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Tuesday, 20 November 2018

#249 Sandbrook Vaults, Market Drayton, Shropshire : 1987 to 2018

I was all ready to produce a tale of our visits to the Sandbrook Vaults starting in 1999 when, in a pique of thoroughness, I rechecked our log books and photo albums to discover that we made our first visit way back in 1987.
This was taken on the evening of Thursday 9th July 1987 and that's all I can add to the recollection (and that's why I take the photos because I would not have remembered visiting here.) Interestingly, it was run by McEwan's Scotch Ales and the large hanging sign to the top right of the picture is for the Elephant and Castle, which I assume was next door.

We didn't visit Market Drayton again until 1996, but we didn't venture back into the Sandbrook Vaults until the evening of Monday 6th September 1999.
The basic appearance of the pub was unchanged but the signage was completely different and, if you look closely, it had gained an 'S' now being called Sandbrooks Vaults.
We returned almost exactly a year later on Tuesday 5th September 2000 and the pub had gained some vegetation, but all else was the same.
Lo and behold! We were back again on the evening of Tuesday 10th September 2002 - amazing; no visit for twelve years and then three times in four years. The external signage had changed and the name reverted back to the original. Judging from the lighting (and the 'soft' focus) I think that these last visits were after our curry just across the road and represented out final chance for a drink each night. My recollections are that it was a basic town boozer inside that catered for a more music minded crowd. That probably explains why, despite visiting Market Drayton on numerous occasions it was another sixteen years before we ventured back inside.
Again, we left it to the last stop of the night on Tuesday 4th September 2018 (again after our curry...different restaurant, though).

Now it is a Joule's pub and hasn't been given quite as severe a makeover as most Joule's pubs as it still felt like a live music pub. Amazingly, the pub next door is stilll open as well and called the Clive and Coffyne (haven't been in for many years!)

So, although the Sandbrook Vaults looks to be completely unchanged over the passing years this belies many subtle changes that have taken place in 31 years - not least the change from McEwan's to Joule's.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Jolly Boys Outing to St Albans

This was to be a first for me in more ways than one - first ever visit to St Albans; first Proper Pubs Day Out away from Birmingham; first time meeting several members of the beer blogging glitterati!

We met in the Robin Hood at about midday and all of the major players have been introduced in Richard Coldwell's excellent blog Beer Leeds ( I'm the one in the green and gold rugby shirt.
Robin Hood, St Albans - November 2018
Most of the attendees are primarily beer bloggers who obviously have to go into pubs, whereas I was probably the only regular Carling drinker amongst the group. However, as we were visiting specially chosen pubs for the beer, I did stick to proper beer all day...and very good it was too. I think that I only had one that I wasn't keen on (fortunately it was only a half - my only half of the day!). It wasn't 'off', just not to my taste.

So, after a pint in the Robin Hood we moved on to the next stop on the itinerary, The Mermaid.
The Mermaid, St Albans - November 2018
Another lovely, proper pub just away from the town centre - I had a pint of Citra here, but that's the limit of my memory. (If I was that bothered I'd start taking notes like the assembled professionals who were noting each beer consumed and its NBSS). My notes are the photos I take...when I remember!
Jolly Boy's Outing St Albans - November 2018
This was the scene as we strode away from The Mermaid towards our next stop, The Boot. Although it wasn't a race, I want to go into Peter O'Sullevan mode to tell you that, "Striding out in front is the Stafford Mudgie a long way clear of Roger Protz, @StephenPie and Lulu, closely followed by Retired Martin and Beer Leeds, with Citra coming up on the outside (a remarkable performance considering his recent myocardial infarction!). Bringing up the rear are Mrs RC and the Pubmeister with Joe Public stone last."
The Boot, St Albans - November 2018
The final 'race order' may never be known, but we reached The Boot unscathed. It is another lovely pub, but perhaps in need of a little tlc as it was a little careworn. Still a pleasant pub, though.

From here, the itinerary went downhill, literally, as we headed down to the old town through some lovely, quaint English streets. It was at this stage that I thought the organisers had gone mad. We seemed to have passed lots of pubs which looked nice to me and ahead I could see two more that we weren't going into, either! However, it turned out that the two pub signs were hanging outside private homes which had once been hostelries. We carried on to the Lower Red Lion.
Lower Red Lion, St Albans - November 2018 
By now we'd missed lunch, but as we were drinking plenty of fluids, we were safe to continue. Another lovely pub.
Where to now?
Six Bells, St Albans - November 2018

"...and they're off again..."
We were now on the way to what had been billed as the final destination of our tour - Ye Olde Fighting Cocks.
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, St Albans - November 2018
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, St Albans - November 2018
So, where to next? This had been planned as the final stop, but having missed out the lunch stop there was time to get to the Great Northern. This was in completely the wrong direction for me, but I still had plenty of time to kill and it was a very interesting stroll taking us past the cathedral.
St Albans Cathedral - November 2018
Great Northern, St Albans - November 2018
This was the final port of call on the regular tour and another nice place too. However, I still had almost three hours to kill before my train back to Brum, so Lulu volunteered to introduce me to a couple more of her favoured pubs which would also take me in the right direction.

First was the White Hart Tap (I think, as I forgot to take a picture) and our final port of call the White Lion.
The White Lion, St Albans - November 2018
From my point of view, it is a good job that St Albans isn't on the canal as we'd find it difficult to leave with all of these fantastic pubs (I don't think that I've ever walked past so many good looking pubs in one day!)

My thanks go to the organisers for such a fine selection of hostelries and my special personal thanks to Peter and Lulu who went the extra mile to look after me when the 'official' proceedings were over.