Saturday, 8 August 2015

A Quiet Start to August

It’s been a quiet start to the month, with not much to report on the local beer and pub scene. Last Saturday saw my wife, son and I heading down to the coast; to Bexhill on Sea to be precise for a family get together at the well appointed and even better situated Cooden Beach Hotel.
Literally on the beach - The Cooden Beach Hotel

As the name might suggest, this establishment is literally on the beach, or as close as physically possible without being in the sea. The function was scheduled to start at 5pm. We arrived just before 4pm, and after parking the car, headed to the bar for a drink. I t was a hot day, so we took our drinks outside and, as I hinted earlier, the tables were at the top of the shingle bank overlooking the beach and the English Channel. It was nice sitting there soaking up the sun and watching the waves crashing below us. I was driving so stuck to lime and soda water; a soft drink which I find perfectly acceptable, as it is not too sugar-laden or worse still, loaded with artificial sweeteners.

Looking along the coast towards Beachy Head
We moved inside as the other members of the party started arriving; a shame really as I would much preferred to have spent the rest of the evening in the open air. When I accompanied my son to the bar, I saw, lurking in the corner, a hand-pump for Harvey’s Sussex, which I hadn’t noticed earlier. I treated myself to a pint; just the one because of the driving. It was surprisingly good, especially in view of the fact the pump was tucked away in the corner. I later noticed several people drinking it, including one group who seemed to be on first name terms with the bar staff. This was a good sign and further endorsement that the beer was being well looked after and, just as important, being turned over. 

Hotel bars have come a long way since the bad old days of keg only, but I couldn’t help think that a decent quality premium lager, such as Pilsner Urquell, or even one of the better class Italian brands, would have enhanced the bar and completed the line-up. My son is a lager drinker, but was happy to stick with the Carling. A shame, as he enjoys a decent pint of Czech or German pilsner.

Anyway, if you ever find yourself down on the south coast and fancy a little luxury, in a glorious setting, then you could go a lot worse than popping in to the Cooden Beach Hotel. We certainly enjoyed our brief visit.

I spent much of the following day in my garden. I have a couple of major projects on the go, so it was good to have a virtually uninterrupted day working on them. By late afternoon though, despite having drank umpteen cups of tea, I felt in need of something a little stronger and a touch more refreshing. I had arranged to pick our son up from the station, following his shift at work. I also had a stack of bottles, cans and paper to take down to the recycling banks, so deciding to kill two birds with one stone, I loaded the car up and drove the short distance into the centre of town. 

Recycling complete, as well as a bit of last minute shopping, I found myself with around 45 minutes to spare before collecting Matthew from the station. Calling in for a pint at the Humphrey Bean, our local Wetherspoon’s, seemed the obvious thing to do and, as luck would have it, there was an excellent range of beers on. Actually, seeing as I was driving, it wasn't particularly lucky as for reasons of legality and safety I was restricted to just the one beer.

Renowned London brewers, Portobello were showcasing a range of their beers in a “tap takeover” at the Bean. The beer which caught my eye was the 4.0% VPA (Very Pale Ale), and had I not been driving I would have been tempted by a couple of the others, (Pale and Market Porter). The pub was remarkably empty for a Sunday afternoon, so I was served more or less straight away. I soon discovered though that most of the punters were sitting out in the substantial garden at the rear of the pub which, of course was where I was heading.
A glimpse of the Bean's garden
The garden is one of the main attractions of the Humphrey Bean; especially at this time of year. It is “L”-shaped and extends back behind both the pub and  the car-park. A mesh-screen fence separates the garden for a path known locally as the “River Walk”, which runs alongside the River Medway. The ancient walls of Tonbridge Castle are visible on the opposite bank, and they are over-looked by the imposing bulk of the castle’s 13th Century gatehouse. In warm, sunny weather, I can think of few more pleasant places to sit in the centre of the town. The sun was really fierce, so I found a shady spot to enjoy my cool refreshing pint of VPA, before receiving a text to say my son was on his way.

The following evening I caught the train over to Sevenoaks, in order to attend my local CAMRA branch’s bi-monthly business meeting. These alternate between the three main towns covered by West Kent CAMRA; namely Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells. A favoured location in Sevenoaks is the 16th Century Chequers; at the top end of the High Street. The pub is relatively quiet on a Monday, and has the added attraction of cask ales being sold for just £2.50 a pint!

Amongst local favourites Harvey’s and Westerham, plus long-standing guest ale, St Austell Tribute, I spotted a beer from a brewery I hadn't come across before. Blonde from the Backyard Brewhouse, was a crisp, hoppy platinum-blonde beer, weighing in at 4.1% ABV, which made it the ideal session bitter. It was really enjoyable and was the best beer I sampled that evening.

Following the meeting, many of those present adjourned to the nearby Anchor, but a number of us stayed put in the Chequers, knowing full well that with work the following day, a visit to the other pub would not be a good idea on a Monday evening. I was pleased that I stuck to this, as the following day at work, a colleague told me that, as I suspected, it had indeed been a late night at the Anchor.

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