Whilst writing my previous post about dark beers, I was acutely aware that I still haven’t sampled any Harvey’s Old Ale this season (autumn/winter). This is a glaring omission in my usual seasonal drinking patterns, and one which need rectifying pretty soon. Left much longer the Old will disappear to be replaced by other Harvey’s seasonal brews.
Kiss, springs to mind as the next seasonal beer to appear; definitely my least favourite amongst the brewery’s normally excellent repertoire, although the 1859 Porter which follows, makes up for it. Old though should still be available throughout February, and even into March, although by the end of that month it will inevitably have petered out.
So where to tack down some Harvey’s Old? The beer is sometimes seen in the free trade, but normally one has to visit a Harvey’s tied pub in order to sample it. There are two in the area; neither particularly close by, but both can be reached by public transport, (well it wouldn’t be a good idea to drive to them!).
The Brecknock Arms, at Bells Yew Green is about five minutes walk from Frant station, (one stop after Tunbridge Wells on the line to Hastings). However, the Hastings line has been affected by the recent adverse weather, with a landslip at Wadhurst causing all sorts of disruption. The other pub, the Two Brewers at Hadlow, is on the No. 7 bus route between Tonbridge and Maidstone, and whilst this service is pretty good during the week, on Saturday evening and Sunday, the two days when I would most likely want to go to the Two Brewers, buses are few and far between.
Social media is an excellent source of information about beers, and I've just noticed on their Facebook site that the excellent Royal Oak in Tunbridge Wells has Harvey’s Old on the bar. A pity then that I didn't see this earlier, as it’s a bit late in the evening now to walk down to the station and jump on a train over to the Wells!
I’m still fairly confident that I’ll manage to track some down before the winter is out, but why oh why aren’t local licensees a bit more adventurous in what they choose to stock? With a few honourable exceptions, such as the Royal Oak, Fuggles and the Bedford in Tunbridge Wells, most pubs in these parts shy away from serving dark ales, in the mistaken belief they won’t sell. The trouble is they won’t know until they try, and I wouldn’t mind betting that few, if any, have actually tried. I know full well from when we had our off-licence that dark beers fly out the door, particularly during the winter months.
Many licensees around here seem to think that karaoke evenings and Sky Sports are what the punters want, then wonder why their pubs are half empty. It really is high time they woke up and stepped out of their comfort zone. There’s a whole horde of discerning drinkers out there who at the moment are stuck at home, like me. Although we are all enjoying a wide variety of bottled beers, many of us would rather be drinking and socialising with our fellow enthusiasts. Beer definitely tastes better when enjoyed in the social mix of a good pub, but present day entrants into the trade, (especially those taking on Punch or Enterprise tenancies), seem oblivious to this fact. Wake up and smell the coffee, or should that be the malt and hops?