Monday, 29 September 2008

Plaistow's Finest

After the pie and mash, Chris and I decide to walk the one stop to Plaistow rather than take the tube to the designated meeting pub.

Trying to find a decent beer in this part of London is a thankless task - a quick look at the Good Beer Guide is enough to suggest that large tracts of east London are beer deserts.

We're therefore lucky to have a pub like the Black Lion relatively close to hand. This is probably the first decent pub after travelling eastwards from Mile End.
You'll normally going to find 4 or 5 hand pumps on the go at any one time here - Courage Best appears to be a permanent fixture and there are normally various offerings from Adnams and Archers amongst the guest beers.

Nothing wrong with these but none are great favourites of mine so it was pleasing to see that they had JHB and Bishop's Farewell from the Oakham Brewery on tap. Both beers were on top form and after one pint of JHB, I settled into the Bishop's Farewell.
(left) Jenny, Mick and Rob soak up the sun
Chris and I igored the front bar - although virtually empty it's quite noisy, resembling the inside of bookies with the plethora of TV screens showing the racing - we settled into the quieter back bar instead.

As more London Millers joined us, there was a clamour to be out in the beer garden - all dangerously continental in my opinion but I was out-voted and so out we went into the sun.
At 2:30pm it was time to leave - Jenny had organised a fleet of taxis to take us to the ground to save us the hassle of the replacement bus service from Barking.

It's A Mash Up!

I'd decided to give our game at Dean Court a miss and have a day of minimal travel - I'd still get my weekly dose of football as I would be joining the London Millers for their match at Dagenham & Redbridge.

This meant my entire day would be restricted to a small section of the District line - and a replacement bus service. Lovely!

To start the day, I met Chris Turner at Upton Park tube and we went to Duncans, a local pie and mash shop close to the station. I've walked past this place for many years but this was to be my first visit.

We've been visiting other pie and mash shops but these have tended to be some of the well-known shops in Deptford High Street run by Manzes and Goddards.

There was a basic choice of food - pie, mash and eels (jellied and stewed) - and I stuck to the tried and tested combination of pie, mash and liquor.

There was no way I'm having eels - I've seen others try them and I'm afraid I've not got the stomach for them.

The pie was excellent - nice crust and a solid filling of mince - probably the best I've had in my relatively limited experience of pie and mash shops.

The liquor was also one of the best I've had - I'm not a big fan of parsley but this sauce was lovely.

For more details on pie and mash outlets in London, visit the Pie and Mash club.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Chocks Away

It must have been the mango lassi but I woke up surprisingly sprightly given the curry and the 12% imperial stout from the night before - I even managed to find room for a full english before being picked up by Mark on our way to Tees-side airport.

Mark had booked a Cessna for a couple of hours so we can have a tootle about. It was a beautiful morning - a little bit of mist but that was slowly burning off and we decided we'd wander down the coast.

(left) Captain Mark checks for condensation and (below) the Tees

We headed over towards Seaton Carew and then turned south - before too long it was time to flick Vs towards the simian folk of Victoria Park and we then fly over the mouth of the Tees (no, not Jeff Winter).

We continued south, flying over seaside towns that I used to visit many years ago - Sandsend, Saltburn and Whitby.

We head inland and fly over the moors towards Roseberry Topping - no doubt the couple of early-bird walkers on the summit were a bit concerned as we circled around.

And then back to terra-firma and the airclub canteen for a nice cup of tea - what a wonderful way to start a Saturday - much preferable to the vagaries of National Express.

Mark then dropped me at the Arts Centre where Colin was already busy bottling various dark beers into his Panda pop bottles. Only about 10 today.

Still plenty of decent beers left to try - those worthy of mention were Backyard's Nippin, the Black Porter from Captain Cook and the Caulker from Jarrow. And I had to have another half of the Tokyo Imperial stout before heading off to the football.

The first half of the game was quite uninspiring but we took the lead after some quick thinking from Clarke. I probably spent more time watching the stewards at the away end being overly officious with the small number of Stanley fans. A group of Girl Guides could have done a better job.

The second half was much improved with plenty of neat passing moves - all it took was one sweet lob from Clarke and a thundering header from Alan White to finally put the game to bed.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Friday Night Brews

Steve, Cath and I settled into Number Twenty-2 for some pre-festival beers - a couple of pints of Cooper Draon Challenger IPA just right for waking up my tastebuds. The pub was a mixture of post-lunchtime session festival folk plus the normal Friday night office crowd - a lot different from the more serene Saturday lunchtime crew that we're used to on match day.

