Enjoy Playing Away From Home . . .

Tuesday 30 April 2013

Sunday 28th April

I wanted to watch football on television, so where in Hastings can you drink a good pint of beer at great value prices, and watch Sky Sports too?  Obviously, the Tower, London Road (now added to our website too, though I shall be adding to that page a bit more soon, ie Hastings St Leonards, and to feature in the next CAMRA Good Beer Guide too, congratulations to the landlady, Louisa, and all her colleagues!).  Great snacks on the bar for a Sunday lunchtime, the lovely Sara behind the bar, Louisa and beau this side when I arrived, and good company at the bar too, and ales...  

Look at the 4 above... 3 Dark Star ales and an interesting pale, quite bitter, ale from a brewery I'd never heard of, Dancing Duck, their 5.5% Abduction, not bad, but a bit strong for lunchtime, and 3 excellent ales from Dark Star to chose from!  I gave the 5% "red ale" Carafa Jade a miss, still a bit too strong, but, quite frankly, I couldn't get past the two other excellent paler ales, and difficult to chose which I preferred, though I may go marginally for the 4.8% Sunburst, a "golden ale", though a very pale 'golden', bitter and thirst quenching, loved it, and at only £2.60 a pint, eat your hearts out folks!  Oh yes, and there was the, also excellent, American Pale Ale (APA) at 4.7%, marginally 'weaker', and £2.40 a pint... So I drank a couple of pints of both, cheers Louisa and Sara, I was spoilt! 

And an update for the Dolphin, Rock a Nore, Hastings, where I had a couple of pints before walking up to the Tower, and a lovely slice of orange cake from the wonderful Maz behind the bar, and cheese and pickled onions, ta Mark.  Their regular 'seasonal' ale for the summer has returned, and probably will be on sale for 4 or 5 months, maybe longer, ie Dark Star APA, and the regular Dark Star Hophead too, great stuff!


Saturday 27 April 2013

Drewe Arms, Drewsteighton

When I lived in Devon, and on visiting friends down there over the years, the Drewe Arms in Drewsteighton, not far from the edge of Dartmoor (Exeter side) was a regular destination, as it was an unspoilt pub extraordinaire, read CAMRA's story in their inventory of Historic Pubs (site).  

Sadly, now, despite locals, at first, running the pub when Mabel retired, it has been closed down recently, though appears to be either owned by Enterprise Inns, or they're trying to get their fingers in the 'pie'.  A report in the latest What's Brewing (CAMRA newspaper) says that Enterprise are seeking a manager for the pub, so good luck to them.    

It would be a shame if this pub were not to reopen, I have always enjoyed going to the 'hatch' from where ale was brought to you straight from the cask in the cellar, a rarity indeed, and Mabel herself was a great character (RIP). 
Fingers crossed for the survival of the Drewe Arms, I shall watch with baited breath.

Friday 26 April 2013

RX134 update...

View from the Dolphin, it's coming on...

...and we did have a beer or two...

Wednesday 24 April 2013

More Yorkshire ale in Sussex!

Helping to refurbish and paint the fishing boat RX 134, the Stacey Marie, opposite the Dolphin in Hastings, and I have enjoyed drinking a few pints of an old favourite from when I lived in Yorkshire, and why shouldn't I have?!?

So, this time, it has been Osset's Excelsior, still brewed by Bob, I presume, who used to work at Kelham Island Brewery, 5.2% of pale hoppy goodness, with an aroma reminiscent of my own time working at Kelham Island, and a taste to relish, I have to admit to a strong nostalgia at times...
But I do love living by the seaside, so, cheers!

Monday 22 April 2013

Albatross Club 2013 Beer Festival

As I've already alluded to, there was a beer festival at The Albatross Club (RAFA) in Bexhill on Sea at the weekend, which I attended on the first day, ie Friday, all ales at £2.60 a pint, and mostly gravity fed, thank you very much!  There were 15 ales on, all told, including 2 from Thornbridge Brewery, old favourites, Jaipur (5.9%), and my personal favourite of their's, the excellent (grape)fruity pale bitter, Kipling (5.2%), which is currently on sale at the Dolphin in Hastings, by the way.

There were 1/3 pint glasses available, for those wanting to try most, if not all, the ales, but I mostly stuck to half pints, and I shall only detail the ales I tried myself, starting with the lower alcohol beers, and working my way up.  Indeed, the lowest gravity ale was my favourite for most of the session, ie the Redemption Trinity, only 3%, but the combination and volume of hops (and malts) used provided more body and flavour than I'd though it would, lots of peach in the nose and, quite frankly, a surprise, very good!  

Also were Ilkley Mary Jane (3.5%), another good pale hoppy bitter, and Joshua Jane (3.7%), a slightly darker dry bitter; Tyne Bank Jamaican Mild (3.8%), a dark copper coloured mild with a spicy and slight fruity taste; Roosters Wild Mule (3.9%), a pale bitter with a weird aftertaste, maybe 'roasted' grapefruit, not quite what I expected from past experience of their ales.
In addition, I tried Boggart Hole Clough I Am Beer (4.2%), a much too sweet malty beer for me, virtually liquidised Caramac; Liverpool Organic Josephine Butler (4.5%), a full-bodied smooth beer, quite sweet again; and Binghams Space Hoppy (5.2%), which was slightly sweet to start (may have been influenced by what I drank before it, but a nuttier roasted flavour as it went down, not bad at all.    

But my favourite of the day was left until last, Ascot Ales Imperial Stout, 8% of a rich dark, full-bodied, beer, as you'd expect.  Strangely, for all the flavour it packed, not much aroma, but much liquorice domination, and coffee and chocolate coming through too, liquidised christmas pudding...  Very enjoyable, cheers!  

Friday 19 April 2013


So, Mark and I wandered the wilds of Kent and East Sussex a bit, but a few updates on other pubs back in my new home town of Hastings, starting with The Jenny Lind in the High Street in the 'old town', where I was pleased to meet up with Sarah again...

This is the new (I believe) raised area at the end of the main bar at the front of the pub, good to watch what's going on from, I should imagine.  Anyhow, they had 2 different ales on from my last visit, J W Lees John Willie's, which, for a 4.5% bitter, was easy enough to drink, but could have had more to it maybe, and Franklins Grumpy Governor, another 4.5% ale that I have discussed before.  I also had a pint of Theakstons Old Peculiar, which I hadn't drunk for many a year: 5.6% of a dark ruby red ale, that looks like a porter, but tastes fruitier than I remember, my taste buds they are a-changing!

It's also always a pleasure visiting the Tower, London Road, St Leonards, Hastings, and Sara (I think it's spelt, sorry if incorrect) was serving up the ales, many thanks, and we may even have a connection through Lewisham Hospital, I shall have to do some research...  Anyway, excellent value ales there, of course, that included Bateman's Yellabelly Gold (3.9% and £2.30 a pint), Sharps Doom Bar (4%), the excellent Dark Star American Pale Ale (APA, 4.7% and £2.40 a pint), and the classic Hop Back Summer Lightning (5% and £2.80 a pint), a full-bodied pale bitter, with a nuttier flavour from the hops than I can remember; though a lot of beer has gone down the guzzet since my last pint of it, great stuff! 

I hadn't been to the North Star, just off Bohemia Road (St Leonards), for a while, so a visit was required, and I saw Jamie there, which was a pleasant surprise, as he's usually opening up his other pub, the Havelock, around late morning/lunchtime. The usual Directors, Sussex Best, and Landlord were on, also Goddards Ale of Wight (3.7%) and Banks's Cereal Thriller (4%), and it does what it says on the label, cornflake flavoured beer, presumably a lot of wheat malt involved!  Jamie said they had a new Dark Star ale coming on soon, Carafa Jade (5%), so watch out for reports...

The White Rock Hotel, on the seafront, continues to sell 4 local ales at a respectable price, usually £3.10 a pint, unless a particularly strong ale.  On my recent visit, they had Isfield Toad in the Ale (4.8%), Harveys Sussex Best (4%), and Full Moon Celestial Blonde (4.3%), which was what I was going to sample... But! At £3.40 a pint, and well worth it, there was Dark Star Six Hop Ale, which I have discussed well before, so I shan't say anything other than 6.5% of full-bodied pale, fruity, hoppy bitter, with a dry finish, with a peach and grapefruit aroma, love it! 


Finally, a reminder, the real ale festival at the Albatross Club, near the seafront in Bexhill-on-Sea, starts 11.00 today (guess where I'll soon be?), ending Sunday, depending on remaining ale stocks, I should imagine. It will be open to the public, so not just members and guests, and CAMRA members, and just £2.60 a pint for every real ale, most served by gravity, can't be bad... so hurry up before it's all gone!


Wednesday 17 April 2013

Rye to Hastings - Friday 12th April.

On leaving the Red Lion at Snargate, we returned to East Sussex by numbers 11 and 100 buses, for a look into Rye, where neither of us were particularly experienced drinking at, our first destination, The Queens Head (Rye: we dropped into another Queens Head later, as you will see), where we chatted to the manager, the second Kate of the day, and knowledgeable and pleasant she was too.

