For many, including the inmates of HMP Stafford*, 2021 has been a tough year.
Personally, I’ve loved the freedom to travel and visit pubs since April/May/July (delete as appropriate) and there’s been a real sense that the folk in pubs are those who really want to be there.
But one thing has been missing; the legend that is Stafford’s Paul “Six Sausage” Mudge, and Will and I jumped at a hastily arranged opportunity to meet him on home turf.
Despite the availability of craft and a motto of “no kids, no food and no idiots” (I like all 3 of those), we didn’t meet in Hogarth’s.
I got several confused looks as I took photos of empty streets and pub exteriors. Like many non-touristy market towns, Stafford’s shops look more deserted than ever.
I picked the Shrewsbury Arms, a place that had charmed Paul, Quosh and myself with its cutting-edge Brew XI two years ago.
I believe Paul, the little rascal, had made a head start, picking up 2 pubs before I’d arrived at 13:15. He looked unchanged, and we were quickly dissecting the town’s pubs scene and the quality of the beer in this Black Country House.
I asked the barman to give me a pint of the fastest moving beer.
“Do you like dark beer or light beer ?”
“I don’t care, just the fastest seller, please ?”
“But do you like dark beer or light beer ?”
“I like anything” etc etc
“Would you like a taster ?”.
“A pint IS a taster” etc etc etc
I should have had a taster, whatever it was (it was pulled from a second bank of pumps round the corner) was flat and dull. Far too many beers, the cask lottery that is Black Country Ales, who otherwise operate wonderful pubs.
“I put it on myself an hour ago !” said a by now frustrated barman.
And he was right to be frustrated. It’s not his job to deal with difficult customers like me. Sorry.
Rubbish beer this time, but a lovely pub, and before we moved on I offloaded some CAMRA magazines and a BRAPA approved Bass beer mat while Paul gave me this in return.
Then Will turned up via Tamworth (wherever that is) and we ushered him off to the Sun.
*Don’t worry, I wasn’t there, just parked the car across the road on Thursday night.