Tuesday, 23 November 2010
So an alternate plan was hatched a few months ago when I suggested to some of the boozier London Millers that we should have a day out drinking in Sheffield. The Millers would be playing in Crewe but they were happy to miss that and have a whole day boozing instead.
Why Sheffield? Well it has probably the best concentration of good pubs in the whole of the country and is a mecca for tickers and ‘normal’ drinkers alike.
In fact it is known as the Holy City to many devotees. Most of the pubs we were going to be visiting were covered in the recent documentary file, Tickers.
(left) Chris and John on the tram - no beer drunk at this stage hence glum faces
Trev, Brian and I tried a few of these pubs a couple of seasons ago before Darlo played the Millers at the Don Valley stadium and were impressed so it was time that I had another visit, especially since the chance of an FA Cup replay at the DVS had been denied us earlier in the week (when York knocked Rotherham out).
Unfortunately two of the London Millers had to pull out leaving just Chris Turner and me. However it was a case of DAFTS to the rescue when John W was given the nod by Bev to join us – likewise Tony by Lesley – and then local boy Brian made it a quintet.
Chris, John and I met in the Station Sandwich Bar near King’s Cross – a new cafe for us which was recommended by Tony – and very good it was too. I’ll be back for more.
We took the East Coast line to Doncaster and changed for the local service to Sheffield, complete with masses of shoppers on their way to Meadowhall. On the way we also passed Millmoor, former home of Rotherham, and I was duty bound to flick Vs at former chairman Booth’s scrap yard in solidarity with the Millers.
From Sheffield station it was a short tram ride to the first pub, the Hillsborough Hotel. Tony had arrived earlier and gone breakfasting with Brian but this place did not open until noon so they’d gone on elsewhere.
The Hillsborough is a nice, clean pub with a great selection of beers, mainly from its own Crown Brewery, so we gave most of them a try.
All were very good especially the Hillsborough Pale Ale and the Benny Goodman. They also had Cascade IPA from the fairly new Hardknott brewery which was excellent and in brilliant condition, almost sparkling.
As it name suggests this place is a hotel and it strikes me as a great place to stay. Andy, who was supposed to be with us, stayed there recently and highly recommends it (especially the chips - so sophisticated is our Andy!).
From here we moved on to the Gardeners Rest which was a ten minute walk away via the glamorous Neepsend Road where Brian and Tony were waiting for us.
A lot of the house beers on offer were from the Sheffield Brewery such as Crucible Best, Five Rise, Sheffield Porter and an IPA. We tried a few of these but I have to say that I wasn’t overly impressed with any of them, seeming to have a home-brew type taste.
Good snacks available though – bombay mix for most of us whilst Tony reverted to his childhood days and had a Tunnocks snowball instead. The pub seems to be quite the community pub with one wall taken up with entries to their annual photographic competition.
Unfortunately Brian had been hogging the conversation whilst we were here – nothing new so far - so much so that he still had a pint when the rest of us were ready to move on. With all the respect due to the elderly we left him behind and headed to the Harlequin walking past the Riverside which is supposed to be a good pub but we had to move on.
The Harlequin is a real tickers pub though it seemed fairly quiet when we got there – we only stayed for a pint (or a couple of halves) before moving on to the Wellington (Bottom Wellie in local parlance) as this is nice and close to the Shalesmoor tram stop.
Tony had been getting tweets from Craig Stoddart for the past hour or more so we were well aware of the Darlo line-up at Wrexham – this saw Main replacing Jefferson Louis and Senior dropped to the bench with starts for new boys Gillespie and Varna.
It didn’t fill me with confidence and we were soon behind. However spirits were raised in the second half when we heard that Hatch had equalised.
Brian had beaten us to the Wellie having bypassed the Harlequin – I was pleased to see they had a Steel City Brewing beer on as I certainly like the attitude of the two brewers behind it – they like hops and like to use them in their beers and whilst they give a nod to the US hoppy beers, they’re less extreme which makes them more drinkable. Their beer today was the Červený Bez which was a variant of one I had at the Nottingham beer festival a few weeks ago.
It was whilst drinking this that the news came through that Darlo were up to their old tricks and had conceded a goal in added time and had lost the game. Doubly glad I didn’t go now.
We then caught the tram down to the station so we could try out the Sheffield Tap. This is a the big brother of the recently opened Euston Tap and which is situated next to the station. Just had a couple of halves here – both in excellent condition. I also bumped into one of my Macclesfield CAMRA chums, Rob, who was making a passing visit to the Tap himself.
