No Bloody Swearing!

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When I started seeing references to Sam Smith’s latest edict on Twitter, I thought it was some sort of a wind up. We’ve had ‘No Swearing Gentlemen Please’ signs in the lounge side of my own Sam’s local for a while. Something I respect. Industrial clothing and language should always remain strictly within the tap room, in my opinion.

I started to realise this wasn’t a wind up when images of the ‘No Swearing Policy’ notices started appearing from people I knew and respected elsewhere, generating a flurry of blog posts and reports on the subject. So, what do I think?

Well, if it were my idea, in my pubs, I wouldn’t be relying on a blu tacked, drawing pinned, sellotaped bunting of photostatted and home printed notices to get the message across. Surely a significant independent player can afford the printing costs for some quality notices, frame them and affix them in strategic places; by Order of the Brewery. The feeling of a bit of authority and non negotiable brewery policy underpinning everything and providing the managers with an bit of official clout? As one local wag pronounced: if they can’t be bothered to put up some proper (insert expletive of choice) notices then I can’t be bothered to stop (insert expletive of choice) swearing!

Do I agree with it? Before I answer that I need to know whether the pub has a tap room or not. My idea of a tap room is a place for all people, a no nonsense, have a bit of a laugh, join in the banter or sit quietly, pop in after work in your muck, industrial language permitted (within reason; not loud, wanton, aggressive or intimidating), pool table, darts (other pub games are allowed), and if you must have one a TV (for sport and events of national importance only; turned off at all other times).

Taking the argument a stage further; if the pub has a tap room then I’m okay with swearing in moderation. I’m as guilty as anyone. In all other areas of a pub then there is absolutely no need for swearing at all. End of discussion here, and I’m fully behind Sam’s on this. I just don’t get the blanket ban across the entire estate, in all rooms. I don’t want to get judgemental, and it takes all types, but trying to enforce a swearing ban in somewhere like the very busy General Elliot or The Duncan in Leeds city centre would be like trying to plait snot. I quite liked the CAMRA stance, reported on in The Morning Advertiser , ‘Pubs should be encouraging good behaviour rather than opting for complete bans on those who swear’. I might go a bit further here myself and say, ensuring good behaviour.

I’ve run this through a few times in my own mind, and I don’t think the reasoning behind it will ever be made explicitly clear. On a couple of occasions I’ve tried to elicit comment from the Old Brewery. The press and media person is never at their desk and I think the number they give you to ring back on is just a telephone that rings out in an otherwise empty back room. The Morning Advertiser record that they met a similar fate when trying to elicit a response.

The more I thought about it, the more I kept going back to the debate around the Café bar Vs the British pub. Apologies for returning to my local village Boston Spa, but Sam’s have. If you read  It’s a Sam’s pub Jim, but not as you know it it’s clear the brewery have noticed that in this well heeled village, where two traditional boozers have long since closed, a flurry of Café bars are thriving, then you need to provide something different to what you always have done. To my mind a definite fraction has evolved now between people who will go in a traditional boozer and people who won’t. You can turn this on it’s head as well. Equally there are plenty who will never go into a trendy Café bar and pay over £4 a pint, and who are ecstatically happy in a traditional boozer. Question is, in which establishments would you expect to hear the foul language? Having said that, I must point out that there are many, many traditional pubs where the atmosphere and the behaviour of staff and customers is exemplary, and long may that remain. I think you know which sort of pubs I’m thinking of.

I could be well off the mark here. But, I reckon Samuel Smith’s are looking to gentrify their estate and entice a slightly different clientele into their pubs. I guess only time will tell. Is the swearing ban the logical way to go? Will it work? Probably not in the two Leeds pubs I mentioned earlier.

This is definitely one to watch with interest. I suspect, like me, there may be others out there who are hearing all sorts of things coming out of Tadcaster at the minute and wondering if there may be a changing of the guard going on at Yorkshire’s oldest brewery? Only thing is, in Sam’s inimitable style, the new guard might be coming out with their caps on back to front and their rifles pointing the wrong way?

