Yippee! I get my Brighton weekender after all. I love exploring seaside resorts to see how they compare to Blackpool. They are always different, of course, as seaside resorts are by their very nature heterogenous. Some are a bit shit but others I fall in love with straight away (see Cleethorpes blog).
Historically, something has always got in the way of me exploring Brighton and I wondered if I was fated never to explore this town. When we played at Eastbourne in an earlier round of the FA Cup, I had been tempted to go to Brighton – but resolved that would be cheating, Plus, when would I ever get to go to Eastbourne again? I was glad I stayed in Eastbourne, too, as there were many delights to be found there.
I’ve been doing these virtual trips for long enough now to prepare myself for the cost of rail travel. Today I was expecting something edging towards £200, so was delighted to see I could get to Brighton for just £50.50. I manage to wangle a seat on the BSA coach home, thus keeping my costs down to something resembling reasonable. I’m pretty happy with that.
I head off on the 0724 from Blackpool North on Friday morning. The journey takes 4h33 and is sending me through London. Grr. I’m not happy about that. But I break the journey down into little chunks and know I can do this. On the short hop to Preston (boo!) I begin my brewery and pub research for this blog, setting up all the headings with the links to the websites. Blimey, there’s a lot to go at! I hope I get there on time. Mercifully there is only an 11-minute connection time at Preston, but of course it seems like two hours because it’s the greyest, most miserable station in the world. Fact. I’ve tried to take refuge in the shop (too expensive, nothing appealing), the cafe (too expensive, nothing appealing) and waiting room (cramped, nice war memorial, but hardly lifts the spirits). If I could wave a magic wand and change one thing in my life, I think it would be to make Preston station a joy to wait at. I got to thinking (during my seemed-like-two-hour wait) what I would do to it…
- Bomb it.
- Rebuild it.
- Rebrand it Blackpool East.
- A warm, cosy sofa room on Platform 1 with departure boards easily visible.
- Exciting items in the vending machines, such as Peanut Lions, Raspberry Ruffles and Lancashire Black Pudding & English Mustard Crisps.
- A German-market style kiosk selling hot chocolate with Baileys and hot barms.
- A station pub, the Blackpool East Tap, along the lines of the Sheffield Tap, where you could drink while you wait but also buy a nice carry-out for the train.
- A Lancashire Hotpots themed room where you could do workouts to warm you up between connections, including the conga to Lancashire DJ; The Dad Dance and squats to The Perfect Pint.
- A proper Northern greasy spoon caff, with proper brews, a great full English, plus barms to take away.
I almost miss my train, I’m so lost in this fantasy, but the beeping of the doors shunts me back to the present and I squeeze through the closing doors at the last possible moment. Shit – I’ve left my Earl Grey on the platform. Never mind, I’m not really allowed it anyway (caffeine is a migraine trigger).
I unpack my food supplies and tuck into Ryvita with hummus and vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, followed by an Alpen Light Summer Fruits bar and blueberries. I’m leaning more and more towards a vegan diet. The food is so tasty and it’s such a treat to enjoy new foods every week in my shopping. I also feel cleaner somehow after eating it; the opposite to how I feel after, say, bacon or a McDonalds.
This leg of the journey is two-and-a-half hours long, so I settle back in my seat and bury myself in my book. This morning, I’m transporting myself back to 1997, a very dark period in my life, which is on the one hand quite painful to relive; but on the other makes for great material for my book. I weave in a lot of darkness, which is easy because Nigel Worthington has just been appointed Blackpool manager. Good God, is it any wonder I was depressed? I lighten it up with a reference to Wimpy and begin to question whether there actually was a Wimpy in Blackpool. I put it to the audience on the AVFTT message board and am delighted with the response, as Wimpy brings back memories for a lot of people (myself included). I hope my book will evoke similar emotions in my future readers.
Right. Now to tackle London. I need to get from Euston to Victoria. I don’t like the underground at Euston, so I toddle across to Euston Square. I’m proud of myself as I manage to successfully navigate my way onto the blue line and I’m in Victoria before I know it. Boom! Tube mastered!
I’ve got another hour on this train, which takes me directly to Brighton, and use this time to crack on with my latest OU assignment, which is due in on Monday and which I haven’t started yet. I set up my document, add bullet points detailing what I need to cover and do a bit of forum work critiquing others’ work (which is what this assignment is based on). I feel I’ve made good progress and it’s worrying me much less now.
I land in Brighton at 1157, locate my b&b, throw my overnight bag on the bed, make use of the excellent facilities, lay out all my toiletries for later, grab the biscuits (ooh ginger ones!) and head out to finally explore Brighton.
I’m delighted to find a taproom at UnBarred – a place I could never walk past, not least because of the delicious aromas of food pulling me in by the nostrils. Take a look for yourself how alluring this place is:
Their beer list is as follows:
- NEIPA 01.21 Amarillo, Azacca & El Dorado
- Berry Sour
- Salted Caramel Chocolate Donut
- Joosy (hazy pale)
- NEIPA Cashmere, Enigma & Galaxy
- Sweet & Hazy
- Bakewell Tart
- Stoutzilla ’20
- Honeycomb Milkshake
- Casual Pale Ale
- Mango Pale Ale
- Tropic Soda Pale Ale
- Bueno Shake
Shit! Why did I come here first? This is going to be one messy weekend… I want to try so many of these, so opt for a tasting paddle of the Salted Caramel Chocolate Donut, Bakewell Tart and Stoutzilla (who could resist a pump clip with a dinosaur? Not me!).
Unsurprisingly, the queue for the food is out the door and I can’t justify staying here any longer while I wait, as I’ve got a lot to pack in today.
Do they deliver nationally? YES – with free delivery over £50 and no minimum order.
This is the home of Brighton Bier. I’ve seen these guys before – I recognise the branding. They’ve won 15 international beer awards, including six World Beer Awards. That really is something, when you take into account just how many delicious beers there are out there.
Their cask beers are:
- Is It Friday Yet? (pale ale)
- Mino Bier (bitter)
- West Pier (pale ale)
- No Name (oatmeal stout)
- Grand Havana (smoked porter)
- South Coast IPA
There is also a long list of cans and keg beers, from which I cannot resist the award-winning Black IPA. I’m delighted to see more black light beers appearing in this country, having not tried one at all until I went to Transylvania in 2018.
Foodwise, there are a couple of options here: German Hot Dogs or Pizzaface pizza. Now, as you know, I’m not a massive fan of hot dogs or pizzas. However… Here they have a Cheese Frankfurter, which has ‘melted emmenthal cheese running through the centre‘. I have to try that!
Do they deliver nationally? YES – with free delivery over £50. You can also order locally via Deliveroo and UberEats.
What’s not to love about these guys? Ace name, ace shirts…I even love the font on their website. They just scream FUN and I can’t wait to visit. The brewery taproom is open 4-9 and it’s just opening as I arrive.
The beer list?
- Hypnosis Pale
- Psychedelic IPA
- Flowerpower Blonde
- Ecstasy Stout
- Hallucination Brune
- Bohemian Gold
- Insomnia Black IPA
- Transcendence Mango
- Euphoria Red
- Mesmerise Rye
- Quadrophenia Pale Ale
- Vertigo Citrus Pale Ale
- Retox IPA
- Paranoid Cherry Porter
Of course I’m going for the Cherry Porter and also the Black IPA.
The taproom is available to hire for events, such as small gigs, theatre productions and parties. Mobile catering can be provided. Sounds like a great place for a party to me.
Do they deliver nationally? YES, for a flat fee of £10.
Just look at this place!
Hand Brew offer a virtual beer tasting experience and I love this idea. Simply order your beers, select a date for the tasting experience and join in the Zoom event on the date selected. They’ll send you six beers – four for the tasting session and two to enjoy at your leisure. This is the first time I have come across this but I’m thrilled to discover that it’s a thing – and not just here, but nationally. I’ve even found a Fierce Beer one and I’m incredibly excited about this.
But back to the pub at Hand (see what I did there?). Not only does it have a pubdog…
…it has a pubcat too!
This is my new favourite pub in Brighton. Show me a pubcat anywhere and I’m there. I actually did a pubcat crawl of London once, in an effort to make London a pleasant experience. It helped massively.
Their core range is:
- Bird (bitter)
- High Five (oat pale)
- Low Five (Vienna pale)
And on keg:
- Shaka (house pale)
- Hans (pilsner)
- Toucan (Irish dry stout)
Ooh a Toucan for me please! Long gone are the days when it mattered how a beer was brewed, whether it is technically ‘real ale’ or bottled or canned. Good beer is good beer.
Do they deliver nationally? YES – with free delivery over £60.
Finally some food! The menu here is predominantly hot dogs, burgers and wings. But I spy loaded fries and simply have to try these:
Their beers are:
- Fader Juicy IPA
- Source Pale Ale
- Ripper Session IPA
- Mangolicious Pale Ale
- Word Lager
- Brighton Tea Party NEIPA
- Burger Beer Lager
- East More Buttons – Salted Caramel Stout
- Out Of The Woods – West Coast Pale Ale
- Quiet One Table Beer
- Totally Tropical Sour
- King Limbo Low Alcohol IPA
Of course it’s the Salted Caramel Stout for me.
Laine offer virtual beer tastings too – and will throw in some mystery entertainment for an additional cost: ‘think bingo with a twist or an awesome quiz with a hella fun host’. I’m intrigued and slightly scared.
They also have a link up with Tribe Urban Axe Throwing. Given that I can’t even chop a turnip without almost losing several fingers, I’m not sure that’s for me – although it does sound fun.
And – what’s this – there’s also a Laine Bottle Shop, where you can buy beer to drink on or off the premises? Not only that, but they serve toasties, including a Vegan Cheese & Hendersons Relish one, which I’ll definitely be having. Never mind that cheese is a migraine trigger – it’s a vital toastie ingredient.
Do they deliver nationally? YES. But not the toasties, sadly.
I’m sorry, I just can’t bring myself to go here.
Phew! That’s enough for one day. Totally zonked after the long journey, writing, studying, walking, drinking and eating, I make sure I set my alarm for early(ish) in the morning, so I can get in a bit of touristy stuff before checking out some pubbage.
I wake before the alarm around 8am. There’s lots to do today!
The one touristy thing that I don’t want to miss is the Peter James tour. I’ve read everything Peter James has written, ever since I picked up a copy of Host in a book swap at work 20 years ago. I particularly love his sci-fi stuff but his most popular work is his series of Roy Grace detective novels, set in Brighton. This tour takes you round some of the landmarks featured in the Roy Grace novels. I’m gutted as I remember this tour takes place at 2pm on a Saturday – and the game kicks off at 3pm. Bah! Well, I’ll just have to make up my own tour.
I head towards the prominent British Airways i360 Viewing Tower for an overview of Brighton and the surrounding area. Blackpool Tower it ain’t – but it’s bloomin’ impressive!
And of course I have to do a recce of the famous Brighton Palace Pier to see how it compares to our three. My initial reaction is one of concern, as I see there are height restrictions applicable for many of the pier’s attractions – and I am vertically challenged. I’m relieved when I just meet the target for not needing to be accompanied by a tall person. Phew! I get to go on the trampolines and visit the Horror Hotel before giving in to those tantalising seaside aromas: fish & chips and hot doughnuts.
I confess I’m not hopeful of finding good gravy down here in the Extreme South. I am therefore thrilled to find this review on TripAdvisor:
Further research reveals that Brighton Rocks has since changed hands and is now a cocktail bar. Utterly deflated, I need beer immediately and give up on any hope of finding gravy here. I’m not sure I could face the disappointment. Besides, there must be some local cuisine I can enjoy. I curse myself for not remembering to bring a hip flask of gravy with me. Be prepared next time, woman.
I check my watch and realise it’s time for Football Focus – and we might be on it today. Lee and I had been filmed by the BBC on Blackpool prom in ridiculous weather conditions on Thursday morning. Would we make the cut? I wasn’t hopeful, but tuned in just in case. And we were on! Check out the lovely little feature on Blackpool 18 minutes in. It’s worth watching for the elephants alone.
Now this is part of a chain, apparently, with other bars in Brixton, Limehouse, St Mary Axe, Covent Garden, Clerkenwell, Hammersmith and Old Street. This one has 22 keg, 5 cask and 200+ bottles and cans.
Food consists of Big G’s Burgers ‘all served with hand cut chips, lettuce, tomato, gherkin, red onion jam and secret sauce’. Of course I’m having one. The gherkin and the secret sauce make this a must. I opt for the Cajun Hottie: Cajun spiced chicken breast, jalapeños, bacon, Monterey Jack and hot pepper sauce.