But it was soon time to get the train back to Donny – standing room all the way as it was packed with returning shoppers – and then get the train to KX.
I slept most of the way and was nice and refreshed (well nearly) by the time we got back to London. However neither John or Chris fancied a trip to the Euston Tap, probably a wise decision, and I traipsed off home via the curry house.
A great day out with a lot of excellent pubs and beers - there were plenty more pubs in Sheffield that we could have tried but just didn't have the time. You really need a weekend to do them all justice so maybe that is a plan to develop for next year...
Monday, 15 November 2010
After a nice breakfast at Da Vinci, we had a decent journey north - Howard and I chatting as Martin trawls through his pile of papers to work out his pool selections (but as ever, no winners today. As ever.).
After leaving Martin at Bank Top, we wander to the Quaker to find Waters pere et fils are already in attendance. And both are well dressed by normal match-day standards as Tony has a box for today's game against table-topping Crawley.
Both of us paid £20 at the start of the season to enter the season ticket holders draw to win a box for a game and during last week’s game against Tamworth, Tony was announced as the latest winner. A pretty good idea by the club and fingers crossed I'll also be a winner before the end of the season.
(left) You've got to hand it to Tony and Howard...
Crawley then had a goal disallowed as striker Brodie was off-side but it wasn't long after that until they equalised - Hatch had an odd-lapse allowing Brodie to shot. Russell saved but could only parry it to Neilson who couldn't miss with a simple tap-in.
From my view it looked as if Brodie was looking to be clipped as far too many strikers do - I also thought he had a bloody cheek to hound Brown as he traipsed off. Truly playing in the spirit of his manager.
The decision certainly got the home crowd riled and when the ref wasn't on the end of their venom, Evans was. A true pantomime villain but sadly not funny.
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
However as we'd been drawn against League One opponents in the form of Bristol Rovers this meant we'd have a chance to meet up with our old chum Stedders - who was responsible for the short-lived Football and Real Ale guides - and so I decided to travel north.
Stedders himself had gone up early to Darlo on Friday to settle in and judging from his tweets that night, he was having a good old time familiarising himself with Darlo's beer haunts (all in the aid of research of course).
(left) Stedders and the gang outside N22
As I arrived at the Quaker just after opening time on Saturday, he was already there - well, outside having a fag actually. Nice to see he is still ignoring what his doctor says.
The selection on offer at the bar was leaning heavily to the dark persuasion with five porter-stouts on offer. In all there was Hawkshead Brodie's Prime, Hammerpot White Wing, Wychwood Bountiful, Salopian Darwin's Origin, Jarrow Irish Stout, North Yorkshire Yorkshire Porter, Saltaire Cascadian Black and Marston Moor Wildboar Stout.
A newly clean-shaven Tony wasn't far behind me sporting a new set of specs which make him look like a cross between Wilfred Bramble and an elderly Kray Brother (though I didn't mention that at the time). Next up was John W - who'd kindly got some pies for Martin and I - and then Brian also rolled up to complete today's DAFTS contingent.
Later on in Number Twenty-2 we met some of Stedder's fellow Gasheads - not quite as many as when they last played us but then most had come north just a week or so earlier for their recent game at Hartlepool.
A decent array of guest beers here too today: Brentwood Devil's Dyke, Everards Tiger, Great Heck Bitter, Mithrill Fire Cracker, Titanic Anchor Bitter, Timothy Taylor Best and Wensleydale Black Dub Stout.
Down at the ground I made my way to reception with Echo photographer, Chris Booth. A new ticketing system was in place today which meant we both had to go back to the ticket office for our press tickets.
When we got there we found that what we thought there had been issues with the ticketing system and that there'd been delays for many people and some, so we were told, had left in disgust.
When we finally got in the crowd looked very sparse and so it was to prove - just over 1600 with maybe 150 from Bristol - but by the end of the game the home fans were rocking.
Like the previous week against AFC Wimbledon, Darlo took a relatively early lead - Chris Moore crossed to Bridge-Wilkinson whose effort was cleared but only to Michael Brough who hit it home from the edge of the box.
It was to be an extremely short-lived lead though as the ref gave a foul against Liam Hatch for his tackle on former Miller Will Hoskins. I didn't think it was an offence but if it was it was clearly in the box.