Major Tom’s Social, Harrogate

Major Tom's

It’s taken me quite a long time to get around to visiting Major Tom’s Social in Harrogate. Probably because I’m a tight git and dislike paying the £7.50 return bus fare into Harrogate when it’s only £4.20 into Leeds and back for the equidistant trip; though I’m past one hundred thousand miles on the Harrogate to Leeds 770/771 bus now.

I’m stepping through the door and I’m thinking, why haven’t I been here before? And there’s nothing I can do, except walk up to the bar and speak to this guy called Josh Molloy, the manager. I ask him if he’s Major Tom, but he says not. He just runs the place and looks after the beer side of things, his girlfriend does all the foody stuff, stone baked pizzas and that. Apparently Major Tom is two guys from Leeds, independent operators, but I’m not so sure? I think I’ve already seen him, a familiar space face, lurking at the back of the quite large open room?

Major Tom's door

For Harrogate, this bar looks very different. Today, I could be in Leeds instead of the well heeled Spa town? In a most peculiar way, it’s almost like the excellent Record Café in Bradford. Maybe it’s because there’s a vinyl dealer adjacent to the bar room? Thing is, it’s much wackier, more outrageous and funkier than any place in Leeds or Bradford; it manages to achieve a sort of friendly homeliness which places like Belgrave Music Hall probably set out to achieve, but apart from the roof, don’t quite arrive at.

There seems to be a contest going on with the quality Vintage shop downstairs to see who’s got the biggest collection of Scheurich vases; Fat Lava to you. Major Tom outdoes them with the number and quality of retro film posters around the walls though. All different but matching, which is something that can’t be said for the rest of the weird, wacky and wonderful decor. The clientele sort of matched the surroundings, but no one conformed. Some of them had really made an effort. He said, he wanted to know whose shirts I wore, but really I think he was envious; my cap was a pukka Harris Tweed one and I think it blew his mind!

Major Tom's couple

Examining the cask beer list, I really fancied some Moor Beer Hoppiness, but the circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong. What do you mean it’s gone! Instead we shared Major Tom’s house beer by Roosters and Wild Beer Millionaire. I reckon the Roosters was probably Highway 51, but with more and bigger handfuls of hops thrown in at the dry hopping stage? At a very reasonable £3 a pint it was one of the best glasses of Roosters I’ve had in a long time. Millionaire was a little more expensive at £4.20; tell Wild Beer I love her very much, she knows! If I hadn’t been doing a bit of a tour I would have stayed and sampled the Pilot Deeps and the Moor Beer Imperial Entaglement, but with both around the 9% mark discretion became the better part of valour.

Major Tom's tap list

There’s some good traditional boozers and several outstanding, more modern, purveyors of good beer in Harrogate now, but to my mind, even though Major Tom’s Social won’t be to everyone’s taste, it out shades the others in terms of range and quality. Not a vast range, but you don’t need it when you’ve got quality options like they have here. Now I’ve finally been to see Major Tom, Harrogate looks very different today. Shame the GBG2017 only acknowledges the four cask ales and none of the exceptional keg lines!

Major Tom's Spaceman

Eventually I plucked up the courage to go over and talk to him. I told him to take his protein pills, but I couldn’t make much sense of him because he’d already put his helmet on. Can you hear me, Major Tom? No … ! I was sure he was out there … somewhere?

Verdict: Major Tom, you’ve really made the grade.

 

It’s a Sam’s pub Jim, but not as we know it! – The Admiral Hawke, Boston Spa.

Addy sign

Sam Smith’s might take a while between renovations of their pubs, but when they do it, they do it right! No one can deny the fit outs, usually completed by Worrall’s of Keighley, are of a very high quality, so I was really interested to pop into a local Sam’s house that closed for a full refurbishment in January 2017.

If I said I was surprised by what they had done with The Admiral Hawke, then it would be an understatement. I was literally shocked, so much so, I thought the old ticker was going to cut out again!

