2024 General Blurb, Observations, Opinion, Thoughts and Ideas - Join The Debate


General Blurb

Belbroughton : Tent at The Talbot [2024]

I cannot exactly recall when tepees became the next trendy thing to plonk in the beer garden. I definitely noticed them at some of the "Lovely Pubs" estate - the Orange Tree at Chadwick End for example had one by around 2017-ish. I took this photograph the other day in the back garden of The Talbot at Belbroughton. Combined with the seating around the perimeter of the garden, this arrangement increases the pub's capacity to almost double - providing, of course, there are still punters left in the building on a sunny day. Pubs are certainly more geared up to outdoor drinking these days - there are cabins, pods and even shepherd's huts at some places. Personally, I like to soak up the history of an old tavern by sitting in the tap room but the outdoor spaces can be good for keeping an eye on our bikes whilst drinking. One downer is that the gardens can be full of children. Call me a traditionalist, or it being the legacy of my childhood, but pubs were not places for children. But in the capitalist world the "family" represents a target market for the pubcos.
Posted on April 16th, 2024.

• Outdoors can also be full of smokers.
Tony Skirving, Wordsley : April 16th, 2024.

• True Tony, but possibly more preferable than the vaping crowd. A few weeks ago we were in the Royal Exchange in Stourbridge where a few people were on vapes with sickly smells wafting around the room - yuk!
Kieron : April 16th, 2024.

• If pubs are not for children, how are pubs going to attract them in when they are adults? The business has changed and they have to attract every penny they can, family pubs are generally the best pubs.
Andy Grainger, Kingswinford : April 16th, 2024.

• Personally, I find family pubs the worst type of pub. They are generally food-led and empty by 20.30hrs. There used to be strict rules regarding children in a room retailing alcoholic drinks. In my humble opinion the relaxation of the rules is simply to ensure they do not miss out on a target market. A teetotaller would rally against your idea of attracting young customers .... after all, you wouldn't give your under-10s a fag, would you?
Kieron : April 16th, 2024.

• I'm not sure why you bought up giving a 10-year-old a fag. I am talking about community pubs, where people get together, have a laugh and joke, a few drinks the men and women sit together, alongside the kids. Where the community come together for funerals or birthday parties, Christmas, new year. Where all the kids know each other. Where the only food available is a packet of scratchings or a cob.
Andy Grainger, Kingswinford : April 16th, 2024.

• I was just trying to make the point that children should not be exposed to pubs at too young an age. It was perhaps blunt but I was saying most people wouldn't introduce children to cigarettes so why should it be different in terms of pubs where they will be exposed to drinking culture. They can make up their own minds when they are adults. Like I say, I am quite traditional on this matter.
Kieron : April 16th, 2024.

Hasbury : The Crafty Pint [2024]

Brrr. A lot colder than Friday so an extra few layers were required for our cycle ride today. Returning to the Black Country from all directions, we have our favourite ports-of-call in which we can enjoy a post-ride beer or two. For example, coming back through Lawnswood etc. we will nip into the Robin Hood at Amblecote where the beer is always good. Today, we came over Romsley from a Worcestershire ride. After the slog up Farley Lane, it is always nice to hammer it down into Hunnington and Halesowen before calling into the Crafty Pint for a couple. If I were to say I have never had a bad pint in this micro-pub it would be vastly underselling the standard of beer. Every single cask ale we have ordered in here has been perfect or near-to-perfect. This photograph shows today's selection on the left-hand side of the counter. I think the Plum Porter is a regular, along with a couple of hand-pulls on the right - Salopian and Wye Valley. Today we could rediscover our love of an old chestnut - Church End Vicar's Ruin. Absolutely top-drawer perfection and a great beer. The Oakham Inferno was great but nudged out by the lovely Neepsend Kipa, a 5.2% pale ale from Sheffield. What I like about the Crafty Pint is they are not afraid to stock stronger ales over 5% which is most excellent. We have found Thornbridge Jaipur in here on a few occasions. Importantly, when cask ale is served like this we don't have to go in search of craft keg for our beer fix. Cheese and Onion cobs sorted out the post-ride lunch and, following a Plum Porter to round things off, we headed up the remaining hills like Tadej Pogačar and Urška Žigart. Only one complaint about the Crafty Pint is that it could do with a bike rack outside. We were back home in time to watch Tom Pidcock win the Amstel Gold race. A great cycling day!
Posted on April 14th, 2024.

