Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Shrewsbury Town v Blackpool: Shrewsbury Pubs

Yay Shrewsbury! This is one of the best awaydays in League One this season because (a) it’s picturesque; (b) it has top pubbage; and (c) it’s one of the more local trips (i.e. it isn’t five hours each way, as everywhere else seems to be from Blackpool). This, dear reader, is going to be a good one, make no mistake.

I am given a choice of routes by http://www.thetrainline.com, both of which get me into Shrewsbury for 1239. There’s the 0959 with one change at Manchester Piccadilly; or the 1028 with changes at Preston and Crewe. If I’d booked the train further in advance, there might have been a financial incentive to make two changes but, as it was, I opted for the more relaxing journey with one change and no time spent shivering at Preston station. Sure, it added half an hour to my journey time, but this was only a short hop anyway at 2h40. Remember, I used to make a similar journey for every home game when I lived in the Midlands, so anything under 3h is a short hop for me.

I’m writing a script for a stage play at the moment for my next OU assignment, so I busy myself with that on my journey. I’m getting really into it now and it’s a good stepping stone towards writing for television, which is what I’m planning to do in the future.

In between scenes I munch on turkey sandwiches (on wholemeal with mayo) and lebkuchen, washed down with a flask of Heath & Heather Organic Green Tea with Coconut.

This is the first of their teas I’ve tried and it’s delicious. I’ll be looking out for more of theirs. I’m particularly intrigued by their Lemon Balm & Liquorice, Green Rooibos (which seems like a paradox to me?) & Manuka Honey and Dandelion, Burdock & Hawthorn.

It’s only a short change at Piccadilly, so there’s no time for shopping on the station (I am partial to the odd hat from Accessorize). I taz across to meet my connecting train and arrive in Shrewsbury bang on time (that’s the beauty of virtual train travel). Right – where to start with all these pubs?

Salopian Brewery

Of course I’m starting with the brewery. I’ve been here before and it’s ace!

Salopian beer can commonly be found in pubs (remember them?). Their cask range is as follows:

  • Shropshire Gold
  • Oracle (gold citrus)
  • Lemon Dream
  • Hop Twister (grapefruit)
  • Darwin’s Origin (‘copper rich spicy evolved malt finish’)
  • Golden Thread

I’m more interested in the bottles, though (you know I prefer the darker beers) so head over to the fridge. My my – what have we here? Aside from all of the above, they have a Black Range. Now we’re talking!

  • Trajectory (peachy golden pale)
  • Caligo (stout)
  • Kashmir (strong IPA)
  • Dreamscape (IPA)

Now that’s deceptive, is it not? I’d have expected them all to be black beers. Confusion notwithstanding, I order a half a Caligo and half a Lemon Dream to get me started.

Salopian deliver beer nationally so, if you’re feeling thirsty, why not ping an order over to help them (and you) survive the current climate? If you like hoppy beers, this could just be the brewery of your (lemon) dreams.

The Salopian Bar

Pre-dating Salopian Brewery, the unrelated Salopian Bar was originally what I call a ‘poncy wine bar’ before realising real ale was the way forward. It now has eight cask ales, including the following regulars:

  • Stonehouse Station Bitter
  • Oakham JHB (bitter)
  • Oakham Bishops Farewell
  • Bathams Best Bitter

Bathams!!! This is one of the best beers ever and hugely famous in the West Midlands. I can never resist this, so I’m having a pint of it, which frankly doesn’t touch the sides. It’s a wonderfully quaffable beer. If you have never tried it – and ever see it – get it down you!

Recent(ish) guests (by which I mean checked into Untappd in 2020) include:

  • Thornbridge Fortress (described as ‘lemon curd’)
  • Salopian Chameleon (golden)
  • Salopian Golden Thread
  • Oakham Huell Melon
  • Black Lodge Hundred Dollar Volvo (pale)

I’m hoping to see an uplift in dark beers as I make my way around town this afternoon, although I do know the paler ones are more sensible on a session (especially pre-match!). I don’t like hoppy beers, though. That said, I have been sampling a few in the beer selection boxes I’ve been having delivered, so maybe I’m starting to get a taste for them after all.

The Salopian hosts quizzes and open mic nights, as well as regular beer and cider festivals, including a Belgian beer festival in January. I wonder when beer festivals will become a thing again. Could COVID signal the death of the already-floundering CAMRA beer festivals, I wonder?

The Old Post Office

I’m ravenous now, so head to The Old Post Office for a good feed.

