Archive for October 19th, 2012

Cask Ale Week – The Sticks

From the previous two posts: Town and Locals, you will know that me and my friend Jay are trying to get twelve cask marque certificates scanned by the end of cask ale week, an event promoted by cask marque to showcase cask ale. If we get to twelve, we get a t-shirt. As things stood we were at nine.

We had exhausted all of our local pubs and had a good stab at the pubs in Bedford. Now we had to start looking a bit further afield, and when I say field, I mean field. Jay and I planned to complete our challenge via  country walk. It’s well known that country walking works well with pubs, there are enough pub walking books to prove that.

Our plan was originally to go to the Pulloxhill and then Barton, but after looking at the last pub on our list it turned out that the “other pub” in Barton was a football club, and guessing that it wouldn’t be open, we decided on Silsoe and then Clophill instead. The Map below shows what we did, thanks to Bing Maps for not being aware that I ripped off their OS mapping feature. The Red dots are the three pubs we visited, although there are other PH signs which we missed off.

It took us about an hour to get to The Cross Keys in Pulloxhill. Since I had last walked that way the footpaths had changed slightly but it was still fairly similar. None of the hills in these parts are particularly demanding, really anyone with legs can get around in the countryside round here. We got to The Cross Keys just as they were opening. They found us the Cask Marque, which had just arrived in the post the other day, our luck was in. I had an Adnams Broadside, as did Jay.

The walk from there took us down paths I had never used before. Again, it was all easy going footpaths round the edge of fields. The paths linked us from Pulloxhill to Silsoe very quickly and we soon found ourselves in the new development on the edge of Silsoe. From there we made our way through the village to get to The George. The cask marque was on the wall, which was scanned easily but the poor phone reception made it difficult to log our scan with the app, we got there in the end though. We both had a Greene King XX Mild.

To get to our last pub we walked out of the other side of the village and turned north, we followed a footpath towards the ever loudening sounds of the A507 and the A6.  A short wooded section of the footpath confirmed to us that we were getting close. It was then just a dash across a bypass, a small housing estate and a footbridge that took us onto The Green in the middle of Clophill village, where our final pub was: The Flying Horse.

We walked in and asked for our beers and where the certificate was. The bar maid didn’t know but she was enthusiastic and thought the whole thing was a brilliant idea. She went off to find the manager. A short while later she came back “I’m sorry boys…” our hearts sank, this was the last one! “Only joking” as she revealed the certificate from behind her back. All we had to do was scan it and the t-shirt would be ours. I scanned mine, and then Jays phone broke. He restarted it, and then the app wasn’t installed. Jay got into a bit of a panic, eventually it sorted itself out and Jay scanned it, but then he lost his internet connection. In the end he had to piggyback his phone through mine and we did get him there. Now all we had to do was walk back so Jay could get to work. Oh, and we had a Brakspear Bitter each in the Flying Horse.

Cask Ale Week – The Locals

Following on from the last post. It was Cask Ale Week a little while ago and I’m on a mission with my friend Jay to visit different pubs to that we can scan their cask marque certificates. If we get to twelve by the end of the week we get a t-shirt. After visiting the town we got half way there. Now we thought we’d try something a little closer to home.

We are quite lucky, some people live in a village where there are no pubs left. We live in a small town where there are four pubs and within walking distance is another small town of seven pubs. Of those eleven pubs five of them supposedly have cask marques. If you’ve read the previous post you’ll know why I say supposedly.

I know some of my posts can be like trying to get through war and peace so here is the short version of what happened.

Engine & Tender – Cask Marque on the wall, found easily. We had a Boundary by Wadworth.
The Old Sun – Cask Marque behind the bar. Barman was very helpful. We had a Tiger by Everards.
The Albion – Doesn’t have a cask marque, we never thought it did, we just poped in because the beers are so good. I had a Merry Maidens Mild by Coastal Brewery. Working from memory I think Jay had a porter of some kind.

The Blackbirds – I’ve already got the cask marque in there and we’re in there so often it didn’t seem necessary.
The Crown – We had a St. Edmunds. Asking for the location of a certificate felt more like asking if I could set the bar maid on fire. No one knew where it was, although they confirm that it was there in the past.
The Swan – Landlord and landlady were very helpful, cask marque was behind the bar. We had a Youngs Bitter.

This brings the tally up to nine. A few more to go yet then.

Cask Ale Week – The Town

I know Cask Ale Week was a while ago but I’ve been busy. Deal with it. For those of you who don’t know cask ale week is an event set up and organised by Cask Marque. It is a promotion of good cask ales for a week (that is actually ten days) with different events and offers at pubs up and down the country.

One such promotion was tied in with the Cask Finder app for smartphones. The app, which bills itself as “The worlds largest ale trail” includes a section which allows the used to scan the QR codes on cask marque certificates. Usually when someone has visited 25 pubs they are sent a bottle opener, 50: a t-shirt and 100: a whole range of other exciting things. During cask ale week though you have the chance to win a different, limited edition t-shirt by visiting twelve different pubs during the event. Now with no other events going on in my area and fortuitously coinciding with week with no work on, I call that challenge accepted.