• Lovely feedback - thank-you. I did buy a bike rack. I will ask Andy where it is and get it installed.
The Crafty Pint, Hasbury : April 14th, 2024.

Amblecote : Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild at the Robin Hood on Collis Street [2024]

This is more like it, he says. Instead of being forced to cycle with a pair of idiots for a few hours, he would much rather be on the lash at the Robin Hood in Amblecote. After seeing Frankie Boyle at Wolverhampton on Monday night, we had nipped into the Beacon Hotel for a quickie only to find the Dark Ruby Mild warm and flat. No wonder the locals were all on the Surprise or Amber. Thankfully, we can report that the cask in the Robin Hood was in great shape and demanded a full pint in a Ken Barlow glass. Actually, the Weatherfield beer tippler only wielded a half-pint pot. I once met William Roach when he was at a book-signing session when trying to flog his autobiography in Makro at Halesowen. There was nobody queuing up at the table and the Corrers veteran looked as bored as the checkout operators. Fuelled with the Ruby, we hurtled up Brettell Lane at rapid pace.
Posted on April 13th, 2024.

Claverley : Irene & Ivy's tea rooms [2024]

A highly recommended cycling route from Rudge Heath to Claverley is along the narrow lane through the hamlet to Hopstone. If you are a car owner DO NOT ruin it for those trying to pedal safely through the villages. There is just enough space for a 1935 Austin 7 not a ridiculously massive SUV that many twonks now insist on driving down lanes that were not designed for such monstrosities. The route over the Claverley Brook and past Hopstone House is lovely, the verges lined with bluebells. It was wonderful when a mother-and-daughter team opened Irene & Ivy's in Claverley. Delicious lunches and cakes amid retro surroundings made it a must-visit café stop when we were in the area. They had not long completed this outdoor seating area when the café was suddenly closed, personal circumstances being cited as the reasons for the sudden decision. I hope these are resolved and that they continue here in Claverley as it was such a valuable addition to the village.
Posted on April 13th, 2024.

Rudge Heath : "On The Rabbit Run" café in the former Royal Oak Inn [2024]

The former Royal Oak Inn at Rudge Heath has been a café since 2022. Whatever one's thoughts are about the closure of a pub in an area slowing becoming dry, there is no doubt that the building was the busiest I have ever seen. In the last couple of decades, the Royal Oak seemingly did enough business to just about keep the publican's head above water. Not enough to keep the pubco happy by the look of things. And so, it has become a very popular business that would have satisfied the old Temperance movement. We stopped here for excellent coffee and a chunky slab of Battenberg cake, the taste of which makes one wonder how Mr. Kipling manage to sell their awful bastardisation of this Victorian classic. Despite its royal connection, Agnes Marshall, the Mary Berry of the late 19th century, preferred to call her recipe Domino Cake so there was some tenuous Doms link with the former Royal Oak Inn.
Posted on April 13th, 2024.

Ackleton : Former Folly [2024]

A hostelry that once did well on the old road to Ironbridge, The Folly had stumbled through bad times in the 21st century. The former beer house on the edge of Ackleton opened and closed with some regularity. As can be seen here, the pub has been put out of its misery and the building converted into several cottages, most of which were recently put on the market. I cannot imagine wishing to live next to the constant traffic on the so-called Rabbit Run. We rarely cycle on this road as it is hell and a deathtrap. We have never seen a rabbit on this road - perhaps the species has evolved and avoid trying to cross this 'orrible bit of tarmac. The Folly, along with the adjacent shop, was, like the Red Cow, also part of the parish of Worfield back in the day.
Posted on April 13th, 2024.

Ackleton : The Red Cow [2024]

The promise of a dry afternoon with sunshine encouraged us to undertake a spin around some Shropshire villages yesterday. In reality, the rays of sunshine were brief, though it was nice not to have rain. What a terrible winter and spring it has been for wet weather. Not that the ruining of our cycling programme is a big deal when compared to people having their homes flooded or farmers not being able to plough fields. This is seemingly the norm from now on - the price of fucking up the climate. Of course, to get to Shropshire we have to cycle through Staffordshire villages, most of which are very familiar to us. So, we trundled through Seisdon and up the hill to Pattingham before pausing at the lake at Patshull. We had not been to Ackleton for a while so went to check out the Red Cow. Alas, the place was closed. We went in search of a villager tending to their garden to make enquiries. Apparently, it has been shut for about 12 months BUT .... rumours are going around the village that it may open again in the next month. By the way, anybody looking to dig into Ackleton of past need to look in the documents for Worfield as the hamlet was part of that parish. Surprisingly, this large building was only a beer house in the past.
Posted on April 13th, 2024.

