Jane Stuart – Writer

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

MK Dons v Blackpool: Milton Keynes Pubs

I confess I’ve always found Milton Keynes rather an odd city, owing to its design. However, in the course of my studies with the Open University (which is based in MK), I have learned about its history and am keen to explore it properly.

What I am most looking forward to, however, is the robots that deliver people’s shopping. When my friend told me about these I did not believe him, but they are a thing – and I was determined to hunt one down today.

Armed with my Advance Single ticket (£30.80) I board the 0927 from Blackpool North to Manchester Piccadilly. Ah my old friend the Northern Rail commuter train. I settle back in my seat and spend the journey researching future blogs. Whilst I have quite a rigorous schedule for completing my book, I am aware of my obligation to you, dear reader, so I devote my Tuesdays to the ongoing mission of football, pubbery and blogging.

I have half an hour to kill in Manchester – and I am rather peckish – so I pop to Pret for a Veggie Brioche and Rooibos Cacao Earl Grey and a Gingerbread biscuit, who is an impulse buy because they/them make me smile.

I board the 1115 Avanti West Coast service to Milton Keynes Central and spend this leg of the journey catching up on the latest blogs from a few of my favourite bloggers:

At 1248 I land in Milton Keynes and head straight for a local brewery.

Concrete Cow Brewery

Concrete Cow is Milton Keynes’ first microbrewery, dating back to 2007.

Their online shop stocks:

  • Quantum Blonde
  • Pail Ale
  • Fenny Popper (bitter)
  • Old Bloomer (premium bitter)
  • Cock n Bull (bitter)
  • Stables Gold

UK shipping is free but bottles aren’t available to buy individually, only in cases of 12.

Whilst here, I become curious about the origins of the name Concrete Cow. Dear reader, the answer is so exciting, I wish I was staying overnight. The Concrete Cows are sculptures of cows made from concrete and chicken wire.

I have been obsessed with animal sculptures since happening across the International Cow Parade in Ventspils in 2007 – and have since completed several animal art trails, including Shaun in the City, the Herd of Sheffield, The Big Hoot and The Big Sleuth. Now, not only are there two sets of Concrete Cows in Milton Keynes (in Bancroft Park and MK Museum) – there’s also a dinosaur (which changes colour) and a frog band!

Blackened Sun Brewing Company

There’s a tap room here, but alas it is only open at weekends, so I am unable to visit tonight. I am going to look out for their beers elsewhere, though. They have:

  • aeon (imperial stout)
  • awakening (IPA)
  • betrayer (West Coast IPA)
  • black mass (imperial stout)
  • black-out (ESB)
  • coven (saison)
  • crossover (pale ale)
  • defector (West Coast pale)
  • hédoné (saison)
  • lumiere (pale ale)
  • luna (saison)
  • nebula (stout)
  • neon nights (stout)
  • project (mixed fermentation)
  • project ii (mixed fermentation)
  • solar (wheat pale ale)
  • supercoven (saison)
  • void (black IPA)

Phew! That is a lot of beers! I’m going to look out for their stouts and also the supercoven because I love the name. I always wanted to be a witch when I was little and a supercoven sounds like somewhere I would like to be.

Sadly UK delivery is not available but local delivery is.

Bucks Star Beer

There is a brewery tap here.

Bucks Star beers available via Growler Swap (where Concrete Cow beers are also available) are:

  • Copernicus (copper)
  • Evolve (lager)
  • Magiovinium (porter)
  • No 1 (pale)
  • Steenbrugge (Belgian)

Delivery is available locally and to London.

Hornes Brewery

A brewery with its own goats! Who knew Milton Keynes was THIS exciting?

Herbie, Sooty and Dusty are the three resident goats at Hornes Brewery. At once I forget I am even here for beer and spend ages giggling to myself and watching the goats frolicking in the paddock. I LOVE GOATS!

The brewer snaps me out of my goat trance, asking me what I’d like to drink. The one with the goats on please!

I don’t even think to check what type of beer this is (are there even words on that pump clip?), but am pleased to find it is a porter.

Their other beers are:

  • Arapawa (pale)
  • Triple Goat Pale
  • Triple Goat IPA
  • Dark Fox Bitter
  • Featherstone (amber)
  • Ryestone (ruby)
  • Summer Swallows (golden)
  • A Dickens of an Ale (Christmas)
  • Black Antler (smoked porter)
  • Blindside IPA
  • Lineout Porter
  • Hat Trick Hero (amber)

Visits to the brewery are by appointment only.

National delivery (of beer, not goats, sadly) is available (free for orders over £50).

I don’t want to leave but the next pub has a windmill and I need to see that, too.

Caldecotte

Obvs I had to visit so I could meet the little mouse with clogs on.

I cannot believe the pub – or its visitors – don’t make more of the windmill. I only found out when it was mentioned to me by a Pool fan who had lived in Milton Keynes. I had to actively search for the word ‘windmill’ in the TripAdvisor reviews to verify its existence. Even the pub’s own website doesn’t feature it.

Windmill

This is a Greene King pub (I’m visiting a lot of these lately) so I am hopeful of exciting food. I take a seat inside the windmill (how exciting is that?) and peruse the menu. I am not disappointed.

**contains alcohol

I’ve never had dipping steak before and find this – and the selection of sauces – very exciting indeed. I never have sauce with a steak, so I’ve never tried peppercorn sauce. Beer cheese I feel could be rebranded. And of course I’m all over the beef dripping gravy, despite feeling my arteries hardening at the mere thought of it. I’ve always got emergency Rennies in my handbag, though, so all is well.

Recent beer checkins on Untappd include:

  • Brewdog Punk IPA
  • Guinness
  • Greene King Yardbird Pale Ale
  • Greene King Scrum Down (IPA)

I look (and listen) hard for the little mouse with clogs on, but he must be out, so I move on.

MK Biergarten

Ooh this is a micropub and bottle shop. Milton Keynes, you are exciting me too much! With over 250 different beers, I focus my search on any local breweries that I may have missed. I find:

  • Roman Way Senate Gold
  • Roman Way Boudicca Black IPA
  • Roman Way IPA Claudius
  • Roman Way Pantheon EPA

I see what they’re doing there. I am suffering from black IPA fatigue at the moment (to the extent that I’m considering cancelling my beer subscriptions and hand selecting every beer that crosses my doorstep). I peruse the shelves further.

  • Twisted Barrel Gose Town
  • Twisted Barrel Halloween in January (peanut butter imperial stout with chocolate and vanilla)
  • Twisted Barrel Beast of a Midlands Mild

Is Coventry local to Milton Keynes? I check. 49 miles. Anyway, I’m not complaining because I love Twisted Barrel (more to follow when we next play at Cov, which might actually be in Cov).

  • Silverstone Octane (golden)
  • Silverstone Night Racer (stout)
  • Silverstone Podium (golden)

I see what they’re doing there, too.

  • Tap Social Time Better Spent (IPA)
  • Tap Social False Economy (lager)
  • Tap Social Cell Count (APA)
  • Tap Social Inside Out (stout)

Tap Social are based in Oxford – and we’re there next Saturday – so more of them to follow…

There’s Indian snackage here too. I don’t know what these are, but I’m having them anyway.

Brewhouse & Kitchen

I do like this franchise – as featured in my Portsmouth blog – so cannot resist visiting today.

As I had brunch last time, I pick from the All Day Menu today. Still giddy with excitement about the dinosaur, goats and windmill, I order a Croque Madame, forgetting that two cheese dishes in one day might bring on a migraine.

Recent beer checkins on Untappd include:

  • Vibrant Forest Pupa (pale)
  • B&K Decoder (oatmeal stout)
  • Browerij Haacht Brasserie Tongerlo LUX (Belgian blonde)
  • B&K Boston Pale
  • B&K Style Council (IPA)
  • B&K Colossus (IPA)

I’m having the oatmeal stout, which is brewed on the premises. Local beer at its most local.

I’m interested to note they have ‘work spaces’ available for people to have meetings or work. They offer wifi, power sockets, unlimited hot/cold drinks and up to ten sheets of free printing. I confess I do like the idea of writing in a pub/cafe, which offers a change of scenery from (a) the conservatory or (b) the living room, which are my current options. It also offers the added entertainment value of actual other people (remember them?).

It is here that I encounter a man who tells me all about the robots. Dear reader, they are even more exciting than I anticipated. They are called Starships AND THEY TALK!!! Do watch this video for the full story:

Dear reader, I’m not sure quite how much more excitement I can take. I need a strong drink now, so I know just where to go…

Brewdog

My relationship with Brewdog has always been complicated. I started off disliking them, because I was a CAMRA real ale snob. I was then introduced to the delights of craft and keg beer by a friend who took me to Brewdog. I soon realised some of these beers were strong and I should probably avoid them, especially on a crawl. Then they did a collab with my favourite brewery, Fierce, which meant I had to love them; they also stock Fierce beer. They are, of course, expensive – but then a lot of decent craft beer places are. Brewdog simply led the way. Sure, they’ve sold out – but they have taken beer all over the world and that can only be a good thing.

Recent beers purchased from MK Brewdog but supped at home are:

  • Brewdog Light Speed (IPA)
  • Mikkeller SpontanTripleBlueberry (lambic)
  • Brewdog Tactical Nuclear Penguin (32% freeze distilled imperial stout)
  • Dead End Brew Machine Curtis The Destroyer (barleywine)
  • Brewdog Layer Cake (pastry stout)
  • Vault City Blueberry Pumpkin Spice Latte
  • Vibrant Forest Yub Nub (barleywine)
  • Beatnik Sticky Toffee Pudding 2019 (imperial stout)

Some tempting stuff in there, but you can see how bad this is on a crawl! Food is therefore vital here.

I am tempted by the black pudding one but I know I’m asking for trouble if I have the cheese hat-trick. I am therefore delighted to spot the lamb burger, which is completely irresistible. So much so, that I might make one myself, now I’m getting into home cooking.

Ok – one more, then I really must go to the match…

Woburn Ale House

This place specialises in ‘real ale from local micro-breweries and the finest contemporary craft beers’ and is ‘dog friendly‘, therefore there’s no way I’m not visiting.

Recent beer checkins on Untappd include:

  • Hornes Triple Goat Porter
  • Thornbridge Jamestown (IPA)
  • Hornes Featherstone (bitter)
  • London Beer Factory Fuzzy Recall (IPA)
  • Northern Monk Tropical World // Tropical Smoothie IPA
  • Bring Side Pocket For A Toad (golden)

I go for the smoothie, making my last beer of the day a dessert beer. Plus, it has to be at least one of my five a day, right?

Frankly, there is no way on earth this match can live up to the pre-match, but of course I go anyway (not least because I really do need to stop drinking now).

Milton Keynes Dons v Blackpool

Dear reader, there is nothing to report from this match, other than to celebrate another great goal from Jerry Yates.

Thus we spent the majority of the livestream doing what we do best, nattering about things completely unrelated to football. Tune in for some fun facts on protactinium, details of my appearance on Top Gear and a new song for Elliot Embleton.

Given that the last train home was during the match, I board the BSA coach back to Blackpool. As always midweek, it is a long journey home, despite the three points in the luggage compartment. I binge-watch America’s Got Talent all the way home. I confess we only started watching this because we found out Sofia Vergara was a new judge on the show (we love her as Gloria on Modern Family). But it has blown our minds, the production having gone off the scale since moving to Netflix. The live shows are set at Universal Studios and the stages are out of this world. The acts aren’t half bad either. It’s definitely worth a watch if you haven’t already.

I get home at 1.30am, duly knackered. Milton Keynes, you were epic. But I’m going to need an overnighter next time, I think, because that was just way too much excitement for one day…

Next stop Fleetwood at home – and a ‘warm’ welcome back to Bloomfield Road for Larry…

UTMP.


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


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