Saturday 21 May 2016


Well that’s the season all done, 31 trips but only 29 matches, one rained off the other had floodlight failure, 23 x SLP, 2x FA cup, 1 x Red Insure and 3 x Hillier cup. 5,496 miles travelled, what utter madness, it equates to driving from Land’s End to John ‘O’ Groats and back 3 times with a few miles to spare, well done Parker, he chauffeured for most of them.
The all-important statistics, we sampled 240 different ales from 151 different breweries. We visited 84 pubs and 27 brewery taps.
The average price of ale was around £3.34; with the most expensive we saw being a strong ale served at the Orange Tree in Baldock, £4.10, we didn’t buy one of those, too expensive for the likes of the PRATS. The cheapest was £2.20 served in Bamber Bridge for our failed FA cup replay. We could get cheaper ales but we don’t generally frequent Spoons pubs.
 Have a look at the BEERS, PUBS DATABASE this link will take you to a spreadsheet.
The PRATS had many good days out so it’s very difficult to choose the best. Hitchin was a good one as was the postponed visit to Slough. Frome will take some beating with 4 brewery taps. Towcester Brewery Tap seems to be a favourite, the Land of Liberty, Peace and Plenty at Heronsgate just off the M25 Jct 17 gets a couple of visits. We had far too many good ales for there to be a favourite, Fuggles and Citra prefer citrusy pale ales whilst Pharp and Parker go for the slightly darker ales.
Citra went to every competitive match last season only missing the friendly at Quorn, he didn’t go there because Mo Farrah wasn’t playing and the burgers are crap.
Pharp vented on 4,723 occasions, we experienced 37 shades of purple haze with several drifting perilously close to Van Gogh’s sunflower inspiration.
The footy, well we were quite inconsistent in the first half of the season, our away form was atrocious, yet we recovered and almost made the play-offs.
By the time the PRATS are back on the road we may or may not be in Europe. The scaremongers have paraded out every conceivable scenario that may have an adverse effect on our lives. Brexit may have a significant effect on erectile dysfunction with the Viagra supply chain severely interrupted. Can we stand up on our own or will we just limp along, to stay in or to pull out? Germany have threatened to halt the supply of all yellow fizzy drinks with German sounding names, I suppose every cloud has a silver lining, anyone for a 330ml of Berlinersteinhoffercrappenziweissbier?

Have a good summer PRATS readers hopefully you’ve enjoyed our jolly jaunts hither and thither across the south of England. We’ve discovered some decent pubs and some very decent brewery taps. Back in a few weeks, meanwhile we have an inordinate amount of summer beer festivals to frequent all in the course of research you understand. 

A footnote, the PRATS blog has been viewed 17000 times with most viewers from the UK, we've had views from all around the world but a significantly high number from Russia and the Ukraine, it seems their search engines see PRATS as something entirely different with a few porno sites and lingerie sites directling their customers our way

