Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Mermaids, Beers and Infidelity

While some people like a fancy restaurant and expensive wine as a romantic treat, I prefer something a little less up market. My fella took me to Margate at the weekend to visit an underground altar, go on a carousel, get tattooed and go to a hop festival. If he had handed me a puppy I couldn't have had a better day. We sampled a lot of beers (not all good), saw some goths have a fight and had things revealed to us we didn't necessarily need to know. Also, there was a guy in a sequinned dress.

After looking round the creepy and fascinating Shell Grotto, chatting to the docent-with-the-mostent at the Margate Museum (she was in her 60s with white hair, tattoos and some potentially amazing life stories) we got ice cream and headed to the Dreamland funfair. I rode the carousel with the biggest grin on my face (yep, I'm a big kid) while my fella just wondered why the horses looked so manic. One ferris wheel and a disappointing twister ride later, I had potentially the worst souvenir snowglobe ever in one hand and a pint in the other. Happy as a...well, a beer blogger in a pub.

Where: Harbour Arms, Margate
What: Golden Moonshine, Milk Street Brewery

The Harbour Arms was almost right on the end of the, er, harbour arm. It had a gorgeous view of the harbour and inside was decorated like a seaside party pub. Nets were hung from the ceiling but they had random things 'caught' in them. A pair of pants. An inflatable mermaid. A zimmer frame. The bar had the cutest little dog and some lovely beers on. I'm familiar with the Milk Street brewery so chose their Golden Moonshine (I tried to be sensible, but it ended up being the strongest on the menu). It was light and hoppy and combined with the smell of the sea I could feel my soul returning.

After getting some fish and chips (of course) and running from the monster sea gulls, we popped into The Lifeboat.

Where: The Lifeboat, Margate
What: Dead Pony Club, Brewdog

We'd walked past this pub earlier in the day, but it was closed. It looked like an awesome old man pub - all dark wood and wonky. These are my favourite kind. Real beers, real people, possibly a grumpy barmaid and a regular's photo on the wall above the seat he used to drink in. Unfortunately this pub had been bought by Brewdog, which had clearly divided opinion (see Trip Advisor). I like Brewdog and their beers, but this pub looked like it could have been a gem. This is only conjecture, it could have been a hole, or derelict before they bought it for all I know. In any case the current barmaid was cheeky and chatty and the beer was good. As we sat at a barrel-cum-table, a Shar Pei dog walked in and my chap uttered the quote of the day "There's too much butthole on that dog."

After this we tried to get a random tattoo. One shop had been turned into an accountants, the other had no space. The third looked like we could get one of three tats - a flaming skull, a skull with a dagger through it, or a heart with 'mum' on it. We gave up. We popped into Ale Caesar for a bottle of Whitstable Bay Blonde Premium Lager for the train to Faversham Hop Festival.

We got off the train to a swarm of people, some wearing rings of hops around their heads. This was to be a beer festival the like of which I've never seen.

Where: The Whole of Faversham
What: Various. I really did try to keep track...

We met our friends at The Railway Hotel and grabbed a beer from the outside bar. We chose the Hop Festival ale. We chose unwisely. It had a liquor aftertaste, like whiskey, and it wasn't pleasant. It didn't get better with each try either. It almost got worse. We replaced it at the first opportunity.

Walking through the streets of Faversham was like the end of days. If the end of days consisted of hundreds of contented beer drinkers, a third of which were wearing hops about their person. Live music appeared to be coming from everywhere, the bins were overflowing with pint cups and the rain dampened nobody's spirits. We purchased pints from a street bar. I used my head and got Golden Braid, a light ale (in both senses). My fella chose with his heart and tried to finish an Incubus in 15 minutes before we got into the next pub.

Where: The Phoenix
What: Long Blonde, Long Man Brewery. I think.

All the pubs were rammed. As it started raining they got more rammed. We went into the Phoenix and straight into the garden (the only place there was space). I'm assuming the Long Blonde I had was from the Long Man brewery, but I can't be sure as I didn't go to the bar. It was pale and drinkable and that's all I remember as we discussed 'Nookie Corner' (in the back corner of the pub garden) and the state of other people's relationships. The mood was good though, despite the huge queue for the ladies and the constant stream of blokes who insisted on telling us there was no queue for the mens.

Where: The Albion
What: Pale Ale, Whitstable Brewery

The Albion was more restaurant than bar, so we sat outside again. I got a bit excited as we spotted a bunch of alternative types, but then they started arguing, quite aggressively. Thankfully there was no hair pulling or it would have been everywhere. Not much of a beer choice at this pub but an alright mid-stop all the same.

Where: The Sun Inn
What: Blonde Premium Lager, Whitstable Bay

At this point in proceedings a lot of the pubs had sold out of their guest ales. We had Whitstable lager again, not bad for a lager, and still local, but my tastebuds were no longer in command. My legs were barely in command. At the Sun Inn we stood in the garden again (it had stopped raining by this point) and I spotted a young chap in a see-through sequinned dress. Very fetching. I'm assuming birthday, stag do or a lost bet.

Where: The Bear Inn
What: Blonde Premium Lager, Whitstable Brewery. Again.

We walked into the Bear Inn, which was one of those pubs made up of lots of little rooms, and felt very traditional. Each room was full and some were full of old blokes singing. There were also lots of bears. On the walls and behind the bar. My notes were getting on the scrawly side by this point. A couple saw me scribbling away and asked what I was doing. "I write a beer blog". We got chatting. As we made to leave the woman of the couple grabbed my arm, leaned in close to my ear, almost uncomfortably so, and said "Make a note that this guy I've been seeing for seven years has been cheating on me and that I'm finishing with him tonight. Write that in your book."
I looked at her and tried to say, in the most relaxed way I could, "good luck to you".
It's odd what strangers will tell you in a pub.

After that we headed back to the Railway Hotel for a final beer, as it was near the station. I have no idea what I drank. We watched the covers band play (and we may have even sung along, against our better judgement)

There was talk of train beers but thankfully we thought better of it. We even managed to walk home. After buying some fried chicken. We slept very, very well.

One of the best Saturdays I've had in a long, long time.

The Wildman - Not So Wild

My latest column for Outline Magazine is available now. I'm in The Wildman, which used to be a lot wilder. But at least it's clean now.

"I remembered being thrown out of the pub’s previous incarnation, after a mate asked the landlord “who died and made you king of fucking everything?!” Ah, good times."

You can read the whole thing online here