Thursday, 20 July 2017

Not on a school night

I wouldn’t exactly say I have led a sheltered life, so it may come as a surprise to learn that the saying, presumably in fairly common usage, “Not on a school night” only pricked my consciousness a few years ago. The saying is often used in the context of having commitments the next day, especially in the morning; commitments such as work, important meetings or deadlines which prevent one from doing something (usually fun and sometimes even downright stupid) on that night.

“Not on a school night” is said to owe its origins to children having to go to bed early because school was the next day, but adults now also use this expression informally to describe the evening before a day when they have to get up to go to work.

Several posts ago I wrote a CAMRA-related article about the problems currently facing Europe's most successful consumer organisation which, despite rising levels of membership, is seeing active participation in the Campaign, falling to an all time low.

My own situation is that after 30+ years of involvement at committee level, with my local branch, I have taken a back seat and am just an "ordinary member", who can pick and choose which meeting or socials I attend, without having to feel guilty about "not doing my bit". I actually stood down two years ago, and whilst I was not as heavily involved as some, it still felt like a great weight having been lifted off my shoulders; liberating, if you like.

It is now, as an ordinary member that I can start to appreciate why attendances at branch socials are at an all time low (certainly within my own branch, that is). Historically, many branches held socials mid-week, during the evening, as this was when pubs were most likely to be at their quietest. This meant members could socialise without getting in the way of the pub’s regular customers, but a by-product was a welcome boost in mid-week trade for the pub.

When I first became actively involved with CAMRA, back in the late 1970’s, attending mid-week evening socials was not a problem. I was 40 years younger and a regular pub-goer. Having two to three pints of an evening was not a problem; sometimes I might stretch it to four and still feel OK the following morning. In addition, my job was not as arduous back then and neither did it carry as many responsibilities, all of which meant I could turn up at the pub in question, enjoy several pints and then be fine for work the following morning.

Times have changed, my body has obviously changed too and I find myself no longer able to consume the amount of beer I did 30-40 years ago. This is not a bad thing, and I’m certain I am healthier, and wealthier for it. I also fairly certain that I’m not the only person whose alcohol consumption has declined over the years; but one thing I’m not at all certain about is whether the thinking and the strategy behind many CAMRA branch socials has changed in keeping with people’s altered drinking patterns.

With this in mind, I am becoming more and more of the opinion “Not on a school night”, especially as I find that drinking more than a couple of pints, leaves me feeling nowhere near as bright and alert as I should be the following morning.

There is another reason though why I am not so keen to venture out on a weekday evening, and it boils down to having my dinner when I get home from work. We normally eat at around 6pm, which is the time our son is normally home from work. It might sound a lame excuse, but by the time we have finished eating, washed up, had a cup of coffee and then relaxed for a while, I don’t particularly feel like going back out again; especially after a busy day at work.

Meetings and socials, organised by my local West Kent CAMRA Branch, have traditionally kicked off at 8pm. This situation came about because the former branch chairman worked in London, so would aim to arrive at the pub straight off the commuter train.  Getting something solid inside him beforehand didn’t seem to matter.

I am the complete opposite, as I don’t like drinking on an empty stomach. Perversely, I don’t enjoy my beer as much either if I am too full up; so rushing out to a social,  straight after dinner, especially if it is a train ride away, is not my idea of fun. If I have a beer at home, I will normally wait until around 9pm, by which time my body has had time to at least partially digest my meal.

I have been known to turn up to socials at this sort of hour, but I tend to restrict my attendance under these circumstances to purely local locations. It certainly isn’t worth making a train journey that late in the evening, particularly when it’s an early start for work the following morning.

Now if other folk feel and act the same way as me, then it’s likely they too won’t be over keen to turn out on a cold January night, especially if there’s some travelling involved. So is it any wonder that attendances at CAMRA socials have fallen off, particularly if they fall on a weekday, or the location is a rural one.

In these sorts of situation, the saying, “Not on a school night,” seems to make more and more sense.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Greyhound romps home

Some good news to brighten up your Monday morning. The Greyhound at Charcott, which was closed back in January by owner Enterprise Inns and earmarked for conversion to a private dwelling, re-opened for drinkers on Saturday afternoon.

Regular followers of this blog will be aware that the pub had been bought from Enterprise, by local couple Richard and Fran Gilliat-Smith  back in April. The pair have spent the last 3 months carrying out an extensive refurbishment, and in some cases a restoration, following years of only basic maintenance by both Enterprise and previous owners, Whitbread.

Most days, my regular lunchtime walk takes me past the Greyhound, and judging by the number of builders skips outside the pub, plus the number of different tradesmen’s vans, it was fairly evident that the refurbishment was going to be very thorough.

On Sunday my son and I walked over to see for ourselves. We caught the train from Tonbridge to Leigh; calling in at the village shop to pick up a few bites to eat on the way. The Greyhound is only open for drinks at the moment, as further work is still required on the kitchen. Richard and Fran plan on having the kitchen open by the middle of next month, once the work is complete and they have found a suitable chef.

Our walk took us through Leigh churchyard, from where we picked up the path which skirts the perimeter of the Hall Place estate. Unfortunately, as the path turned into an area of woodland, we found the massive trunk of a recently fallen oak tree blocking the way. With a fence on the one side,  and dense undergrowth on the other, we were forced to make a detour, but with the aid of  an OS Explorer Map, this was not a problem, and some 90 minutes after leaving Leigh, we found ourselves in Charcott.

We were both looking forward to a pint when we reached the Greyhound, and after stopping briefly to say hello to friends Jon and Claire who were sitting outside, entered the pub. I must say the new owners have done an excellent job on the place; the bar counter and floorboards have been stripped back to reveal the natural wood, whilst the walls have been painted white, above a lower half of pale blue. The Greyhound always had a bright and airy feel to it, and the colour scheme has really enhanced this.

To tempt us there were three cask ales on the bar, in the form of Larkin’s Traditional, Tonbridge Blonde Ambition alongside Dark Star American Pale. I opted for the latter, whilst son Matt was tempted by a pint of the recently re-launched Hofmeister. The 21st Century version is a far cry from the ersatz lager brewed by Courage back in the early 1980’s.

Brewed at an unnamed brewery in the heart of Bavaria, using natural mineral water and locally grown barley and hops, the new Hofmeister Helles Lager is a vast improvement on its 80’s namesake. Matt is too young to remember the original, but I am not, and after trying the beer for myself, pronounced it genuinely Bavarian.

We took our drinks outside, and sat down with our friends. There was a good churn of customers, with the numbers slowly increasing as the afternoon wore on. Being a country pub, the Greyhound is dog-friendly, which was just as well when several people pitched up with their hounds in tow.

The garden at the side also appeared popular with families, and when landlord Richard, fired up the barbecue, there were hot dogs and burgers for all who wanted them; on the house!

The secluded side-garden
Our friends departed shortly before  3pm, but Matt and I stayed for another. This gave me a chance to try out the rather quirky gents toilets, with the urinals fabricated out of converted milk churns. I also managed a brief chat with Fran, who was obviously pleased with the way the pub has been received during its first couple of days being open. She  remarked that I’d now be able to pop in for a drink at lunchtime, instead of furtively peering through the window.

Just before we departed, we were Charcott Farmhouse. They were really pleased that the Greyhound has re-opened, as not only does it mean they have their local back again, but as soon as the kitchen reopens, they have somewhere close by to recommend their to guests for an evening meal, or simply just a few pints of locally-brewed beer.
joined at out table by the couple who run the nearby bed-and-breakfast establishment at

I am also pleased to see the Greyhound open once more, and I’m certain it will do well under its new owners. The only thing is I might have to vary the route of my lunchtime walk, otherwise the pub could prove a trifle too tempting!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

SIBA South East Beer Festival 2017 - at Tonbridge Juddians

A festival of superlatives would be the best way to describe this year’s SIBA South East Beer Festival, which once again was hosted by Tonbridge Juddians Rugby Club. This was the 11th such event and, as in previous years, the festival took place in a spacious marquee erected in front of TJ’s clubhouse.

For me, the best aspect has always been the family nature of the festival, with the club’s large marquee opening out onto part of the playing area, giving plenty of room for people to sit out and soak up the sun, along with the beer. I missed the opening Friday evening session, but on Saturday afternoon my wife and I headed down to the rugby club, where we met up with her two nieces, one of their partners, a few friends and the odd dog.

We brought our folding chairs along with various items of food to enjoy with the beer, and with the weather staying fair (wall to wall sunshine, in fact), it was a question of applying plenty of sunscreen and trying to stay cool. The majority of festival goers were sitting outside enjoying the fine weather, leaving plenty of space inside the marquee and ample room to move about and peruse the rows of different casks. There were also a number of live acts lined up, to entertain the crowds.

Before the festival throws its doors open to the public, the beers are judged. This after all is a contest for places in the SIBA SouthEast Region Competition.  The number of brewers exhibiting this year was 62; down slightly on last year’s total of 74. Between them they mustered 187 different cask ale across nine separate categories,  and were sourced from brewers in the counties of Berkshire, East and West Sussex, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, London and Surrey, which together make up the SIBA South East Region.

The tasting and judging of the beers takes place earlier on Friday, and I know several people who volunteer as judges each year. I was asked to judge as well, but declined due to a combination of work commitments, along with the fact I prefer to drink and enjoy my beer, rather than attempting to pigeon-hole and assess it against others. Besides, I am not overly bothered as to which beers won awards in the various categories, although I am obviously pleased for the individual brewers.

As in previous years, all beers were priced at one token per half pint, regardless of strength, which certainly made life easier for the mathematically challenged amongst us. Tokens were priced at £1.70 each. I didn’t go overboard on the sampling, but I enjoyed most of the beers I sampled and the ones which really stood out were: 

Five Points XPA 4.0% – from Five Points Brewing; Skyline American Pale Ale 5.3% from London Brewing Co and Signature Pale 4.1% plus Backstage IPA 5.6%, both from Signature Brew.

The above were all pale, well-hopped premium bitters with that refreshing, citrus-like bite. With temperatures in the high twenties, these types of beer early hit the spot in terms of their refreshment and their thirst-quenching properties.

We stayed until around 9pm, just as the sun slowly began to sink behind the trees at the fringe of Tonbridge Sportsground. It was as fine a summer’s evening as one could wish for, and the perfect end to what had been a most enjoyable day. This annual beer festival really has come into its own, and has been taken to heart by the good townsfolk of Tonbridge. It is now firmly fixed in the local social calendar, and is talked about long after each event – surely the ultimate accolade!

As ever thanks go to Tonbridge Juddians, and all their hard-working volunteers, for once again, putting on such an excellent and highly enjoyable festival, and to the brewers from  SIBA South-East , who for provided such a fine range of beers.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

It's more than just a numbers' game.

It’s back to the "numbers theme" for this second short post about the maxim “More is not necessarily better.” This time I want to talk about the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), and what appears increasingly to be a numbers game for an organisation once described as “Europe’s most successful consumer movement”.

In the previous article I referred to  “Channel Draught”, the magazine published by Dover, Deal and Sandwich CAMRA Branch. I picked up a copy of this excellent and informative publication, whilst in Dover last week, and in the “National News” there was a snippet about CAMRA and its growing membership.

West Kent CAMRA members - anyone under 50?
Apparently membership of the organisation continues to increase, and has now passed the 185,000 mark. CAMRA now has more members than any of the UK’s political parties; with the exception of the Labour Party. With an annual increase in members of just under 10,000 the Campaign now ranks amongst the country’s top membership organisations.

But is this fixation on numbers necessarily a good thing? Is CAMRA concentrating so much on increasing its membership that it has taken its eye off the ball in other areas? Most importantly, are the people who are rushing to join CAMRA in their droves, the type(s) of people CAMRA wants or indeed needs? Are they the people who will take the organisation forward, and will take up the mantle, and the burden, currently carried by an increasingly aging, and sadly dwindling, group of active members?