I’m delighted to find their festive menu still available (we are, after all, still in the festive season). I’m that hungry, I opt for three courses:

  • Hog Roast Pate served with red onion chutney, toast, butter and a salad garnish
  • Traditional Roast Beef served with a yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and real gravy
  • Ginger and Lemon Crunch (V) Ginger biscuit base topped with a refreshing lemon cream

I was tempted with the lamb shank, but the lure of ‘real gravy’ with the beef was simply too much. I’m hoping to find a Lemon Dream on the menu to complement that pudding!

Beers checked in here on Untappd in September include:

  • Wychwood Hobgoblin Legendary Ruby Beer
  • Ringwood Razor Back (bitter)

So the beer range isn’t quite so exciting, but I’m mainly stuffing my face in here anyway, so I wouldn’t give the beer the time or attention it deserved. I have half a bitter with my dinner and a cheeky limoncello with pudding.

Tap and Can

This independent craft beer bar is still going, serving beer for collection and local delivery. Beers available are:

  • Wild Beer Trillionaire (‘spiced lebkuchen inspired stout with cinnamon and ginger’)

WHAAAAAAATTT?! I am ALL OVER this and need look no further down the menu. I will, though, for your benefit, dear reader.

  • Cascade Nectarine Dream (well it’s almost tangerine)
  • UnBarred Bueno Shake (‘milk stout loaded with hazelnut and vanilla’)
  • Overtone Lotus Oat Cream NEIPA
  • Fallen Acorn Sith Faced (oatmeal stout)
  • Fierce Very Big Moose Small Batch Edition 14.0
  • Brew York Fairytale of Brew York 2020 (milk/sweet stout)
  • Tiny Rebel Funk – Very Cherry Amaretto Sour

The list goes on and on and on and includes Belgian beers, too.

Well, what can I say about the beer range here? A big fat WOWZERS!!! You know my rule is that any pub that has Fierce Beer is going to be exceptional. Many of the breweries represented here are new to me. This is a craft beer lover’s paradise and I am in love with the place already. I’m only gutted that they don’t deliver nationally. Rest assured, I’ll be here on my next visit to Shrewsbury. Indeed, it’s top of the list now!

But wait – there’s a pubdog too? Oh really, Tap & Can – this is too much!

Kanye

Cross Foxes

I’m here because it has an ace name and it comes recommended by Retired Martin, an excellent pub blogger, whose resources I don’t use nearly often enough when researching these trips. He appears to have covered the entirety of the country (and beyond) on his pub travels. Martin began his blog in July 2015, by which time he had already visited 4,000 of the entries in the Good Beer Guide. It’s fair to say Martin is one of the finest authorities on pubs in the country. If he likes this pub, I’m going there.

This is a traditional boozer with darts and dominoes and four regulars on cask:

  • Bass
  • Salopian Shropshire Gold
  • Three Tuns XXX
  • Wood Shropshire Lad

I’m having a Bass on Martin’s recommendation, predominantly to observe the lacing left on the glass.

The Prince of Wales

This traditional pub has won countless awards, is dog-friendly and provides coach travel to Shrewsbury Town home games (courtesy of Shrewsbury Town Supporters Trust), so it seems the perfect place to end a pre-match pub crawl (indeed I always do!). As a well-behaved away fan, I have always been welcomed on the coach to the match, but note that booking in advance is recommended, as the service is very popular. Shrewsbury’s new(ish) ground is in the middle of nowhere, so walking there (especially for a night game) is not recommended. Indeed why would you want to waste time walking when there are so many magnificent pubs to enjoy in town? The coach will also bring you back to the pub after the match, which is handy.

The regular cask ales on offer here are as follows:

  • Hobsons Mild
  • Hobsons Twisted Spire (pale gold)
  • Thwaites Wainwright
  • St Austell Tribute
  • Salopian Golden Thread

I do like a nice cask Wainwright – but I can never resist a mild!

Recent guests ales checked in on Untappd (as recently as September) are:

  • Wood Shropshire Lass (blonde)
  • Clun Social Bubble (old ale)
  • Harbour Gull Rock (pale)
  • Mallinsons Ella Centennial (pale)
  • North Riding Pistachio Porter
  • Bristol Beer Factory Simplicity (pale)

Again, not much in the way of dark beers here, but I’m all over that Pistachio Porter. Oh yes!