The ref however had other ideas - as he continued to do for the rest of the game - and awarded a free-kick just outside the box. Hoskins took it and whipped the ball around the wall giving Russell no chance.
Hoksins had been Rover's main threat but he retired injured after half-an-hour after being hurt in a seemingly innocuous tackle with Brough.
Just before the break, assistant Richard Dryden was sent to the stand after angrily booting the ball after the ref and the linesman gave a throw-in to Rovers despite their man touching being the last to touch the ball.
Such poor decision making extended into the second half and helped galvanise the home fans in their vocal support of the team.
Chances were few and far between as both sides matched each other but Gary Smith was to give Darlo the advantage once more with a simple tap-in after a defender's attempted clearance came back off the Rovers post only to find Smith handily placed.
Russell had only one real save of note to make later in the half but for the majority of the time the Darlo defence kept Rovers at arms length and went on to reach the second round.
(left) Ian Miller with his proto-tache for Movember
As we had bought our tickets late, we opted for a cheaper but later return train which gave us the chance for post-match celebratory beers.
John and I walked back into town - we took a different route to normal walking west of the railway close to South Park. The firework display was being prepared and so it was fairly busy with people trying to find somewhere to park.
By the time John and I go to the Quaker, we found Tony, Brian and Martin were already having a beer so it seems that my suggested shorter route didn't really work. We won't make that mistake again.
We didn't get back into London until after 10pm but I made time for a last pint at the newly opened Euston Tap. This is a new bar inside one of the gatehouses outside Euston station.
London Miller Chris Turner was waiting for me as he'd eschewed Rotherham's cup game for a day out drinking in sunny Wainfleet.
There is an upstairs area which is reached by a twisted staircase - the one and only toilet is upstairs too so not wheelchair friendly but I guess that the building is listed and cannot be altered.
The beer was in good nick and not overly expensive so I dare say this may become a regular post-match venue. Give it a go if you're in the area.
Stedders now has an online version of the Football and Real Guides and is looking to produce a book version in the near future. We'll let you know if he does...
Monday, 1 November 2010
Our journey to south-west London allowed us to make one of our infrequent but very welcome visits to Maries which is just a short walk from Waterloo station.
John Wilson was already well through his breakfast when we arrived - no need to spend time perusing the menu here as I always head straight for the Number 7 (with a side order of chips). Tony is happy to follow my example.
From Waterloo we take the overground to Norbiton and from there it is only a ten-minute walk to the Willoughby Arms, the pub of choice for today, so that we arrive at 11am.
The pub actually opened at 10:30am which is extremely laudable and we're welcomed by one of the AFC Wimbledon fans already ensconced at the bar.
Cue the usual confused looks when he finds out that only one of us has actually made the journey all the way from Darlo.Today the pub has a Halloween beer festival on - all the beers are sat out on stillage in the back yard and you order your beer from a till by the back door instead of at the bar which confuses us to begin with.
They have a good selection on offer - those that I get to try include Hophead and American IPA from Dark Star, Hepworth Iron Horse, Twickenham Strange Brew (which was but not in a totally nice way!), Isle of Purbeck IPA and Orchard Pig Medium Cider.Mr Wilson tried out some of the stouts and porters on offer - Two Bridges Ink Pen Mild and Hammerpot Bottle Wreck Porter were both nice, less so was the Ha'Penny Spring-Heeled Jack London Porter. Unfortunately due to getting up too late and then train problems, Bev never got to try them.
(left) The Willoughby Arms
Various other DAFTS arrived as the session progresses - Steve is not far behind us but John B, Rod and then Brian are all delayed by problems on the line. Looks like we got here just in time. And then Iain arrived with a number of his chums, all of whom had come to see us before (and who still come again - they must enjoy the beer).
I seem to remember Gregor Rioch, son of Bruce, was trying out for us that weekend but thankfully we never took him on. Very agricultural as I seem to recall.
I make my way into the ground, collecting my press pass and hi-vis tabard, and head off to join the Darlo faithful who have been given one corner of the ground. It looks to be a good turnout.
(right) Mark Bridge-Wilkinson makes it two-nil
Wimbledon came into the game more as the half progressed - when the defence passed the ball out to the forward line, Louis was poor at retaining possession or offered little when competing for headers . On the touchline, manager Cooper was constantly directing him but to little effect.
The 346 away fans (plus me) thoroughly enjoyed their day out and it was a merry throng that took the train back to Vauxhall (or Waterloo in Brian's case as he'd fallen asleep on the train).