Dear reader, you may recall my visit to Bristol last season was most disappointing when it came to pubbage. I was determined to right this wrong today. I might not be able to control what happens on the pitch, but I sure as hell can make sure I have a good day up until 3pm…
That is, of course, provided I ignore the cost of the train fare. Are these deliberately prohibitively expensive at the moment to discourage people from travelling during the pandemic, or is this what train fares actually cost in real life? £140.20 for a return from Blackpool to Bristol?! Crikey, I’m going to have to sell a lot of books to live the lifestyle to which I intend to become accustomed. I’m sincerely hoping advance fares will come back into fashion when we can actually start planning our lives in advance again.
I’m heading down on Friday (you’ll see why in a minute) on the 0754 from Blackpool North. The journey takes 3h37 and I’m changing at Wolverhampton (ooh there’s a direct train to the Midlands now?) and Birmingham New Street. This is a blast from the past, as those were my two most frequently used stations for awaydays when I lived in Walsall. I settle back into my seat with my chicken fillets, cherry tomatoes, grapes and Fibre One 90 Chocolate & Popcorn bar. I’m back on the Slimming World diet as I’m resolving to lose a stone. I know I’ll be on the lash later, but the joy of virtual pub crawls is they contain no calories. Boom!
I spend today’s journey undertaking further research for my book, searching through columns I have written over the years for the match programme, Gazette and other publications, to help remind myself of how I was feeling and what was happening when I wrote them. There are some cracking nuggets that I had completely forgotten about. One of the advantages of wearing a mask and sitting apart from others on a train is that no-one can see that I’m chuckling to myself for much of the journey. Dear reader, you’re going to love this book.
Now my research for these blogs always begins with the breweries. I want to sample local brews wherever I go. Dear reader, I knew Bristol was famed for some great breweries, but I was gobsmacked when I discovered just how many there were. I’m not sure I’ll manage to get through them all (this necessitates a weekender – perhaps even a week!), but I’ll give it a good go.
If you know your beers – and like a good stout – you know Bristol Beer Factory. Their Milk Stout is one of those beers that I simply cannot resist when I see it. It is positively lush and very quaffable. But what else do they do? Here’s their core range:
- Well Above Sea Level (citrus lactose pale)
- Infinity (Helles lager)
- Optimist (pale)
- Independence (APA)
- Fortitude (amber)
- Clear Head (alcohol free)
- Southville Hop (IPA)
I’m especially interested in the alcohol free option here.
Could this be a good option for my diet? It’s a genius way of continuing to support and champion breweries but also supporting my diet (well straying less far from it). Hmm. Perhaps this needs a blog of its own…
The BBF Tap Room is magnificent (as are their beers). They also have a couple of pubs in Bristol: The Barley Mow and Arnolfini. Miss Bristol Beer Factory at your peril…
Do they deliver nationally? YES – with free shipping for orders over £60.
I confess I’d not heard of these guys. They are a husband and wife partnership. They have a dog-friendly tap room – and an exceptionally exciting beer range.
Beers currently available in their online shop are:
- Kennedy Lives IPA
- Irish cream Stout (‘Baileys in a Stout’)
- Chocolate Banana Milk Stout
- What Time Is Love IPA
- Macho Mucho IPA
- The Boogie Below IPA
- The Deep End IPA
- Cinder Toffee Stout (‘Described as liquidised Crunchie Bars in a stout‘)
- French Toast Brown Ale
- Fire Strata IPA
- Stand & Vanilla – Vanilla Infused IPA
Do they deliver nationally? YES – delivery is £4.99. If you can resist that list of exciting beers, you have far more willpower than me. There is NO WAY I’m not having ALL of those stouts…but can I wait until February to drink them…?
I’m pleased to discover these guys have a tap room, too. Much as I love a good old traditional snug boozer, I must confess there is something about a modern brewery tap that I really love. The quality beer, the exciting snackage, the dogs, the knowledgeable staff who are passionate about their product.
