Saturday, 27 October 2012

In search of the Dark SIde

I have this moan every year round about this sort of time. Late Autumn is traditionally the season when many old ales make their appearance, and first and foremost amongst these, so far as I am concerned, is Harvey's delectable Old Ale. This delicious, dark 4.3% abv beer is one of my all time favourites, and I look forward to its reappearance every year.

Harvey's launch their Old Ale at the beginning of October, with a "Dancing in the Old Ceremony", in Lewes. The event starts with a service of Thanksgiving at a local church, before moving on to the brewery yard, where the beer is literally "danced in" by a troupe of local Morris men. The townsfolk, together with any visitors that happen to be around at the time, are then invited into the yard and regaled with plentiful samples of the first of the season's Old. Sounds great, and were that I were there, but unfortunately, as has seemed to be the case in previous years, I was unable to go owing to other commitments

Surely one wonders, I should have tracked down some Old by now?  Unfortunately not; despite the beer now being out for almost  a month,  I've still not managed to sample a drop!  Disappointed or what? The trouble is that whilst virtually all our local pubs serve Harvey's excellent Best Bitter (a beer that is definitely a "must stock" item in this part of the country), very few stock the brewery's seasonal ales. Part of this is due to the ties imposed by the likes of Punch and Enterprise on their tenants which, whilst allowing them to stock Harvey's Best, doesn't allow for the stocking of any other of the company's beers. A large part of it though is due to the conservatism of  many pub landlords, who just want to play it safe, and not look for any variety, or be so adventurous as to stock something slightly out of the ordinary. Old Ale is available in Harvey's own pubs and that's about it!

The same applies to other brewer's dark beer. The end of next week should also see the launch of another favourite dark ale of mine, namely Larkins Porter, which unfortunately is another beer that is hard to find. Full marks though to the excellent Royal Oak in Tunbridge Wells for being one of the few pubs I know that stock the beer on a regular basis. (I'll be along there soon, especially as they've got a beer festival coming up!).

 Hopefully the situation will change next Friday, when I'm due to visit the Brecknock Arms, just along from Frant station, which is our nearest Harvey's pub these days. With Bonfire Night drawing near, who knows they might have Harvey's Bonfire Boy on as well. meaning I'll strike it double lucky.

I had a glass of Old Man, from Longman Brewery at the Spa Valley Railway Festival last week, plus a pint of Devils Dyke Porter, brewed by the Southdowns Brewery, in the Beford, Tunbridge Wells, so it's not been a complete dark ale drought!


David, Little Omenden Farm and Nursery said...

Paul. if you ever find yourself in Canterbury, try the excellent Foundry In White Hart Lane.As well as several fine, usually hoppy beers from its microbrewery, it serves its 'Street Light Porter',which was in prime condition on a grim October Saturday.

Paul Bailey said...

David, I had the pleasure, albeit briefly, of calling in at the Foundry back in the summer. I was with a group of friends and we were on our way home from the Kent Beer Festival.

The not inconsiderable amount of ale we had already consumed, plus the fact that the pub was packed (a Friday evening), precluded a longer stay, but I liked what I saw and will definitely be making a return visit. The 'Street Light Porter' certainly sounds good!