• Used to be our Saturday night watering hole.
John Luffman, Penkridge : April 13th, 2024.

King's Heath : Tynt Meadow English Trappist Ale at Houblon [2024]

Last night was a most enjoyable evening at Houblon in King's Heath with the brewer and brewery manager of the Mount Saint Bernard Abbey. HOT NEWS : just six days previously they launched a new Blond Ale. It is quite mellow and only 5% so unashamedly pitched at the UK market. Very nice but lacking the hop character that we love. This was available en vat for the evening, along with the original Trappist Ale, a lovely 7.4% dark beer with hints of chocolate and fig. Interesting facts were imparted by the brewer and manager but, despite my Paxman-like questioning, they would not disclose the source of the yeast strain. They would ideally like three beers but these things take time - though they are already going at some speed. There are no plans for a tap at the abbey. However, there is a shop at the site for devotees. Free cheese, French bread and beer glasses! Thanks to Houblon for this collaborative event.
Posted on April 5th, 2024.

Electoral Dysfunction Podcast [2024]

Jess Phillips, on her new podcast with Beth Rigby and Ruth Davidson, made the brilliant observation of "avoid flat roof pubs."
Posted on March 25th, 2024.

Stourbridge : The Crafty Jar [2024]

Luke Littler may provide some inspiration, but, based on recent pub visits, it would seem that arrers, darts to non-Black Country people, is making a comeback. I took this photograph in the Red House Boutique yesterday evening, a pub in which men and women were enjoying the game. We have been to a few other places of late whereby space has been created for a dart board and playing area. I am pretty crap at chucking arrers but I am glad to see this pub game enjoying something of a renaissance.
Posted on March 17th, 2024.

Stourbridge : Customers playing darts in the Red House Boutique [2024]

What's the deal with the Crafty Jar? Opened in November 2023, this seems to be a very popular place in Lower High Street at Stourbridge. Beer choice is OK, though the selection last night was not too inspiring. The Kinver Noble was undrinkable. Do we need another outlet for Wye Valley? This is rapidly becoming the Doom Bar of ubiquity. I am ignorant of current wheeler-dealing but do Wye Valley pay for the cellar maintenance or something? How has Butty Bach and HPA spread across the Midlands and become omnipresent? But would people prefer to see money spent on improving a traditional house like The Mitre rather than another trendy bar? By the way, The Mitre, if returned to its original form, could be a classic but it would cost a small fortune. Last night one of the two beers in there was - you guessed it - Wye Valley.
Posted on March 17th, 2024.

• We have been in twice on a Saturday on the way to the Hop Vault. We were not impressed with the choice of beer and almost everybody was drinking lagers anyway.
Tony Skirving, Wordsley : March 17th, 2024.

• I am the co-owner of the Crafty Jar. Thank-you very much for your feedback. We do take your comments on board and from your other post your experience in Stourbridge wasn't great! Firstly, I will pass your comments on to Kinver Brewery, but I must say it has gone down a storm with our customers this week. As for Wye Valley, they have supported us right from the very beginning and helped us in designing a cellar and put the hand pulls in free-of-charge. Why wouldn't I return the favour and sell their beer? As for The Mitre, I ran a tied pub in Wollaston for 18 years and I fear for its future. Until the pubco changes its business model it won't just be The Mitre that is in danger of non-existence. As we are a free-from-tie bar we are always happy to support local brewers so if you have one in mind let me know and I will happily put it on the bar over the next few weeks. It's going to be Hobson's Town Crier and Enville Ale.
Andy Smith, Crafty Jar, Stourbridge : March 17th, 2024.

• Thanks for your post Andy. The post was not critical of your bar, rather just asking a couple of questions. I kept a pub in which the cellar was fitted and maintained by Hardy's and Hanson's of Kimberley and the deal was that the pub had to stock their beer in return. I was asking [as I did not know] whether pubs were signing up to a similar agreement with Wye Valley. I actually like their beer when it is kept well but it is becoming a little widespread. My second question was asking punters whether they prefer an old pub or a new bar? I am curious to find out what people prefer these days. Certainly, there is a trend for micropubs and bars whereby proprietors are not stung by the high operating costs of running a traditional pub. I agree that the business model for pubs is outdated, not only through the pubco's but by local authorities too. As for the Kinver beer, perhaps we were nearing the end of a cask? If you do want some feedback, I would suggest some dampening of the room and a little more ventilation. The people behind the bar, who were working hard, always had a smile and provided good customer service.
Kieron : March 17th, 2024.