We got to the Arts Centre at about 7pm and it was very quiet - the first thing I noticed was the new bar design - two bars instead of one - which looks to provide a larger serving area and worked well as the evening progressed.

I amble up for my opener - a half of Sundance get served by the brewer himself, Ian Jackson, who is now brewing at the Captain Cook brewery in Stokesley.

We join fellow Darlo fan Ron Stobart - last seen gurning at Aldershot - and his Dad at their table and peruse the beer list - plenty of new brews here so we're spoilt for choice.

As we're close to the Darlington Traditional Brewing Group bar and I'm being given the old come-hither from John, I amble over for a half of his Wild Child Mild - very flavorsome though a tad warm to really appreciate it at it's best.

John kindly gave me a bottle of it as well so I can try it at my leisure in the next week or so. I look forward to that.

I also try a half of Big John Anderson's elderflow ale - very floral and quite refreshing but the big fella suggests it's more of a beer suited to ladies...

A few more beers - nothing especially notable until the final beer of the evening - Brewdog's Tokyo Imperial Stout topping the scales at 12% - very dark, full flavoured and quite overpowering in many ways but quite drinkable if you're only having a half or two.

By now I was starving and we headed off to the Garden of India where we met various others including fellow fans Mark, Doug and Pete. The food here is OK but nothing to write home about - a bit too fancy for my simple tastes. The free mango lassi at the end was most enjoyable.

More notable than the food was was when one of our party - who shall remain nameless - got locked in the toilets and had to ring one of the diners for help. And this was before we'd even eaten - just how sad is that?

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Rhythm 'n' Brews Beer Festival

A reminder that the coming weekend will see various DAFTS in town for the Rhythm 'n' Brews Beer Festival at the Arts Centre.

We'll be there for the Friday night session - hopefully we'll meet up with John who will have a mild on offer for tasting.

Be aware that unlike the Spring Thing festival, the Friday night session is not free - £5 entry with £1 off if you're a CAMRA type.

DAFTS will also be there for the Saturday lunchtime session where hopefully the musical entertainment won't spoil our enjoyment too much.

Weather permitting, it looks Steve and I will be taking to the skies with Meynell Air on Saturday morning so don't be surprised if we're a bit green when we get to the Arts Centre...

(above) Captain Meynell sets the controls....

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Hoopers mini-fest

Liz and I spent a very pleasant afternoon at Hoopers bar sampling the back end of their mini-beer festival in the company of John and Bev.

There were three beers still left from the festival menu - Vale Gravitas from the delightfully named Brill in Bucks plus a couple of brews from the Otley Brewery - 01 and Ogarden. A fourth pump had Harvey's Armada.

(above) Hoopers - picture taken last year before new comfy furniture installed!

I plumped initially for the 01 - quite pleasant but nothing outstanding - I much preferred the taste of the Ogarden and remained on that for the rest of the afternoon. Meanwhile John and Bev were more adventurous and tried the lot. Liz of course didn't try any...

The bar was formerly a pub called the Ivanhoe - a Barclay Perkins house - and was apparently a bit of a dive but landlord Jamie and his partner have worked very hard to make this pub a really pleasant place to visit - although they advertised sport on the TV for the afternoon, they didn't put it on since no one appeared to want to see it. Which was nice.

We had the sunday roast - very tasty - a bit more veg would have been nice and for a Tyke like myself, the Yorkshire pudding was a bit titchy.

On our previous visits to Hoopers - mainly afternoons - the place has never been packed which is a shame as pubs like this deserve to be supported.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Birthday Beers @ Hoopers

Sunday 14th September sees me celebrating yet another year on this planet.

A few of us will be popping down to south-east London to celebrate the day at a Best of British beer festival at Hoopers in East Dulwich.

The theme of the festival is based on winning beers from the 2008 GBBF & SIBA competitions.

We've been to Hoopers before and it's a lovely little boozer, nicely renovated, and there is also the promise of a Sunday roast.

