Saturday, 26 June 2021

A rare lunchtime pint

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that it’s a very rare occasion for me to visit a pub at lunchtime, when I’m working. There was a time, 30+ years ago when a lunchtime drink was a relatively normal experience, especially on a Friday, but those days have long gone, with many companies and organisations forbidding the practice altogether.

I am fortunate to work for a company where the occasional pint at lunchtime is perfectly acceptable, and no one will bat an eyelid. However, it is not exactly common practice, and as much as I enjoy my beer my lunchtimes normally consist of a brisk 35-minute walk in the delightful Kentish countryside. This is followed by a period of unwinding in front of my PC, with a cup of tea and my sandwiches, once I am back in the office.

These days there’s also the strong chance that a lunchtime pint will cause me to nod off at my desk. So rather than risk this happening, I try and keep business and pleasure, separate. Occasionally I do fancy a change, and last Wednesday was one of those days. I’m not sure why, but for some reason the appeal of a beer at lunchtime, entered my head and wouldn’t go away.

I didn't fight the feeling and instead I thought, why not? The sun was shining, and outside of our air-conditioned premises, it was a pleasant and warm summer’s day, so at 1pm sharp, I headed off, up the hill, to walk to the Greyhound at Charcott.

This was only my second visit to this local since pubs were permitted to re-open in April. It was outdoor service only back then, and whilst now customers are allowed to drink indoors, I still opted for a pint in the garden. It’s probably to do with being cooped up in an office all day, but with the sun shining, and the outside temperature just right, I could think of nothing finer than a pint outside.

I checked in, taking a quick look at the beer menu, as I did so. The latter was thoughtfully written out on a chalkboard outside, and there were several different choices. The young man who signed me in, said that Gun Brewery ‘s Chummy Bluster had just gone on sale and there was also a black IPA from Kent Brewery. Neither appealed.

Chummy Bluster is by far my least favourite of the Gun Brewery range, having sampled most of them during the first lockdown, courtesy of Flavourly.  Black IPA is a ridiculous, American fake beer style, and also an oxymoron, because how can a "pale ale" be black? Fortunately, local favourite Larkin’s Traditional, was also on tap, so after placing my order with the staff member, I headed off into the garden at the side of the pub.

There were a few drinkers, and the odd diner sitting outside plus, as far as I could make out, a few others in the pub itself. There was no sitting at the bar of course, as was the normal practice at the Greyhound, prior to the start of the pandemic.

Back in the garden, the majority of the tables were in the shade. With shades of "mad dogs and Englishmen," I managed to find one where I could sit in the full glare of the sun. You might too if you’d been stuck indoors all day, or you might be more sensible!

My pint arrived, looking slightly hazy, and with hindsight, perhaps I should have taken it back. There’s a problem doing that under current rules, when one is not supposed to approach the bar, but as luck would have it, the Larkin’s was perfectly drinkable, even though it wasn’t quite the pint I’d been craving for earlier.

I sat there soaking up the sun, and enjoying my beer, but all the while keeping a slight eye on the time. It was good just to be there, especially as there is something special about sitting out in an English pub garden, whist enjoying a well-crafted pint of English draught beer.

All things come to an end, and it didn’t take long for me to finish my pint, so after attracting the attention of a different staff member, and setting up with cash, I headed back to work. There was still time to make a cup of tea, grab my sandwiches and have a working lunch, sat in front of my computer. It wasn’t quite the ideal pint, but in the lottery that is sometimes cask ale, it wasn’t too bad either.

A couple of things to consider. Under normal circumstances, I don’t like rushing my beer, and having to keep one eye on my watch, isn’t my idea of a relaxing time. This wasn’t normal circumstances, as having spent the last couple of months beavering away at work, and at home – or rather in the garden, I really deserved to let my hair down.

Grabbing a swift lunchtime pint, was hardly doing the latter, but with my successor at work, settling in well, and most of the major garden projects drawing to a conclusion (there’s still the shed roof to re-felt), proper lunchtime sessions should begin to become much more common.


Greengrass said...

I spent an enjoyable couple of hours at The Greyhound on Tuesday last week & found the Larkins really excellent. Their beer now seems to be better than before the pandemic, that is if you avoid the novelty stuff. Rather unfortunate that yours wasn't up to scratch but as you say it would probably have been changed had you wished.
Is the photo at the top of your post The crown at Groombridge ?

Paul Bailey said...

Hi Greengrass, yes, the pub featured in the top photo is the Crown at Groombridge. I haven't been in for a few years, but last time it remained as unchanged, as ever.

Glad the Larkin's was on form at the Greyhound, last week. I must have had one of the last pints out of the cask. As you say, I'm sure they would have changed it, had I asked.