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Ever since the 2020 edition of the Good Beer Guide plopped through my letterbox at the end of August 2019 (which feels like about 5 years ago), I'd been trying to get to the village of Bilbrough.
For heaven's sake, it is only about 3 miles from my flat. But then again, tricky weekday opening hours, a non existent bus service, and that thing they call Covid almost stopped me from making it.
It was only in the death throes of GBG 2020 world, that, after two days recovery from my North Hampshire extravaganza, Daddy BRAPA takes me there for lunch on the Friday, a rare day where it actually opens on a lunchtime.
What a beautiful village was our first thought. Is the pub open? That's the second thought. And third thought is 'does this man outside lawnmowing, strimming hedges and leaf blowing with his car boot open want his five seconds of fame with a BRAPA cameo?'
He didn't

Now, had the Three Hares, Bilbrough (1892 / 3109) been your classic BRAPA experience of go in, get pint, drink and leave, I'd probably be marking it down as a pretty unremarkable dining venue. But on the rare occasions I do become 'one of them' (an evil diner) , it will most likely enhance the experience. 'Sell out!' cries Colin from the depths of my bag 'stick to Mini Cheddars', but he'd just enjoyed a post-Hampshire wash and tumble-dry, so was most probably a bit dizzy. We sat at a high table in the main bar (thinking it was more pubby than the restaurant, but still very unpubby) and before long, forgot the uncomfy seating arrangement entirely. And Dad hates the whole 'feet off the ground' thing more than I do. The Ossett Yorkshire Blonde & Bilbrough House Ale were going down well. We'd asked to see a food menu from the word go. Half an hour later, no sign of anyone taking our order. We ask her. "Oh, sorry, I just thought you wanted to LOOK at the menu!" replies the young lady who's 'looking after us'. Eh? She thought we just wanted to read it? For something to pass the time? Dad and I couldn't stop chuckling. She was like this throughout, Yorkshire straightforwardness, efficient, friendly, yet slightly detached from reality. The food was ace, Dad had a pie (well ok, not a pie, a puff pastry lidded stew you sticklers!) and me less hungry, liver pate with some other bits, gorgeous. I told her I'd pay whilst Dad was in the loo. 'Don't tell him, I want it to be a surprise' I told her. 'Okay, I'll hide' she says, which didn't really make sense cos I still needed her and her card reader to be present! Yes, she was unintentionally hilarious. Quality coffee and one of those mini biscuits to end to make it one of the least BRAPA experiences of 2020, but a nice change of pace all the same. "You can have the menu as a souvenir if she want, we won't be able to use it again!" she says, sneering at the bit of paper.

"I could bring yer mother here" says Dad, his standard quote if we go to a pub fairly local which is not very rugged, perhaps a bit twee, but they do everything to a high standard. She's still waiting, I can report at the time of writing. #TreatMummyBRAPA

Incidentally, this pub would be my 'last casualty' of the 2020 GBG, by which I mean the last one I visited before I received the 2021 edition which didn't make the cut. Shame as beer was excellent.

The following day, I was on the early train to London, for my latest bit of south Essex ticking, after the success of Leigh, Benfleet, Horndon and Stanford a few weeks back.

Just gone 11am, I arrived into Brentwood and saw this sturdy looking thing on the road out of town. Front door locked, I have to use a side entrance which is becoming a theme of my south eastern trips of late ......

Victoria Arms, Brentwood (1893 / 3110) was a really impressive old boozer, make no mistake. Two locals and a dog are already huddled around the roaring fire, and a landlady with an Irish burr greets me warmly, asking how I am like she means it. She tells me she is alright, it is the locals I need to watch out for! I look over and laugh, but one turns his back, and the one blocking the fire offers me nothing other than a sinister glare. A great pint of Ghost Ship is presented to me in one of those horribly shaped Adnams glasses. The guv'nor comes out to switch on the TV's, horse racing and golf of course, seems right for this pub. "I've only got short arms, that's why I wear long sleeves" he mutters to me. I don't really know how to respond. Luckily, the landlady calls "How many bits of chicken did ya give me Mick?" so he's distracted, and I don't have to try and say something witty. Interesting to hear them bemoaning the previous night's activity. 'We were so busy, we had to turn people away', she says regretfully. Seems that being at full capacity, they'd offered people the chance to sit outside, but being cold, people refused, so they just had to turn them away as couldn't safely have them inside (despite some table shuffling). A local arrives all flustered. "I've been waiting an hour at the chemist for my eye drops. Can't facking see without 'em!" he wails, downing a pint of lager in about three glugs. The kind of pub you could settle in all day, and write a thesis about pub life, even in these times. Cracking place!

One more pub to tell you about for this blog.

And pub planning can be a funny thing. As I set off this morning, I'd not even considered this pub. But as I flicked idly through the GBG about two thirds of the way to London, it suddenly occurred to me that if I was in Brentwood, I should look at Coxtie Green. And sure enough, the bus runs from Brentwood to Coxtie Green. But before I know it, I've decided walking is even easier. I'm at the Coxtie Green turning before the next due bus has even passed me.

Down a narrow country lane, and the pub eventually juts out, big Sky Sports banner a trifle off-putting but them's the breaks ......

Again it is a case of using the back entrance here at White Horse, Coxtie Green (1894 / 3111) . Five minutes of utter confusion follows. A sign says 'wait here' so I do. A gigantic group of football ladz are laughing, downing lager, and waiting for something to begin on a giant outdoor plasma. I mistakenly decide 'this must be it' (i.e. outdoor only experience) but when I see a staff member about to start her shift, I follow her in and ask if I can sit inside. She looks at me like "well, duh!" and soon I sit down between a pair of farmery old yokels, and a family having lunch. Colin is looked at curiously from all angles, but soon the yokels are joking with me about how long it'll take me to get served. Problem is, the 'ladz' have just ordered a huge round of Fosters and something mysteriously known as 'English Cider'. It takes so long, I've forgotten what beer I want so I have to shout "CAN I HAVE THAT STOUT THAT'S SOMETHING TO DO WITH AN ELEPHANT?" That's got the kids interested in real ale for the first time in their lives. I've done my duty. As the friendly yokels chatted about sea frets in Scarborough, I'm getting increasingly anxious glances from the staff until eventually, I'm asked if I mind moving for a group of diners arriving in ten minutes. I do mind, but my bus is due in 15, so ties in quite nicely. Bit of an unconvincing experience all round. Couldn't help feeling its large array of handpumps might be the main driving force behind GBG inclusion.


Great windows gave a rare glimpse of pubby joy in the White Horse

Beers, beers, Colin & Elephant Stout

Luckily, today was about to take a turn for the better with Grays as the saviour. Join me on Sunday evening for sketchy tales from a month ago, but some half decent pub photos.

Cheers, Si