Beers on offer are to include the following:

Rudgate Ruby Mild (4.4%)
Triple fff Alton’s Pride (3.8%)
Surrey Hills Ranmore Ale (3.8%)
Poachers Shy Talk (3.7%)
Skinner’s Betty Stogs (4.0%)
Cairngorm Trade Winds (4.3%)
Otley O2 (4.2%)
Surrey Hills Shere Drop (4.2%)
Vale Gravitas (4.8%)
Thornbridge Jaipur IPA (5.8%)
Otley O1 (4.0%)
Otley Ogarden (4.8%)

plus a few bottle conditioned beers:

Fullers 1845 (6.3%)
Wells & Young Special London Ale ( 6.4%)
Westerham Wm Wilberforce Ale (4.8%)

Doors open at noon (despite the opening times on the website) so see you there...

Monday, 8 September 2008

Aldershot #3 - Less Palatable Fayre

I had a vague recollection of our last visit to the Recreation Ground in March 1991 - a re-arranged fixture after a Boxing Day cancellation - when we won 3-1 with goals from Gray (2) and Borthwick.

I do like this ground - it's just a few minutes walk from the railway station and although it only has three sides, there was a good atmosphere with both home and away fans standing in the East Bank.

It was also quite pleasant being able to stand on a small terrace between the away stand and the away seats in the South Stand - all very civilised and a reminder of just how regimented we are in new stadia.

It reminded me of Feethams in many ways...the only downside is the lack of decent pubs (by DAFTS standards) in the vicinity.

And it's just as well the ground had some features of interest because the football certainly left a lot to be desired. It only took a few minutes for last week's result to be forgotten as we defended poorly and conceded an early goal. In fact we were lucky to concede just the two goals in the first-half which saw us under pressure for the first 30 mins.

Thankfully a Hulbert goal on the stroke of half-time was just what we needed and gave us some hope.

The second-half saw a vastly improved performance from the Quakers as we pushed the Shots back in their own half for most of the half. Unfortunately our finishing was wayward - so much for Penney's encouragement for the players to shoot more often.

There was a lot of huffing and puffing but we ran finally out of time and it was a more reflective set of Darlo fans wending their way home this weekend...

Not quite so happy this week

Aldershot #2 - The Liquid Lunch

We caught the 10:53 to Aldershot and bar a fleeting chat with John Hopps in his smart new Lichtenstein shirt on his way to find other Loidlanders on the train, we arrived without incident and on time just before noon.

At Aldershot station we met John Grey and Rich Parker who'd managed to get down to London before the torrential rain in the north had disrupted train services between Darlo and York. Seemingly some people took over three hours to travel to York from Darlo and services back north had been suspended.

As we walked from the station to the recommended pub, the rain started to get heavier and so we were rather damp by the time we reached the White Lion.

The pub is owned by the Triple fff brewery in nearby Alton and had four of their brews on offer (after some changing of barrels - very busy the night before apparently). Normally there are a couple of guests as well but according to our friendly local, the pumps were US.

I went for a pint of Pressed Rat whilst the others all had Alton's Pride. My pint turned out to be the last of that barrel but was fine - a very nice mild with plenty of flavour.

The concensus on the Alton's Pride was that it was OK but no great shakes - we're not sure how it got to be Champion Beer of 2008 but it's preferable to GK IPA.

I moved onto the Moondance - a fresh barrel - and this was the best pint of the day despite having a slight haze - similar to the Alton but hoppier and with a nice bitter edge. I stuck with it for the rest of the session.

The pub started to get a bit busier - as happens to league new boys (or returnees in this case), a few folk had come along to tick off Aldershot for their 92 league grounds. This included Ginge Stimson - a Colchester fan with two of his friends plus a couple of Wolves fans who were combining football and real ale to good effect.

Local DAFTS Paul Brown and Iain Swalwell dropped in too - they'd brought along their Fijian friend who was wondering why they'd brought him out in this awful weather.

All too soon it was time to leave the comfort of the pub and head onto the Recreation Ground. At least it has stopped raining...

Aldershot #1 - The Breakfast

A game in the south of England allows a more leisurely start to the travelling and so it was actually daylight when I left home to meet John and Bev (Wilson) at Waterloo station at 9:45am.

The idea was to allow us time to have breakfast at Maries Cafe on Lower Marsh, less than five minutes walk from platform 1 but overlooked by most people who use the station.

It was to be an extra- special treat for Beverley as it was their wedding anniversary - John is such a old romantic.

Trevor Rutter - down for the weekend with his wife - also joined us at Waterloo sans wife but he'd already been fed and watered.

John and I had been to Maries (who seem to have lost her apostrophe somewhere along the line) several times in the past year or two - most notably with Tony Waters before our win last season against Brentford. Hopefully an omen for our game today...