The Queens Head is a CAMRA GBG entry, and ales? Well, they always have local ales on, usually one from Long Man and two from Franklins, and on Friday there were Franklins Mama Knows Best and English Garden (4.1% and 3.8%; I'm sure I've reported on both before); Longman American Pale Ale, a 4.8% full bodied and fruity ale with a dry finish; and Brains The Rev James, 4.5% and well known... From this you may guess I drank the Longman APA

We then walked down to the Ypres Castle Inn (pronounced "Wipers" locally, not too many French speakers around here, I guess, though I seem to remember that was how troops in the First World War pronounced the name). 6 handpumps here for 5 ales and a cider, which was the 6% Biddenden Bushels Cider.  The regular ales are the ubiquitous Harveys Sussex Best (4%) and Larkins Best Bitter (4.4% and a typical South East bitter in the tastes of Youngs and Sheps). They also had Adnams Broadside (4.7% and well known) and regularly have ales from Old Dairy Brewery, on Friday they were the 4.1% "premium bitter" Copper Top and 4.3% golden ale Gold Top.   

We then caught the number 100 bus back to Icklesham and the Queens Head Inn, where there are always a good selection of real ales on, which on Friday included Whitstable Native (3.7%) and Galaxy (the hop used), a golden fruity 4.4% ale. Oh yes, and they had many others, including the 5% Hopfuzz Tomahawk, but my notes were getting a little hopfuzzy by now...

We made it back to the Dolphin in Hastings, where I have since been made aware that I dozed off whilst standing at the bar before realising I should go home!  Anyway, there were the usual 3 regular ales, my usual tipple Dark Star Hophead (3.8%), Youngs Special (4.5%) and Harveys Sussex Best (4%), and, I believe, Isfield Straw Blonde (4.1%), Harveys 'ruby ale' Georgian Dragon (4.7%), and a nice West Country ale, Otter Brewery's Ale (4.5%), a copper coloured ale with that West Country nuttiness in the flavour, typical of the region.

The Straw Blonde and Otter Ale have since been replaced by Loddon Ferryman's Gold (4.4%) and the excellent Yorkshire ale, Ilkley Lotus IPA, 5.6% of pale fruity hoppy bitter! (18th April)  

Anyway, a good day was had, cheers!

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Red Lion at Snargate - Friday 12th April

Another pub with no keg beer, the regular CAMRA GBG entrant, the Red Lion at Snargate in Kent.  I had heard from a few people about this freehouse, aka "Doris's", named after the landlady, Doris, of course, and so, had to visit, which I did last Friday with the Pubmeister, my mate, Mark.

No bus stop or train station in this small village, though a later Norman church, St Dunstan's, sits opposite the pub. If not driving here, you can walk a couple of miles from Appledore train station to the north, or a little over a mile from the number 11 bus stop in Brenzett to the south. We had caught the bus from Lydd Church, so the shorter walk for us, and well worth the visit, indeed!

First, the beers, which they serve up 4 of, from smaller breweries, today 3 from nearby Goachers of Maidstone, and one from Privateer of Manchester, and a 7.4% real cider from Marlpit Farm called Double Vision at £3.30 a pint.  The Privateer Roebuck was a 3.8% pale-ish session ale, very easy to drink, and the Goachers' ales were the 3.4% Real Mild, with a hint of chocolate, the 4.5% Imperial Stout, with much more chocolate in the flavour, and the excellent 5.1% Gold Star, a well balanced pale bitter; the ales were £3 a pint, except the Gold Star, which was £3.10 a pint. All were served straight from their casks, 'gravity fed', from behind/under the bar, except the cider, which was sitting on the bar. By the way, the beer handpumps haven't been used for many years...

This is the back room, and, as you'll see from this photograph, and the others, this pub is a virtual museum, containing many interesting details and curios from the 20th century...  Indeed, this 16th century building has been a pub occupied by the same family for over 100 years; the centenary celebration held in 2010, and is now run by Doris and her daughter Kate.

This is the reserve bar, sort of, being used as an overspill from the main bar area, and the small bar counter, the hatch reminding me of a wee pub I used to visit on the edge of Dartmoor, when I lived in Devon, will be used for their beer festival, held this year on the weekend starting the evening of 21st June through to the Sunday; all day opening at the weekend.
A great pub, a must visit, and we shall return... More of that day's visit to Rye in my next blog, cheers!

Thursday 11 April 2013

Pubs/Bars without lager/keg beers.

