Ah Burton: the home of brewing. This one couldn’t fail to be a grand day out. This was a rare local match for me (I could get there on the bus) but I still left the house at 8am because there were lots of adventures to be had.
An important part of my pre-match prep is checking the matchday weather forecast. On Friday evening I was pleased to see it was 16C in Burton…but I then looked ahead to Saturday and was dismayed to see the temperature dropped to 8C, accompanied by rain. Hence on Saturday morning I put my big coat on and set off in the drizzle in the direction of Birmingham. It wasn’t raining enough to justify an umbrella – and I lost my favourite hat in Swindon a few seasons ago – so I just headed out and got a bit wet. On my walk to the bus stop I was delighted to find a half-eaten packet of Revels in my coat pocket. Result! I chomped my way through them as I waited for the bus.
Now I’ve not been very well this week, having contracted Lee’s cold, but I’ve been dosing myself up with Day & Night Nurse, which works tremendously. Whilst I wake up a bit croaky and snuffly, within an hour of taking a Day Nurse (with no food to accompany it, as I don’t tend to eat until I have been up for two hours) I have found myself entering a strange half asleep/half awake state, which has proved great inspiration for my writing. A technique I learned on my writing course last year was to derive inspiration for stories from dreams. The trick is to write down your dreams immediately upon waking – don’t check your phone, speak to anyone, put the tv or radio on, just start writing your dreams down straight away when you wake up. When I was doing this I found I could write about my dreams for a good 20 minutes – and came up with some amazing ideas for stories (mainly horror). Once you get up and start getting on with your day the memories of dreams dissipate but if you bank them straight away then you can retain your subconscious memories. It really is quite fascinating how the subconscious works while you’re asleep, linking events in ways that your conscious self would not. Now this week in this semi-asleep state induced by the cold and exhaustion and Day Nurse, I have been able to write down dreams AS THEY HAPPEN as I’m not quite asleep, yet my subconscious has been coming to the fore. It really has been quite fascinating. I’ve come up with some new ideas and a new character for my novel.
On my journey this morning, however, it was someone else’s novel I was immersed in: Never Be Broken by Sarah Hilary. I’m loving having the time to read again these days, what with all the hours I spend on buses and trains, and this is one of a series of crime novels that I enjoy. Today I was not on a bus to Birmingham, but at an illegal party in a tower block in London. It’s wonderful where National Express West Midlands can really transport you, if only you have the imagination.
It was still raining when I got to Birmingham – a little heavier now. I had become aware of a new bar that had opened in Great Western Arcade, so I scuttled over there to see where it was. It wouldn’t be open yet, of course (it was 9.15am), but I rarely venture into Birmingham these days, so I took this opportunity to seek it out (and get in the dry for a minute).
The Good Intent is the UK’s first not-for-profit bar, funded via crowdfunding, with all profits going to charity. You can read all about it (and donate, if you wish) here:
Seems like a good deal to me, getting £40 worth of beer for £25. I also like the idea of a free pint a week for life. A shame (or a good job!) I’m not working in Birmingham any more. I’ll definitely be checking this place out on a future visit, though, so watch this space (or visit yourself and let me know what it’s like).
Now I was heading to The Windsor to meet up with Houstie (who wanted to watch England v NZ in the Rugby World Cup semi final) and Karen. I was oblivious to the rugby myself, having only heard they’d had a bit of weather over there and seen none of the action, but thought it might add a bit of excitement to the day. But mainly this served as an opportunity to catch up with friends I haven’t seen for a while (or much at all in recent years). The pub was decked out with national flags and halloween decor and my friends were waiting for me (and breakfast) at a pre-booked table in front of the big screen.
I soon tucked into a vegetarian breakfast (bacon and sausage being migraine triggers for me) and tried to figure out how rugby worked. I got as far as the players being only allowed to pass the ball backwards and kick it forwards. I wasn’t really sure what scrums and lineouts were all about. And we were all agreed that the VAR equivalent hampered our enjoyment as it interrupted the flow of the game. Anyway, the breakfast was good (a hint of onion in a moist hash brown is a winner for me) and England won the rugby comfortably, so that was a pleasant start to the day.