Addy

Previously the Addy had been a typical Sam’s pub, one with quite a bit of character as well. It’s always had a steady tap room trade, and back when managers could cook their own food it did some decent meals, even having a belting Thai evening once a week. I guess that would be a ‘Pop up’ kitchen these days, but before the Millennium nobody realised it, we just thought it was Keng, one of the regulars, renting the kitchen out and wokking his magic. Top drawer food, and hard to beat at pool as well.

Some folk might think it’s a travesty that the pool table has been removed. In fact the tap room isn’t a tap room anymore, it’s a … ? Well, it’s … all gone upmarket. Nay! Trendy in fact. At least for a Sam’s pub. Humphrey must be spinning in his grave? He surely must be dead if someone’s managed to get away with making a Sam’s pub look like a well heeled gastro pub sort of place, because that’s what they’ve done with the Addy.

Fair enough, there’s open fires everywhere, and a lot of the original architectural features have been retained, and improved upon; original parquet flooring, chequered tiling in the hall, they’ve even found, and made a feature out of a well in the back yard, sorry terrace.

Word on the High Street is, the tap room trade has migrated to the nearby (250 yds) Fox and Hounds, another decent Sam’s pub. I guess the question is, will they go back after the alterations? Will they want to go back? There’s no Sovereign Bitter on, or Double Four, nor any of the cheaper/weaker 2.8% beers, is that intentional, one may ask?

When I’ve visited, on two separate occasions, the hand pulled OBB was absolutely spot on. As well as Taddy Lager and Pure Brew on tap, it was nice to see the Pale Ale on draught and the (not usually seen in these parts) Wheat Beer, plus what looked like an, almost, full house of the bottled range. I’ve always been perplexed as to why more Sam’s pubs don’t carry more of the excellent bottled beers? I’m quite partial to the Oatmeal Stout. Apart from one or two places round here, you’ve a better chance going to New York to drink it than finding it in the breweries own pubs.

Addy bottle

I mentioned from the outset that the Addy was surprising. This theme continues with the food side of things. They’ve been allowed to cook food on the premises, instead of just warming up, the Smith family owned, Sarah Brownridge ‘ping’ meals. I know quite a few pubs are allowed to prepare their own Sunday lunches (to brewery approved standards and suppliers, of course) but, here they are preparing home cooked food on the premises on a daily basis from a decent ‘pub grub’ menu. Two of us had Steak pie and a Chicken Fillet burger, complete with accompaniments; veg and gravy, salad, etc. The burger coming in a proper brioche bun and the chips in natty little tin buckets. For around fourteen quid for both, we declared it a resounding success and put it on the ‘will definitely go again’ list. I know a lot of people flock to a new pub, but selling out on the first and second Sunday lunch sessions is pretty impressive, and an indicator of the potential.

Addy beer garden

I had a chat with the new Landlady, Jackie. She does front of house while her husband Chris is the chef. They’ve a strong CV in pubs and catering going back over ten years. Previously they were responsible for the catering  operation at Bridlington Golf Club and, before that, ran the St Quintin Arms at Harpham, near Burton Agnes. You could tell they were nice folk, who were enthusiastic about their new role and wanted everything to be spot on. The table service, from a smartly dressed young waiter, was exemplary, and as seasoned ‘stand up’ drinkers, I liked the fact we weren’t shown to our properly laid table until the meal was about to be served.

I usually make comment about an establishment’s toilet facilities, something probably not needed after a total renovation? They were absolutely spot on of course, and we were allowed to examine the Ladies! But, I have to mention the Sam Smith’s wall paper in the gents. If you’ve previously encountered this wonderful printed collage of all the bottle labels emanating from The Old Brewery at Tadcaster then I apologise. Though, I do believe it would be ideal for a feature wall in a gentlemanly study, or some other class of man cave; I definitely want some. See how many different labels can you count? Having said all this, coming from a commentator residing within four miles, or so, of Tadcaster, if people have seen it elsewhere, then it says so much about the brewery’s attitude to it’s own backyard.