Tuesday 17 May 2016


Well that’s another beer festival all wrapped up. Is there a better way to put a few bob into the club’s coffers? Supping ale and snaffling down tasty pork pies, all for a good cause.
Not all the ales were completely consumed; however, both Hopback ales took a hammering; Summer Lightning and Yakima Blonde as expected, closely followed by Castor Ales Hopping Toad, Sarah Hughes Bramling Cross and Potbelly’s Hedonism, all pale ales. The Malt Icknield brown ale was the most popular of the darker ales with Potbelly’s Black Sun a close second. Just one ale sadly never cleared in readiness for consumption, North Yorkshire’s Boro’ Best.
The pork pies were incredibly popular, they were delivered at 6:00pm on Friday evening and were all sold out by mid-afternoon on Saturday. Fuggles had to reserve one just ensure the PRATS didn’t succumb to malnutrition. We had 6 varieties to choose from standard pork pies, pork and stilton, chicken and gammon with melted mature cheddar on top, pork and whole grain mustard, pork and stuffing and pork with extra black pepper. Many thanks to Chadwicks Fine Foods of Nuneaton (a contradiction if ever there was one) for their wonderful savoury snacks.
Thursday evening started off with Rob Conner entertaining the troops, not many of us in attendance but nevertheless we had a good sup. Dan Willis came along with Jamie Singh and a few friends, little did Jamie know that this was the prelude to a surprise stag weekend, 24 hours later Jamie plus 20 mates were thrashing the beers down in Bratislava, are they home yet? Jamie is one of the very few people who can genuinely claim that ‘DAVE SINGH’S MY DAD’, the other 400 are just wishful thinkers.
Friday night was Dr Busker night, a packed Latimer park were duly entertained by bawdy, raucous and downright rude tunes. Ditty’s about the ‘hands on ‘ approach to the conservation of Panda’s, the health and safety executive and the Welsh were all well received, curious how more people joined in the chorus of the ‘MORE BEER MORE BEER’  song the later the evening went on.
Saturday started at midday, we had a couple of ‘ale tickers’ in, lever arch files tucked under arms, ticking off all the new ales they’d sampled. One chap had travelled from St Neots, he was delighted to tick off 9 new ales, which is considered a lot for a 20 ale festival. Strangely they were sporting unusual footy shirts for this part of the world, one for Forfar Athletic the other for Annan athletic. Early afternoon and BPW under 14’s had their end of season presentation. It wasn’t long before the participants of the ‘fans match’ were limbering up in the bar. You would normally expect lubricants to be applied to the legs, none of it; it was their throats that received the most attention. Just over an hour later they were back in the bar, gagging, some boasting of their footy skills, saving penalties or scoring 2 foot ‘tap ins’.  Penfold gave away a penalty when he tripped himself up, a triple somersault followed by a couple of back flips and finally performing a pirouette convinced the portly ref, who incidentally spent most of the game in the centre circle, to award the spot kick. The less said about the penalty taking the better. Later that evening Maxwell, Hammer & Smith thrashed out some decent tunes, close harmonies, thwanging guitars, heavy head banging were all the encouragement the Poppies media team needed to sup just about every beverage known to mankind. McGinty’s Goat was on good form, especially when ‘Whiskey in the jar’ was duly belted out by the band. We had to explain to him that it was the title of the song and not an instruction to go the bar with a rather large jug.
Sunday morning was a rather gentle affair, it was ‘£1 a pint day’ and we supped some stuff.
Monday we took it all down, all done and dusted for another year. Many thanks to all the volunteers to helped throughout the festival, setting up, fetching this and that, serving the ales and then taking it all down. Many thanks must go to Doreen for putting up with us and supporting us throughout the whole event.

See you all next year.

Thursday 12 May 2016


The PRATS have been busy setting up the Poppies beer festival.

Monday was building up the racking and sorting the cooling system out. Tuesday was the day we put all the barrels onto the racks then tapped them ready for settling down.
Wednesday was the day we assumed our quality assurance roles and sampled all the ales. First up was Burton Bridge Golden Delicious, as is usually the case the first half pint is always a bit cloudy but the second was beautiful, golden and clear with a good white head and it tasted perfect. Next was Star Brewery Titan. Once again sludgy first half pint, the second was once again glowing. If this is what we are going to get with the rest of the ales we are in for a treat. We followed on with Castor Ales Hopping Toad then Leaping Toad which were perfect. The first ale that wasn’t quite ready was Hart Family Brewers Diddley Bow, it should be good by the time we kick off on Thursday night. The Sarah Hughes Bramling Cross is a limited edition ale and we are delighted to have it at our festival, 4.9% of golden loveliness. Next we are onto Hopback Ales, Yakima Blonde and favourite Summer Lightning, both were absolutely superb, crystal clear and in great condition. Kendricks Mulligan was next up, no not named after Poppies favourite, but a golfing term, something to do with having another go without costing a stroke, we had a another sample, marvellous. Woodfarm’s No8 was also spot on. Malt Ales Missenden Pale Ale and Malt Icknield were perfect, the Icknield is a very tasty brown ale with loads of malty aromas, this will be a popular ale. Moles St Elmo’s Fire, it’s getting boring now, they’re all good. Then we got to a cloudy one, North Yorkshire’s Boro Best was a bit puddingy, this will need a bit of time to clear. Potbelly’s Hedonism (Bellowhead) and Black Sun, lovely. Wold Top’s Headland Red has a slight haze but should be ok within 24 hours and finally on the racks was Wold Top’s Hello Velo, once again in good nick. The ales on the bar Elgoods Greyhound and Double Swan are all ready to sup, Potbelly’s Lager Brau, yes we have a real lager on hand pump, will be ready on the night.
QA manager gives his seal of approval
All in all an excellent QA session, the coolers are working fine, 15 of the 18 racked ales are ready to go with the other 3 needing another day and should be OK for kick off tonight. We have 5 Ciders and a Perry, 3 ales on the bar. Hopefully we can get a decent crowd on the opening night to sup some stuff’ and listen to Poppies supporters Rob Conner belting out a few tunes.

