Leicester? Nothing wrong with it at all. Nice friendly folk. Clean and tidy for the most part. I couldn’t put my finger on it? Other than, it was a bit like their football team; everyone likes them, they excelled when winning the Premiership in 2015-16, but they’re a mid table team at best, prone to yo-yo-ing in and out of the Premier league. Instead of perpetually sacking their manager they should have sacked the city planner years ago. Or maybe they never had one?
I reckon this view of the city was reflected in the pubs we visited when I went for a wander round with fellow bloggers Martin Taylor and Pubcurmudgeon (aka Old Mudgie), plus a wonderful chap from Stafford who you probably won’t know.
They thought we were going on a fact finding, sort of exchange of views and thoughts mission. Little did they know that unwittingly they had become involved in a complex plot to steal King Richard III, and return him to his rightful place in York Minster!
Thing is, that’s all just a myth. As a fully paid up member of the Guild of Professional Yorkshiremen, I wouldn’t have given Richard of York the time of day and would have been a card carrying supporter of the House of Lancaster in the time of the ‘so called’ Wars of the Roses. There’s a lot of other myths that we all need to examine from time to time through a new lens, which in a way, was what the day was all about for me.
Someone once said, ‘How do you remember all that stuff when you go out?’ Well, I write it down in a little note book that goes everywhere with me. I fill one every couple of months, often with material that might seem trivial.
Mudgie? He writes it down too. Mr ‘Organised’ Taylor had produced a printed itinerary, and map. ‘Even more organised’ Mudgie appeared to have improved on this with his own version of said agenda, including printed train times and other interesting addenda, upon which, in each public house, he scribed concise notes in neat capital letters with a biro. A quick slurp, a glance around the room and the paper was produced from an inside pocket, thirty seconds later the paper is neatly re-folded and replaced. I have no doubt that Mudgie’s itinerary and notes will be filed under Tuesday 17th October, Leicester, and cross referenced ‘Random days out’.
Martin’s style was to make notes at irregular intervals on his smart phone, and like me, he utilised the captured image to record things of note. Which brings us neatly to cameras; smart phone, ageing but quality compact digital, and my own beloved X100F.
I don’t think I alarmed anyone, but as soon as we reached the first boozer I started snapping; bar man, customers and the pub. I’m pretty certain they thought my stand up, walk round, ‘can I take a photo mate?’ style was a bit brazen. I didn’t lay down in the road outside the Ale Wagon to take a photo though, I crouched, actually Martin! I did nearly get run over by a bus later in the day, stood in the road photographing a pub exterior! Conversely, apart from pub exteriors, the point of view from both Martin and Mudgie is an almost surreptitious one from where they sit.
The candid shots of some other pub bloggers were discussed, and were felt to be a little risqué. Personally I’m not so sure? It’s called street photography and some revered photographers made names out of it. Or were they ‘posed’ pseudo candid shots, like the ones in magazines from the 50’s & 60’s that Boak and Bailey are fond of? I chatted to the barmaid in the Blue Boar, she was fully consenting and aware I was going to take a photo of her when she served the next punter.
I’m going to blog about the individual pubs seperately, and if anyone says, ‘He’s done a hatchet job on Leicester.’ I shall remind them of the main intention; to visit the new entries or re-entries into GBG2018 that Martin hadn’t previously ‘ticked’. That effectively means we will have missed the Leicester stalwarts, the heritage pubs and anywhere remotely resembling North Bar? It wasn’t my fault that, apart from The Ale Wagon and The Real Ale Classroom, my tastebuds weren’t tingled or remotely challenged. In the other eight pubs the range was steady, even where extensive, and the quality sometimes slightly above and sometimes slightly under the NBSS 3 mark; never 3.5 and not quite 2.5.
I’m not sure I could do this GBG pub ticking thing? Yes, it’s interesting, but I’d rather be selective; look, listen and then visit the stars, the dead certs, avoiding these near misses. I want something that was created after they discovered where Richard III was buried, not the sort of beer they were drinking when they put him there.
You’ve got to be dedicated though, eight pubs, including lunch, between 1215hrs and 1800hrs (timings are precise). You’ve got to be willing to wear some shoe leather out, and walk round in circles waiting for the latest brewpub to open at 1700; first ones in though!