Wiper and True’s core range is:
- Kaleidoscope (pale)
- Small Beer (2.7% light pale – another one for the low/no alcohol diet)
- Milk Shake (milk stout)
- Sundance (IPA)
- York Street Helles
I’m having a half a milk stout and half of the low alcohol beer, which of course cancels it out…
Do they deliver nationally? YES.
There’s a brewery tap here too! They also have a pub in Redland called The Good Measure (nice name!).
Their beers include:
- Kokomo Weekday (session IPA)
- Pure Optimism (session IPA)
- New Dawn (IPA)
- Morello Theory (dark cherry Belgian ale)
- Time Lapse (bitter)
- Kokomo Weekend (American IPA)
- MMXX (barley wine)
- Dark Energy (black IPA)
- Becoming North (Baltic porter)
I’m going for half each of the dark cherry and the black IPA.
Do they deliver nationally? YES for £5.99.
Moor have TWO brewery taps – one here in Bristol and another in London. They host a range of events, including beer launches and educational sessions where visitors are guided through beer ranges. They’ve recently launched a Smoked Lager, inspired by rauchbier (a favourite of mine), which has caught my eye.
Their core range is:
- Distortion (session IPA)
- All Dayer (3.5% session IPA)
- Revival (pale bitter)
- Nor’Hop (ultra pale)
- Raw (best bitter)
- Claudia (hoppy wheat)
- PMA (pale)
- Hoppiness (crossover IPA)
- Old Freddy Walker (old ale)
Do they deliver nationally? YES – with free delivery on orders over £60.
Pizza is on the menu here. This seems a popular choice these days. I guess I’ll have to learn to like it. After all, it does soak up beer particularly well. It’s not good for the diet (remember that?), though, is it? It’s ‘wood-fired sourdough pizza’. All I know about sourdough is that it’s hipster and expensive. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually tried it, though. Well, there’s no time like the present.
The veggie and vegan options have olives on them, which I’m not sure about on a pizza, so I opt for the Diavola: tomato, mozzarella, salami, spicy nduja sausage, roasted red pepper, jalapeño and basil. Sounds nice, right? It’s £11 but, when I’ve already spent £140.20 on train tickets, it doesn’t seem so much.
Beers available from their online shop include:
- Hubble Bubble (galaxy hop pale)
- Swingball (session IPA)
- Sunday Best (bitter)
- Loom (2.4% table beer)
- Sundowner (NEIPA)
- Rather Guava (pale)
- Treasure (smoked honey porter)
Right, well I’m having half a porter (of course) and half a table beer to ‘cancel it out’. Loving the range of low alcohol beers in Bristol. It’s the place for a crawl if you’re on the wagon (or dieting). Indeed, it’s an ideal crawl for early January.
Do they deliver nationally? YES.
Bristol, this is getting silly now. Is there no end to your local breweries with taprooms?
There are a lot of beers available to order from their online store, including:
- Thousand Eyes (hazy IPA)
- Side Track (hazy IPA)
- Answer to the Cosmos (hazy IPA)
- Cheeseburger Cavalry (IPA)
- Infinity Pools (IPA)
- Lit by the Supermoon (TIPA)
- Solitude (milk stout)
- Opening Theme (hazy IPA)
- Dream House (hazy pale)
I don’t really get the fascination with IPAs but I am growing to enjoy them (not least because they are often less calorific than my preferred dark ales). Here I’m having a half of the milk stout and half of Up Late, their collab with Verdant, a hazelnut and vanilla imperial stout.
Do they deliver nationally? YES – free delivery on orders over £30.
