Apart from opening times (or lack of them), my biggest gripe with the Beer Guide is geographical inconsistency. A bit rich coming from a man who gets east (window) and west (door) mixed up, perhaps.
But pubs shoot around between headings in the Beer Guide, making life hard for the completist.
“Oh, I’ve done the Printer’s Arms in Birch Vale when it was in Thornsett” a typical plaintive cry. The Big 6 in Halifax has had at least three different addresses so far.
Just look at the OS Map and tell me that Bromsgrove’s Park Gate isn’t in Park Gate.
A mere 54 minute walk from Bromsgrove Station, I’ll lay odds it appears under either Park Gate or Dodford in future editions.
Anyway, griping aside, it’s open all day, every day, which is something. And I had time to do one of those themed walks from the pub, in weather too warm for a coat but too windy for shirtsleeves. I chose the Chartist’s walk.
It’s great that the Countryside Agency go the extra mile to try to make our wonderful land seem appealing to folk who will never leave their front room. On walks this year I have seen a mere seven people, and a group of ramblers in a pub in Milton Keynes.
This bit of bucolic Bromsgrove isn’t going to compete with the Malverns, but to a lad from the Fens it’s mountainous.
And a pleasant wooded valley brought me to the smell of real fires in Dodford, seemingly competing with Clun for quietness.
Back to the Park Gate at exactly 12 noon. A rather plain roadside countenance, a less showy Marston’s perhaps, but at least it isn’t a micropub.
And, of course, at 12.01 there were already a couple of Old Boys in there with pints. Do some pubs open early for regulars but not pub tickers ?
To be honest, the bar looked a bit meh. Modernised in a quasi Sports Bar way, with limited proper seating, and a sense that I shouldn’t expect hordes of elderly diners any time soon. I longed for the classic Bathams pub just up the road in Chaddesley Corbett.
A combined piano/dart board corner at least offered some comic potential.
The beer range was a slice of Notts and Derbyshire, and a bit scary in size (I hardly need to say that anymore, do I ?).
I suspected a GBG vote for “effort” and an “improved beer range”, but I was wrong. That Aurora Constellation was superbly kept ale, another NBSS 3.5 in a good month so far. And still the Old Boys kept coming in, drinking pints. All served in what I assume was a job lot of Doom Bar glasses the pub had recently “acquired“.
“Me Dad will pay” said the only chap under 50. I half expected to turn round and see BRAPA but then realised that Si speaks posh. His Dad may or may not have turned up.
The chat reflected the issues of a tiny community either side of the pub; an Italian hurricane about to sweep the county, and the imperative to go and buy a kite.
I was about to go before Mary Poppins appeared, but decided to be nosey and explore the back rooms.
Well, they’re much more interesting than the main bar, slightly spooky. But no tables set with laminated place mats, sauce sachets and napkins.
And then it clicked. No food here. Just beer, cobs and Bring-Your-Own. Brilliant. You might even win a Pokémon from the machine.
Hoorah ! for the destination non-dining pub.