ODDS ON FOR A GOOD TIME IN LITTLEOVER

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As an example of a good community boozer, then you will be hard pushed to find a better model than 52 – The Half Moon DE23 6FN

Situated on Littleover’s main drag (Burton Road) this is at the fulcrum of this village and I love the mix you get in this place. There is always a good mix of race, colour and creed in this pub, which is a healthy sign of a cohesive community.

After a hair cur at the very funky Buzz Cuts, which had a poster with my kind of bands on displayed in the shop,

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I walked about 300 yards to the pub with my daughter as we had an hour to kill following a marathon gymnastics competition and I was met with Racing UK/Sky Sports and Mark Jarvis bookies slips everywhere.  All of which meant this was a bar that was totally absorbed by the sport on a Saturday afternoon at 3.45.

Walk into the bar and face right and there was a sizeable crowd watching the racing whilst face left and there were a crowd watching Sky Sports with one of the best pub characters I’ve seen for a while.

My daughter warmed to this guy as he was just so infectious you couldn’t help but get sucked in with his enthusiasm.  Apparently, his goals galore bet that meant both teams needed to score (in a lot of games).  Every time Jeff Stelling read out a goal it was met with manic celebration and the obligatory “I knew it. I told you,” proclamation.

“Peterborough and Northampton always score,” he announced. “ I always have them in my bets with Swindon and they always make me money,” he said this with such authority that I took it as a dead cert (The Cobblers actually failed to score on this occasion) but he was a popular local as most people who arrived chatted with him about his bet.

And there was a good flow of locals coming in for a pint, bringing with them arguably more dogs than I’ve ever seen in a pub including ‘Daisy’ who not only took a shine to the pub furniture but also my daughter’s bowl of chips!

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Not only does The Half Moon support the local bookmaker next door but it also had a cask of Littleover Brewery on the bar too and this only added to the sense of being embedded in the community.  It is slap bang in the village centre and clearly picks up a lot of passing trade as well as regulars.

The lounge at the back is more food based but has a dart board that was actually being used (!) and Sky was on there too making sure this place had a real buzz.

Lots of people talk about how they prefer pubs without TV but I’m not sure I agree.  Sports bars, which are just wall to wall screens, are generally soulless but pubs, like this one, that have sport on to add to the general ambience are invariably funnier and have a better atmosphere.

https://twitter.com/oldmudgie makes a good point about how pubs have become less popular over the years due to changing circumstances with people having fridges and cars, for example that have increased off trade sales massively and made certain elements of pub going non-essential.

However, not everyone can afford Sky or BT Sport and therefore the draw of live sport (always big in Britain) is a good way of potentially attracting and keeping customers when you get them through the door.

This pub was a prime example of how you can find your own space for a chill and a chat but also enjoy the drama of sport and watch some funny characters that are the original bar room experts on tactics, team selection and potential scores.

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Throw into the mix a good selection of beer with four ales on, I had a top notch Ay Up (Dancing Duck) and was served by an incredibly helpful and friendly barmaid which is another reason to return.  Add in the plus point of friendly characters throughout, then this place will be surviving for another 450 years as it was first believed to be an Inn way back in the 16th century.

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99% of the people 99% of the time are spot on in pubs and for a man who was hugely excited about Mansfield equalising against Cambridge (it was bet related) to rein in his language after seeing I had my daughter with me showed he liked and respected ‘his’ pub.

I could have spent longer than the hour I did in here and whilst this road doesn’t contain as many gems as the A514, The Half Moon pub’s glass appears to be half full.

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Shopping Sinfin Style…With A Pint!

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I am delighted to say I had a genuine first on Thursday afternoon when I entered a pub in Sinfin.

It was a seismic moment as, genuinely, someone brought a shopping trolley into the bar laden with bags and shopping and parked it next to the bar whist having a pint!

Welcome to the weekly shop Sinfin style!  There is no Ocado delivery in this part of Derby; the Sinfin bourgeoisie tend to meet in 51 – The Ferrers Arms DE24 3DS whilst comparing this week’s offers at Asda!

I can just imagine the Everards think tank before they brought this boozer.

”So then, where do you think is a good position for a pub?”

“I’ve got the perfect location…. It’s never been done before.”

“Where?”