This is an absolute DO NOT MISS on any awayday in Shrewsbury. It’s such a friendly pub with lovely beers. Bar snacks are available but make sure you eat before you get here because you won’t want to leave once you’re here.

Shrewsbury Town v Blackpool

Oh such lovely, lovely pubs – but now it’s time to head to Montgomery Waters Meadow for the match. It’s only been ten days since we last played but it seems like such a long time. I confess I’ve enjoyed the break. I’ve been off work so I’ve been living the life of a writer, rising late (well, 10am), drinking tea, writing all day, chilling with beer and Netflix in the evenings. I consider the latter research as, once I’ve finished writing my book, I want to write for television. Indeed I watch everything with a writer’s eye now.

We’re gutted to find out that CJ Hamilton is injured. He’s been such a key player for us this season. He’ll be out for a while, too, with a hamstring injury. And this is on top of us already missing our wonder keeper Chris Maxwell and Matty Virtue, who have each returned positive COVID tests. We haven’t seen much of Virtue, who is only recently back from injury, but Hamilton and Maxwell are the two players I would never want to be without – and to have them both missing tonight is devastating.

We’ve got Sam Walker in on an emergency loan to cover in goal. He’s the 6’6 keeper who played against us for Reading in the two FA Cup matches last season (when replays were still a thing). Of course I want him to do well, but I’m worried that Maxwell’s gloves will be hard to fill. He’s our captain and helps calm and organise the defence. Walker does play well – blimey he doesn’t even need to jump to have the height of the goal covered – and he makes some cracking saves. He saves Reading’s penalty – but can only parry it back into a dangerous position (not the only time in the match he does this) and Shrewsbury score the only goal of the game shortly thereafter. Don’t get me wrong, he’s had a good game – better than most keepers would have – but I can’t help but think ‘Maxwell never does that’. But then Maxwell might not have saved the penalty to start with, so perhaps I am being unduly harsh.

Without the threat of Hamilton tearing apart their defence, getting in wicked crosses and firing off rocket shots, we are woefully lacking up front. We only have two strikers and Critch has taken to playing them one at a time. Why, when they combine together so well? Clearly a striker (or two) has to be top of our shopping list in January.

A hot topic on the livestream tonight was the availability of last season’s top scorer Armand Gnanduillet. He’s undoubtedly left a big hole in the side and I would love to see him back at Blackpool. He has left and come back previously, so I wouldn’t rule it out. I feel he has more to offer than The Goal Machine – not least being a prolific goalscorer. I’m not getting my hopes up but I would have him back tomorrow. That said, other strikers are available and I’m sure our recruitment team are on it. I can’t believe I’m saying this after so many years of disappointing transfer windows, but I’m expecting some early incomings in January. I don’t doubt that our ducks are already in a row in the transfer department.

I didn’t enjoy the match tonight. Shrewsbury seemed a bit divey until their got their penalty. They did a lot of timewasting, too. The ref was also disappointing, failing to award us what looked like a surefire penalty when The Goal Machine was positively wrestled to the ground (which he was livid about). I know we can’t win every game, but I didn’t enjoy a minute of this one. Thanks goodness we’re allowed to drink during the match these days… Also, it looked bloody freezing there tonight and I knew, if I had been there, I’d have been watching the clock for most of the match, wondering when I could get back in the warm. As much as the Shrewsbury fans will have been delighted to be there tonight, I can guarantee many of them will have been doing the same.

Not only have we lost, but I’m unable to get a train home – the last one left just before 9pm. I’m therefore on the trusty Blackpool Supporters Association coach back to Blackpool. I can’t sleep on coaches, so I buried myself in my latest reading material, which I’m enjoying immensely. Look out for the review on the book review section of my website in the new year.

Do you like my new bookmark?

The journey takes two-and-a-half hours and I’m back home by half past midnight. That’s actually not bad for an away midweeker.

Happy new year, dear readers. Stay safe and keep smiling. 

UTMP.


NB Pics above are taken from the websites referenced, as this was a virtual trip, apart from the book.


If you haven’t already done so, please subscribe to my blog by entering your email address in the sidebar on the right (if you’re on a desktop device) or below (if you’re on a mobile device). You’ll receive an email notification every time I post, so you won’t miss another word. 

You can follow me on the socials too. I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as @blackpooljane.

Please do like, comment and share if you enjoy what you read. It’s nice to know you’re out there.


If you’d like to write a guest blog for this site please email me at jane@janestuart.co.uk.

%d bloggers like this: