Tuesday, 3 April 2018
The Jolly Boy's Outing
Sometimes described as “Beano's”, these trips were meant for an almost exclusively male clientele, and were basically an organised “piss-up.” There would be several, pre-arranged pub stops on the way to the seaside, and plenty of opportunity to visits a few pubs at the final destination as well. For good measure, there would normally be a few crates of bottled beer (nearly always brown ale), stowed away at the back of the coach.
Whilst not quite in the same vein as these legendary “Beano’s”, for the past 12 years, West Kent CAMRA have run an annual trip to Margate in order to visit the town’s long-standing beer festival, “Planet Thanet”. Train is the preferred means of travel, rather than coach, and there are no crates of brown ale hidden away in the guard’s van either, but apart from that these trips are similar, in spirit at least, to the Jolly Boy’s Outings of yester-year.
This now annual pilgrimage to the seaside always takes place on Good Friday, which is the opening day of the festival. This is unfortunate for me as the Planet Thanet trip invariably clashes with Maidstone CAMRA’s annual ramble, and for me, walking through the Kent countryside, during early spring, to a nice country pub, in the company of old friends, always wins out over being stuck in a hall sampling half after half of too many similar-tasting beers.
That was until the rains came, for as I wrote in the previous post, deluge after deluge have left our fields totally sodden and many footpaths virtually impassable. There was nothing else to do, but bite the bullet and join my CAMRA friends on their trip “Down to Margate”. I enjoyed the train ride down to the coast and had a rather smug feeling as I surveyed the water-logged fields from the comfort of our nice dry carriage. We had to change trains at both Ashford and Ramsgate, and it was at the latter that we noticed plenty of other fellow travellers were heading for the same destination as us. (CAMRA members can usually be spotted a mile off!).
The event followed the pattern of many other CAMRA festivals, with a refundable, souvenir glass to drink from and tokens to be used in exchange for beer at the bars. After providing ourselves with both we grabbed a table in the quieter of the two halls. I must add here that I was just following my companions who seem to have turned their attendance at Planet Thanet into a finely-tuned, well-oiled art.
Now comes the confession; I have really gone off beer festivals, so after splashing out on my train fare and spending the best art of two hours travelling, you’d be entitles to ask, what the hell was I doing there? I asked that question myself, but if truth be known I had gone along to Planet Thanet primarily for the company of friends and the experience of visiting a corner of Kent I don’t often get to.
It would have been rude not to have indulged in a few beers though, so I got stuck in, starting off on some of the weaker pale beers, before switching to some of the darker and stronger porters. The beers which really stood out for me were on the pale side: Five Points Pale 4.4% from Five Points Brewing of Hackney and Hurricane Jack 4.4% from Fyne Ales, plus Clwydian Black Porter 4.7% from Hafod Brewery, Rabbie’s Porter 4.3% from Ayr Brewery and 1872 Porter 6.5% from Elland Brewery. The latter three were all dark ales, in case you hadn’t guessed.
We huddled together in the shelter of a shop doorway, enjoying our excellent fish supper, before calling in for one last beer at what is probably the town’s best known micro-pub. The Fez opened in December 2015 in a former shop, and is furnished with a mixture of high and low tables and some raised bench seating. Virtually every inch of wall and indeed ceiling space is covered with various brewery and fairground memorabilia.
The place was absolutely heaving, but fortunately we managed to grab a table by the door, just as the occupants were leaving. I believe I had a glass of Gadd’s Dog Bolter Porter, but it was getting late in the day, so I can’t really be sure. The journey back to Tonbridge was uneventful, and I even managed to avoid falling asleep, but next year, unless we have repeat performance of this year’s deluge, I shall be off rambling again.
Before finishing, I would like to thank my companions for their company and good humour. No need to name names, they all know who they are.