Saturday, 20 June 2009

The Start of a Good Week?

Yes, as predicted, it hasn't been too bad a week. Sure there were a few problems that cropped up at work, and by Thursday evening I was pleased I had booked the Friday off. However, none of the problems were intractable, and none of them distracted from the serious business of the week, namely a couple of good drinking sessions.

On Wednesday evening a small group of us caught the train over to Penshurst, and walked across the old WWII airfield to the Greyhound pub, situated in the tiny hamlet of Charcott. This was the venue for the West Kent CAMRA social. The Greyhound is a pleasant bright and breezy local, with views across the fields towards the hills that form the start of the High Weald. It has a separate restaurant area, as like many country pubs these days it relies heavily on the food trade. There still seems to be three distinct areas in the main part of the pub, although the divisions that marked the former bars are long gone. During the winter months, open fires supplement the central heating. The couple and their family that run the pub are very pleasant, and they seem to attract a reasonable trade. The Greyhound is close to where I work (yes I am lucky to be employed in such a rural idyll), and I often walk by during my lunch break and note the substantial number cars parked outside. There is a secluded garden to the left of the pub, plus benches and tables directly outside.

On the night of our visit two beers were on sale; Summer Perle - a seasonal, single varietal hop beer from Westerham Brewery, plus that old favourite Harveys Best The Summer Perle is a particularly refreshing, pale coloured and well-hopped beer, but at £3.30 a pint it was perhaps a beer to savour, rather than swill down The Harveys was slightly cheaper at £3.20, but this is still some 30-40p more than one is used to paying in Tonbridge.

Worse was to come though price-wise. We left the Greyhound whilst it was still just light enough to walk back across the airfield; our destination being the Little Brown Jug at Chiddingstone Causeway, directly opposite Penshurst Station. One of the quirks of the Victorian railway era was that many stations were often several miles from the places they were named after. Penshurst is no exception, with the village being some two miles or so away, but with the coming of the railway, a settlement grew up around the station, and became known as Chiddingstone Causeway (Chiddingstone Village is about three miles away). Confused?

The pub opposite the station was originally called the Station Tavern, and functioned for most of the last century under this name until it was bought by a jazz and big-band enthusiast and renamed Little Brown Jug, after the well-known Glen Miller tune.

I've known the pub over the years, especially as it's easy to reach by train. It's had several changes of owner since the name change, and it's been extended and knocked about internally as well. Its most recent incarnation took place in February 2007, and I must say the design team did a pretty good job on it. The Jug, whilst tied to Greene King, is owned a small chain of pubs that include several other well-known local hostelries, all renowned for their food, and there lies the rub. The food is very good; I've eaten there on quite a few occasions, but mainly when someone else is paying! By someone else, I mean the company I work for. Being so close to our workplace, the Jug is the venue of choice when entertaining visitors, and was also the place where last year's Christmas Party took place.

You will probably gather that the food is towards the dear end of the pub-grub spectrum, and you would not be far wring. Still in the case of the Jug you get what you pay for, and in this case the portions are generous and the food is of the highest quality. What I don't quite get though are the beer prices When we walked in last Wednesday evening, we were pleased to see that Brains Reverend James was the guest beer. What we were not so pleased about was the price, £3.40 a pint! The Abbot was the same price, but as no-one tried the IPA, despite the fancy new handpump, I don't know how much that particular beer cost.

The shame of all this is that I really like both pubs, especially the Greyhound, but can't understand the prices they are charging for their beer. Both seem to be thriving; the car park of the Jug is always full when I walk by at lunchtime, so they must be doing something right. Perhaps they are merely charging what the market will stand, as people seem prepared to pay these prices. Look out for my next post where I discover, not a million miles away, two pubs at the opposite end of the pricing structure.

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