Addy wallpaper

So, is this the way forward for Sam’s? Rumour has it that Sam(uel) Smith (Humphrey Jnr) has taken personal charge of this project, which is the first of it’s type North of the Trent (Unless someone can tell me otherwise? I would be genuinely interested to know.). It certainly bears no resemblance to any previous incarnations of the brewery’s branding in these parts. If asked, I would say that this is all very nice, but I don’t think it will fit across the entire estate, and certainly not in places like Stockport. Looking at Boston Spa (someone at the brewery obviously has) and the very busy, café bar style premises in the village, then somewhere like this, providing decent food, at a very competitive price, in pleasant surroundings, will be a winner.

Downside? They’ve removed the Pike! If anyone at the brewery is reading, that antique stuffed Pike is part of the fabric of Boston Spa, and I will readily pay a good market price to have it hanging in my own hall way. Please DM me on Twitter.

Verdict; As far as the Yorkshire region, and probably most other areas outside the metropolis, goes, a definite change from Sam’s, philanthropic, outlook of almost propping up steady traditional pubs, and a move into almost aggressive branding (for Sam’s anyway). Mind you, there’s still no branding outside, beyond a nice painting of the old Admiral.

N.B. Edward Lord Hawke, Admiral of The Fleet (1705 – 1781), so far as I can ascertain, has no direct connection with Boston Spa, even though the Wharfe (where said Pike was caught!) is navigable as far as Tadcaster, I doubt whether he ever managed to sail all the way up into the Lower Wharfe Valley? However, his peerage was styled as, Baron Hawke of Towton, of Scarthingwell Hall. Historic locations about five or six miles away, which probably explains the connection? He certainly wasn’t popular enough to warrant the naming of boat loads of boozers after him, like Lord Nelson. He may of course have been a contemporary, and neighbour, of the original Samuel Smith? Makes you wonder.

P.S. Humphrey Smith is not, and I sincerely hope not, dead. The reference to his demise, above, is entirely fictitious and intended to function as a literary device suggesting a certain degree of cynicism towards the said gentleman, and portrayal of a little humour. The writer bears no ill will towards Mr Smith and his brewery, even though they frequently tend towards esotericism.

P.P.S. I do not believe the cliffs, in the painting of Admiral Hawke on the pub sign, are the local beauty spot, Jackdaw Crag; although the stunning 150 + foot limestone cliffs aside the splendid Wharfe are sufficiently grand enough. Wide as the Wharfe is, for reasons relating to the navigable features of the river at these longtitudes, outlined ante, I believe the presence of two sailing ships in the background rules out Boston Nick as the paintings setting.

P.P.P.S. This article is written from the perspective of a person living in relative close proximity to Sam Smiths Brewery and HQ. There may be other pubs that break their traditional mould, elsewhere? If this is the case, then please post below as I may have pretensions of becoming a National Sam Smith’s expert ??

 

Bye Bye Pudsey … Hello Leeds! – Leeds Beer Fest 2017

Pudsey Beer Fest

Saturday saw the end of an era, when Leeds CAMRA held their last ever Leeds Beer Festival at Pudsey Civic Hall after twenty four years at the venue. Those stalwarts who have attended every single one of these need not worry though! It isn’t the end of the festival and it’s planned to hold the 2018 event at Leeds Beckett University Students Union City Campus. For those of you not familiar with Leeds Beckett Uni, it’s been variously known as Leeds Carnegie, Leeds Metropolitan University or Leeds Poly; depending on how old you are. It’s also a cracking venue, well suited to a beer festival, and within walking distance, or short taxi/bus ride, from the train, bus, and coach stations.

Pudsey civic

Although the move is enforced; Leeds City Council are permanently hosting a youth musical programme at the venue, which for various reasons means the halls will be no longer suitable, or available. Personally, I welcome this move. Leeds Beer Festival should be in Leeds, not in the suburbs, three quarters of the way to Bradford. I mean if you went to Sheffield Beer Festival you wouldn’t want to arrive in the city centre only to catch a second bus/train to the venue in Rotherham would you? I wouldn’t anyway. I did speak to quite a few people at the festival who were disgruntled about this move away from Pudsey. Some perceptive questioning soon got to the bottom of this: So where do you live then? Pudsey!

