Josh Bowler is back at Blackpool! Dear reader, I’d take a bullet for Joshy, I love him that much. Consequently a celebration was in order – so it was off to the pub on Friday night.
I don’t go to this wonderful micropub anywhere near often enough, so made a special trip tonight.
Now there aren’t so many photos in this blog, as I headed out with no intention whatsoever of writing a blog. I’m scaling it back because it was becoming a bit of a monster and dominating my time at the expense of other writing projects (which are now progressing very nicely thank you). Plus I began to become disinterested in the football (and writing about it) when Joshy left. Perhaps he was my muse? Anyway, as usual, things/people conspired over the course of this evening to compel me to write it up so here I am. There’ll be more words than pictures and I suppose that’s what I should be offering anyway as a writer (sorry, Martin – I know you like to look at the pictures).
Oh I can improvise though. Here’s what I drank.
As I had arranged to meet Karen here at 1700, it was necessary that we factored in food. Not only because (a) it was teatime and (b) we were hungry, but (c) this was a failsafe plan to keep me from snacking on bad shit later. I’d researched the menu in advance and was delighted to see it had grown much more extensive since my previous visits. There really was something for everyone now. Tempted as I was by The Shipwreck Platter (the chutney alone is exquisite), Paddington was peering over my shoulder and advised me that the chilli & rice would be his preferred option from a SlimmingWorld perspective. So that’s what I ordered.
I was sure I’d seen online that food was served until 2000 but, on enquiry at 1730, I was advised that we’d have to get our orders in within the next half hour. I sent Karen up to order almost immediately and she was advised that it might be a while as they’d shut everything down in the kitchen. Looking online again now, the menu does advise that availability may be restricted after 1600 on quiet days. The pub was busy tonight but, hey, they can do what they like, it’s their pub. That’s how pubs work post-COVID, right? We’ll just have to get used to it or stay home. And there ain’t no cask at home.
Anyway the chilli and rice soon appeared…with the nachos and sour cream dip, which we had neither ordered nor paid the additional £2 for. It turned out I was (briefly) glad of them, as the chilli and rice hadn’t been enough to fill me up (I’d only had a small lunch of leftover Cheeseburger Pasta and spinach). Subsequently I scoffed most of the nachos, without enjoying them as they’re something I’d normally avoid like the plague as they’re not on my selective menu of healthy foods.
There is always at least one dog in this pub at any one time. I was also amused to spot a pair of earmuffs hanging on a hook by the front door. Earmuffs always make me smile.
We were on a mission tonight, which prevented us from remaining here, raiding the fridge and getting smashed. Well, two out of three anyway…
Our mission was to check out a new pub in Bispham. However we were distracted before we even got to the tram stop by another new pub.
I’d heard about this place, which opened in 2022 and was rumoured to have real ale on. Well we had to pop in and check, didn’t we?
It looked posh from the outside; like a ‘first date’ kind of place. We headed inside and approached the bar on the left hand side. Indeed there was ale and this is what I had.
There were Mini Cheddars on the end of the bar and I was tempted. I love Mini Cheddars. My faves are the Lime & Chilli ones but I haven’t seen them anywhere for a while. Paddington’s voice in my head reminded me that I’d just eaten so I turned away from the bar and scanned the room for somewhere suitable to sit.
‘Ooh a vault!’
We retreated to a small side room with comfy seats, which we had to ourselves.
Karen returned from a trip to the loo with news of a particularly unusual sign. I’m all for odd signage and remarkable loos, so headed straight over there to conduct my loo review.
The point that particularly struck Karen was ‘please do not use excessive toilet roll’. Now signs are usually the result of a particular issue. Here I found myself using (what might have been deemed) excessive toilet roll in here myself this evening. This wasn’t because I’m a rebel but because, despite extensive searching, there were no lady products in these toilets. Perhaps that is something the pub might wish to consider providing to reduce the excessive use of toilet roll in the future. Just a thought.
But now onwards to Bispham…
Now this new micropub was the real reason for our night out in the ‘northern quarter’ of the Fylde Coast. We loved its sister pub (also called Cask) in Layton and indeed had visited that pub on its opening night.
Immediately on entering this new micro, we knew we could expect more of the same: a quality pub in quality surroundings with quality products. These pubs are crafted with love and it’s so apparent in their end product.
How could I resist this beer?
I was advised by the informative barkeep (who recognised me from the blog) that the ABV had been reduced since last year’s brew. Indeed I suspected I might have had that one (Untappd confirms this).
I took a sip of my beer and was observed with bated breath as I considered my reaction to the beer. Hmm. Chocolately. Chewy. Quaffable. Is it possibly for a chewy beer to be quaffable? Was it REALLY quaffable, or was I taking that as read owing to the 4% ABV (I’d find out later). But where was the mintiness? I like a beer that punches me in the face with flavour and this beer wasn’t doing that. Hmm. I’d have to explore it in more depth during the course of at least two pints to see if any mintiness came through. That wouldn’t be a problem, as I was content to settle in here for the night now.
I was definitely still hungry – despite the chilli, rice, nachos and sour cream – so we made enquiries as to the food offerings here. Despite none of these being remotely SlimmingWorld friendly, we were a captive audience and the only other option that we could think of was a takeaway from the local restaurants, which seemed an even unhealthier option.
