Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Shipwreck Brewhouse Cleveleys & Blackpool v Huddersfield Town

After the traumatic end to my Lytham crawl last week, I decided that this week’s pub crawl was going to consist of only fine hostelries that I knew I was going to enjoy. As usual, the plan went slightly awry – but this time in a good way.

The Shipwreck Brewhouse

This micropub on Victoria Road in Cleveleys has been on my Must Visit list for some time. Tonight was the night!

I arrived around 1700 and the pavement terrace was already bustling with customers. I walked through the front door towards the bar at the far end of the room (which wasn’t actually very far). I surveyed the pump clips.

Ah yes! That lovely rum porter that got me in trouble in Wigan when I finished off the barrel.

‘Ooh I really want that rum porter – but I haven’t had my tea yet.’

‘Maybe just have a half?’

‘Um…no…it’s lovely…I’ll have a pint please.’

I knew this wasn’t the most sensible start to the night but it did set the tone for the night…

I strode into the back room, pint in hand, for a little explore. This was a nice little room and I took a seat at the vacant table (there were only two), admiring the clock on the wall and humming along to Super Trouper, which was playing in the background. We’re going to see ABBA next year and I’m very excited indeed about this.

I soon became aware that the group of women at the other table were having an animated conversation about something controversial and wished I’d tuned in earlier. As their voices dropped, my hearing stood no chance, so I decided to move back into the main bar to give them some privacy.

There was a lot more to look at in here, including a couple of dogs (not photographed, sorry).

While I waited for Karen to turn up (I’m not drinking unaccompanied at the moment after Lythamgate), I perused the food menu (even though I already knew what I was having) and – oh, what’s this – a bottle shop price list.

THERE’S A BOTTLE SHOP HERE AS WELL?!

Well not only that, dear reader – but the menu led with stouts and porters. I could not believe my eyes as I read down the menu. Did they really have all these amazing beers here? In Cleveleys?

There were milds and mead (mead!) on this list too

All of my senses were alert now and my ears pricked up at news that there was, indeed, a bottle shop onsite and it was upstairs. It took a lot of willpower for me to remain in my seat and wait for Karen to arrive. I wanted to be up there and rolling around in all those lovely bottles right now. Ooh, which would I have? I wanted them all!

Karen arrived, ordered a Blonde Vixen, and joined me at my table. Almost immediately, the conversation turned to food and we decided to order and share the best item on the menu, which I have been salivating over photographs of for over a year. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

Whilst waiting impatiently for the food to arrive, I skipped upstairs to check out the bottle shop. I was actually relieved to find a few of the beers were out of stock, otherwise who knows what sort of mess I might have ended up in?

As I stepped carefully back downstairs, beer cradled lovingly in my arms, I spotted something even more exciting (‘how is that even possible?!’ I hear you cry).

I have been after this book ever since Lee and I walked The Mythic Coast sculpture trail in Cleveleys last summer – and Karen kindly swept in and bought me a copy for my birthday (on Saturday). It is the story on which the sculpture trail is based – and the inspiration for this beer, also on sale here.

What?! Did they brew beer here too? I immediately investigated and a quick Google search revealed that this beer was brewed by Black Edge Brewery in Horwich. I vaguely recall coming across this brewery on one of my virtual crawls last season. I had very much enjoyed their Black Coffee Porter in Cask & Tap on Saturday. And lo and behold if I didn’t have two of their beers on the table in front of me right now (we were amassing quite a selection).

As we discussed our drinking strategy – we opted for bottle sharing, i.e. one bottle, two glasses – our food arrived. And wow!

This was the world famous Lancashire Platter. And my goodness it was delicious! Every single ingredient on this plate was top quality local produce. My especial favourite item was the tomato chutney, which I mopped up every last drop of with my Lancashire Crisps. I had to enquire about it – for I had fallen in love with it – and learned that it came with the pork pies, from Grimes of Cleveleys, across the road. By the time I’d asked, the shop was shut, but I would be making a beeline for it next time I was in town. I need more of that tomato chutney!