I reckon if you’re only going to go to a festival when it’s convenient to walk to it, then it’s a poor do. If Septuagenarian male bag lady impersonators from London can mange to do it in a day, then anyone can. Someone did ask me why a lot of the older guys were sporting retro style shoulder bags or backpacks? Well the answer is, many of then have travelled a long way to get here, mostly on public transport, and an anorak, drink, snack reading material and sundry items, are very useful on this type of journey. To all those who ventured from afar, I salute your dedication.

As well as the hardened beer tickers and festival stalwarts, there was a surprising number of younger folk there on both Friday and Saturday, of both sexes, and I know a fair number of punters signed up for CAMRA membership, which is encouraging.

Also encouraging was the speed at which the keg beers disappeared. You really had to be there on Thursday or Friday to get the best of the fourteen different keg beers. Everything had gone by Saturday afternoon, despite the number of beers on offer being doubled from 2016. Any Keg naysayers need to wake up and smell the coffee. Quality ‘real’ keg ale is here, and it’s here to stay, and a lot of people obviously like it. Can you compare it with cask ale? Before you answer that, answer this one – can you compare a traditional English Best Bitter with a German Rauchbier, or a Northern French Farmhouse Saison, or even one of the many Pilsner style beers that are extremely popular the world over? I’ll let you decide that one for yourself.

Getting back to the festival, I was impressed that eight keg beers carried the ‘Locale’ marque, signifying they were brewed within 10 miles radius of the Leeds Metropolitan area. The one from Brew York must only be just outside qualifying too? Either way, sound evidence of much progressive brewing in and around Leeds. The ‘Locale’ theme was even more evident across the cask range and forty four beers, just under a third of the cask ales available, were ‘Localey’ brewed; overall, a nice showcase of the vibrant Leeds beer scene. The ‘buy five thirds and get one free’ promotion on the Locale beers proved very popular. Business cards advertising the festival, which had been available in pubs across Leeds and in good quantity at the festival, complete with the ‘Locale Trail’ on the reverse, became like Rocking Horse doo doo by Saturday afternoon. N.B. as previously, and successfully, all the glasses were sized at small (one third pint) and large (two thirds pint) measures.

Overall, although I’ve no idea of the facts and figures, this felt like a successful festival with lots of happy punters, many of whom could be seen sporting exotic head gear, courtesy of entertainer Grommet.

Photographic evidence suggests the bands just might not have grabbed everyone’s attention? I enjoyed the easy going Rhythm n Blues covers the band in the photograph played but, it does raise the issue of music at beer festivals? I like music, I like live music even better. You can’t please everyone all of the time though, so give ‘em a choice and have the music in a separate auditorium. Yes, I know, that’s easier said than done at some venues.

Pudsey Band

Anyway, the end of an era at Pudsey Civic Hall, and hopefully the start of something new and exciting in the city centre. I guess time will tell, but I feel very optimistic and even a little excited at the prospect of a new, central, venue.

NB; Although an active member of Leeds CAMRA, these views are entirely my own and are neither sanctioned by, nor intended to represent the branch view, which although progressive, remains diverse and inclusive.

 

 

 

 

Starling Independent Beer and Coffee House, Harrogate

Starlings

I stumbled upon this bar by accident, it never used to be there, and I might have walked right past it if Mrs C hadn’t pointed it out. Usually, I don’t like making my mind up about a new place, especially when it’s only been open for four days. However good you are there’s always teething problems that need sorting out.

My first criticism would be, it’s not apparent this is a bar selling beer. The logo in the window reads ‘Starling Independent Beer and Coffee House’ and my eye was drawn to the visually, to me anyway, more prominent wording saying ‘Coffee House’. Peering through the windows, I could see some hand pulls atop the bar, and it was case of nothing ventured nothing gained, so we walked in for a look see.