My friend Jay is accompanying me on this one. It is his first time using the app, whereas I have had it for a while. He is yet to know the frustrations of trying to find the certificates which are supposed to be displayed. He hasn’t yet experienced the cask marque database and its many inaccuracies. And he hasn’t yet been met with blank faces on the other side of the bar when you enquire about anything relating to cask marque. He shall soon find out…

We meet up on the Tuesday morning in Bedford and after a brief encounter with a friend of a friend of mind-bending odds, we find our first pub. The Pilgrim’s Progress, a Wetherspoon’s pub. Spotting the certificate in here was easy enough because it was so high up behind the bar. When we asked the bar man, he had to stand on a stool to scan the codes for us. When he got back down he asked what it was for, and we explained, I don’t think either of us realised how tedious that was going to become.

I finished my Harvest Moon and we moved on to our next pub, which was a bit of a trek because Jay had some unfinished business and had to go all the way across town first. We spotted a Cask Marque sign on the outside of The Ship on the way back into town. It wasn’t on the map marking the cask marque’d pubs on the phone app but with a sign outside it must have one, right? We went in and had a swift half of Eagle IPA, the bloke behind the bar had absolutely no idea what was going on when we asked him and so we moved on down the road to The Foresters Arms.

At least the landlord, who was behind the bar, knew what we were talking about. They had just received a load of post about their cask marque but hadn’t yet got round to sorting it out. So he goes out of site for a moment, comes back with piles of papers, dumps it on the bar and asks “Is any of that lot it?”. Eventually we find a letter which states that the actual certificate comes later on by recorded delivery. So that’s three pubs and only one scan towards our target of twelve. Things are not looking good.

We then try the other Wetherspoon in Bedford, The Banker’s Draft. As soon as we walked in we could see the certificate, again, its way too high to reach and this time we can see it is out of date too. The queue at the bar is so long we gave up on this one and down the High Street to The Rose. In here the cask marque was right by the bar, easy to get to and could be scanner, finally number two! I had a Jester Jack, I can’t remember what Jay had (Then again, I can’t remember what I had either, I’m looking back through my untappd app).

Moving along we tried The Embankment. The girl behind the bar had no clue, the manager was on the phone and clearly didn’t want to help the likes of us. Again another miss, although I’m not too bothered about this one, last time we were in there the beer was vile. We walked out without even having a drink.

Next on the list was The Devonshire Arms. When we got there it was shut. Our fault entirely, we should have looked up the opening hours, they aren’t open during the day weekdays. Fortunately though the landlord was outside, who was nice, friendly, helpful, understanding, kind and a million other nice things which could be said. This was probably the only time that we met a bar manager or landlord who knew completely everything about what we were doing. He let us in the pub to scan his certificate, which was help pride of place in the front of the pub by the main door. While we were inside he showed of his large selection of cask ales which we could have if we came back later. Getting a pub scanned felt a bit like cheating seaming as we didn’t have a drink but we have been there before on another occasion, so it’s OK in my eyes.

Moving on and we got another Eagle IPA in The Gordon Arms. The landlady didn’t really know why but she did let us behind the bar so we could scan the certificate and she was very friendly as well, talking to us about music venues in the town and other things besides. By now we had come quite a way from the town centre and decided to turn back because Jay had to work later on.

After a sausage roll from the bakery on Castle Street we walked back and found The Three Cups. I had a Farriers Best Bitter while a hunt the certificate game proceeded upstairs with the manager and some of the staff because they knew “it’s around here somewhere”. It was eventually found in a drawer upstairs, we scanned it and it was taken away again. I thought that surely now they know that people might want to see it that they would put it up somewhere, but what do I know?

Just down the road from this is The Castle. This was another pub where there was a lot of confusion with the staff and eventually the landlord was summoned. He also had no idea what we were talking about. We showed him a leaflet about the ale trail, which he asked if he could keep, we then pointed to the stack of them on his bar. He then didn’t feel the need to keep our leaflet. He did say that he had no idea about any of these things because he had only just moved in and was new to running a pub, and was interested in finding out more. He phoned up cask marque while we were there and got a new certificate ordered. Hopefully, when we are next in town, we can get a scan then. The bar staff suggested that we try The Cricketers and The Wellington Arms.

So we did as they suggested, tried The Cricketers, which was closed and then The Wellington Arms, which was open and FANTASTIC. This pub deserves its own post because there was wall to wall great beer and nothing else. The walls were festooned with CAMRA certificates for pub of the year and the like. I had a Black Squirrel and Jay had a Fruit Bat, both from B&T, a local brewery who’s beers are excellent. Cask marque? That was behind the two locals who didn’t mind moving so we could scan it in.

So, we visited twelve pubs, which all showed some sign either on the app of on the signs on their doors saying they should have a cask marque, of those we only got six scans on our target of twelve. We’ll just have to go to a few more pubs before the week is out. What a shame.