I had a conversation along these lines a couple of weeks ago, whilst attending a function in London. I was in a pub, with a group of beer writers, and I was leaning  against the bar talking to a person who, like me was a former activist within his local CAMRA branch. Unfortunately I can’t remember his name, but with a similar background we had much in common when it came to discussing the Campaign for Real Ale.

The new and the old. Tim Page (L), Michael Hardman (R)
CAMRA’s obsession with numbers cropped up on a number of occasions, but neither of us could quite pin-point whether this has arisen following the appointment, in November 2015, of Tim Page as CAMRA’s new Chief Executive, or whether the Campaign had embarked on its membership crusade beforehand. Tim, who has a background of working for various charities, does seem to be concentrating very much on increasing CAMRA membership, and his appointment does seems to have raise a few eyebrows and ruffled a few feathers. This may just be due to people not liking change, but there has been some criticism recently of a lack of direction within the organisation.

The much vaunted “Revitalisation Campaign” seems to have run out of steam, and kicked into touch. It’s findings, which were not exactly revolutionary, will be debated, and presumably voted on, at the 2018 Member’s Weekend & AGM, which will take place in Derby.
In the meantime, CAMRA seems to be struggling at grass-roots level, despite the large increase in membership. If proof were needed of this, the very same issue of “Channel Draught” contained an advertisement for a new Branch Pubs  Officer, to replace the current incumbent who will be standing down at the branch AGM. The ad also advised of a number of other vacant positions on the Branch Committee, including those if Treasurer and Social Secretary. It went on to warn that if these vacancies were not filled, the branch would struggle to operate and the branch might even “become defunct and close.”

Pensioner's outing? West Kent CAMRA  on a day out
Unfortunately my own local West Kent Branch are in exactly the same predicament. Our former long-standing chairman stood down at last November’s AGM, due to ill health, and his replacement has also advised, that because of business and family commitments, he will not continue as Chairman beyond this year’s meeting. We have also not had a functioning Social Secretary for the past six months; as again the former incumbent, who did an excellent job carrying out this vital, but often thankless task, also stood down last November.

With no-one to fill these key roles, the branch will be rudderless, and the danger is that West Kent CAMRA Branch could also struggle and ultimately fold. We have over 600 members on our books, but we are lucky to see half dozen of then at branch meetings and socials.

Where are all these other members who CAMRA have recruited recently? Are they just prepared to pay their subs, get their Spoons Vouchers and then flick occasionally through the pages of “What’s Brewing”? We could certainly do with some of them coming forward, although to be fair, we do get all sorts of people turning up to help at our annual beer festival, run in conjunction with the Spa Valley Heritage Railway each October.

So in the end, the Campaign for Real Ale is much more than just a game of numbers, and to draw this piece to an end, I wish to pose a couple of questions:

  1. “Will the findings of the Revitalisation Exercise offset the alarming decline in active members, due largely to increasing age, by inspiring the large numbers of younger people who have joined in recent years, to become more involved?” 
  2. “If this doesn’t happen, can CAMRA continue purely as an “armchair” organisation?”

I don’t want to pre-empt anything, but I’m fairly certain I already know the answers.

Friday, 7 July 2017

More is not necessarily better

This is the first of two separate, but inter-related articles, both of have a number of things in common. The common theme which runs through both is the well known principle that “more is not necessarily better.”

I would like to kick off by asking the question, “When is the new brewery bubble going to burst?”  This was prompted by an article posted on the BeerViking’s blog. Here, author BryanB, draws on a number of sources to argue that some rationalisation and correction may be on the way, in relation to the number of breweries within the UK.

For example, in 2016 there were 1,544 "commercially operational national, regional and craft/micro brewers" in the UK, with  60 new breweries starting operations during that year. This is significantly down on the 100+ numbers recorded in each of the previous five years. During the same period, 58 breweries ceased operations, which means that the total of working breweries has actually gone down since 2015.

Many observers have long argued that this rapid expansion was not sustainable and that the industry has long  been due for a correction. These are points I entirely agree with, as I have long been of the same opinion. Imagine then my surprise the other day, when I came picked up a copy of “Channel Draught”, the magazine published by Dover, Deal and Sandwich CAMRA Branch.