I’d never been to Jakes Cafe or The Walrus and Carpenter, which were previous incarnations of the premises on Oxford St, but the first impression is, someone’s put a lot of money in here. The entire fit out, modern, simple, woody, light and airy, is tasteful and of high quality.

The second impression is the word ‘Beer’ on the logo needs to be much bolder to reflect what is on offer inside. Long term, I don’t think there’s a problem here, word of mouth will ensure people soon get to know there are ten keg lines and six cask lines on. Okay, the keg lines include a cider and three decent lagers, and one of the cask lines is Black Sheep Bitter, but the rest of them … pretty cool, I thought.

Starlings barstaff

Joking apart, there’s something for everyone here. The cask lines had a Yorkshire dominated line up, including local brewers Roosters Little Bird, and Harrogate Pinewoods Pale, Voodoo Mild from Great Heck, the Bad Seed Cascade that I went for, plus the offcomed, but usually excellent, Hawkshead Windermere Pale.

The nice lady behind the bar was very careful to draw quite a bit of ale through the line before she served my drink. I was a little perplexed, but she explained they were experiencing a plasticky newness in the beer from where it had been sat in the brand new lines. She offered me the jug and I could just about smell it. This is one of the reasons I like to wait a while until a new place gets going. Having said that, the care and attention shown to this was very reassuring. Not only did the staff know and realise there was a QC issue, they were open about it, going out of their way to resolve it, and making sure I got a nice drink. I rated my cask ale as Good/Very Good.

Cask prices ranged from £3.20 to £4.05 for the Bad Seed beer I had, but there were three beers under £3.40 a pint which I thought was reasonable. However, Mrs C went for broke with the Atom/Northern Alchemy collaboration Kombucha Soured Yuzu & Himalayan Pink Sea Salt Gose at the equivalent of £7.20 a pint. Worth it? For a funky, seasidey ozoney, amongst many other tastes, bit sharp, slightly sour and very different (if you only normally drink Black Sheep!) beer? I’d say it was well worth the experience. The other keg lines were equally interesting, including Black Sheep Pathfinder at £5.30 a pint! They even had my old favourite, Roosters Baby Faced Assassin, priced at 10p short of a sick squid. This may have been responsible pricing for this very easy drinking 6.1% beer as Harrogate can get a bit lairy at weekends. Personally, I thought it was all the money.

Starling bar

As well as the beers, there’s a similar quality focus on the Coffee House side of things. All the beans are from Huddersfield based coffee roasters, Dark Woods, and there was an interesting ‘Coffee of the day’, a theme which presumably changes daily. In terms of food there are fresh pizzas, platters and other light options available. I would have liked to speak to the very helpful and pleasant staff to learn a little bit more, but they were really busy when we popped in on Saturday afternoon, so I didn’t really get chance to chat to them.

If you decide to call in, don’t be put off by the press of people around the bar, there is plenty of seating upstairs; it’s a bit like the Tardis. I really liked the existence of a family friendly room, appropriately and brightly decorated with child specific bits and pieces like toys, smaller chairs and baby seats. If this room isn’t for you then there’s a totally separate, more sombre, grown up room, at the front of the building. Again, just like the beer list, a bit of something for everyone, and they do table service upstairs. The acid test for me here would be how long does it take to get a drink?

Overall, this is an excellent example of a modern Café style bar. It would be though, the man behind it all is Simon Midgley, ex director at Market Town Taverns and Ossett Brewery, two companies who know how to do things properly, and MTT long ago nailed the ‘pub/bar for everyone’ concept to my mind. If you’re wondering why there’s a photo of a flock of swirling starlings stencilled onto the bare brick wall of the bar area, the collective noun is the name of Mr Midgley’s company.