Today’s draught beer list is pretty extensive – and here are my highlights:
- Cloak & Dagger BA Echo Chamber (barrel aged choc bomb stout)
- Evil Twin X Bellwoods Acai Bowl Helmet (pale ale with açai, strawberry, banana, blueberry & coconut)
- Cloak & Dagger Gigantic Antics (lemon & lime sour)
- AleSmith X Gravity Heights OG Barleywine Peach Sherry
I note that Cloak & Dagger are a Brighton brewery, so need to find out more about them.
Oh my! They have a tap room (called The Cloak Room), with 14 craft on draught as well as beer cocktails. They ‘also hold beer events, live music and dj nights and pop-up art events’.
They’re delivering food now via UberEats, courtesy of Slow & Low Smokehouse – and oh my what a menu! I think I want everything on it but I opt for the following:
Beers available from their online shop are:
- Prey to the Deity (DIPA)
- Electric Mayhem (pineapple sour)
- Komodo Bozo (session IPA)
- Routes to Pluto (DDH hazy pale)
- Lazy Hustle (all say saison)
- Never Dug Disco (NEIPA)
- Petite Beast (little IPA)
- Lobo (hazy pale, collab with Hand Brew Co)
Well, I’ve learned what DDH means this weekend (double dry hopped), as part of my beer education.
There’s a tantalising ‘freebies’ menu on their website, which contains some colouring in sheets. Who doesn’t like a bit of colouring in? I download and print one off to colour in while I’m enjoying a pineapple sour.
Do they deliver nationally? YES.
Just as I’m mulling over whether I’ve got time for another pub, I get a message from a Blackpool fan living in Brighton, alerting me to a good chippy that serves gravy. Obvs I’m off there pronto…
I spend a long time surveying the menu here and am puzzled by an item I’ve never heard of.
‘Ew. Go on then. I’ll give that a go. With chips and gravy please.’
I figure even if I don’t like it, the gravy will make it palatable.
According to www.britishseafishing.co.uk, ‘Dogfish is not particularly nice to eat and has little commercial value, although it was once highly sought after for its rough skin which was used to polish wood and as a replacement for pumice.’
I figure even if I don’t like it, it will get rid of the rough skin on the soles of my feet.
‘Oh and a can of ginger beer, please.’
Dear reader, there’s no dandelion and burdock on the menu. That’s another one for the hip flask next time I’m down south.
Seriously, though, I’m hearing great things about this chippy – and this review tells me all I need to know:
Right, that’s quite enough of that. Time to head to the match!
Brighton & Hove Albion v Blackpool
I must confess I’m bricking it about the match today. We’ve been hit with injuries, lost two loanees and, on the eve of this match, have lost five players to COVID, in addition to the one already self-isolating. And we’re playing Premier League opposition. In the starting line-up are two players we haven’t seen in months: MJ Williams and Jordan Thorniley. The latter – along with Teddy Howe, who’s on the bench today – had been told he can leave the club if anyone wants him. We’ve got a few kids on the bench, are playing five at the back (‘parking the tram’) and there’s no way on earth we can win this match.
It was all Brighton from the kick-off and I just want to enjoy football again, please. This season it seems we’re either world-beaters or no-hopers and there’s not much in between. Brighton took the lead with a worldie and that was the start of the rout, surely?
Then a cheeky back-heel from Jez seconds before half-time started one of those sexual moves that always seem to end in a goal and bloody hell where did that come from? How aren’t we losing at half time? And (much as I love them), why do all our goals have to be so beautifully crafted and why can’t we just score something scrappy deflected in off someone’s bum?
I still wasn’t hopeful of winning – and indeed it was Brighton who scored the raggy deflected effort that turned out to be the winner. And we couldn’t deny they had deserved it. After all, we had no chance even before the game had kicked off. Nor was there any chance of a postponement, as this was an FA Cup tie and it was on telly and of course such a prestigious competition and money are far more important than the health and wellbeing of a football club and its staff. Bah.
Here’s us reporting on events as they happened. I think it’s one of the best live watchalongs we’ve done.
I climb aboard the BSA coach, which will take me the long way home to Blackpool. I bury myself in Netflix, binge-watching Elite all the way home, because I’m addicted to it.
Others on the coach are talking about the match and other results but I can’t hear them through my AirPods. As is the case every Saturday night when we lose, I hate football and want nothing more to do with it. Until the next match, of course…
NB Pics above are taken from the websites referenced, as this was a virtual trip.
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