There is a multi-page menu available to list the various meals on offer - Thai food in addition to the normal breakfast fare.

However we opted for the simple menu which listed seven Speacial choices. Being a creature of habit it didn't take me long to decide to stick to my usual No. 7 and a portion of chips (and a nice strong cup of tea!).

The service here is fast and very friendly - the food is well cooked and decent quality - a great start to the day.

For those with time on their hands before catching a train, the cafe is opposite the Ian Allan Transport Book and Model shop which is one of those shops you feel a bit nerdy going into but which has a wonderful array of transport books, videos, models and such like.

I'll admit it now that I'm interested in railways - almost inevitable after growing up about 10 yards from a railway line back in the days of steam but I don't collect numbers - OK? The fact that I bought myself a book of Track Diagrams on my last visit is neither here nor there so please let's not mention that again...

Monday, 1 September 2008

A Not-So-Boring 90 Minutes

Traditionally our games at Moss Rose have been underwhelming to say the very least - we've had the odd win but overall the level of football has left a lot to be desired. The only thing of note in recent years was the fact that Craig Russell actually scored here.

Tony and Brian are well aware of this trend and considered staying in the pub with Lance and Ray before their basic sado-masochistic instinct kicked in and they came along with us.

But what an absolutely cracker of a game! Oh, we of little faith!!

It wasn't long before Darlo started passing the ball round smartly - the latest loan signing Liam Hatch fitting in very quickly with the rest of the team and looking to be an aerial threat up front.

A good move lead to Billy Clarke's opening goal about half-way through the first half - a deserved lead. Macc huffed and puffed a bit up front but keeper Brown now seems to have developed a good understanding with his defence and looked quite comfortable.

The second half saw a burst of action that saw us go to a 5-0 lead in the space of 15 mins - the pick of the goals were the long-range efforts from Clarke and Neil Austin.

Neil Austin celebrates his goal

And Greg Blundell almost claimed a seventh goal but the Macc keeper Brain saved smartly.

At the final whistle the team didn't have too long to celebrate with the fans before Dave Penney gave them a team talk on the pitch - no doubt trying to keep their feet on the ground and remind them that we want this sort of performace every week.

(Right) Chris and Martin get over-excited at the final whistle.

And so we all made out separate ways home with that little warm glow inside.

We were blessed with a good journey back to London with Martin dropping Chris and I off at Acton Town tube.

A shame that my Oystercard was split and wouldn't work but that's a small blip on a very enjoyable away day - it'll be hard to beat...

Watering Hole

After trekking across town to meet Martin at Terminal 4 at 8am, the roads north were clear all the way and we pulled into Macclesfield station car-park at 10:40am. Good going, Mr Deans!

We had a quick wander to the local pie shop to get something for half-time - well, to call the Cheshire Gap a pie shop is doing the place an injustice as it has a plethora of pastry commestibles. Hard to resist for someone like me but resist I did - just a meat and potato pie on this occasion.

By now it's almost 11am so time to stand outside the Waters Green Tavern looking thirsty and waiting for the doors to open - however landlady Tracey was standing on the door in expectant mood - her favourite gang of fans are back in town.
To the untrained eye, the exterior of the pub would suggest you'd be wise to walk on by and try your luck elsewhere. However, I've known the Waters Green for many years whilst spending time in Macc working at the local beer festival.

So when DAFTS needed a recommendation for our games at Moss Rose, it was an obvious choice as it ticks all the necessary boxes - only two minutes walk from the station, friendly locals, several real ales on tap and tasty pub grub. And they tolerate Lance....

And like a bad penny, Lance turns up shortly after opening with Ray Waters on a rare outing from Beverley. Soon after myriad other DAFTS join us and it's business as usual.

Following several years of excellent lunchtimes in there, the DAFTS team decided that the Waters Green was the deserving receipient of the DAFTS Pub of the Year for the 2007-08 season.

Tony and Lance presented the award to Brian and Tracey McDermott. They're no strangers to receiving CAMRA awards over the years but I suspect this is the first one they've got from a bunch of itinerant football fans.

Lance and Tony present Tracey and Brian with DAFTS Pub of the Year award

For the record, previous winners of the award were the Golden Eagle (2005-06) in Lincoln and the Gardeners Arms (2006-07) in Lewes so Brian and Tracey are in very good company.