Saturday 7 May 2016


It was just before 4:30pm when Mrs Fuggles dropped Citra and Fuggles off in Far Cotton, just over the South Bridge in Northampton. A hasty trudge and a few minutes later we were in the Pomfret Arms, named after a French nobleman whose family cornered the potato chip market. Decent enough pub, flagstone floors with a central bar sporting 6 hand pumps although only 4 were in use. There is an enormous beer garden stretching back quite a away, this would be heaving in the summer months, especially at the end of May when they hold their own beer festival.
Excuse the young ladies posterior
The ales available were 2 from Hart Family Brewers, No 9 and House Ale, Great Oakley Brewery’s Tiffield Thunderbolt and one of their own brewery Cotton End Conker Classis Celebration ale, we went for this. A delightful amber ale with bags of flavour, nice bitterness with a lingering toffee finish, 4.3% in very good condition with a tight head. We didn’t fancy any of the other ales available so we moved on to the Malt Shovel just a few hundred yards away. On route we needed to cross the busy road thus avoiding too much contamination from the Danish lager brewery, which now stands on the site of the former Phipps and NBC breweries. The Shovel is a nice pub with around 17 hand pumps although only serving 10 or so ales. The walls are adorned with inordinate amounts of breweriana, trays, from old defunct breweries, bottles galore and one pub sign that may be of interest to Kettering folk, The Stag and Pheasant, which is now the Shire Horse in Newland St, is mounted on one of the walls and it looks very nice indeed.
With so many ales it’s difficult to know where to start, staring right at us was 3 Oakham Ales, and Citra was salivating and eventually succumbed going for his namesake. A typical Oakham beer, pale and citrusy 4.2% and in good condition. Although it should be noted that Citra is on the verge of panic, there is a worldwide shortage of the hops that give ales this very citrusy zesty flavour.  This style of ale could be under threat as some hop varieties are being priced very highly and outside the budget of some of the breweries. Fuggles went for Nobby’s Mavis Enderby, 3.8% golden blonde ale, quite a good tasting ale, very refreshing indeed and a pleasant surprise.  Next up we both went for Northampton brewery Frog Island’s Natterjack Toad, oh dear, it was flat with a hint of vinegar. Fuggles had been extolling the delights of this ale what a let-down, we had to take it back. So surprise surprise we went for Oakham’s Bishops Farewell, Fuggles favourite ale, named after Bishop Bill Westwood of Peterborough who retired in 1995. 4.6% of golden citrus flavours, marvellous. As you would expect with Oakham Ales they are always very clear. Fuggles had another one whilst Citra went for the full set and had JHB, yet another blonde citrusy ale coming in at 3.9%. always a favourite ale this one, very refreshing and easy drinking for a good long session any time of the year but especially good in the warm summer months. That was it for the Shovel, time to pop just up the road to the Albion Brewery Bar home of the Phipps NBC brewery. The bar opened in July 2015, the Brewhouse can be seen through the glass panels, this evening there appeared to be a brewery tour in the early stages with quite a few chaps downing the first of the night. Citra and Fuggles went for, wait for it, DIAMOND ALE, we had this in the vague notion that by drinking it we were consuming them, unfortunately Fuggles dropped his Poppies tie on the floor at the very same moment he went to pick up his pint, NOOOOO, the omens are against us. Still it was a decent pint with just a very slight haziness, 3.7% hoppy and quite refreshing.
Pharp arrived, blown in on the wind, closely followed by a gasping Petit Chemise, he should have known better. Pharp went for Red Star, 3.8% reddish colour, a typical English pint, slightly nutty flavour, the sort of ale people would drink 50 years ago. Petit settled for the Phipp’s IPA, their flagship ale. This is a delightfully refreshing ale, easy drinking, in fact too easy coming in at 4.3% this could creep up on you over a decent session.  As the name might suggest a pale ale, bags of flavour and always a favourite historical ale throughout Northamptonshire. That was it, time for the footy; we must now make our way to Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium.

