Monday, 19 February 2018

Return to the fold



I can think of few better places for me to have emerged from my enforced exile and back into the world of pubs and beer, than the Brecknock Arms at Bells Yew Green. 

On Sunday the pub was the venue for West Kent CAMRA's Good Beer Guide 2019, selection meeting, and whilst my interest in the Guide these days is rather limited, the meeting seemed the perfect occasion for me to turn up and re-commence my involvement in branch activities.

The Brecknock has hosted West Kent branch selection meetings for several years now, the main reason being the pub lies in neutral territory, just across the county border in East Sussex. It is also easily accessible by train (Frant station); an important consideration given the high quality of the Harvey's beer stocked there, and its obvious appeal to branch members. If this were not enough, the landlord allows us the use of the former saloon bar area, once the dining trade has petered off.

Frant station - just three stops from Tonbridge
Yesterday though, there was no food trade as the chef had called in sick. This was bad news for those branch members who had arrived early, in order to grab a spot of Sunday lunch prior to the meeting. I was unaffected because I would be eating at home, later that evening. Even so, I picked up a roll plus a coffee from Greggs, before boarding the slightly delayed 13:08 train.

I arrived at the pub shortly after 1.30pm, pleased to see a CAMRA contingent already present. This was the first time since before Christmas that I'd seen any of my drinking buddies, and rather ironically that last get together was our CAMRA branch Christmas meal, which also took place at the Brecknock. It was therefore good to catch up with all the gossip, over a few pints of Harvey's Old.

The main purpose of the meeting, of course was to select the branch allocation of 22 pubs for the 2019 Good Beer Guide. Eleven members were present, plus a couple of apologies, along with recommendations in absentia. The proceedings were presided over by branch chairman Craig, who did well in keeping the discussions focussed, and not too bogged down in the detail.

In order to speed up the selection process and cut down on possible areas for dissent, the branch committee had established  firm in line with CAMRA's Policy Document on Good Beer Guide entries. The number of visits to each pub, as obtained from Whatpub, along with NBSS scores submitted, were all taken into account, along with general branch knowledge of each particular pub plus feedback from the surveyors. It was here that input from the meeting was especially useful, and was where I was able to voice my opinions.

In just under two and a half hours 22 firm entries had been finalised along with three reserves. The latter being ranked 1 - 3, depending on final allocation. This was from a total of 50 pubs nominated and surveyed. Some pubs (just under half ) were obvious candidates, and were selected without dissent, whilst others required re-visiting (metaphorically speaking), involving further discussion.

Without blowing our own trumpets too much, we all felt satisfied that we had approached the task as logically as possible, and had been as objective as we could. Obviously personal preferences can and do come into play, but we were all conscious not to let our feelings have too great an influence on the overall decisions being taken.

Being blessed with an abundance of excellent pubs in West Kent, we had the opposite problem to branches who struggle to fill their allocation; but this meant we were able to approach the task from a position of strength. Despite my limited interest in the Good Beer Guide, I went away feeling pleased with the final selection, and content that the pubs chosen would appeal to both regular and occasional users of the Guide.

Finally, a quick word about the Harvey’s beer at the Brecknock, which was in excellent form. The XXXX Old Ale was especially good and I scored it as 4.0 NBSS. I rated the Best at 3.0, having been spoiled somewhat when compared against the quality of the Old.

There was a small crowd of locals in the bar that afternoon, but the absence of the chef obviously decimated the Sunday lunchtime food trade. Our presence therefore, must have provided a welcome boost to wet sales, so I’m certain that Dave the landlord must have been glad we were there.

I too was pleased I’d gone along, and was equally glad I’d limited myself to just three pints. After nearly six weeks of limited or very moderate consumption, that was just the right amount to ease myself back into the world of pubs and beer.

19 comments:

Russtovich said...

" the main reason being the pub lies in neutral territory, just across the county border in East Sussex"

Heh, that sounds a bit like how the capitals for Canada and Australia were chosen. Couldn't decide between the two biggest cities in either country so settled on something neutral to all. :)

"I rated the Best at 3.0, having been spoiled somewhat when compared against the quality of the Old."

The Old must have been good as you've had a fondness for Best in other posts.

Sounds like a productive, and enjoyable, meeting... not to mention getting back in touch with the "lads" after what you've been through the last month or so.

Cheers

Ethelred The Unsteady said...

Hi Paul,

I enjoy reading your comments, for a draught of tranquil good sense if nothing else.

I can't help but envy your location in relation to the choice of brilliant pubs there too. I used to get to Kent every so often with work, and I remember a few pleasant evenings at the Bull in West Malling. These days the good lady and I spend a few days in Whitstable quite often, where covetousness also raises its head, but then again, if I lived there, I'd probably develop a problem. So I'll content myself with Brain's and Tetley's as my regular swallies.

I also admire your capacity to reply to other bloggers, such as Pub Curmudgeon without rising to the bait. I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed by some of what goes on there. I'd have thought that given the blog name, a degree of knockabout from opposing points of view would be acceptable, but Peter seems to be a tad literal and fragile if he's put to it, so I'll leave him in what-passes-for peace there.

Best wishes, ETU

Paul Bailey said...

Wot no typos, Russ? I must have had an off day!

It makes sense to for us to hold our GBG selection meetings somewhere “neutral”. It could be embarrassing to have them in one of our own pubs, especially one which may or may not be a contender.

As for capital cities; Ottawa and Canberra. Presumably something similar happened when the state of West Germany was founded (1949?). Given such large contenders as Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich etc, they settled on the small city of Bonn instead.

The Harvey’s Old was excellent, but drinking it prior to the Best may have influenced both my taste buds and my scoring. (The joys of being a beer judge).
It was definitely good to be back in touch with the lads, and the lassies! I trust your missus is recovering well after her hospitalisation.

