Well, after yesterday’s rant regarding the latest nonsense from the Ministry of Magic, something a little lighter this afternoon. We’ve been having a bit of a tidy round and sort out at home and, as is normally the case with these purges, a number of unexpected items have come to light.
Foremost amongst them and buried deep at the back of one of the bookcases, is this 1975 “Guide to Real Draught Beer in Kent”. As you will see from the cover, it cost the princely sum of 20p – probably the price of a pint back then! It’s a thin tome with only 16 pages; although it does have a fold-out map of the county at the back.
With only 386 outlets listed as selling “real ale” (plus two late additions), for the whole of Kent, that map was probably jolly handy. The 1975 edition was the first of a series of guides covering the county; the last edition appearing in 1993. My own West Kent CAMRA branch was jointly involved with two neighbouring branches, in producing the award-winning “Gateway to Kent Pub Guide”, which hit the bookshops in 2009 but which only covered the west of the county. Interestingly, that particular guide also contained a fold-out map
It is worth noting that forty years ago there were only two breweries left in Kent; Shepherd Neame Ltd and Whitbread Fremlins – both based in Faversham. This was the result of a series of mergers, takeovers and ultimately closures, carried out primarily by London-based brewers, Whitbread; although Courage and Ind Coope also saw off a few other former independents along the way.
The introduction in this original guide points out, that whilst the majority of Shepherd Neame pubs sold the real thing; the opposite was true with Whitbread Fremlins. Cask-conditioned Trophy Bitter, dispensed without the use of CO2 gas, was a rare sight in Whitbread pubs four decades ago, although bizarrely the Whitbread name has now disappeared completely, not just from Kent, but from the whole of the UK as well.
Other brewers supplying the “real thing” into Kent were Bass Charrington (IPA and Draught Bass), Courage (Best Bitter and very occasionally, Directors) and Ind Coope (Bitter), plus there was also the odd outlet offering either Harvey’s or Young’s. Times have definitely changed for the better, as far as beer choice is concerned, but I wonder how many pubs in that original guide are still trading today?
Unlike today’s highly informative publications, the 1975 edition was nothing more than a list of pubs, sorted by location. Addresses were restricted to just the name of the road or street, and then only in towns. There were no phone numbers, no indication of opening times – although to be fair, pub hours were pretty standard back then. Breweries, and beers were listed in the form of a number of abbreviations and symbols (see photo opposite for an example of this), and heaven help you if you wanted a meal or a room for the night!
Still, for those wishing to seek out a decent drop of ale, served in the traditional manner, this early guide was invaluable, and today it provides a fascinating glimpse of what the beer situation was like in Kent, all those years ago.