Next we headed to New Street for the short hop on the train to Burton-on-Trent. It was of course still raining when we arrived in Staffordshire (I always thought Burton was in Derbyshire, but apparently not). The Pub of Choice wasn’t due to open until noon – and it was now 1140 – but we headed in that direction anyway, hoping it would have an outdoor area where we could shelter (we are not averse to sitting outside a pub waiting for it to open). Happily, en route we almost fell over a sign outside a micropub announcing ‘AWAY FANS WELCOME’. Well, how could we not?
We stepped into The Last Heretic and shook ourselves dry. I looked up at the beer board and my eyes stopped at the Pot Belly Beijing Black. Yay! A dark beer! Houstie was at the bar and had ordered the same. I said I’d like one too. A few seconds later, I announced to the barmaid that I would like a half and not a pint, hoping she could stop the barman pouring me a pint. Misunderstanding, she came back with a half in addition to the pint that had already been poured. I appealed to the barman:
‘Oh. I meant a half instead of a pint – not as well as.’
‘Well it’s been poured now so it’s too late.’
Frankly I had expected an element of goodwill here but clearly none was forthcoming. I paid up and we took our seats at a table with our beers and a spare pint. My phone had started pinging so I retreated into it while I tried to re-enter relaxed mode. I had a message from Steve, who I’d arranged to meet up with today, advising me that he and Brooksie were in The Last Heretic. Hang on, that’s where we were. It was only a micropub, how could I have missed them? And, sure enough, there they were in the window seats, about to order another beer. I offered them my spare pint and they promised to buy me one back later. Result! By now the barman was busy ranting on the phone to a supplier or staff member. He was clearly having a bad day so we left him to it.
We headed next to the Pub of Choice for Burton away – Coopers Tavern. Pubs in the Joules Brewery chain are always good, with interesting decor and good beer. This one has a bar at the back with a good range of Joules and guest beers. Mmm the Joules Tall Dark and Damson for me, please. In the main room we met up with the Yorkshire Seasiders, BASIL (Blackpool Association of Supporters in London) and TIM (Tangerines in Manchester) – and a group of Reading fans, who had followed TIM here from the train, following the postponement of their match at Nottingham Forest – and who were going to join us on the terrace at the Pirelli Stadium today.
This pub is a bit of a rabbit warren both inside and out – and I got lost on every trip I made to the Ladies, which were situated through the beer garden. There was something different to discover on every visit, with numerous posters and signs adorning the walls – and dog treats and a cheese board on the counter.
Dear reader, we had planned to make a pit stop at The National Brewery Centre en route to the ground today – home to the best beer in Burton – but found that time ran away with us in here. It was lovely to be all together again in the pub pre-match – just like we used to several years ago. It is great to have these times back again.
We walked back towards the station to pick up taxis to deliver us to the ground. It was walkable but half an hour walking in the rain didn’t appeal.
On arrival at the ground, I was delighted to (finally) receive a thorough frisk before I passed through the turnstiles. I then paid a visit to check out the facilities and felt compelled to submit a review to @nonleaguetoilet on Twitter.
I perked up yet further when I saw the menu at the refreshment kiosk.
FAGGOTS AND PEAS!
Despite the constant rain, it wasn’t cold today (at least I didn’t feel it) – but it doesn’t hurt to have some hot food or a hot drink at the match to ensure your body temperature remains agreeable.
As for the match? Blackpool were mainly on the back foot but on a positive note we kept a clean sheet and gained a point away from home. It wasn’t by any means edge of the seat stuff (I was standing on a terrace today anyway) but I guess a point is a point – and with ten men we have to be satisfied with that.
I trudged out of the ground alone back towards the station. I was soon joined by a fellow Seasider and engaged in general chat with him for awhile, perking up somewhat, before pouncing on Steve and Brooksie outside the Derby Inn and heading in there to break up the walk. This was my favourite pub in Burton on my last visit – such a friendly bunch. It was lovely and toasty in here – and I was delighted to see Titanic Cherry Dark on sale. Yes, we’ll have three of those please!
