Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v Fulham: Town Centre Pubs

When your team hasn’t won a league game all season and they are playing the team at the top of the league, it is time to start drawing on your coping mechanisms to ensure you enjoy your day out.

Today I was hosting my friend Paul – of Football Book Reviews fame – who was arriving by train from Leeds. I met Paul in my Chasetown days. He works for the Northern Premier League and I know him to be a curse, as Chase lost very heavily each time he attended our fixtures. I had forgotten this when I agreed to meet him. I suggested a mini pub crawl of my favourite trio of pubs in Blackpool Town Centre followed by a Yorkshire Fisheries, where I planned to introduce Paul to gravy.

Cask & Tap

This is my new favourite pub in Blackpool. It only opened last year – for a matter of days before the long winter lockdown – but it is already gaining a much-deserved reputation on the national beer scene.

Clearly built with love, the decor is outstanding, with excellent toilet facilities and even dog biscuits on the bar. No pics of the decor on this occasion, but if you click on the link in the heading you can see it there. Also – get down there and look for yourself.

I took my time surveying the pump clips and marvelled at the small joy of being able to do this. On my previous visits – when we were just coming out of lockdown – it had been a case of a quick visit to the bar, photographing the pump clips and scurrying off to find a seat to await table service.

‘What are you thinking?’

‘Well I really want that stout but it’s breakfast time and it’s a bit heavy for breakfast – but then it is coffee so that might be ok?’

‘Well it is actually lunchtime.’

‘I know but I’ve only just had my breakfast.’

‘…but I don’t like Citra – and that one’s hoppy…’

‘…and I’ve had that one before…so I’ll have a half of the stout, please.’

I remained at the bar and chatted with landlord Gary about forthcoming beer offerings and quite possibly clapped my hands together and jumped up and down and some of the prospects. There is room for an improved craft beer offering in here, too – and the addition of these could make this an unrivalled pub on the Fylde Coast.

It is wonderful to see pubs of this calibre popping up in my home town. Having lived in the Black Country and worked in Birmingham for 20 years, I had worried that I would struggle to find decent beer on my move back to Blackpool. Indeed, I was almost resigned to simply enjoying good beer on my travels. I needn’t have worried.

Paul arrived with a smile and a hug and we took a seat in the centre of the pub, chatting about all things football. We were soon joined by Wilf of Yorkshire Seasiders fame and it would have been rude not to stay for another. It was lovely to see the pub getting busier and busier as time progressed. This really is a ‘once found, oft frequented’ pub of a special kind. And it’s super handy for Blackpool North station, being situated on Topping Street (also home to Yorkshire Fisheries).

The next planned stop was Albert’s Ale Micropub but we were disappointed to find it closed – the sign in the window confirmed it opened at 1400. Wilf had arranged to meet his sister in No 10 Alehouse but failure to locate a taxi meant we headed off together to the next pub on my itinerary.

Brew Room

The beauty of this mini crawl is that all of the pubs are within minutes of each other. Brew Room is on Church Street, perfectly-positioned in between Cask & Tap and Alberts.

There was an orderly queue at the bar in here – a good habit that has emerged out of lockdown. I peered towards the bar and found myself jumping up and down and clapping for the second time today.

Titanic Plum Porter!

I’ve now been in here often enough to observe that the five clips on the left are their own beers – brewed on site – and the five clips on the right are guests. There are also ten(?) craft pumps along the back of the bar (visible in the photos above).

In my role as Pub Tourist Guide for the day, I pointed out to Paul that this pub was where Blackpool Football Club was formed and showed him the memorabilia at the front of the pub. I also explained that the pub also had history as a music venue in town and still had bands on. He was also very excited to spot the table football towards the rear of the pub.

The one thing I think this pub could do better is its food offering. If there was something yummy in here to line my stomach I could spend uninterrupted hours in here. It is a warm, cosy, dark, beer pub. I love pubs that are dark and, once inside, you cannot see the outside world (unless you’re sat in the window at the front). I like to forget the outside world exists when I’m in the pub. On a cold winter’s night I could happily hole up in here if only there was a bubbling cauldron of Lancashire Hotpot or chilli. There is food: hot dogs, pizzas, pies, etc. But they’re not for me. I’d like to see more choice. Or alternatively have the option to bring in my own food, so I could tuck into fish, chips and gravy from Yorkshire Fisheries. That would be ace – and keep me in here for longer.

Paul whipped out his latest book that he was reading on the journey: The Beautiful History: Football Club Badges. This is a lovely book featuring illustrations of club badges and telling the stories behind them. It featured Blackpool’s Tower Power logo and I explained that this had made a comeback on our new third kit.

By now it was shortly after 1400 – did we have time for a cheeky half in Alberts before heading to the ground? Well, given that neither Wilf nor Paul had been before, it was not difficult to twist their arms.