In the section titled “Kent Small Brewery News”, I noticed at least 10 breweries whose names I didn’t recognise, This is out of a total of 35 breweries within the county; a number which is way too many in terms of the number of genuine free-trade, and other viable outlets within Kent.

I got the distinct impression that many of these start-ups are either brew-pubs or the proverbial “man in a shed” brewery, but even if these new entrants to the trade are just supplying the one pub, that effectively means that pub will be selling far less of other brewer’s beers.

This leads me to wonder where is all this beer going to end up? Discounting is one way, but that is the route to the poor house, so is Kent bucking the trend or are we seeing the last gasp in terms of brewery expansion within the county?

Thursday, 6 July 2017

To Dover and the Lanes

Continuing the narrative from last Saturday’s walk along the North Down’s Way, we  were reluctant to leave our comfortable vantage point at the Wrong Turn, but with a lengthy walk ahead of us we decided we ought to press on. Our route took us through the tiny village of  Barfrestone, with its picturesque thatched cottages and 12th  Century Church of  Saint Nicholas Church; the second oldest Norman church in the UK, before heading out into the open countryside.

We then passed through the much larger village of Eythorne which is only about a mile from the long closed Tilmanstone Colliery; one of the four main pits of the former Kent coalfield. Besides the church and the village shop, Eythorne still has a pub - the Crown, although the former White Horse is now a bed-and-breakfast establishment. 

Eythorne station - EKR
On our way out of the village, we passed one of the restored stations of the East Kent Railway (EKR). This was a light railway, constructed between 1911 and 1917, in order to serve the Kent Coalfield. We had noticed another former station at Shepherdswell, close to where the EKR once connected with the mainline railway. Today, the EKR is a heritage railway, operated by volunteers.  

After leaving Eythorne our walk took us through an area of woodland, before leading us up through fields of wheat, onto a ridge. We then passed into parkland characterised by some of the largest sweet chestnut trees that any of us had ever seen. The park forms the surroundings to Waldershare House, an impressive and attractive Georgian mansion which dates from 1712.  Looking at some of these magnificent trees it was impossible not to admire the vision of the men who planned and set out these sweeping landscapes two centuries ago, even though they knew they would not come to maturity in their lifetime, or even their grandchildren’s lifetime!

Ancient yew tree
We then made our way down from the ridge and out of the landscaped parkland, passing through the churchyard of All Saints, Waldershare. The church is no longer used for regular worship, and is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, but I imagine that at one time, it would have been used by estate workers from the big-house. As is often the case with churchyards, there was a magnificent yew tree growing there, quite close to the church. Because of its massive girth, one of my companions reckoned the tree could be over a thousand years old!

After crossing the busy A256 by mean of a road bridge, we passed through the small village of Ashley; a settlement which seemed devoid of anything apart from bungalows. We then turned off down a grassy track and headed off in a southerly direction with the aim of reaching Dover some time between 6.30 and 7pm.

This is where the walk became more of a route-march, and where it gradually became lass and less enjoyable. The countryside was pleasant enough; alternating between open fields and wooded areas, but we knew that fairly soon we would come to the main A2 trunk road, where the NDW makes a lengthy diversion in order to find a suitable crossing point.

What does the lower sign designate?
This was also where our party became separated, as the two stronger walkers were striding on ahead, leaving me and my friend Don, further and further behind. Now I’m sure Don could have kept up with the other two, but he very kindly hung back in order to keep me company, and this was just as well as I was running out of  steam.

We walked the final three mile stretch into Dover at a much reduced pace, but fortunately most of the route was now along paved roads and downhill, eventually becoming more and more built up.

The agreed plan had been to make for the Thirsty Scarecrow micro-pub, at the top end of the High Street, before continuing on to another micro in the form of  The Lanes. Don and I however, decided to head straight for the latter, as we knew it was only five minutes walk away from Dover Priory station and our train home. We sent a text to the advance party telling them of our intentions, and pressed on through a rather nice residential area of the town.