“You know that big Asda supermarket in Sinfin…let’s tag it onto the end of their car park…it’s a perfect location.”

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Disclaimer- I know the MD of Everards and I particularly like their Project William pubs and they do a good line in solid boozers.  I think they have been a positive asset to the brewing industry and one of the reasons I like Everards is that they often take on pubs no one else will touch and turn them into a success.

The Brunswick in Derby is one of their big success stories and this little pub in Sinfin is one that appears to be defying the odds.

https://twitter.com/oldmudgie raises some really good points about the detrimental effect on pubs the smoking ban has had. I’m not a smoker but I think the smoking police have had too much of an impact on people’s civil liberties and a glance at this pub will tell you that.

To all intents and purposes Sinfin is a massive working class area.  Its demographics are changing but, bizarrely, there are hundreds of houses within walking distance of this pub (across Ada Car Park) and they obviously like a pint with their shopping!

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I saw Asda workers, Rolls Royce workers and (really) old boys in there along with young kids with their parents on an alleged shopping spree and it was a proper 1980’s working class pub.

At times, there were more people outside in the sheltered smoking area, bearing in mind it was a filthy afternoon with heavy rain than there were inside, and that wasn’t because the no nonsense barmaid had scared them off!

The pub was clean and smart throughout and well-kept but the barmaid looked as though she was used to throwing people out…I caught her eye and opted for the Keg Tiger (Everards) and never got the impression I was anything other than a day tripper having a pint.

However, when a local walked in with a massive trolley packed to the brim with a weekly shop she stored it at the bar (best blocker ever) and proceeded to order a pint of Tiger too!

It was also most definitely a Derby pub as I met with the boys of 2012 when I paid a visit. I had the choice of being watched by Jeff Hendrick, Jason Shackell or Craig Bryson dependant on which urinal I chose!  Nigel Clough was, as you would expect from a manager, offered the overarching view…Ferrers Arms 21.09.17 (15)

I’m not sure it will take off but if every big supermarket had a pub on site then I am pretty sure you would get far more people wanting to do the shopping run on a daily basis!

At 2.30 on a Thursday afternoon it still felt a little edgy so I reckon it’s a ‘proper’ boozer later on, as Asda moves towards closing time.

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It was reasonably full with a good turnover of trade for the 45 minutes I was in there and a pub/darts board and sky sports mean it is a good place for the community to meet and have a chat.Ferrers Arms 21.09.17 (1)

It is great to see places like Sinfin with a pub that is thriving and knows its audience.  Aside from the shopping trolley lady and I, there weren’t many others drinking Tiger so my decision to stick to the Keg may have been a good one.

I think this is probably the most unlikely venue I’ve seen for a pub but it works. There appears to be a separate park/walkway entrance from the other side of the car park (see picture above) and this is classed as ‘Sinfin District Centre’ so as well as Asda you’ve got a bookies, a chip shop and a funeral parlour….all very apt!

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Hats off to Everards.  They have clearly invested some cash into the interior of this two-roomed local.  The lounge was empty but the bar was ticking over nicely and there was never any chance of trouble with Derby’s best ‘no-nonsense’ barmaid in charge!

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The Big Five O

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I’ve reached the half century of pubs and it’s probably time to pay respect to the Bloggers who, possibly unbeknown to them, have helped me put pen to paper (or keyboard to word document to be more precise).

Firstly – https://twitter.com/NHS_Martin whose quest to visit every GBG, offbeat style and shared love of Bass is a must read on a daily basis.

https://twitter.com/oldmudgie is a real champion of the cause and I find myself agreeing with him on most issues (although I suspect he’d rather have an argument!) .  The smoking ban and his promotion of the Drinkers voice are top class along with his advocacy of Stockport as a drinking mecca…I need to visit!

https://twitter.com/BoakandBailey write thought provoking blogs and I have to say I think I am at stage 5 of their beer geek appraisal in that I am still at the exciting stage and therefore blogging about it.