Seated at a table by the bar, my companions introduced me to a game where each of us had to put a hand on the table containing between 0 and 3 coins. The object of the game was to guess how many coins were held in total, the loser having to pay a forfeit of drinking a spirit. Having never played before, I of course lost a couple of rounds and ended up being forced to neck two double Baileys (such a chore!). I need to watch myself when I’m out drinking with these two. They had me on the spirits last time, too. I had to break up the game before I got myself into trouble so announced we were heading on to the next pub – but not before we were joined by an exuberant dog. Yay! It’s not a proper matchday adventure without a dog!
As we headed back towards town I regretted not calling in to powder my nose before leaving the pub, necessitating a stop at the next pub along Derby Road – The Albert, which was also nice and toasty. This was a Burton Bridge Brewery pub and of course we had to stay for a drink while we were here. I had the Burton Bridge Bitter (the Damson Porter being off). I also had the munchies by now, so ordered a corned beef sandwich, which was beautifully presented with a little ramekin of pickle and some salad. I soon wolfed it down and now craved something sweet.
‘We’ve got sticky toffee pudding.’
‘Ooh. Does that come with custard?’
Oh go on then, you’ve twisted my arm! And very nice it was too.
Now the mistake I made in this pub was sitting at the bar. My eyes were drawn towards the optics and I spied a bottle of Warninks Advocaat. And you know what THAT means in the run up to Christmas. Yes, it was Snowballs all round, much to the disgust of the lads. They forced them down, though, as they are good sports.
In here we got chatting to a local who recommended a local craft beer bar and bottle shop called Brews of the World. He sold it to me by saying it sold weird and wonderful beers – of course exactly the sort of thing I like. We trooped out of the pub and followed the directions that the man had given us.
We stumbled into the Weighbridge Inn en route. I couldn’t not visit this pub as they had responded directly to my appeal to let me know of any new pubs in Burton since my last (non-football-related) visit in 2016. I had been in here before when the pub was known as Middle Earth Tavern. It was just as cosy now, with a log fire burning, which of course we took a seat right in front of, each armed with a Hophurst Campfire Mild from Wigan. This was a fine evening indeed.
We continued on into town, past the station, past the tantalising aromas of the Indian restaurant – and a somewhat less tantalising sign:
Just as we were about to give up, we fell into the doors of Brews of the World. And, yes, this was precisely my kind of place. I perused the beer board and wondered if I would like the raspberry and white chocolate weissbeer, before a bottle of Mallinsons Bakewell Mild leapt off the shelf into my hand.
However the highlight of this pub was the dress being sported by a woman at the bar:
I want one of these.
By now it was approaching 9pm and we resolved it was time to be thinking about heading home (taking a heavy hint from Steve’s wife, who messaged advising that the last train home was imminent). We headed back to the station, to be met with an announcement that our train was delayed. We used the time to raid the station vending machine and, after learning a couple of pub games that can be played with Hula Hoops (bonkers, these two), we boarded the train back to Birmingham.
As is ever the case on a Saturday after a match, the train was late arriving into New Street. Now instead of having a comfortable 20-minute amble across town to catch my bus home, I had seven minutes to hotfoot it to the bus stop. After saying my goodbyes to the lads, I burst from the train, hurtled up the escalator and out of the station and fled across town, arriving two minutes before my bus. Phew! That saved me hanging around town for another hour waiting for the last bus home. This sprint was not good for my poorly chest, though, which didn’t welcome the shortness of breath. I also felt a little sick on the bus home, thanks to the Baileys and Snowball curdling in my tummy with the fruit beers and sticky toffee pudding and custard. I survived the journey, though, with Lee and Adelitas Way keeping me company and, most importantly, keeping me awake.
It had been a brilliant day out as it was always going to be. Football-wise? I am encouraged by recent appointments at the club and it is abundantly clear that player recruitment is being taken seriously by the new regime, as it ought to be. This is a very special club with an exciting future and I am looking forward to seeing us making great strides on the pitch as well as off it. A few goals this side of January would be nice though! Onwards and upwards. UTMP.
Here’s the video memory of the day: