns gives CAMRA cards carriers’ 30p discount on each pint, they serve 7 ales and if that wasn’t enough to tempt you how about this ‘award winning Walter Rose Pork Pies at the weekends, occasionally Gwen's spectacular Scotch Eggs’ . Ok you’ve talked us into it.
Another one worth trying is the Buttercross Inn another pub with 7 ales, but they also have 9 ciders. The pubs nearest to the ground perhaps the Old Road Tavern looks OK with 6 ales, it’s about 10 minutes’ walk for the Poppies supporters on the coach. There is a clubhouse but whether they have any decent ale remains to be seen. Hopefully the Poppies away form improves but Chippenham Town are in good form so we will need to be at our best to get something from the game.

On the way home we are going to the Masons Arms in Headington Oxford, home of Old Bog brewery, a new one for the PRATS and yet another brewery tap.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

ROWELL

Just a short hop, skip and jump for the PRATS along the road to Rowell. No ales before the game, we wanted to stay focused on the feast of footy we were expecting. Unfortunately it wasn’t the Rowell Feast we were hoping to indulge in. OK the bumpy pitch didn’t help; full praise must go to the Corinthians for running themselves into the ground in an effort to thwart the Poppies progress into the County cup final. They fought hard and tackled hard, opposition teams now understand that if you get into the face of the Poppies you’ll stop them playing and a chance will come their way, however, they must take that chance. Rowell didn’t and eventually the Poppies came through to face former rivals phoenix team AFC R&D at the partially built, scandal ridden Sixfields Stadium in Northampton this coming April.
After the game it was time to get some ale to wash away the nightmare visions of the horror show we had just endured for a tedious 90 minutes. There are a couple of decent pubs in Rowell. The Woolpack has a good selection of ales, almost next door is the Bluebell and on the Market Square we have the Red Lion.
But tonight we went to the old favourite the Rowell Charter, always a good selection of fine ales, usually up to 8 ales available. Pharp had a Phipps’s Bison Brown ale, goodness Fuggles remembers having a bottle of this on the Sunday dinner table at home over 50 years ago. Dad would always let us have a little sip. Over the years the sip has become swig, gulp and guzzle. The Bison looked a bit hazy, Pharp wasn’t overly impressed with this 4.5% brown ale, the head remained until the bottom, Pharp fetched out his blue LED keyring torch to shine through his beer, sadly  not much of a beam came out the other side, maybe hazy was being kind, cloudy more like it. Parker had a pint of Banks’s Amber, it certainly looked in good condition, very clear with a good head, when asked if it was ok, Parker just nodded. Citra and Fuggles went for one of their favourite ales; Castle Rock brewery’s Elsie Mo.  A delightful zesty golden ale coming in at 4.7%, always refreshing premium ale in superb condition, a good head and very clear.
Tonight we arrived just as the quiz was getting under way, we didn’t get formally involved but spent most of the late evening making half loud hints of the answers to the quizzers close by.  Pharp got excited when he knew the Christian name of Ferdinand Porsche. It came as a surprise when Citra knew the name of the 2015 great storm that hit the UK, Storm Desmond. You would have thought Pharp was the expert when it came to strong destructive winds. Parker’s specialist subject is the source of the Thames, the depth of intellect that is clearly abundant amongst the PRATS is sometimes overwhelming.  Next up on the beer front, Citra stayed with Elsie, Pharp went for Hobgoblin, boring, whilst Fuggles went for Star brewery’s Titan, a refreshingly light blonde ale with loads citrus, very nice. So much so that Citra tried a pint next time round. That was it for the night; next trip is Chippenham in a couple of weeks.