Russtovich said...

Good point about Bonn, never thought of that.

As for typos; heh. I didn't see any but I'm a bit preoccupied this week so I may just have missed it! (LOL)

Cheers

Paul Bailey said...

Thank-you for your comments, Ethelred. We are indeed fortunate in this part of the world in having some good pubs and some equally attractive scenery. Having said that, I’m conscious, especially from reading Retired Martin’s copious posts, that there are many other places in these fair isles of ours that I would like to visit, or perhaps return to.

It’s a long time since I ventured into the Bull at West Malling, but I understand from friends involved with Maidstone CAMRA that it’s still a fine pub. Whitstable is a nice, genteel seaside town, although on my last visit I thought it was fast becoming the Kentish equivalent of Southwold.

So finally to our friend Peter, aka The Pub Curmudgeon. Writing a blog which, at times courts controversy, may be an excellent means of encouraging visitors to your site, but disagree, even slightly, with Mudge’s staunch right-wing, libertarian views and you will know all about it!

Apart from the occasional foray, I’ve learnt to stay clear; unless the topic is specifically beer or pub related.

Greengrass said...

I hope you have included The Rock this time & dropped the dreadful Queens Arms.

Ethelred The Unsteady said...

Yes Paul, you're right about Whitstable being something of the New Southwold.

One point about it though, it is its much-publicised status as a Dog-Friendly Town, which means that the sea wall walk can be pretty rank after a long dry spell. We were treated to being joined by a smelly, near-donkey-sized hound in a small restaurant too, fortunately right at the end of our stay. So I'm not sure if that's a good move on the part of Thanet. (Didn't they nearly elect a UKIP MP? I wonder if the two are connected in some way?)

As for other blogs, I'm not in the least bit bothered about people defending their point of view, however angrily or groundlessly, but I do take exception to having my posts, which were not even published, misrepresented in insulting terms. If they were really so egregious, then publish them, and let people make up their own minds. If the claims against me were true, then I would surely only undermine my case with fair-minded folk?

Syd Differential said...

" So finally to our friend Peter, aka The Pub Curmudgeon. Writing a blog which, at times courts controversy, may be an excellent means of encouraging visitors to your site, but disagree, even slightly, with Mudge’s staunch right-wing, libertarian views and you will know all about it! "
At least Mudgie allows contrary opinions in his comments section and doesn't threaten to delete them because he has a hissy fit.

Paul Bailey said...

“At least Mudgie allows contrary opinions in his comments section and doesn't threaten to delete them because he has a hissy fit”.

You know as well as I do Syd, that Mudge does threaten to delete comments which are off topic, and the comments you made on my blog were definitely nothing to do with the subject of the post. I would go as far to say that you deliberately set out to provoke a reaction, as you ended your comments with the jibe, “Just a little loosener to welcome you back to the fray Paul!”

I politely suggested to both you and Mudge that your comments were off topic: hence my threat to delete any further remarks on that particular subject. (It obviously worked, as no more comments were received.)

Btw, Mudge deleted the link from his Blog List to my site, for a while back in December, because he didn’t approve of a certain action I’d taken so please, no more talk about hissy fits!

Curmudgeon said...

I did, on reflection, restore it. But did you go back to the newsagent's and turn all those copies of the Daily Mail the right way round again?

Syd Differential said...

“Just a little loosener to welcome you back to the fray Paul!”
It was meant as a light-hearted attempt to suggest we don't take Brexit-related discussions too seriously and conduct them in a cordial spirit.
I'm sorry if you took offence as none was intended.
But to be honest I find splenetic over-reaction seems to be the default position of many people who voted Remain.Sometimes the vitriol from these people is astonishing.

Paul Bailey said...

"But did you go back to the newsagent's and turn all those copies of the Daily Mail the right way round again?" There was a twenty mile round trip involved, so what do you think?

It was a supermarket, rather than a newsagent, so I expect the staff may have rectified the situation. Not that I am particularly bothered, one way or the other. Had the shop been a five minute walk, I still wouldn't have done so.

The whole matter is so trivial I'm surprised we're even wasting time discussing it.

Ethelred The Unsteady said...

Sorry Paul (raises hands.)

Richard Southworth said...

That Old makes my mouth water. At the Royal Oak(Borough) Dave and I had the Old and the Mild. Both were excellent but Old won the moment.

Dave said...

There's something we can all agree on!

Paul Bailey said...

Unfortunately Greengrass, I am unable to comment further on the eligibility of the two pubs you mentioned, as potential entries for next year’s Good Beer Guide. Not only would this not be fair on the pubs themselves but I would also be breaching the confidentiality of the meeting, and of the branch itself.

It is a while since I visited either pub, although with the advent of better weather, and my wife now feeling much better, this may be rectified before long. Expect the odd report in due course, but no clues regarding GBG status.

Paul Bailey said...

Harvey’s Old is definitely something we can all agree on Richard and Dave, but as we progress towards March, it will only be around for a few more weeks. The same applies to quite a few other dark, winter ales.

Paul Bailey said...

Syd, I’m not sure I want to mention the “B” word ever again on this blog but, even as I write, greater minds than ours are engaged in the intricacies of deciding exactly what we do want, or what we don’t.

I have had plenty of vitriol directed at me over this matter; not from you, I hasten to add, but it is still out there, and that is the tragedy of the whole business.

Ethelred, no need to be sorry. I took up on one of your points and ran with it, when perhaps I should have just let it be. In future I’ll stick with the subjects I know best (beer and pubs)!

Russtovich said...

"In future I’ll stick with the subjects I know best (beer and pubs)!"

I was going to add 'and women' but, seeing as how you're a married man (like me), I realized that would be foolish. :)