Pubmeister aka https://twitter.com/mackay_duncan writes some top class blogs and covers some miles in pursuit of the amber nectar.  He also receives top marks for praising Birmingham to the hilt as it really is better than people give it credit for!

https://twitter.com/StymieSi is always good value with his blogs about the quirks of public transport and his ability to people watch in pubs whilst travelling the length and breadth of the country in one of those never ending races with Duncan and Martin to try and finish the GBG before the new edition materialises.

https://twitter.com/tandleman Tandleman, for talking sense but also recently posting about how archaic it was to expect beer to be served at room temperature…a top notch CAMRA man I suspect….

Also, a big thumbs up for the Derby Telegraph’s Beer Hunter, Colston Crawford. He is a huge advocate of great pubs, great beer and a font of knowledge.   https://t.co/10ZE13btnM

My blog draws ideas from all of the aforementioned beer bloggers and tries to be a little different if possible.  I have enjoyed visiting all sorts of pubs and there have been some classics and some bang average ones…

Here is a list of my favourite bits of Midlands pubs so far…

Best Toilet Door Award = The Crown (50) – Heather

Best Toilet Wall Decoration = Smithy’s Marina Bar (47) Shardlow

Best Pint – Angel Inn (44) – Lichfield

Best Hanging Basket = The Brickmakers Arms – (5) Newton Solney / = Craven Arms (23) – Birmingham

Busiest Pub On A Saturday Night Award = The Dragon (15) Willington

Busiest Pub On A Sunday Night Award = The Coopers Arms (42) – Weston On Trent

Pub With Best ‘Locals’ = Plume Of Feathers (35) – Shirley

Most ‘Local’ Local = Snibstone New Inn (19) –  Coalville

Best Beermat = The Black Boy (10) – Knowle

I will always try and visit some of the ‘unloved’ pubs that aren’t necessarily on tourist destinations but still serving up either a decent pint, a decent atmosphere, or a meeting point for the community to prove there is life after football!!!

Cheers

6B - The Black Boy Knowle

Motorbikin’ In Heather

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“I want all the world to see, to see you’re laughing, and you’re laughing at me
I can take it all from you, again again again again, again again again and deeper and down
Down down deeper and down, Down down deeper and down, Down down deeper and down.”

I defy anyone to walk into a pub with that song on and not be hit by the feelgood factor.  By no stretch of the imagination am I a big Quo fan but, I reckon if I played that song to any age group (within reason), someone would either be nodding their head or at least tapping their foot.

I knew I was going to like the 50th pub of this blog when I pulled up and saw a Kawasaki motor cycle embedded in the roof of 50 – The Crown LE67 2QP.

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The half century was brought up in style in Heather (pronounced Heether apparently) as it’s not every day you see a sign saying Bikers and families welcome at a pub…

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..but this sign on the door is possibly more of a talking point in 2017!

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The decor and memorabilia in this boozer is fantastic and, with a friendly gaffer allied to Capitol Gold in the background, it meant that despite the fact there were only four other people in here, it still felt welcoming.  However, this was just after five on a Thursday and the place had only been open half an hour…

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The wall art was different too…Crown 21.08.17 (18)

in all of the rooms…

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There is definitely a bikers theme throughout this place and the toilet doors are the best I’ve seen since blogging life began whilst there are three separate drinking areas in what appears to be very much a wet led pub…(I clearly didn’t go in this toilet!)

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Two decent staple East Midlands beers on as well, proving less can be more, Bass and Pedigree…it was a tough choice but…..Crown 21.08.17 (13)

This has the feel of a pub full of TLC and character. Whether it is the hanging baskets outside, cleanliness of the venue, the care taken over sourcing and keeping all the memorabilia or the quality of the Bass (very quaffable), this place is good.

The old adage use it or lose it springs to mind as it wasn’t full but, as I said, it had only been open half an hour and there are plenty of chimney pots in this part of Leicestershire.

The Church of St John dominates the village and even the local football team (Heather St John – Midland Football League – ground capacity 1,500) are named after the imposing listed building.

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It is hard to believe this was once mining territory, as there is so much woodland and green spaces in this region nowadays and, with houses springing up everywhere, then I hope, the future is bright for a place like this.

Imagine how good this place would have been if I’d have walked into the dulcet tones of Joe Strummer and Tommy Gun…now there’s a song to make an entrance to!

A Night With The Stars In Lichfield

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One of the joys of visiting pubs is that you never know exactly who you are going to bump into.  If you go for a drink in Lichfield, for example, on a Tuesday night then there is a good chance you will see absolutely no one you know.

On the other hand…you can also bump into a bloke you haven’t seen for the best part of a decade when you stumble, unbeknown into his local for a pint with your pal!

Going off at a tangent, I can’t quite see the attraction of drinking at home as (a) you know what’s going to happen (b) you know what you’re going to drink and (c) the only exceptions are house parties or barbeques (which, strictly speaking are outside)

Anyway, moving back to Lichfield and the aforementioned man in question…  After walking into 48- Queen’s Head WS13 6QD, which is a one-roomed boozer on the outskirts of the city centre, I was met with a double take moment by the bloke having a fag outside.

I then proceeded to have half an hour of quality humour with a man who does a neat line in impressions, albeit of a certain genre and era (!), but if you like Midlands’ football then it was a scream!

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Both I and my pal were royally entertained with stories and impressions of, in no particular order Paul Merson, Graham Taylor, David O’Leary, Steve Bruce, Jeff Kenna and Gabby Agbonlahor and I had arguably the best 40 minutes in a boozer I’ve had for a long time.  I could have course have stopped in and sent him a message on social media about what a great drink I was having but, and this is the point, social interaction is more important than any pint of beer.

However, I would add that the Sunbeam (Banks’s) was in good order and top class.

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That was our final stop off for evening as earlier, my friend, who doesn’t do impressions but it is equally good value and I had discovered a cracking little pub in close proximity

I might not be a GBG ticker but I reckon I’m starting to suss out this pre-emptive lark!   Having hazarded a guess that Beerbohm was in the GBG I would have said the best pub I visited on the night was 49 – The Horse And Jockey WS13 6QA.

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My ever reliable font of knowledge (Martin) has subsequently confirmed that this is a 2018 Lichfield entry and it is easy to see why.  It is also fair to say CAMRA don’t get it wrong very often with their choice of pubs for the GBG.

It was a pub that was incredibly busy for a Tuesday night and appears to have that X Factor needed to drag punters in.

I don’t mind if a pub has one or ten ales on but the selection here was jaw-dropping and I genuinely needed about five minutes to choose my pint.

Dreamer (Abbeydale) won out in the end but this place had the mix just about right.

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There was a snug and games room (darts board) at the back of the pub whilst the main area was full of people either chatting or watching the sports screens (only two and with the sound low) as Manchester United strolled to victory in a Champions League game.

There were people of all ages in here and it is clear to see that Michael Fabricant’s boast (see previous posts) about Lichfield turning into Staffordshire’s equivalent of Las Vegas at night time has at least an element of truth.

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Certainly, for a Tuesday evening this city had  pubs that were seriously full and that has to be good.  A night with stars in Lichfield…Fabricant can use that as his next soundbite!

 

Top Set List At Derby Beach Bar

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Any bar that has a background music playlist containing The Clash, The Specials, Madness, The Undertones, Supergrass and The Stone Roses is already on its way to being top notch before I’ve even looked at the beer!

However, 47 – Smithy’s Marina Bar DE72 2HJ also has a lot of the other elements needed to be a hidden gem of the Midlands.

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If you like your beer then it has a line-up of around five cask ales; I had a decent pint of Ay Up (Dancing Duck), and Brewdog’s Punk IPA was also on keg meaning it is probably wise to travel by boat as opposed to car!

Which is actually very handy as this pub is slap bang next to the inland port of Shardlow Marina and made an ideal stop off for me and my lad on a Sunday afternoon after a bit of schoolboy soccer!

It’s off the beaten tracks and was once one of the most important trading areas in Derbyshire and a real working port.  Think Gas Street Basin in Birmingham and whilst the Shardlow basin might not have quite the same attractions (well, nowhere near really), it is certainly a better example of a surviving canal village.

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Anyway, enough of the history lesson and what of the pub itself?  Well, I am a big fan although there were some seriously experienced bar blockers and I had to work hard on dropping my shoulder and creating an opening to skilfully glide into the bar…

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That aside, this place has something for everyone and obviously draws on trade from the local village, Trent and Mersey Canal and the local caravan park as it is a chilled out venue….