Starlins murmuration

I know a lot of people are precious about the good old fashioned ‘rub a dub’, I include myself here. Thing is, if I were putting my money into the hospitality trade then it would be going into some sort of, nearly a pub, more than a coffee bar, with food, that’s not quite a restaurant, serving quality cask, keg ales and everything else, that has something for everyone, at all times and different times of the day; especially in the middle of Harrogate.

Verdict: Places like this that have just opened up are always busy with nosey folk; they’re compelled just got to go and have a look. Long term, I reckon this venue will continue to thrive and attract all sorts of discerning people, long after the novelty has worn off.

 

 

The Lord Rosebery, Scarbro’

Lord Roseberry

There’s a theme building from the last post. Like I’d never blogged about a Sam Smith’s pub before, I’ve never blogged about a Wetherspoon’s pub neither. Essentially, they’re a bit like chalk and cheese, but having said that both victualers provide a service for the ordinary, everyday, all day type of drinker, price being a important factor here. The other connecting feature is that both this and the last blog are about pubs in Scarbro’, but that’s only because I popped over for a few days recently.

I like ‘spoons, I always have done, it’s nice to go into a pub where there are other people, often not the case these days, especially on a weekday lunch cum afternoon. Yeah, there’s good ‘spoons and bad ones, but most are okay with some better than others, if you see what I mean.

Lord Roseberry sign

When I say, you usually find other people in a ‘spoons, at lunch time, then The Lord Rosebery was no exception. A quick head count revealed there were just short of a hundred folk in at 11.30 on a Friday morning. I bet if you’d rounded up everyone from every other pub in the town at that precise moment it wouldn’t have come to that. Okay, some were drinking tea and coffee, some, like me, were eating breakfast, but some were on their second or third pint.

What I like about a Wetherspoon’s is that it attracts all sorts, all people, from all walks of life, thrown together in a generally rather non judgemental, egalitarian environment: Well heeled Duchesses, chatting, sipping tea, on the next table to an old bewer nursing a large white wine, who’s managed to apply lip stick all round her mouth but missed most of her lips, and neither give a fig. A suit stood at the bar discusses racing form with an old gadgie in a conflicting tie, and grubby stains round his trouser pockets. Meanwhile, in a quieter corner, wife and three kids pour copious quantities of ketchup on their chips , watched on by Brian and Irene, who peer over the tops of newspapers in wonderment at the number of male OAP’s with skin fade undercut Peaky Blinders  hair styles (I kid you not!)

Lord Roseberry stairs

The breakfast, and the food generally, sums up Wetherspoon’s for me. It’s not the best breakfast you’ll ever have, but it’s hearty, and for under four quid you can’t go wrong; the beers very much the same. I didn’t have any beer when I broke my fast, but the previous evening I had a Rudgate Stars and Stripes #16, a decent drink which I gave a 3+ on the NBSS scoring system, £2.60 a pint. It went off at the second time of asking, and it was too busy at the lengthy bar to see what the alternatives might have been, so I had what was directly in front of me, a Deuchars IPA, £2.45 for a pint. I scored it a 4 and I’m thinking, maybe I’ve become a bit of a beer snob? Some of these old mainstream standards are quite good, if they are kept right. Mind you, the majority, I’d say 75%, of pint drinkers were on lager or John Smith’s smooth. The easy going Rudgate Jorvik Blonde, also £2.45 a pint, that Mrs C had, was in good fettle too. Overall, the beer quality backed up the inclusion of the pub in the Good Beer Guide 2017.

Lord Roseberry balcon

The Lord Rosebery is no exception to the Wetherspoon’s quirky buildings theme, in fact it’s worth just wandering into this ex-department store for a stroll around. Prior to it being the Co-op, it was the local Liberal club until around the mid twentieth century, hence the designation, in memoriam of the Prime Minister who originally opened the building in 1895. The iron balustraded gallery is the highlight, although this mezzanine floor which can be accessed directly from the side door or through the main bar and up some stairs, lacks the buzz of the ground floor.

Verdict: Lord Rosebery, a man for all seasons, for lots of reasons, for lots of folk.