After leaving Mudgie and the gent from Stafford in the dreadful Kings Head on King St, around 7pm, I headed off with Martin to a splendid curry house (Mudge eats no fancy foods), and then two suburban pubs before bed time at 2300hrs (appx.). The Real Ale Classroom being undoubtedly the apogee of the day, where even though it was easily the best beer I had tasted all day, a second pint was not allowed!
‘Seriously? Come on Martin, nowhere’s come close to this?’
‘Come on, we haven’t time or we won’t get to the next one, we can catch a bus at the top of the road.’
As soon as you could gasp, ‘ten minutes brisk walk and a quarter of an hours bus ride’, we were holding pints of Everard’s Tiger in a massive, atmosphereless, one room pub at the side of a main road on the very outskirts of the city.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed every minute (honest), but if I’d been alone I would have a) soon gone back to the first pub (The Ale Wagon), or b) gone on the internet and revised my itinerary. I definitely would have stuck in The Real Ale Classroom drinking excellent modern progressive beer for the rest of the night, and knowing what I know now, gone there first and stayed there.
The second question is, could I go in search of some legendary brew that was once a mainstream standard from a long redundant brewer which is now a shade of what it once might have been? The answer is definitely, No! Not Bass. Not Bathams, Bank’s, Robinson’s or any of the other brews that were mentioned throughout the day. You may disagree with me here, you shouldn’t because different isn’t wrong. If that’s what you like then that’s cool, just don’t make me have to like it. It’s good that we’re all different.
Now having said that, the true colours came out in The Blue Boar, a very nice little, more Pub than Micro. Faced with a choice of eight cask ales, everyone independently (this includes Martin who had wandered off in search of wi-fi to upload a post and only reappeared latterly) went for the Titanic Kölsch variant, including me. A discussion on it’s authenticity ensued, which restored my faith in the broader church somewhat. It still didn’t stop them banging on about BBB and defunct brewers though.
In the pub Mudgie last visited as a student in 1978, the gent from Stafford produced A Real Ale Guide to Leicester & Rutland; price 60p! Really interesting stuff, a succinct summation being, there were a lot more ‘proper pubs’ in the city centre way back then. I’m not going to go anywhere near ‘proper pub’, we all know what it means, don’t we? Turned out the cask of Everard’s Old Original they served us from had actually been on since Mudgie’s last visit. They had a framed B & W print of him sat drinking it back in the day, in almost the same seat he’d returned to forty years later! Fair play, it was exchanged without batting an eyelid and the lady behind the bar was lovely.
Highlights: The Ale Wagon; proper pub, excellent real ale and diverse customers. The Real Ale Classroom; classy micro with even better beer. Nawaaz Curry House; puppadums and pickles, pakoras and dip, staff curry (hot), nan and pilau rice, ice cream and fresh fruit, £18.70 for two! Yes, for TWO! We happily threw ten quid each onto the plate and dipped into pockets for extra pound coins to tip. Lovely people, lovely food.
At one point I summoned up enough courage to ask the widely followed Mudgie if he had any beer blogging tips for me? Martin fully endorsed his suggestion of photos of pub cats. The Black Horse on Braunstone Gate duly obliged, they both dashed off after Edna, but I think I got the best one?
Prices? When I can’t afford to drink what I want, where I want, when I want, I’ll stop going out. Generally, the more you pay the better quality beer you get. We didn’t pay less than £3 a pint and generally nowhere near £4 a pint. The dearest drink I had all day was £3.80 for a pint of Arbor Ales Smack My Brew Up, which was subliminal (NBSS 4 and a bit more) and proves my theory.
Overall? A cracking day out in good company. I’m looking forward to the next round, hopefully in Leeds, and would like to be asked to go over to Greater Manchester for a session in Stockport sometime.
NB – Individual posts from each of the three bloggers who went on this tour of Leicester should be published, more or less simultaneously, at around 1200hrs Friday 20th October. I wonder what they’ve written? Probably just some random stuff and a few crap photos.
Update: You can read Mudgie’s ‘Loafing around Leicester’ version of events here and Martin’s ‘Leicester Pub Crawl’ version here .