November is probably my least favourite month of the year. With autumn well and truly over, and weather ranging from mist and fog to dull, overcast and drizzling, there’s something about November which makes people want to curl up in front of a nice warm fire and hibernate.
Some would say as November is the herald of Christmas, it gives people something to look forward to, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s much too early for all that. Instead we have to suffer the over-blown wave of commercialism which accompanies the festering season.
Some friends of mine embarked on a country walk this morning. I was unable to join them, but last night in the pub they were saying the forecast wasn’t looking good, which was in complete contrast to the wall to wall sunshine we enjoyed yesterday. They were right about the weather, and as we drove over to Tunbridge Wells retail park this morning, through the type of persistent rain which quickly soaks you to the skin, I was especially glad not to be out in it, traipsing along the North Downs Way.
The pub they were making for doesn’t do food, so the plan was meet at one of Tonbridge’s “greasy-spoon” establishments, and fill up on a hearty breakfast – see my previous article for endorsement of this. I also understand the beer range is rather limited; something I’m sure retiredmartin will approve of.
There is one thing about this time of year which does make life a little more pleasant, and that is the welcome appearance of seasonal dark ales, such as Old Ale and Porter. Tonbridge Fuggles had two on last night, in the form of Dark Star Bock and Westerham Family Stout. I tried the former, which at 5.4% was a little too sweet for my liking, and had planned to tackle the Westerham Stout next.
That was scuppered by a suggested move to Spoon’s, brought about by Fuggles being rather too full for comfort, and certainly too noisy for us to conduct our impromptu CAMRA meeting. It’s obviously good to see that Tonbridge has really taken Fuggles to its heart, but Friday and Saturday evenings are probably not the best times for a cosy chat over a few pints.
Spoon’s was a little less busy, and we were able to find a table towards the rear of the barn-like pub. This was good as several of wanted to eat, and seeing as Friday is Fish & Chips night at Wetherspoon’s, cod, chips and mushy peas was the obvious choice. At just £7.40, which included a pint of Long Man Old Man Ale, this was the bargain of the evening. The Old Man was a complete contrast to the Dark Star offering, with notes of coffee and chocolate, which compliment the pleasant light hoppiness. This was truly a rich and full tasting Old Ale, and a fine example of the style.
So what about some other dark ales? Well although October is well out of the way, I still haven’t tracked down any Harvey’s Old Ale this season. That should be rectified next weekend, as I am going on a bus trip to Lewes, with a group of CAMRA members from Maidstone. Strangely enough, Harvey’s only have three pubs in the town, but their beers should be available in most of Lewes’s free-houses.
Larkin’s Porter has also been rather elusive this season, although to be fair, it appears a little later in the year as, by tradition, the brewery doesn’t release the beer until Bonfire Night. However, they did agree to provide a cask for the Spa Valley Railway Beer Festival last month. It was the first cask to sell out, and unfortunately was gone before I’d had a chance to try a drop.
No doubt there will be other seasonal dark ales cropping up over the course of the winter, and I look forward to trying those I come across.