Well, that’s not bad for a day’s work, but I need to stop there as I’m getting tired now. Those low alcohol beers have allowed me to extend the session longer than it would ordinarily have lasted. But I need my bed now, so I can get out there and do it all again (with yet more breweries) tomorrow…
Right! It’s Saturday morning and yet still more breweries are calling…
This place looks ace! It has a tap which promises ‘cool music’. Their recent Oktoberfest featured retro German pop tunes, which I love the sound of! I’ve found myself listening to a lot more music (and ‘attending’ many more gigs) since lockdown. When I see live bands on stage in TV shows and movies I’m so envious. I think I’m actually missing live music and pubs more than being at the football but shush don’t tell anyone…
Anyway what beers do they have here? Available from their online store are:
- Heartbreak USA (American style brown ale)
- Keller Pils
- Running with Sceptres (India pale lager)
- Hop-Hand Fallacy (farmhouse ale)
- Saison D’Avon (Belgian style ale)
- Wanna Go To The Sun (pale ale)
- Howdy Folks! (American style amber ale)
- No Rest For Dancers (red ale)
They have pop up food here, including pizza (obvs) and – at their Oktoberfest – delicious German fare from The Woozy Pig, a mobile caterer from Cheltenham. Mmm. Well I definitely need to eat more today than I did yesterday (the diet has gone out the window now, virtually), so lets see what I fancy from them.
Now I don’t know what semi-brioche is (but it sounds kinda sexy) or potato tots (although I think Sheldon from Big Bang Theory likes them), but I am ALL OVER everything about this. I sense today will be bad for the diet, but that’s matchdays for you. It is so hard to diet on matchdays. It is possible but requires a lot of pre-planning and willpower. It’s far easier on a coach, where you can squirrel away a packed lunch.
Do they deliver nationally? YES – free shipping on orders over £50 (and they’ve got cool merch).
Of course this brewery has a tap room at its brewery (this seems compulsory, when every other brewery in Bristol has one) as well as an online store (vital in this day and age).
- Arbor Lager
- Citrus Maxima
- Massive Azacc (NE pale)
- My Little Sabrony (APA)
- Rocketman (American IPA)
- Pocket Rocket (session pale)
- Shangri-La (session IPA)
- Yakima Valley (American IPA)
- Zero Zero (session NEIPA)
Wot no dark beers? I try a Mosaic with trepidation because I don’t know what mosaic hops taste like and I really ought to learn the flavour of these various hops. The only ones I know are citra (don’t like it) and sorachi ace (tastes like washing up liquid). Hence I tend to avoid hoppy beers – but, by law of averages, there have to be hops that I DO like. I must pay more attention when drinking IPAs and the like.
Do they deliver nationally? YES – with free delivery if you order two or more cases.
I’ve been here previously on a trip with Friends of Highgate Brewery. Nice friendly brewery, there was a chilli beer, if I remember correctly, and I was allowed to take a glass home.
- Bristol Blonde
- Bristol Best
- Bristol Gold
- Easton IPA
- Resolution IPA
- NZA – New Zealand American Pale
- Foresters Black (‘multiple award winning smoked oak milk stout’)
- Foresters Black Caramel
- Cascadia’s Ghost (porter)
- Lockdown Love (hazy hoppy blonde)
- Bristol Lager
I’m having a half of each of the Foresters Black beers because they both sound lush!
Dawkins also do keg beer – and also serve cider. They have six pubs including, of course, the obligatory brewery tap
Do they deliver nationally? YES.
I’m far from done with the Bristol breweries, but I’ve got a match to go to, to
give my liver a rest punctuate the day.
Bristol Rovers v Blackpool
As ever, it’s raining at the Memorial Ground. I’m well wrapped up, though, so it doesn’t bother me.
We’ve reverted back to 4-4-2, with Jerry Yates and Gary Madine up top. Things are as they should be.
But are they?
There’s still no CJ Hamilton – out for a couple of months with a hamstring injury. Do we rely on him too much, as we did with Liam Feeney last season? It’s hard not to, when he’s such a threat to opposition defences. Was our overuse of this outlet a factor in his injury?
And Chris Maxwell is still out with COVID. O captain, my captain. The defence looks at sixes and sevens without Maxwell there, the glue that bound them together, instructing, leading. He keeps so many clean sheets – not just through his superior alertness and positioning and reflexes – but through the confidence he brings out in the defence in front of him.