There was a deliberate ‘local’ focus here. I hadn’t actually noticed amidst all the excitement of the beer list, but the beers were all from the North West. And there was me thinking I didn’t really like beer from this area (I said as much to someone last week). How foolish of me! Whenever someone says ‘I don’t like real ale/craft beer’ I always tell them they just haven’t found the right one to match their palate yet. So I really ought to have known better. Yes, I do like locally-brewed beer. I liked it very much tonight.

In case you didn’t know, there was a shipwreck on the beach here at Cleveleys in 2008, when the Riverdance ran aground. On the walls of the bar are photographs and blurbs on this shipwreck and a couple of others, including a piece of timber from one of them.

As a couple of young lads walked in and nervously approached the bar, whispering to each other, I thought they couldn’t possibly expect to get served? It turned out they were enquiring after work – albeit somewhat half-heartedly, as they didn’t have their CVs with them.

Before it got dark, I made a point of checking out the beer garden out back (this place was a proper warren).

Outside toilets! NB There were more indoors

But what did we have to drink? Well, dear reader, we had everything!

The Gingerbread Milk Stout was sublime
Pudding

We ended up depleting the fridge of the Gingerbread Milk Stout (what was it doing in a fridge anyway?) and, what we couldn’t drink on the night, I took home to enjoy later.

We engaged in beer and pub chat with the barman and learned of a new micropub in Thornton called Albatross, which warrants further investigation (watch this space).

Well, so much for our pub crawl; we hadn’t managed to leave Shipwreck. I guess it is only fitting that this pub is the ultimate Crawlwrecker. There is no other pub with a beer selection anything like this on the Fylde Coast. This is a little gem of a place and I love it so very, very much.

Lee collected me around 2230 and I belted out Total Eclipse Of The Heart in the car (in my defence, it was on the radio) before passing out in bed for a very good night’s sleep – and a dream that I was being transformed into a Dalek.

Blackpool v Huddersfield Town

After last night’s exploits, I happily swerved the pub before the match. After all, how could I top that? I spend my pub time writing the above before it was time to leave for the match.

There was a certain wrongness about going straight to the match from home. As I entered the ground, I felt there was something missing.

I took my seat and all around me people wanted to talk with me. I was getting to know the ‘locals’ in the seats around me now. And there were others who recognised me ‘off the telly’. It’s all very nice but I’ll tell you now my hearing is not the best so, if you’re talking to me from a number of seats/rows away, I won’t have a clue what you’re saying and I’ll just nod and smile politely.

Not being able to hear can have its advantages. I get less irritated by screaming children than I used to and I can find it easier to zone out when I need to find some headspace. But it is frustrating at times and I will address the situation once I’ve got my eyes working properly.

You trust your optician, don’t you? Well it seems I’ve had the wrong prescription for years. It was only when I got my new glasses from my new optician that I remembered what it’s like to be able to actually see things at long distance. When I get my new contact lenses I might actually be able to see matches clearly.

Ah yes. The match. Do you get the sense I’m trying to avoid writing about that? Because you’d be right.

The big news was that Big Gaz Gary Goals Goal Machine Madine (so good they named him three times) was on the bench. I suspect he’s on some sort of pay-as-you-play deal and his omission from our original squad spurred him on to immediate fitness. Anyway he’s back now and that’s good. We’ve got some ace whippers-over-of-the-ball and that big man up front is just what was missing.

First half was great; we were dominant and Huddersfield could not cope with us. But we failed to put the ball in the back of the net. We do this. We finally had a ref who awarded us free kick after free kick but it got to the point where we stopped getting excited because the results were never dangerous. Having lost Kaikai and Embo, our sole set-piece taker seems to be Luke Garbutt and he doesn’t seem to have anything like that lethal ‘Charlie Adam’ delivery. Is a dead ball specialist on our shopping list? Or is this simply an afterthought? It could be a great weapon and result in those goals that might just make the difference.

Huddersfield came out rampant in the second half and surprised us with three early goals (one gifted).

And that was that.

It wasn’t as if we were battered. The scoreline flattered the visitors. But it did flag up our weaknesses and naïveté and will give Critch and his team plenty of development points for training. I’m not concerned. That’s their job and I trust them to get on with it.

Meanwhile I’m off on my hollibobs for my birthday! I’ll be back soon with A Football Tourist’s Guide to Middlesbrough (don’t worry, we’re going to Whitby…).

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