 

The Golden Ball, Scarbro’

Golden Ball

I don’t think I’ve blogged about a Sam Smith’s pub before. Not for any particular reason, there’s nothing wrong with their no frills, no nonsense, bargain basement priced, traditional sort of old fashioned boozer approach; my own local is a Smith’s house.

The Golden Ball is an excellent example of a really nice seaside pub, well so long as you turn right at the bottom of the steps into the ‘grown up’ part. There are three drinking areas, but the moon has more atmosphere than the family room. And if the ground floor bar is ever open then it’s nothing special, on my last few visits, a peep through the window showed it to be in use as a semi-permanent store room. Anyone familiar with Sam Smith’s decor will identify the two signs, which greet you at the foot of the stairs, as ‘official’ brewery contractor supplied, undoubtedly at the direction of Humphrey Smith.

Golden Ball sign

The much maligned Herr Smith actually does get somethings spot on, and I like the ‘No Children’ approach. The main bar here doesn’t suit kids, and I don’t want them in there! Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place for kids, and I don’t mind some kids in some pubs, just not this one. If you do have children then I’d give the family room a miss, my own offspring disliked it intensely when they were little.

The Harbour bar is something to behold though, it’s first floor vantage gives it a nice view over the harbour and Scarbro’s splendid South bay. The traditional Sam’s woody finish, the elevated maritime position, and nautical memorabilia give it the feel of sitting in a Captain’s cabin at the stern of an old galleon moored to the quayside, waiting for the tide. Well … that’s what it’s always seems like to me. Having said that, I’ve never, ever, been in any class of sailor’s cabin, so I’m no authority.

Golden Ball interior

I don’t need to elaborate on the beer do I? It’s a Sam Smith’s pub, so it’s all their own beer (pop, crisps, spirits, etc). Thankfully this gem of a boozer still has cask OBB on the bar. Something a lot of the breweries pubs no longer have. In Leeds it’s disappearing rapidly, the excuse given that they are short, owing to flood damage, on the wooden casks that Mr Smith, rightly, insists his only draught real ale is dispensed in. To my mind it’s a poor excuse, Tadcaster and the brewery yard was flooded in December 2015, and OBB didn’t start getting taken out of a lot of places until well after then; for pity’s sake, they’ve even rebuilt the bridge now!

For me, the Golden Ball will always be a daytime pub, and it’s South facing aspect ensures it is nearly always bathed in golden sunlight. I’m probably a bit biased here because in my mind, Scarbro’ will always be perpetually bathed in glorious sunshine, unless it’s foggy of course. Essentially the Golden Ball is a pint and a sit down after a walk on the front, a perambulation around the harbour or along the bracing Marine Drive. A prelude to a bag of the finest fish and chips, before the journey home. You just can’t sit there drinking all day, everyone needs a chance to experience it!

Golden Ball view

On a Friday afternoon, it’s nicely busy with a mix of locals and visitors. Paint smattered overalls sat next to pensioners all regatta’d up in the modern day equivalent of the pack-a-mack. The window seats, and the pleasant vista, are at a premium, with those in the cheaper seats nervously eyeing who’s going to sup up and go next. We were quick enough to get a window seat at the second time of asking, but I nearly got trampled in the rush to claim it as we left.

Golden Bal pints

The OBB was on good form, and looking at the bar top they had nearly every Sam’s draught product on, apart from the IPA and the wheat beer. I’ve only ever seen the wheat beer on draught in London, and it isn’t worth going all that way for; a bit like the 2.8% mild and lager. Despite deriding Sam’s, I reckon at some stage in the future Humphrey Smith will be seen as a philanthropist; cheap beer for ordinary folk in reasonable surroundings, whilst protecting his multi million pound dynasty. Yeah, I know that not all Sam’s pubs are as nice as this one, but he doesn’t close many down does he? (Quiz – How many pubs have Sam’s closed down in the last 20 years?)

Verdict; Go to Scarbro’, have a walk along the front, and a pint of OBB in the Harbour bar at The Golden ball where they are definitely achieving the 5% surplus on the Lager!