Rovers look sprightly up front from the off but I get the sense that if Blackpool can just get that final ball through, their defence looks a bit leaky. Indeed, it’s Blackpool who break the deadlock, a great ball whipped across for The Goal Machine, who bangs it home. There follows a spell of dominance, where we find ourselves in great positions and really ought to score more. Then, out of nowhere, Rovers turn up the gas (ahem) and BANG BANG – two goals out of nowhere in the space of a minute. Half time and we were losing 2-1. But surely that wasn’t the end of it?
Rovers won a penalty a minute into the second half. Sam Walker saved it (that’s two pen saves in two matches). The ball went back into play but this time they didn’t score. But our confidence was shattered and the second half was a poor showing from Blackpool.
I don’t blame Walker. He wasn’t at fault for either goal and he’s a good keeper. But any keeper who came in was not going to be Maxwell. He is too good for this league and I don’t think he’s valued highly enough. He offers so much and no keeper was ever going to be able to offer what he offers to the team. He is why we have kept so many clean sheets. And we need him back pronto. Our defence looked shakier than I’ve seen it in months this afternoon.
Here’s our reaction to events as they happened. We resort to telling jokes by the end just to get us through.
I’m driven back to drink. There are still three breweries I haven’t visited – and boy do I need a beer after that!
My first stop is the tap room of Croft Ales, which is open 3-10 on Fridays and Saturdays. They have eight taps and occasionally a cask offering.
Their core range is:
- BS2 (session IPA)
- Westside (American pale)
- Beast (best bitter)
- Deep Red (red IPA)
I’m more interested in their seasonal and special beers, though, and I’m having half of each of these beauties:
- Black Book (stout)
- Bean and Gone (coffee stout)
Do they deliver nationally? YES – free delivery over £50.
Yet another brewery with a tap room (I have come to expect no less from Bristol). Here’s their beer list:
- Brizzle Haze
- Cast Iron Coffee Stout
- Hail Sultana (pale)
- Session IPA
- Where Did You Find This Kid? (American amber)
Coffee stout please!
Do they deliver nationally? YES – and it’s free!
I’m starting to feel a little brighter now (although I wish people would stop asking me about the game! I simply want to forget it happened when we lose).
Zerodegrees appears to be a microbrewery chain that also fires its own pizzas. More bloody pizza! But of course I’m starving after a couple of hours on a wet open terrace, so I’ll have an Americana please (pepperoni sausage, fresh chillies and tomato sauce).
What’s to drink? Their online shop offers:
- Downtown American Pale
- The Bohemian Czech Pilsner
They also have a core mango beer. But they have Christmas beers too!
- Elf’s Ale (orange pale)
- Dashing Ale (Belgian dark)
- Rudolf’s Wheat Beer
- Ho Ho Hops (Belgian wit)
I treat myself to a half of all four festive ales and am now feeling much better.
Do they deliver nationally? YES – with 10% off your first five orders using the code DEC20.
I’ve honestly been stunned by Bristol this weekend. Its breweries are so on trend and (hopefully) as well placed as they can be to survive this pandemic. If I do a review of awaydays at the end of this season, I’m not sure this can be topped – and I never even got to visit any pubs here. How good must they be? I know there’s one that’s full of cats and I did hear rumours of an underground trade in pubkittens across a few Bristol pubs. If anyone has any more information on that I’d be delighted to learn of it. How awesome would a pubcat crawl of Bristol be?
I find a different route home, which excites me greatly. I’m due to change at Newport (South Wales) and Manchester Piccadilly. Newport is the home of Tiny Rebel! Surely that’s out of the way, though? Hmm. The journey home is 5h51. And there’s only a nine minute connection in Newport, leaving no time to visit the brewery. Bah! I’m guessing this circuitous route is something to do with engineering works. But, hey, at least it allows me the time to get my play finished (it’s due in tomorrow).
Keep busy, keep focused and keep smiling, folks.
NB Pics above are taken from the websites referenced, as this was a virtual trip.
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