Will we get to be in, or even outside of, a real pub in April?
Until then, we need to keep being vigilant when it comes to spotting communal drinking opportunities. This week, we’re got to go somewhere special.
We got Budgie to fly his helicopter to the isle of Man for a few drinks. Why budgie? Harry was a staunch royalist who was always wittering on about his flying ability. He had never regarded Sarah Ferguson as a real royal, so we called him Budgie to wind him up!
The flight took off from Greenlands Farm, which itself held potential for drinks, and was quickly over Morecambe Bay.
It doesn’t take long to arrive at Ronaldsway Airfield on the island, and a mate of Budgie’s was waiting for us with his car to drive us to the ruined abbey at Ballasalla about a mile away.
We had a couple of bottles of Heineken on the flight over, but upon arriving at the Abbey, we discovered some bottles of local beer had been left for us; Okell’s Triskelion, and plain old Bitter from the same Douglass brewery. I had some Fell Tinderbox, and Dave had his favourite Big Wednesday from Harbour Brewery. Budgie had some cans of John Smith’s, but he also had the lift home, so we let him off with a warning!
A mid-week four pack somewhere wet. No-one else was using the newish drinking pods outside the Owl’s Nest, so we did. The sad thing was, they wouldn’t be legal for ages, even when the pubs reopened. If the law was still going to be based on the smoking laws, then these frontless sheds would be classed as indoors.
We’ve got some Anti-Establishment IPA, the BrewDog rip off/collaboration, although it looks like a Fourpure logo to me. It’s okay, but you can’t drink it without feeling like you’re being fooled. Either in not guessing it’s the same beer, or that it is immediately much, much better, or worse than the famous original. It’s okay, just like the BrewDog.
So, no midweek beery adventure this week. We’re making up for it by taking the illegality up a notch. Today’s drinking den is a place which is normally a café, but we’re reappropriating it.
The café at the end of the stone jetty is a building I have had my eye on for a while. It would make a tremendous micro pub. It’s an amazing location, just far enough away from the promenade to keep away the lager stragglers, but still only a five-minute walk from the bus and train station. I had ideas about an electric golf cart that could transport customers during bad weather. It has a small kitchen for simple seafood dishes. Salty dried squid torn into strips, dipped into go-chu-jang and mayonnaise, is a fantastic beer snack.
Anyway, none of that today. I’ve got some cans of Gin and Bitter Orange from ALDI to drink whilst painting. It’s a west coast IPA substitute that’s easier on the bladder until the toilet is accessible.
Dave arrives with the key, and we’re quickly into some cans of Hoppy Pale from Seven Brothers Brewery that I picked up from the new Co-op. Then some Easy IPA from the same people.
Side note: maybe it’s a Covid hangover, but I keep having to have Strongbow palate cleansers after hop forward beers; my whole olfactory system is an alleyway of soggy cardboard.
Stout time, and it’s a Morrison’s purchase. A Costa Rican Coffee Extra Porter by Buxton Brewery. Extra porter, not extra coffee, which is fine by me. Maybe a little sweet? Talking of sweet, next up is Black Custard from Team Toxic, a lactose vanilla porter. Needs more custard, but not bad. Now back to the Pales, again from Buxton, their Axe Edge which is a pretty decent beer, but lacking a bitter finish. More Tinderbox from Fell, but this is bottled, and a little flat. I have another can of Gin & Tonic to perk it up, and then it’s back to the stouts. Breakfast Can Wait from Pomona Island is a fine finish; big, yet balanced flavours, and then it’s time to go!
Where Next? Thinking caps on, chaps.
Got a ‘phone call from Dave this morning. He’s got a cask of something red and hoppy from the local brewery. I can’t stay long, I want to get back for the rugby.
There’s a barn in one of the fields by the green lane that winds muddily from the canal, down to the railway track. On the walk there, behind Happy Mount Park and alongside the back of the golf club, I notice a small concrete shed amongst the trees that crown the hill. A possible drinking den?
I’m just finishing my painting, when Dave arrives with a load of his friends. We access the barn, and there’s the cask; it’s covered in old, wet, Fuller’s London Pride bar towels.
“We better not be drinking that shite!” says one of Dave’s mates.
We nod, and guffaw in a Northern accent.
I have a couple of pints, and chat with Dave about where we’re going next. He winks at me,
“I’ll give you a ring, Monday morning!”
‘And all her paints are dry…’
Well mine aren’t. I was listening to Jane’s Addiction on my phone, thinking about the drizzle. It was barely more than damp air, but it was waiting, waiting for me to get my sketchbook out. Today’s drinking den was the old Bubbles toilets. The promenade entrance doors were caged and inaccessible, but the lower level access hid two large store rooms. One would make a perfect cellar, the other perhaps a small kitchen, and toilets? I was post-covid pub thinking. The installation of a spiral staircase behind the fictional bar would join the upper and lower halves. Split at the bottom like a mermaid tail.
I take a chance on the weather and complete a small painting of the upper level of the old toilets. The installation of windows would at least get rid of that mural.
Dave and the others arrive about two o’clock, and we prize the lock away from the crumbling brick, opening the large metal door. Inside is a council workshop, rusting cans of WD40 cover the sideboard. We push them to the far corner and our bottles and cans take their place.
There’s Harbour Brewing, Northern Monk, a few different BrewDogs. We start with a four pack of draught Guinness. Smooth, easy drinking, head-ache inducing draught Guinness. Next a BrewDog Overworks sour to awaken the senses, harbour Big Wednesday IPA, I’ve got a container of cask Tinderbox from Fell, and Northern Monk Norse Star Impy Stout. Thornbridge North Bridge is shared out, then a Vault City Honeyberry Sour. We finish with a Stars & Stripes from Northern Monk; it’s okay. Needs more jam, needs more peanut butter. I’m left thinking about that bottle of Yellow Belly on the top of the till in the Little Bare. Ah well!
The weather was not as bad as forecast, so I did a quick painting of the sub-station, with St Patrick’s Chapel in the background. I drank a couple of cans of Kirkstall Perpetuous whilst waiting for the others to arrive. Only six as it turned out.
Dave arrived and let us in. He was carrying a couple of lanterns, and the dim light they offered barely illuminated the available space in the stone hut. Ironically, despite the lack of power, the majority of that space was taken up by the large and sadly defunct transformer.
A pin of the local brewery’s Pale Ale lay on a small table, covered in a few wet beer cloths. Dave had tapped the thing the day before, and we quickly drew a pint each.
It was cold, damp, and dark in the hut, but it was the first accompanied cask pint we’d had for a couple of months. That first pint was delicious. The second was judge-able, but it somehow didn’t feel right to do so. Yes, it needed a more flavoursome hop, with a bitterer finish, but it was perfectly drinkable! Pint number three had us grumbling a bit; damp and cramped, we wanted some variety. Wasn’t it great to have someone to moan to, to have invented non-problem, problems! Where next?
I suggested having a small midweek meet-up at the old Bubbles toilet building. I had noticed the loose lock on the door, and had a sneaky peak. All the innards had been removed, and there was ample space inside, but sadly no windows. Can’t see out, but can’t see in!
Bring some cans next time.