By this time my knees and the tops of my thighs were telling me to stop and rest, but with the town centre in sight we carried on, eventually reaching The Lanes just before 7pm. This was my first visit to this excellent micro-pub, situated on a street corner, on a side road, just off the pedestrianised town centre. It is carpeted throughout and comfortably furnished with a mix of high tables and stools, plus settees and low tables.

The pub is named after its owners Keith and Debbie Lane, who opened the venue in December 2014. The couple provide a warm and friendly welcome to all who step inside, and I was certainly glad of a place to sit down and rest my weary feet and enjoy a beer or two. The pub offers up to five cask ales from microbreweries (two from Kent) along with around ten ciders. All are served on gravity dispense from a temperature controlled cellar room complete with its own viewing window in the bar.

The Lanes makes a feature of stocking all that is good with Kentish ales, ciders, wines and mead, along with soft drinks from local producers. The pub also stocks a range of speciality gins. The Lanes was voted Pub of the Year 2017, by the local CAMRA Branch (Dover, Deal & Sandwich), and has also gone on to win East Kent Pub of the Year as well. It will now go head to head against the winner for West Kent – the Flowerpot in Maidstone. 

Landlady Debbie, guided us to one of the comfortable sofas, although I opted for the adjacent, slightly higher arm chair. A beer was definitely in order, so Don and both I went for the Gadd’s No. 5, from Ramsgate Brewery. Not long after, the other two members of our party arrived, having enjoyed a couple of ciders at the Thirsty Scarecrow, on the way into town. The Scarecrow is unusual, certainly in this part of the country, because it specialises in cider, rather than beer. Up to 20 ciders are stocked, with just one or two casks of ale to please beer lovers.

A well-earned pint
We stayed at The Lanes for a couple of hours, but the strange thing was none of us drank that much. I think we all pretty exhausted, and in my case suffering the effects of too much sun. This was despite wearing a sun hat and slapping on plenty of sunscreen.

I remained with the Gadd’s for my second pint, this time the summer-themed She Sells Sea Shells - a lovely pale and well-hopped beer, which shows off all that is good about a Kentish summer, spent by the sea. I removed my boots (but not my socks!),  allowing the air to get to my feet. I felt much better by the time we left, and had no trouble in walking back to the station, or indeed walking the mile or so back to my house, once we arrived back in Tonbridge.

So all in all, a good day’s walking in a part of Kent I am not at all familiar with, combined with some excellent beers in two really good micro-pubs. The fact that one was rural and virtually in the middle of nowhere, whilst the other could not have been more urban in its location, proved once again that it’s the pub and the people who are important, and not its actual location; although the latter obviously plays a part.

As for "White Cliffs Country", this is the name given by the local tourist authority for the area which encompasses Dover, Deal and Sandwich. It is a unique place where coast meets country, beauty meets history and England meets the Continent. 

We obviously, only scratched the surface of this corner of East Kent, and it is an area which is definitely worth a visit and spending more time in.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

White Cliffs Country - and a rural micro-pub

On Saturday just gone, I caught up with my three walking companions from the previous week for another jaunt along the North Downs Way. We weren’t continuing from where we’d ended up the previous week, as the three of them had completed that particular walk the day after. I was rather glad that I hadn’t joined them, as two lengthy hikes in a row would have been a bit too much, as far as I was concerned.

Instead, with an eight day break since my last foray into East Kent, I was relatively fresh and raring to go. Saturday’s walk was actually the climax of the North Downs Way;  or at least it was for the member of our group who had set out from Farnham over two years ago, to walk the 156 miles to Dover. This particular friend had actually completed the main route last year, and what I was joining him and his other two companions on was the so-called “Canterbury loop”, which follows the gap in the hills made by the River Stour, as its winds its way towards the cathedral city, before heading back towards Dover in s south-easterly direction.

Conditions were a little cooler than they had been the previous week, and were therefore much more conducive to walking. So with a relatively early start, we boarded the 09.23 train from Tonbridge to Dover Priory. The countryside was looking a little greener than it had done the previous week, no doubt helped by the much welcome rain we’d had in the meantime.

