Or: What to do when it rains in Bristol.
This was planned to be an extended weekend with a crucial game somewhere in the middle. For once, the preparation beers started on Friday night and should continue well into Saturday evening. So it was that we met up with the following plan.
Stedders, Coventry Bob, Rose, Hackney Haze, Ian, Graham and Sean. Hazel and Ian are long-time friends and know the form. Sean and Graham are friends of theirs Hazel and Wimbledon away fan regulars.
We were joined on Friday evening by Keith and Megan and the plan was for Alyson, Ruth and Dave to up the numbers on Saturday. Ruth is my old time Archer’s mucker and Dave her long term attachment. She now organises folk at XT Brewery while Dave doesn’t. These last two saw the rain falling on Saturday and took the easy option to stay in bed. The lack of commitment to the cause was certainly noted chaps. Alyson showed considerable more determination, arriving on time, oblivious to the postponement, from Grimsby by train and ready for the game.
We would meet Friday evening in the Bag of Cats. Keith and Megan were to present Luke with his deserved Beard Friendly pub of the Year award. We would then firm up plans for the next day. We agreed that we should meet at the Eldon House, stroll downhill, I generally don’t do uphill, via the Hope and Anchor and then get a taxi from the Bag to the game. Afterwards we would go to the Drapers Arms, then bus it down the Gloucester Road so that the Wimbledon three could head for their train after sampling at the Gloucester Road Brewhouse and Crofters Rights.
Well that was the plan.
Rose deserved a drink or two. She had been working all day while I was busy plotting secretive writings for the future. We hopped on the local train and arrived for a 5 O’clock start at the Lime Kiln.
The Lime Kiln
I had a Mallinson’s IPA followed by a Bingham Vanilla Stout. This set a great standard to follow. We polished off the Guardian Crossword in double quick time and got into relaxed early weekend mode. Messages arrived through Twitter that Ian and the chaps were en route via the Barley Mow. Hazel was bus bound to meet with them. This pub gets better every time we visit. It still has the space to encourage unwinding. This, I fear, like your secret holiday location, will not stay secret for much longer.
The Bag of Cats
Keith awarding Luke the Out of London Beard Friendly Pub of the Year Award
There is an unwritten pecking order in this pub at busy times. To get a seat you usually have to head deep on the darkest rear seats. Over the next hour or so tables will become available and it is possible to shift ever close to the optimal location, near the door. So it was that we arrived and bagged the coat hanger table by the turntable. I was a dreaded “Gap filler” but managed to crumple my body in as small a space as possible so as to not impede the flow of staff to and from the bar. Keith and Megan were next in and bagged a seat smack bang in the middle of the room. I suspect some element of string pulling was involved but who was I to complain. The others arrived soon after. We played tactical release with our precious seats and gradually we surrounded the bearded one. Mission was accomplished some half hour later.
Keith presented the award to Luke. We took valued photographs and finished off a full sample of the beers on offer. Three Daggers Black was the best choice for me. I should add that we had unexpected company as Bob arrived with Glenners and mate on a typical Rolls Royce liquid lunch. They had achieved some valuable research and I must admit the sacrifice made for the cause was admirable if a little incoherent.
We had a plan to get home by public transport. We missed the last bus to get to Cribbs Causeway on time. Route two was to catch the train to Avonmouth and then taxi it home from there. So Fish and Chips at Clifton Down and a final pint in the Avonmouth Tavern was our best and chosen option. The others set off to the Lime Kiln.
The Karaoke backing track was cranked up and the locals were dancing to Led Zeppelin sung by a determined female vocalist. The dogs were barking, the pool table was active and we settled for a quick taxi home. Banksy should have painted his Mild Mild West on the side of this pub. It always entertains in a curiously non Bristolian sort of way.
The game was called off at an appropriately early time. It is rare for this to happen and it was apparently early enough to stop away coaches departing. A pat on the back was deserved and I hope applied. What should we do? Have I mentioned that Dave and Ruth wimped out? We resorted to plan A with provisos for serious time adjustments.
Thanks to an early running hourly bus that I missed couldn’t get the train into Clifton Down, I was back to catching a bus to Cribbs Causeway and then onward to town. The evidence for calling the game off was everywhere. Even the Downs had large puddles on it. The short walk from the Triangle to the pub was refreshing in a drenching, tropical rain forest, sort of way.