• Never been in as they don't allow dogs, but there are plenty more interesting beers on in the Hop Vault, Red House Boutique, Duke William. Vote with your feet i guess. As for The Mitre, absolutely a stalwart of the town but definitely would benefit from a little more choice.
Tim Allen : March 17th, 2024.

• OK, pubs put Wye Valley on because, oddly, they sell well and keep everything afloat so more interesting beers can be put on. I would also stick Enville Ale and Golden Glow in this category. Turning to The Mitre, Mick is retiring anytime soon and the future is sadly a bit uncertain at the moment. He is staying on for a short time but after that who knows? Trying to put Batham's on is virtually impossible and see my comment about Golden Glow. The Hop Vault has been mentioned, very good bar but by far the most expensive place in Stourbridge and your average punter won't go near. The Red House is suffering sadly but does have a Vocation tap takeover coming up at the end of the month.
John Midwood, Wollaston : March 17th, 2024.

Stourbridge : Red House Boutique [2024]

PROSAIC PRANCING VOTED OFF BY JUDGES : The pump clip for Ay Up, by the Dancing Duck Brewery of Derby, informs prospective punters that the beer was CAMRA's Champion Beer of Britain in the bitter category of 2019. Judging by last night's example at the Red House Boutique in Stourbridge, it was more a case of Ay Up Where's The Bitter Taste? And this just about sums up the palate of the masses - in the UK at least. There are currently hundreds of weak, insipid beers sold in pubs, ales that can only be described as flavoured water. We are becoming increasingly embittered by the lack of bitter - or flavour come to think of it. But the brewers are seemingly catering for the tastes of the mass market, not for those who would like a beer that excites the tastebuds. Very few dare to ramp up the ABV above 5%. Even fewer delve into a sack of barley that has been roasted for the purposes of making something a little darker. I have lost count of the number of houses I have wandered into only to have my spirits dampened by the sight of the same bland offering. A glimpse of a Doom Bar pump clip will have me heading towards the exit. But the smaller breweries are failing to inspire. Understandably, they brew to sell and make a profit, and bland, bland, bland, same old golden weak vapid liquid seems to be what people want. Yours, Mrs. Trellis of North Wales.
Posted on March 17th, 2024.

• Too many beers are too sweet - for example, Enville. I have long thought that Doombar is dishwater; but people have been conditioned to accept it. If there's no alternative I used to have Guiness - but that is all texture and no flavour. Is upping the gravity a good idea though? I have had tasty beers of moderate gravity.
Graham Austin, Stourbridge : March 17th, 2024.

• True Graham, there are plenty of decent beers to be had from UK brewers. However, I can walk into a pub with 10 hand-pulls and they are all golden and around 4%, mostly indistinguishable from the others. The gravity ramps up with the brewing process, mostly dubbel or tripel BUT the Belgians drink 33cl glasses and sip like a wine because the flavours dart around the taste buds. The beer, or bier, is supposed to be appreciated not swilled. The Belgians also drink in moderation - I have never seen aggression or a disgraceful scene in a Belgian café. The city centres in Flanders are also hyper-safe and no louts tanked up. It is a completely different culture. By the way, I wouldn't even pour Guinness on my plants.
Kieron : March 17th, 2024.

• I don't care if a Bitter is "to style" as long as it taste good to me and it is well poured. However, if there was a choice of a 'Bitter' on cask and Tim Taylor's Landlord Pale Ale, with a seal of approval from Tim Taylor's, I'll more than likely go for the Landlord. I'm a Northerner, so I love a sparkler, on my well-poured, refreshing/cellar temp, cask-conditioned, well-kept, good cellar management, pint of cask, I do.
Dave Swinburne : March 17th, 2024.

• The mass public tend to drink beers they recognise, sadly.
John Midwood, Wollaston : March 17th, 2024.

• Yes John, as in music, people like what they know rather than know what they like!
Kieron : March 17th, 2024.

• People travel from Yorkshire to Devon and drink John Smiths.
Alan Hobbis, Brierley Hill : March 17th, 2024.

• You should be thankful you're not in Devon or Cornwall. One of my friends, who used to run the Swan, Long Lane, Halesowen, moved down there and used to complain, "You go in one pub and they've got Doom Bar, you go in the next pub and they've got Tribute, you go in the third pub and they've got both! I think things have improved a bit since then!
Tony Morgan, Kinver : March 17th, 2024.