We arrived in Dover just over an hour later, and with three quarters of an hour to wait for our connection to Shepherdswell (our starting point for this section of the trail), we walked the short distance into the town centre and found a convenient coffee shop. It is always good to support an independent café, rather than one of the big, multi-national chains, and the Mean Bean Coffee Shop proved a good find. With a friendly welcome and table service to match, in bright and airy surroundings, the resultant coffee was also excellent and just the thing for the start of a lengthy walk.

Suitably refreshed, we returned to the station and boarded the Canterbury-bound train for just two stops, alighting at the delightfully named village of Shepherdswell. Our plan was to join up with the NDW and walk the nine or so miles towards Dover; but not before a hastily arranged pub-stop.

It is not normally a good idea to stop for refreshment so early on in proceedings, but we were all agreed that as we were unlikely to be passing that particular way again, it would be a shame to miss out on a visit to a rather unique micro-pub. Consequently we headed north, towards the small village of Barfrestone where, more by luck than judgement, we stumbled along the track leading to the aptly-named Wrong Turn.

This chalet-style pub, which opened in August 2014, is situated at the end of a gravel drive, right on the edge of Barfrestone. There is a sheltered patio area at the front of the building and a lawned garden with picnic benches, at the side. The interior has a comfortable, but slightly rustic feel with wooden tables and chairs, sideboard, piano and a wood-burning stove.  Beers and ciders are served on gravity dispense from a temperature controlled cellar room behind the bar. A variety of snacks are available, including home-made pork pies, scotch eggs and a cheese board.

After our short walk from the station (1.5 miles), it was a good place to stop off at, and enjoy a glass or two of beer. The sun had been shining ever since we left Dover, so it was good to find shady spot on the veranda, just outside the entrance, and make ourselves comfortable. 

Wantsum Black Prince is reputedly the pub’s regular beer, with up to two others available on an ever-changing basis. Not being a fan of this particular dark mild, I opted instead for a pint of Flintlock from Musket Brewery (3.0 NBSS), followed by a rather splendid pint of Oakham Citra (3.5 NBSS). A range of traditional ciders is also available, and one member of our party opted for an Elderflower Cider, which I think came from locally-based Kentish Pip.

There was a reasonable turnover of people coming and going, but the Wrong Turn was not busy enough to prevent the landlady from popping out for a chat. She told us the premises has formerly been an art studio; her own, in fact. Following the closure of the only pub in the village, she decided to  convert the old wooden studio into a micro- pub; a rarity in a rural location. The name, the Wrong Turn, came about because people looking for the former art studio, would often get lost.

To be continued......................................................

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Beer bargains at ASDA

I’ve been out walking again, undertaking another long (for me anyway) hike, so I was out for most of Saturday. I spent today playing catch-up on the domestic front, doing the shopping, helping with the housework and finishing off some long overdue tasks in the garden, so I will have to leave the write-up of yesterday’s walk until later in the week.

In the meantime though, for all those who do the bulk of their drinking at home, here’s some good news from ASDA.  The supermarket are offering a wide range of beers at four for £6.00, and these are not just the usual “big brands” or “safe” well-known BCA’s. Instead beers from the likes of Harbour, Brew Dog, Lagunitas, Hogs Back, Purity, Timothy Taylor’s and Thornbridge are included in the offer, along with quite a few others.

The photo below shows a few of the bottles I picked up this morning, but last week it was cans that I purchases, as many so-called “craft” brewery cans are included in the four for £6.00. I still have a a couple for Harbour Brewing to try, along with Long Horn IPA from Purity Brewing and Stone Go To IPA.

According to the company website, the offer has been running since the end of March, so I don’t know when they’ll be stopping it, but if you fancy stocking up on a selection of unusual bottles or cans, then get yourselves down to your nearest  branch of ASDA.

Btw. This week was even better, as the store was knocking out 500ml bottles of Pilsner Urquell at just £1.50 each. This classic Czech Pilsner is my go to beer for everyday home-drinking, as its subtle blend of a firm malt body, enhanced with a touch of caramel sweet from the triple-decoction mash regime, combined with the earthy and pleasing bitterness from the Czech Saaz hops, makes for the perfect, thirst-quenching drink – especially after a busy day in the garden.