Albert’s Ale Micropub

This is not a pub you are likely to find by accident. Indeed, many locals and regular visitors to Blackpool might not even know of its existence. It is a hidden gem – and the quirkiest pub in Blackpool.

What is quirky about it? For a start it’s in the basement of a B&B. You’ll find Punch & Judy (together with crocodile and sausages), a tiki bar sign, a great photo of the Bee Gees… They serve Baileys Ice Cream! And the music is fab, too. My favourite tune heard in there to date was this one:

And the beer range is not so shabby either.

Note the Lancashire Crisps in the background
Ooh a local beer from Poulton. I should have tried this one.
But I couldn’t resist another stout

Well, well, well – what a treat: three pubs and three excellent dark beers.

There was an interesting addition to this pub since my last visit:

Ding ding! Little bells on each of the tables. I love this! I remember going to a pub in Dundee before a pre-season friendly several years ago and it still had working service bells on the walls. It would be great to see this little quirk making a comeback; it would be really useful if table service returns.

This is another pub where you can’t see the outside (as it is in the basement) so it’s as if it the real world does not exist. It is a small pub, too and – like Cask & Tap – one where you always end up engaging in conversation with complete strangers at another table. This is how I like a pub to be.

This pub also features in this book, recommended by Paul, which sounds like the sort of football bible that I need, featuring food and drink options at (randomly) 86 of the 92 league clubs. The other Blackpool pubs featured are Brew Room and The Galleon. What an eclectic selection of pubs. I didn’t know The Galleon still existed.

Here’s Paul’s review of the book.

Sadly we had little time in here before it was already time to leave and stroll down to Bloomfield Road.

Blackpool v Fulham

The walk to the ground took us down Coronation Street and Central Drive. Just as we were about to turn the corner onto Bloomfield Road, I remembered I had to do something very important that might just tip the match in our favour.

The Lucky Orange Aero

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to remember this, but it was The Lucky Orange Aero that brought us luck in the play-offs (against Oxford and at Wembley) and saw us safely promoted to the Championship (reading those blogs back, I also note that I went into Cask & Tap before the Oxford game – hmm – could that be lucky too?).

They sell Orange Aeros in the newsagents/convenience store/whatever they are called these days on the corner of Bloomfield Road and Central Drive and I knew this so I darted inside and grabbed one, paying with the pound I had found when changing handbags this morning. I waved it in Paul’s face (have I mentioned he’s a Fulham fan?).

‘Ha! You’ve no chance of winning now. I’ve got my Lucky Orange Aero.’

He tried to wrestle it off me but I managed to keep it safe. This was it. Yeah we might be playing top of the league and yeah we might be without a win but everything was going to be okay now.

I hoped.

Owing to the cheeky late, late pub stop (and chocolate stop and loo visit and refreshment kiosk stop, where I noted they now have nachos and dips – is that a new thing?), the match had already kicked off by the time we took our seats.

What’s the team? Oh a couple of new boys are in: Ryan Wintle and Jordan Gabriel. We’ve actually got a right back! Woohoo!

Midway through the first half I realised I was hungry (note we hadn’t had time to visit Yorkshire Fisheries) and remembered my talisman in my handbag. When I was halfway through eating my Lucky Orange Aero, I heard a voice demanding my urgent attention:

‘Jane! JANE! JAAAAAAAAAAAANE!!!’

I turned around to see a man gesticulating frantically.

‘Don’t eat it all at once!’

Of course! What was I thinking? We might need some luck for later. I stopped eating immediately and tucked the Lucky Orange Aero back in my handbag.

Dear reader, the game was brilliant! Like Millwall a couple of weeks ago, Fulham allowed us space to express ourselves and tear them apart. I think Josh ‘Come On Joshyyyyyyyyyy!’ Bowler is my new favourite player of all time in a Blackpool shirt. He is just so exciting when he gets the ball and just runs at and through players like they aren’t there. This afternoon he showed us he had an end product, too (which we knew we would see) with a sensational solo goal just after half time. Having subsequently watched his post-match interview (with the obligatory lawnmowers humming in the background), I am also delighted to confirm that he has a tangerine and white beard. Could I love this man any more?

We battled and battled and hung on for a 1-0 win – and were value for it. God, this was a great feeling. I hadn’t felt this buzz coming out of a ground since – well, Middlesbrough in the Caramac Cup, when Bowler had again stolen the show.

Here’s Lee’s video memory of the day so you can feel like you were there even if you weren’t:

We were buzzing all the way home. While Lee was putting the above video together, I spent the evening chilling before we came together to cheer on Emma Raducanu to victory in the US Open Final. What a match that was, too! What a day this had been! If Carlsberg did Saturdays…well, the beer wouldn’t have been half as good for a start…

Next up: Two of the Fylde Coast’s top pub gems (as yet unblogged – and one as yet unvisited) and Huddersfield at home.

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