Dear reader, I ended up eating half a Pork Shop Pork Pie (actually rather good: soft pastry and lots of jelly), a packet of Black Pudding & English Mustard Lancashire Crisps and half a packet of Cheese & Onion Lancashire Crisps. This despite me (a) not (usually) liking pork pies and (b) knowing that Lancashire Crisps (usually) coat my teeth such that I can still taste them the following day, having cleaned my teeth twice AND used mouthwash in the interim (although this didn’t actually happen on this occasion). I am also fully aware that pastry + crisps = heartburn and rejection by my body. I’d pay for this later. But hey I enjoyed them at the time.
I’d been advised that I must take a look at the pictures upstairs. Ooh there was an upstairs! Indeed we now observed that people were streaming down the stairs. Just how big was it up there? I headed up for a nose (no photos, remember, because I’m not blogging this). There were some images of the development of the building, from building site to quality micropub. And there were some delightful images of old Blackpool, which I’d have loved to show you but you’ll have to go and have a look for yourself.
Meanwhile Karen had been staring out of the window, hypnotised by the visually striking Bispham Hotel. Now you know how I feel about Sam Smiths pubs but I couldn’t deny Karen a visit to a pub that was so close.
Dear reader, this was the first pub I ever set foot in. Whilst I couldn’t remember what I’d had to drink on that visit, muscle memory led me towards the room where we’d sat. What I did remember was that we’d then headed over to La Piazza (also still there) and I’d got lashed on Diamond White (a drink that put me off cider for life).
We strode through the practically empty spacious pub towards the bar. Each of the three pump clips (or boxes or whatever they were, soz no photo) on the bar proclaimed OLD BREWERY BITTER. But I didn’t WANT bitter. How could I switch from After Eight Mint Chocolate Stout to bitter? I was struck by inspiration.
‘Ooh you’ve got exciting fruity beers, haven’t you?’
‘No. We haven’t got those.’
Good God, Sam Smiths. Are you being deliberately humbug?
I scanned the fridges anyway – because I didn’t want to believe there wasn’t anything more exciting than bitter – and smiled as I spotted the Organic Chocolate Stout. I suggested we share a bottle – something we wouldn’t normally do, but perhaps the humbug effect was catching? Also I was keen to limit the time spent here.
Karen had got chatting to the only other customer that we could see.
‘It used to be busier than this. I don’t know where everyone is.’
‘They’re all across the road in Cask,’ I interjected.
I was surprised to see a display of betting slips on the wall. So phones aren’t allowed, but gambling is?
This pub was doing nothing to sway my opinion of Sam Smiths. Although it was a nice pub. A proper pub. It’s just the politics I don’t like (as with Spoons).
Despite my protestations, Karen insisted I check out the Ladies for lady products. Now, if there was ever a pub that I could guarantee wouldn’t have lady products, it would be this one, this chain. And indeed I was proved right.
‘But the flowers are nice, though.’
‘Yeah but I can’t use those, can I…?’
On our way out we were surprised to find another room at the rear of the pub that contained not only more customers but also a pool table. Seemingly there was life in this pub after all – and even some very nice beer – if you looked hard enough.
Soon we were back in our natural habitat. We got chatting to the man from the other pub – now here with his pal – and remained standing by the bar for a good while. Whilst here I was approached by another man.
‘Ooh can I just say, I love what you do.’
This piqued the interest of our new friends.
‘Ooh are you famous?’
I explained about the blog and handed out my business cards, directing them here (how professional is that?).
‘Ooh is that you with Josh Bowler.’
‘YES I LOVE HIM I’M SO EXCITED HE’S BACK!’
I soon realised that standing up with a pint in my hand meant I was drinking quicker so Karen and I took a seat.
I then caught the eye of a woman at the other end of the room. Who was that? I couldn’t place her but marched over anyway as she looked friendly. It turned out she was a fellow SlimmingWorld member. She confessed to having just been for a Spanish meal, with cheesecake, which she was now washing down with a glass of wine. I confessed to my pork pie and crisps. At least SlimmingWorld keeps us accountable to ourselves and you know I’m on track most of the time (admittedly largely when I’m NOT on blogging adventures…I suspect it’s no coincidence that I finally reached my target weight after I scaled back this blog).
It was here that Karen insisted I had to write a blog about tonight because we’d been to new pubs. That seemed reasonable, so here I am.
As we were readying ourselves to leave, Josh Bowler came into conversation at the bar.
‘Yeah but he’s not a legend like Brett Ormerod, is he? He commentates on Radio Lancashire and everything.’
‘But Josh is JESUS! This is the second coming! You wouldn’t get JESUS commentating on Radio Lancashire, would you? He’s got WAY more important stuff to do. He’s back to SAVE US!’
I’d just downed a double amaretto at this point which, in retrospect, was not a great idea.
Karen and I headed home on trams heading in opposite directions. I decided to listen to my audiobook (Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki) to prevent me from falling asleep on the tram. Whilst it worked, I have no memory of the story.
Back home, I passed out before waking around 0500 feeling quite ill. Was this my body rejecting the nachos and pastry and crisps? Was quaffing that chewy beer a mistake? Was I simply FULL? Who knows, but it took me a week to fully recover.
But all was well as the day progressed. Josh Bowler was introduced to the fans on the pitch before kick-off. I cried (imagine Beatlemania; I have Bowlermania). And Blackpool beat Nottingham Forest 4-1 in the FA Cup third round. Life ain’t so shabby. Welcome back, my muse.
Next Up: Watford v Blackpool