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A big beer garden, kids’ play area (definitely not Hungry Horse!) but one that looks like it’s fun as opposed to being too clinical, a music stage…

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…classic car conventions,  burgers, carvery and a large selection of beer, as well as the best playlist I’ve heard for years mean that this quirky place is ticking over nicely.

£3.70 for a pint of Dancing Duck is probably a bit ‘tourist price’ for the East Midlands but it’s not extreme and I was pleased to see my second favourite Derby brewer on tap, as it meant I managed to resist the lure of Punk IPA!

The background music isn’t loud; don’t get me wrong you can still chat but it’s there and reflect the bookings they get each week on their stage.

I saw some of their previous acts decorating the toilets, which made the obligatory lavatory visit far more pleasurable.

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and coming up….

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This place wasn’t packed by any stretch of the imagination but it was comfortably full and I reckon the vibe would be chilled if you came here at 9pm on a Friday night with a band playing, it’s that kind of bar.

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If you are a GBG ticker and this was on your radar then it could be tricky to get to but at least it is open seven days a week!

Another bar that’s well worth a visit and one that is as close as Derbyshire gets to a beach bar…(nice plug for Derby Drinker in the picture below).

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Pleasant Pub Produces Perfect Storm

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If Harry Redknapp’s looking for some part-time work then there is a pub in Repton that could be just the job.

As I was digesting the news that Birmingham City had (a) lost once again (b) were in the relegation zone and (c) had sacked a manager who had performed a minor miracle by keeping them up last season, I thought…I need a pint!

I’m not sure ‘Arry needs any extra dough as I suspect a hefty pay off is winging its way to his bank account as I write after the owners ditched him following another home defeat.

In case you’re wondering why I am writing about Birmingham’s perennial woes on a beer blogging website then I must add that sport and music have been integral to most of my 46 years on this planet and I am working on a tenuous link.

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The first of which is that the arrival of Redkanpp excited me as much as when Jim Smith was in charge at St. Andrew’s back in the eighties and I ventured into a boozer that reminded me of that era (tenuous link #1). Secondly, (tenuous link #2)it’s opening hours are that of a Micropub and could give Redknapp some much needed cash, conversation and drink for medicinal purposes as it is jam packed every time I step into the place.

Far from being a Micropub 46 -The Mount Pleasant Inn DE65 6GQ is very much a food-based operation with every table in the boozer being given over to food if required.

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However, this is a village that trades on the quality of its school and has a glut of gastropubs in the vicinity to cater for locals and visitors. Bearing in mind this is a hostelry in Repton and is in the process of having around 200+ homes built on estate just yards away from it; The Mount Pleasant shows little signs of following the crowd.

In a way, that is what makes it so popular.  I saw families galore of all ages and demographics packed in for the reasonably priced food and I also saw a pink Mohican hairstyle, garish Hawaiian shirts and smokers outside to prove that this is a pub for all and sundry and not just clients of the fee paying school in the middle of the village.

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It basically consist of lots of tables and chairs, or proper pub seating as mudgie likes to call it,  and a chalkboard (I am modern) with all the daily specials written on it.  I spoke to one of the smoking crew outside and he told me that it used to open for longer hours years ago but there was often trouble so the new gaffer (not any more, he’s been there for almost 30 years) decided to open it for a short period of time every night so people could eat, have a drink but not go overboard.

I am not sure if that was the plan but the bloke I spoke to had been coming for twenty years and there were plenty more like him and the landlord appears to have created the perfect storm whereby it’s open for such a short time that everyone clamours to get in…a Micropub ahead of its time but with food…a letting agent might say!

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The atmosphere was buzzing on a Saturday night at around 7pm and, as usual, packed to the rafters although this was the first pub I’ve been in since I started blogging that asked me if I’d booked a table as I sat at the bar.

There was Pedigree, Doom Bar and Rosie’s Cider all on but, as this was a special occasion I plumped for a cold Staropramen and realised what a shrewd operator the guvnor of this little gem is.

Pack them in with competitively priced food and then hit them with £4.20 for a pint of lager!

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However, judging by the fact every table was taken and there was no space anywhere, it’s a winning formula.

This is well worth a visit and with so many new houses being built he might even open for half an hour longer.  However, why change that winning formula?

Maybe the Birmingham City board could have a chat to him and find out just what is the key to long term success?

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