Jane Stuart – Writer

Writing about real life Up North: football, ale, food and mental health – with a good dash of humour.

Crewe Alexandra v Blackpool: Crewe Pub Crawl

You know the drill by now, dear reader. Away day = virtual pub crawl. After all, there’s only so much I can write about watching matches on the telly when I hardly cover the matches themselves in my blogs anyway…

I’ve taken the train to the match. There really is no other way to get to Crewe. All train tracks lead to Crewe – and Gresty Road is adjacent to the station. It’s £43 for an off-peak return, which seems expensive. If I’d been organised, I could probably have got cheaper advance tickets (if they’re still a thing). I have to change at Preston, which is grey and miserable as ever, with everything in the shop too expensive. At least the waiting room at the station is acceptable. I am grateful when the Crewe train finally arrives. I have spent too many hours/days of my life on Preston station. It needs an overhaul, like Birmingham New Street. Soon, please.

Eight Farmers

I’m starting on the outside and working my way back towards Gresty Road/the station today. This is a Marstons pub and, crucially, it serves food. Knowing what’s to come, it’s important I have a good feed at the start of my adventure today. I’m going for the full three courses.

Cheese and Bacon please. Both migraine triggers but virtual crawl = no risk.
Beef madras please, with half and half. Hold the naan bread.
Yeah baby!

Right, is there any beer on in here or what? In the WHY OUR PUB IS GREAT section of their website, real ale is not mentioned. I would expect Marstons beers to be on offer. Untappd yields few clues, Marstons Smooth being the only beer checked in at this pub in 2020. I am not hopeful. But, as I’m mainly eating here, I won’t be drinking much anyway.

Tom’s Tap and Brewhouse

What a cracking list of beers they have on tap here:

Pig & Porter Missoula, Tom’s Tap Table Beer V7, Tom’s Tap Hopfenweisse, Tom’s Tap APA, Tom’s Tap Creme Caramel (definitely having this one! Vegan milk stout), Tom’s Tap / Top Rope Brewing Grapefruit Wit, Torrside Valour (imperial stout), Tom’s Tap Dark Mild (yes, yes, yes!!!), Tom’s Tap / Thirst Class Peach Sour (oh I want all of these!), Gun Brewery Scaramaga G/F, Tom’s Tap Dry Hopped Lager, Tom’s Tap Mango Ice Cream Pale (oh YES!!!), Tom’s Tap Rum’n’Raisin Vegan Milk Stout (I’m going to need help getting out of here!), Tom’s Tap JGH – Kolsch Style, Tom’s Tap Passionfruit IPA (it’s as if this place was made for me!) and Tom’s Tap ESB.

There’s plenty for the cider drinkers in here too. From Kent Cider Co: Mango Cider, Rhubarb Cider, Strawberry Cider, Still Cider & Elderflower Cider. From Ross on Wye: 2018 Michelin, Three Bittersweets Blend, Four Apple Blend & Dolly’s Meadow Vintage Perry. From Ascension Cider Co: Aeronaut Sparkling Cider, Into the Jetstream Sour Cranberry Cider, Grapes of Wrath, Sonic Titan, Dance Commander Sour Cherry Cider, Variation Of A Theme, Purple Haze & Shimmy.

Looking at the Events page of their website, back in ‘normal times’, this appeared to be a wonderful hub for the community, with events such as games afternoons, live music and street food, open mic afternoons, meet the brewer sessions, cheese nights and vinyl nights. I love this place already!

Hops Belgian Style Cafe Bar

This is the recent Pub of Choice in Crewe. Great beer, great ambience. It’s quirky and homely and I love, love, love it here!

They’re also on it when it comes to COVID regulations. Table reservations are available online so I’m booking a comfy chair because they are always my preference. None of this hard wooden bar stool malarkey for me.

Now it’s over to the Hopt app to order my food and drinks. I’ve never heard of this app but I guess it is the future, so here goes…

OK…interesting…predominantly bars on the south coast and…in France? I know this is a Belgian bar but…

Right. Found it. Opening hours listed – helpful. Cask ale menu: Acorn Phantasm, Salopian Iridescence (raspberry wheat beer mmm…), Salopian Oracle and Toms Tap Maple Pecan Danish (whaaaaat?! Need to try this one!). I order a half of each of the exciting ones. There is a Belgian beer menu too: Blanche de Bruxelles, Leffe Blonde and Westmalle Dubbel. And a fruit beer menu: Timmermans Strawberry and Liefmans Fruitesse. I usually dip into these towards the end of my session as ‘dessert beers’.

Oh my goodness there is a craft cans menu as well! Brew by Numbers 01 Saison Pink Lady, 05 India Pale Ale, 10 Coffee Porter, 11 Session IPA Mosaic, 21 Pale Ale Citra, 36 Kolsch Loral; Magic Rock Cannonball IPA and Salty Kiss. I’m keeping away from those on a matchday!

Oh a bottled beer menu too! This is too much! And far too many to list! My eyes are drawn to the Anchor Xmas (yes! Christmas beers are in!), Delirium Christmas, Pere Noel, St Bernardus Christmas, St Feuillen Cuvee Noel and XXX Bitter (Holly Pale Ale). This is why I love this place! None of this too-early-for-Christmas-humbug nonsense. Let’s get partying now!

And doesn’t this just warm the cockles:

How wonderful that (in normal times) Hops provides dog biscuits and communal spectacles! I love little quirky touches like this in a place.

Food-wise, I think I remember eating here on my last visit, but there are only snacks available on the app: Cheesie, Nuts, Pipers Crisps and Pretzel Pieces. I think I remember having some exciting snackage – possibly jerky? – on my last visit here. Street food is mentioned on TripAdvisor.


Dear reader, I need explore no further. Frankly, those last two pubs have everything I need and much, much more in terms of beer. I’m now ravenous again and looking forward to a chicken balti pie at the ground (always a treat when visiting Crewe).

Crewe Alexandra v Blackpool

Better. We dominated but Crewe were terrible. Really should have won this one. We just aren’t creating tangible chances. And our defence stands off the opposition, whereas opposition defences just nip in and rob the ball off us. People are now paying us to watch the game for them, so they don’t have to. We’re thinking of having t-shirts made up to this effect:

LEE CHARLES TV

WATCHING THE GAME

SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO

Here’s our live reaction to what happened including (when watching the match got too much to bear) a breakfast cereal that I invented at primary school which now actually exists!

If you are interested in a blow by blow written account of the match, may I direct you to this wonderful blog by fellow Seasider Mitch Cook’s Left Foot, who always sums up the match perfectly.

To resist the lure of the post-match takeaway, which often calls quite strongly after every a disappointing match, I have taken to retiring to the kitchen straight after a match. Here I turn on the radio – Paul Gambaccini on Greatest Hits Radio – ramp up the volume and make a curry from scratch. This great mindfulness practice really helps me forget about the match – and saves me from wrecking my diet with a takeaway.

After dinner, we binged on popcorn (oops!), Star Trek: Discovery and Ratched. It turned out to be a pleasant evening indeed. There are benefits to these virtual away days. At least your evenings are salvageable and not spent travelling home in dismay.

We’ve got three Tuesday night matches on the bounce now, putting paid to our midweek non league interludes. Much as that thought fills me with dread, part of me is pleased to have nowhere to go for a few weeks, as we enter hibernation and stay totally safe from exposure to the virus.

We’ll get through this.

#UTMP

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