Gornal Wood & Himley : The Crooked House as a pile of rubble [2024]

Can I be controversial ... I do NOT want the Crooked House rebuilt. Yes, I would like to see the vandals who pulled it down get some form of punishment. However, I do NOT wish to see a contrivance emerge from the rubble. Well, some of the rubble. A number of people walked off with a souvenir brick or two so even a rebuild would not be constructed with the original materials.
Posted on March 1st, 2024.

• It won't get rebuilt as the company responsible will go bankrupt.
Nick Gennard : March 1st, 2024.

• And even if it did, the engineering challenge of rebuilding a structure that was not at its intended angle, and propped up by supports afterwards is nearly impossible without something about it feeling artificial. A fake wonk just won't be the same. Hopefully the new owners of the Tilted Barrel have many years of success. Hopefully they will have their new signage soon as the old stuff was disintegrating.
Matthew J. Acton-Varian, Birmingham : March 1st, 2024.

• The Crooked House is somewhere I always took visitors to the area, had half a pint, rolled a marble and left. Who would use it on a regular basis? It is down a long pot-holed lane next to a tip.
Tony Skirving, Wordsley : March 1st, 2024.

• If the locals had used it more often it would not have closed.
Paul Downing, Birmingham : March 1st, 2024.

• Despite all the fuss, nobody from Dudley CAMRA ever went, as scores showed. It was out of the way and served abject beer.
Peter Clarkson : March 1st, 2024.

Market Drayton : Country Life In Russia and Trumpton [February 22nd 2024]

Today we had a rather a bizarre night in Market Drayton. As luck would have it, during our visit a production of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" was on at the Festival Drayton Centre. So, we headed along to a near empty theatre to watch an extraordinary performance by Andrew Scott who played all the parts! He looked drained at the end of the play. As sales of theatre tickets were a tadge on the slow slide [there were only about two dozen of us in there], I imagined that the locals had opted for some alternative low-brow entertainment in the Salopian Star. So, to test the waters of a dichotomy equal to Melvyn Bragg vs. Eddie Grundy, we popped along to check the place out for ourselves. Now, some would say that this is a rough pub - and it is in some respects - but we had the duck so sent him in to sort out the ruffians before we entered the bar. Nobody fucks with the duck. We did, of course, have an agenda. This was the only place we had spotted beers by New Brew on tap. We had done a recce during our town trail and pencilled the Salopian Star for a return visit. So amid, a drunk wanting to be our best friend, and the sound of loud country music, we ordered some American Pale Ale and the Black IPA. We have not tried any beers from this brewery so it was quite exciting - and by the taste of them we had hit the jackpot. Combined with the loud sound system, we could have been in the Grand Ole Opry drinking some lovely craft beer. Country is BIG in the Salopian Star, the woman being the bar, a very friendly rough diamond, clicking through her favourite playlist. These days, many pubs start to empty out after 9pm and by ten we found ourselves being the only punters, apart from one bloke who, leaning on the bar, had a microphone and was singing along to some old school country classics. Well, an attempt at singing is probably more accurate. A singular experience for sure, pardner.
Posted on February 22nd, 2024.

Madeley : A crowded All Nations for the rugby [February 24th 2024]

They perhaps missed a trick at this pub classic near Blists Hill Museum between Madeley and Jackfield ... they should have ordered some of the Six Nations beer from Heritage Brewing Company of Burton-on-Trent. We didn't realise that they were showing the Calcutta Cup game in the pub - it was packed. There were seemingly more punters in here than spectators inside Murrayfield. Every time somebody got up to order more beer there would be fans moaning they couldn't see the telly. We should have called that bloke over from the bar - he looks about seven feet-tall. He would have blocked the screen for the entire pub and caused an uproar. As far as I could make out there was only one Scots supporter but that did not stop him from celebrating the tries as his team took a fourth successive victory in the Calcutta Cup fixture. The homebrewed ale, one badged as Brough's rather than All Nations, was superb. Brough's have produced all the house beers since the passing of Jim Birtwhistle a couple of years ago. I have always liked Brough's ales - I miss them on the counter of the former King's Arms at Claverley. In any case, if they had stocked it, I would not have bought the Heritage Brewery beer when homebrewed ale is on sale. Rose, who is now the licensee, has been here for 21 years now so the continuity at the All Nations remains. The cheese and onion cobs are also a legend in this classic tavern. This enormity of them means they have to be delivered to your table through the window with a fork-lift truck. What a great pub.
Posted on February 24th, 2024.

Whitchurch : The Black Bear [February 23rd 2024]

Our two-point snooker ball is sinking a black. I fear he will be sick in my pocket after supping the Three Tuns Stout, a very moreish number brewed in Bishop's Castle. Lance demanded a rest from the Whitchurch town trail [excellent by the way] for refreshment in the Black Bear, a historic hostelry operated by Pubs Ltd., a firm headed by Jerry Brunning of Brunning & Price fame. We did not eat here but I note there are some poor reviews for the pub on Tripadvisor, the nightmare site for the hospitality trade. We have eaten in other Brunning & Price pubs and could not see how the tariff can be justified for relatively low standard pub grub. However, I must stress we did not try out this menu. The woman seemingly in charge was cheerful enough but the waiting staff had the look of doom and gloom. Certainly, the young woman who served me had no idea how to pour a beer - no profit could have been made on my stout as she managed to produce more ullage in the tray than went in my glass. I had no intention of joining the mansplainer brigade but the cask was evidently lively and needed no sparkler on the font. I should have sent the duck over to the bar - he was incandescent. A former regular, seemingly visiting his hometown after some years away, came in and was horrified to find that an ancient fireplace had been ripped out in order to move the servery from the centre of the room to an end wall. On the plus side, he was impressed with the beer garden, a feature which we had admired. The walls of the rooms could do with more local interest which, for such a key part of Whitchurch's fabric, was poor. But there were some elements of the place that were good - but could be a bit better in our humble opinion.
Posted on February 23rd, 2024.

Whitchurch : Old Town Hall Vaults [February 23rd 2024]

Oh no, he is back on the Slumbering Monk. This can only end in tears. Owing to its vaulted cellars, this pub became the Old Town Hall Vaults in later years, though it is still colloquially known as "Backies," it being originally known as the Back Street Inn. To the rear of the pub is an outside privy, reportedly the last still in operation in North Shropshire, along with being the only listed privy in the county. Sadly, no original porcelain urinals to report - I had to check even though I did not need to go. Joule's have made a nice job of the interior and the relatively recent licensee, a local woman, is lovely. An essential port-of-call for music fans as one of the rooms is the birthplace of the composer, Sir Edward German.
Posted on February 23rd, 2024.

Whitchurch : The Crafty Dragon [February 23rd 2024]

Bugger, we were too early for early doors. Whitchurch has a couple of good pubs but few would argue the town needs a kick up the arse in terms of craft beer. New flavours suddenly became available on Saturday February 24th, 2024, when the Crafty Dragon opened in Mill Street. We were unaware of their grand opening and just happened on the place during the previous day. We spoke to Liz Lever, one of the founders of the Magic Dragon Brewery, who told us they were putting the finishing touches to the new micropub within former shop premises. The brewery is based in The Plassey near Eyton and they operate a tap room in Wrexham.
Posted on February 23rd, 2024.

Calverhall : Team Sky cycling past the Olde Jack during the Tour of Britain [September 18th 2013]

Wow! Bike Porn adorns a wall of the Olde Jack Inn at Calverhall. When calling into this pub for some Salopian Gold, I spotted this photograph in a frame on the wall. It shows much of Team Sky riding past the pub during Stage 4 of the Tour of Britain. Donning my bike nerd hat, I can tell you that the stage took place on Wednesday September 18th, 2013, during a 190km route from Stoke-on-Trent to Llanberis in which the riders passed through the local towns of Market Drayton and Whitchurch. The riders of Team Sky included Sir Bradley Wiggins, Ian Stannard, Joshua Edmondson, David Lopez Garcia and Mathew Hayman. By this stage of the race, from Peebles in Scotland to London, Sir Bradley Wiggins was in the gold leader's jersey of sponsors IG Index. He can be seen here in wheel four of the group. The winner of the previous year's Tour de France and Olympic Games Individual Time Trial, Bradley Wiggins would go on to finish 1st in the overall general classification. Team mate Ian Stannard finished 7th on the G.C. Joshua Edmondson was ranked 8th in the Young Rider competition, whilst David Lopez Garcia finished 9th in the King of the Mountains classification. A young Simon Yates finished 3rd in the overall race when riding for Team Great Britain. He was also the best rider in the under-23 classification. He and his brother, Adam, would later sign for Australian UCI World Tour team Orica-GreenEDGE during the following season.
Posted on February 22nd, 2024.

Ash Magna : Barman at the White Lion [February 21st 2024]

Three Shropshire beers were on offer during our visit to the White Lion at Ash Magna. All were well-kept, though I could have done with a dark or strong offering. For some bizarre reason they let the duck pour his own- he claimed he had vast experience of pouring ale. We didn't tell them he had been sacked by Joule's Brewery on the previous day. Pick of the three, and by a good margin, was the Station Bitter, an amber-coloured session bitter from Stonehouse, a brewery based at Weston, just to the south of Oswestry. The White Lion has been owned by the local community since 2018 and, by the look of it, proof that such ventures can be very successful. The pub was very busy during the two sessions we visited. Inexpensive meals, including veggie options, are available and pretty decent for pub food. Back in the day the White Lion was operated by Yates Castle Brewery Ltd., a Birkenhead firm with quite a foothold in Cheshire, the county border being not far away. Despite merging with the Castle Brewery in Ardwick, the company continued to brew at Birkenhead until the inter-war years.
Posted on February 22nd, 2024.

Market Drayton : Interior of the Tudor House & Hotel [February 21st 2024]

Historic England have dated the Tudor House & Hotel at Market Drayton as a 1653 building. An odd inn sign therefore as the Tudor period ended fifty years earlier. If Historic England have got it correct then this was erected in the Stuart period. But what's half a century? I wonder what those who were in recovery from the English Civil War would make of what feels like a Sports Bar. Those remaining true to the Puritan doctrine, who revelled in trashing churches, would have marched upon the hostelry and demanded the removal of games machines, pool tables, televisions and the like whilst demanding a more ascetic interior in which patrons could converse whilst sipping their non-alcoholic drinks. They certainly would not have approved of the guest ale, the 5.6% Six Nations IPA, a seasonal ale produced for the rugby six nations competition by the Heritage Brewing Company of Burton-on-Trent. But, being partly in the Levellers or Diggers camp, we like a nice strong ale with which to espouse our opinions. Though fogging the grey matter somewhat, it is a mighty fine brew indeed.
Posted on February 21st, 2024.

Market Drayton : Interior of the King's Arms [February 21st 2024]

The very limited range of real ale at Market Drayton's King's Arms is compensated by the very friendly greeting and cordial nature conveyed by the woman behind the servery. CAMRA's "What Pub?" site states : "Originally an old coaching house built in 1865 this has recently been tastefully extended and refurbished." This is a bizarre entry as the Red Lion was trading long before 1865 and the timber-framed building is dated 1674 by Historic England. We ditched the Julian calendar with the Gregorian revision - are CAMRA operating with a different calendar unknown to the rest of us?
Posted on February 21st, 2024.

Market Drayton : Barman at the Red Lion [February 21st 2024]

Lance, the git of a duck we are stuck with, is seeking legal advice after being dismissed by Joule's Brewery during his shift at the bar. A brewery spokesperson reportedly said that they expect their employees to remain sober throughout their shift. However, the duck claims he only helped himself to a flight deck during his official break. He remained temperate during consumption of the Citra Blonde and Pale but became riotous after sinking the Slumbering Monk, described by the brewery as "a rich premium ale with a real depth of flavour created using a careful blend of English and American ingredients. Full-bodied and smooth with bold malt, nut and fruit notes, enhanced by a pleasing bitter hop character." The duck said it was easily the best of the trio of beers. He added that he is owed two hours wages.
Posted on February 21st, 2024.

Market Drayton : "Mousey" Thompson Treasure Hunt in the Red Lion [February 21st 2024]

On our travels visiting churches up north we have been enchanted by the little mice carved by "Mousey" Thompson. Imagine our delight to find that there are seven of the little things in the Brewer's Room of the Red Lion at Market Drayton, the tap house of Joule's Brewery. It took us nearly 15 minutes to find them all. Great fun.
Posted on February 21st, 2024.

Halesowen : Interior of the King Edward VII [February 15th 2024]

We had not patronised the King Edward VII at Halesowen for a while. There are now more pictures on the wall than wallpaper. The décor is very busy but quite agreeable. Church End Vicar's Ruin and Wye Valley Butty Bach were enjoyed here before we headed around the corner to the Hawne Tavern for a couple. I know how to show a girl a good time on Valentine's Day - take her on a pub crawl.
Posted on February 15th, 2024.

Halesowen : Dastardly Duck at the Waggon and Horses [February 15th 2024]

The Waggon and Horses may have the Duck Dastardly but we have the Dastardly Duck. I feared this Green Duck beer would be a bit sickly but it was very pleasant indeed. The brewer did not go overboard with the sweet stuff so this porter, with light chocolate and caramel notes, was nicely rounded. Other excellent beers we enjoyed here were Elgood's Phoenix Rising, the brewery's first seasonal ale of 2024. This is a bronze-coloured beer brewed with Bramling Cross hops and late hopped with Cascade and Mosaic hops to produce a beer with a tropical hop aroma. Extra Pale Ale Malt, Carapils and malted wheat provide excellent balance. The Inclined Plane by the Langton Brewery was also terrific. First brewed in 2004, the beer name celebrates the canal boat lift operated at Foxton Locks. It is a delightful amber-coloured bitter with a light floral finish. The late addition of Amarillo hops delivers a citrus character. If I was a CAMRA nerd I would be dishing out some 5's for at least two of these beers. Great stuff. We also found out how many publicans it takes to change a lightbulb.
Posted on February 15th, 2024.

Het Uiltje Tap at Roberto's Bar in Halesowen [February 14th 2024]

The duck is looking pissed off as he has gone to Roberto's Bar in Halesowen for some beer made at the Uiltje Brouwerij in Haarlem. However, there was no Owl beer to be had. Other nice beers were available but there was no placating the duck.
Posted on February 15th, 2024.

• We enjoyed their beers so much we made the trip to Haarlem to drink it at source a couple of years ago.
Tony Skirving, Wordsley : February 15th, 2024.

Mark Knopfler's Guitar Heroes

For Fuck's Sake, I will make a larger donation if they just make it stop. A pile of so-called axe legends doing a dad rock love-in on a record which, to me, is more about the awful saxophone than the guitar abuse. Moreover, it is a Celtic tune, the land of Knopfler's birth, but adopted by Newcastle who can now enjoy more sports-washing on the back of this dreadful racket.
Posted on February 11th, 2024.

Kristy Wallace a.k.a. Poison Ivy performing on "The Tube" [March 1986]

After doing a bit of guitar critique of late with rock fans, I have worked out that the higher up the fretboard [towards the body] one goes the less interested I am in the work. As for visuals, I don't want to see some twonk screwing up their face like somebody just stood on their big toe, I want some attitude. Check out Kristy Wallace a.k.a. Poison Ivy for a great example, chewing gum whilst sticking mainly to the neck of the guitar. This remains one of the best music items I have ever seen on the telly.
Posted on February 6th, 2024.

Album sleeves for the "Midnight Cowboy" soundtrack and "Goodnight Summerland" by Helena Deland

I realise that there are only so many musical notes - twelve actually, that's seven plus five flats and equivalent sharps in between. Consequently, it should come as no surprise when the same sequence of notes emerges many years after an earlier composition. Or not so many years in the famous case of George Harrison being fined for "subconsciously plagiarising Ronnie Mack's "He's So Fine." I don't think the ghost of John Barry will come back to haunt Helena Deland, but take a listen to the opening of "Drawbridge" and you will hear the sequence that flowed from his biro in 1969. Of course, the Québécoise singer-songwriter was not born back in those analogue days. But maybe, just maybe, her grandparents had a vinyl record of "Midnight Cowboy" lurking amid their music collection. Such strange coincidences bother me not, particularly as her 2023 album "Goodnight Summerland" is a little treasure of ethereal folk and dream-pop.
Posted on January 16th, 2024.

I do not know if "Paint Your Wagon" was on the telly over Christmas. It used to be one of those moved that regular surfaced on an afternoon over the festive season. Anyway, in research a factory in Birmingham, I stumbled on this article which reminded me of the arrangement between Ben Rumson and Pardner ....
Posted on January 4th, 2024.

Married Life In Lancashire - Giving Away A Wife
© Extract from Manchester Courier : January 20th, 1877 Page 11.

Sint-Bernardus Christmas Ale

Stayed in last night and enjoyed some Sint-Bernardus Christmas Ale. Awesome 10.0% smooth dark beer with lots of complexity. Why stay at home on New Year's Eve I hear you ask? Well, pubs ask, in some cases beg, to support them throughout the year and then, on the one night they are guaranteed some decent trade, they make it a ticket event and want to charge us to patronise the place. Fuck that!
Posted on January 1st, 2024.

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