The Bar man here was a star. He saw me huddled against the door and opened fifteen minutes early. Bob, conscious of not arriving late, was also on patrol before opening time. Ian, Hazel, Sean, Graham and Alyson arrived soon after. The plan was rehashed to allow Sean and Graham to do a bit of pub ticking. The pub was playing its part in the three location Brandon Beer Fest. They had some Brighton Bier and Urban Huntsman beers to add to the beer choice. It had attracted some early half pint tickers and a large group of Wimbledon fans. This Football and Real ale thing is a concept that is quite interesting to observe. I grinned to myself and resisted my urgency to point the other group on their way, Sky TV was their next option. We were beer chasing and the next port of call deserved our attendance.
The Hope and Anchor
This was the centre piece pub for the festival. It had the requisite beer list and a mix of regular beer ticking faces from the Bristol and South London Circuits. Pete knows how to stage these events but this hour or so was a bit of a disappointment for me. It is perhaps because the usual bar is set high at the Volunteer tavern but some essentials were missing here. It started with the seating. It took us three goes to get our group of seven around a table. Our first attempt was met with one of those smiles that says “of course you can sit here but I really would rather have the space to spread out and play on my laptop. I am a regular you know. You are not.” We moved to the rear and then were moved back by the staff claiming it was reserved. It was for a couple of buggy driving mummies with children of the wailing variety. We, of course, had moved before they arrived and were forced to help massage a gentleman’s ego as he individually asked us to make the obvious adjustments and let their buggies through. Was he expecting us to refuse to move? We didn’t need to be asked. We may not be regulars but we do have common sense and can talk to mummies yummy or otherwise. Then finally there was the list of beers. I had hoped to find some northern beers, for example from my friends at Naylor’s. This had been advertised but not available. We had a sort discussion as to “shall we move on or have another?” I am sorry to say my coat was on and I was heading to the door before the chat concluded. I felt a bully but wanted to move on. There was better to be had elsewhere in better comfort.
Bag of Nails
In total contrast we arrived to a friendly welcome for old mates and beers that continued to deliver quality. The Three Daggers Black must have impressed me because I was right in there. One of the best things about the pubs is when Luke gets in to rant mode. We were just discussing future plans for the day when we touched a Daniels touch paper. We had a rare and incisive insight in to the reason why one should never drink on the Gloucester Road. He has a style that is infectious and to the point. At one point I thought we should kidnap him and take him with us for the day. We relented and booked a taxi for seven thus avoiding the torrents falling outside.
The Canteen was full but we found a table. I went for a Moor Nor’Hop. By now we were in match time territory. The cricket win was briefly digested along with memories of Cape Town relived. I was there you know. The day that Ben Stokes did what he did. I was there. We planned to scale Kingsdown hill via Crofters RIghts and the Bell to the Hillgrove Porter Stores. Time inevitably slows after the fifth hour of a crawl and we still had to determine a place to watch the Rugby. Hazel did indeed prove her superior knowledge of Bristol by naming correctly something of minor importance. I could handle the shame and directed us with an unnecessary “five minute warning” on to Stokes Croft.
The pub was cold. It was relatively empty. There was even more new stuff in pictures and posters on the walls and a Television large enough to accommodate our watching. The decision made then, we would abandon the climb and settle in for England winning at Murrayfield here. You know I often rant about craft beer. I don’t have any problem with drinking said keg stuff but generally prefer my beer cask conditioned and naturally carbonated. What I baulk at is when Craft beer pubs do not offer a real ale alternative. That is the function of CAMRA. To promote real ale and choice of real ale in pubs. The Crofters has it about right and there were five such beers of choice. I also saw there was a keg version of Gloucester Dark. This was my choice. Got that Matt? I chose a keg beer when there was an alternative. It was because it was good. In fact I had several of them over the next hour or two. The results came in. The City won! Portsmouth and Accrington did not. Tolpuddle Tim and his offspring came and went. We then did the pub pizza bit after Rose arrived on her welcome rescue mission. By 6 the Wimbledon folk were talking of taxis to the station and home. And so it was. We drifted to various routes home. We gave a lift to I and H so that they might avoid a watery refreshment at the bus stop. Sean, Alyson and Graham left as our new found friends, perhaps to meet again when the rearranged game takes place sometime soon.
The match (For the record)
Bristol Rovers P-P AFC Wimbledon Attendance: 0 (0 Wombles)
Entertainment Value 5
Man of the Match: Stuart Sinclair. He would have won if it was on.
Post-Match Pubs As described
Next up: Portsmouth Away Saturday 13th February
This is a weekend away for us. The trains involve multiple Bus replacement services so we have decided to do the longer thing.
Pub of the day: Crofters Rights
Beer of the day: Three Daggers Black in the Bag of Nails.
Message to Hazel. Turn the laptop off now. You have work in the morning.