No doubt most of you will have read in the Metro recently (site) about the Queen's Arms ("Elsie's") in Cowden Pound, Kent, and how the only beer she sells is cask-conditioned Adnams Bitter.  Indeed, the pub has been in her family ownership for 100 years this year, and has never sold lager, not sure if they ever sold keg, but they certainly don't appear to now, nor lager in bottles for that matter!  Many thanks to www.geograph.org.uk for my borrowing their photograph, but I've never been here, a visit to which, I suppose, will have to be enabled sometime soon.

So I had a think, you could probably hear the cogs whirring in the North of Scotland, and I'm sure I have been in more pubs or bars without keg beers or lager in the UK, but I can only think of 3 today, the first of which was my local when I lived in Sheffield, though when I first visited the pub in 1996, they did sell Stella on draft, when the pub was called the Cask & Cutler. 

Now, however, under different ownership for quite a few years, the pub is called The Wellington (site) and is situated near Shalesmoor tram stop, not far away from my old employer at Kelham Island Brewery, and all the excellent pubs (genuine freehouses) and microbreweries in that area, including their own brewery, Little Ale Cart. The point being, they no longer sell lager or any keg beer at all, though I believe they still sell bottled lager, and a good selection of Belgian bottled beers too, another excellent type of 'real beer'.
The Wellington, which has been a pub since 1842, sells ales from 10 handpumps, usually at least one dark beer, ie a porter, stout or mild, a real cider, and  a few of their own very pale, and very hoppy, ales, which could be why I have grown to love pale bitters, the more dry and bitter the better; also many other, mainly pale and hoppy ales are served.  But no draft lager or any type of keg beer, and a better provider of ales I have yet to find, and I've been to a few!  But this is not a place for a swanky night out, this is a pub, and proud of the fact; indeed, I'm already looking forward to arranging my next visit...  

So, where else can I remember, ah, yes, the Bottle & Glass Inn (site) at the West Country Living Museum near Dudley, which I visited a couple of times a few years ago. This building, and built as a pub, is nearly 200 years old, and was transported, every brick, slate, floorboard, window and door, from nearby Brockmore and rebuilt in the 'village' here as a fine period building.  Have a look at the museum's site, because it is a very interesting place to visit.
When I was last here, they sold only 2 ales, no lagers, Holden's Black Country Bitter and Black Country Mild, though I believe they now sell other local beers, and not Holden's anymore (shame, because they're crackin' ales). Last I heard they were selling Banks's and a real cider (Thatchers) from 4 handpumps.  Incidentally, the beer engines they use are very old too, from a traditional London design, I believe

So my last memory of a keg and lager free pub is Ye Olde Cider Bar in Newton Abbot, Devon, and a good few years have passed since I lived in Devon, sadly. The name gives it away really, as they don't sell beer but only cider, and perry, fruit wines and mead may also be bought here.  When I first visited, they only sold 3 of their own ciders, dry, medium and sweet, and you needed a lemonade top to cope with the dry!  The bar has changed since, been extended, and many more varieties of cider and perry can now be bought here, but it was always interesting to spot those who had been imbibing here on the late trains back to Exeter, memories...
I cannot find a website for the bar, too 'olde worlde' maybe, but there are many references to this cider bar if you google Ye Olde Cider Bar. Now, if anyone who knows me can remind me of other non-keg establishments I have visited, I'd be glad to hear from you, and I shall rack my brains more over the coming months, no doubt.  Or, if you have your own memories of keg and cider-less pubs, please share with me and I'll enable a post or blog, many thanks and cheers!

Monday 8 April 2013

A walk in the country, starting and ending at Robertsbridge, Sussex, 5th April.

As I say above, this started at Robertsbridge, a bit of a hike through muddy fields ensued, with our final drinks at the Salehurst Halt, about a mile from Robertsbridge.  It was wet, cold, strong winds, snow, sleet, let's face it, not nice walking weather, but each of the following pubs had real fires (I'll post some more photographs soon on my facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/pages/Steve-the-Beermeister/220910834601992), so not so bad...

Our first stop was at The White Horse Inn (site) near Hurst Green.  Shirley was behind the bar, a font of information about Hastings, in particular, and very happy to share her knowledge, as we (my brother, the 'Routemeister' and I) were happy to hear. A lovely big pub, with a great looking restaurant area, and, we were assured, excellent views out the back in better weather, but only selling the ubiquitous Harveys Sussex Best (4%) ale-wise, which we all know by now, but it was still greatfully imbibed, and a big CHEERS to the great barstaff! 