Sixfields is a very nice council built stadium, with a few mods going on. The Poppies were housed in the West main stand whilst the Diamonds fans were in the ‘Home end’.
The game, well ignore the statistics; they say possession is nine tenths of the law, not in football it’s not. If this game was a boxing match the Poppies were heading for a unanimous points victory, that was until 2 minutes and 40 seconds into the fifteen round, a haymaker came in from the left and hit straight onto the forehead, a knock-out blow to say the least. 95% possession counts for nothing, when you only score 33% of the goals. The Poppies won the attendance stakes with just under 700 making the trip, The Diamonds had just shy of 500; although they do protest they had many more there. The PRATS can confirm that we carried out a head count and concur with them; they had at least twice that number. The Poppies choral society was in good voice, one particular tune was all about a former Poppies winger’s headgear which coincidently corresponded with his trade as a city banker.

We watched the presentations, applauded gracefully, smiled and shook hands with several of the Diamond’s players, we said “well done” though gritted teeth and then went back to the Albion Brewery bar. Citra and Fuggles went for the Phipp’s IPA whist Pharp once again sampled the Red Star; Fuggles followed this up with the stronger Golden Star, the others stayed with what they already had. Golden Star is a powerful 5% strong ale, quite sweet, with a hint of barley sugar but pleasant enough, not an ale you could drink all night, it was in good nick. We chatted for about an hour trying to understand how you can lose a game you’ve dominated, but that’s football; the season is over bar the shouting. We do have a beer festival next weekend which includes the Fans Match then the presentation evening the weekend after. Oh dear, Mrs Fuggles has already got the summer jobs lined up, I suspect the old sciatica is due to make its annual appearance.

Wednesday 4 May 2016


The PRATS are making their final trip of the season. Just a short one down the road to Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium, we’re playing in the county cup final against a football club formally known as the football club Rushden & Diamonds. However, their name is now proceeded by AFC, what does that mean, Association Football club, A Friendly Club, A Failed Club, we can think of a few more? Looking at the list of teams registered for next season’s FA competitions there are 23 clubs that have AFC at the beginning of their name, how many were there 10 years ago? Still they are doing quite well and we may be playing against them more frequently in a few years’ time.

There’s quite a few decent pubs in Northampton, the link has a locale filter on it. Today the PRATS are planning to visit a couple of brewery taps. First port of call is the Pomfret Arms at the bottom end of Bridge St in the district of Far Cotton. This pub is home of the Cotton End brewery which has been running for about a year. Next up just along Bridge St towards the town centre, opposite probably the worst building in Northampton, is the Malt Shovel Tavern, a lovely pub usually sporting 9 handpumps and loads of foreign stuff, always worth a visit.
Then our last stop before the footy is Albion Brewery Bar home of Phipps’s Brewery, serving up at least 7 of their own ales plus a guest. Although one of their ales is named Diamond Ale, it’s actually quite nice but might give it a miss tonight.