We then walked the long way round (avoiding roads whenever possible) to Bodiam, it's late Norman castle, and The Castle Inn (site).  This is a Shepherd Neame pub, and a fine example of one, though, sadly, not much call for Bishop's Finger here, as most patrons are drivers... One real cider, Thatchers Heritage (4.9%) and 3 ales from the Kent brewer, ie the paler Early Bird (4.3%), Spitfire (4.2%), and we drank the Master Brew, a typical Kent session ale at 3.7%, and still with more flavour than the Sussex Best!  The lady behind the bar, not sure if she was the landlady or not, but very amazingly, didn't complain when the Routemester took his walking boots off to dry his feet, very friendly and a nice one to 'boot', cheers! 

Our favourite pub of the day was our last choice of the day, the Salehurst Halt (site), which used to be a railway station, but is now a nice 'free house', a mile away from our destination, Robertsbridge, and not as bad a walk between the two as we'd worried about, and the weather had improved significantly by now. This was a very friendly establishment, a helpful barman/landlord (forgot to ask), who let me try the excellent cider, cheers!  This was obviously a popular pub, being Friday evening by now, people had already booked tables for dining and it quickly became quite busy. 

The 1 real cider was East Stour's 6% Traditional Cider, and the three local ales included their 'regular', Harveys Sussex Best (4% and yawn!), and two guest ales. The first was Pig & Porter Red Spider Rye (5.5%), which I've seen elsewhere very recently, and our choice, OK, I'm not too original, but I do love the stuff, as does the Routemeister, ie Dark Star Hophead, 3.8% of lovely pale hoppy bitter, and in fine fettle too, we didn't try the suggested (by the barman) 8 pints extra, but did stay for a lovely second pint.

I'll be back, as indeed, I'm sure Dan will, cheers!

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Wandering in Hastings - Part III (the final part, for now)

So, the cheapest and best value ales in Hastings?  I've already covered the 'old town' in Parts I and II, what about central Hastings and St Leonards/Bohemia?  Of course, the John Logie Baird, our Wetherspoons, sells cheap ales, guests usually at £2.09 here, with CAMRA tokens, that knocks the price down to one pint at £1.59 a day, but 'spoons are 'spoons and not what I'm looking for in this price comparison really...

Virtually opposite the (soon to be rebuilt) pier, at the seafront, is The White Rock Hotel, which has been the best value bar in the town centre since I moved to Hastings just over 2 years ago, and it remains so now with ales at £3.10 a pint, unless of high strength, which usually begins at about 5.5%...

So, buying Dark Star's Hophead (3.8%) at £3.10 a pint was a must for this visit, always a great ale to drink as it suits my palate. There were also 3 other local ales too, an excellent 'locale' policy from this establishment, thank you very much; the ales including the seasonal Harveys Sussex Old Ale (4.3%), Isfield Bitter (3.7%) and a tawny bitter from Arundel Castle (3.8%). Certainly, in the town centre, The White Rock Hotel offers the best value at £3.10 a pint for most ales, not taking Wetherspoons into account.   

Above St Leonards, in London Road, not far from Hastings own 'Bohemia', is the Tower, a good real ale house that sells ales from £2.30 a pint, where I've never had reason to complain about the condition of their ales, which has always been superb on my visits, as with my last two very recent visits, where even the 5.9% Thornbridge Jaipur, always a pleasure to drink, was on sale for just £3.00 a pint, excellent ales and excellent service from Sara(h) and the landlady, Louisa, many thanks!

I first drank the Dark Star Hophead, yet again, at 3.8% and £2.30 a pint, great ale at a great value price, excellent indeed, however, this was not available on my second visit, when Shenstone Hop 'Easter Beer' (3.8%) had replaced it; this is from a new brewery in Staffordshire.  As said earlier, I had the Jaipur, and the Dark Star American Pale Ale (APA), another light bitter at 4.7% with mucho fruity hop flavours and only £2.40 a pint.  There was also Banks & Taylor's Edwin Taylor's Extra Stout (4.5%), sorry, didn't try it as I was in a light and hoppy frame of mind, as I usually am.

Overall, the best value had to be at the Tower, London Road, £2.30 for Hophead, compared to up to £3.50 for the same ale elsewhere in Hastings, and only £2.40 for the APA!  As said above, central Hastings best value bar has to be at the White Rock Hotel, and, as said in a previous blog, the First In Last Out (FILO) has to be the best value in the medieval 'old town', with their own ales starting at £3.00 a pint, and guests at £3.30 a pint.

It was an arduous task, now over, for a while, cheers!