Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Canterbury (T)Ales

A few years ago a friend of mine moved to Canterbury. A month ago I moved to Gravesend and with the free time proffered me by being 'in between' jobs (or 'unemployed') I decided to take advantage of my new proximity to my old friend and spend the day in the cathedral city.

As I got off the train a creepy bloke started smiling and trying to talk to me, then followed me out of the station. I hastily googled nearby pubs and began to walk to the nearest. The White Hart was technically my closest port of call, but I fancied something other than Shepherd Neame for a change so I carried on a little further to a pub that brewed its own beer on site.

Where: The Foundry
What: Invasion of the Hop Monster, Canterbury Brewers

My friend met me shortly after I arrived at this pub, set (unsurprisingly) in an old foundry. It smelled weird inside (probably because of the brewing) but the weather was so nice outside there was no way we were sitting indoors anyway. I chose the Hop Monster, mainly because I like a hoppy pale beer and it seemed a reasonable strength (3.9%) to be starting my afternoon with. It was a nice session ale, with enough about it to avoid being forgotten. My mate had just come back from a poker playing trip to Vegas and, as promised, had brought me back some tacky souvenirs which made me very happy indeed. I spent two pints looking at his photos and asking more and more in depth questions about poker. He didn't seem to mind though. After grilling him about all things casino, we took a wander down the high street in search of a beer garden and some pub food.

Where: The Lady Luck
What: Dry Hopped lager, Adnams

I had heard of The Lady Luck many times, but had yet to visit it. My fella had played there with his band (although it's hard to imagine where a band might fit). It was dark inside and despite it being mid-afternoon on a Friday, had a few tattooed drinkers at the bar already. I wasn't in the mood for a Doombar, and I already knew I didn't enjoy Musket's 'Trigger', so I probably should have plumped for Pure Gold by Purity ales, but my mate suggested the Adnams lager and I agreed. When will I learn that even 'real' lagers give me crazy hangovers?! My mate bumped into a pool league friend at the bar and we all sat in the cosy walled garden at the rear of the pub. We discussed jobs, cats, the pool league. I watched a couple of women sit opposite each other for 45 minutes, not saying a word, while one constantly took selfies and the other looked as though she was just trying to stay awake. After having something to eat we decided to have a wander. I suggested a pub we had walked past earlier. My two companions were not entirely convinced.

What: Hop House 13, Guinness

This little pub looked like a proper old english pub, had nice looking tables outside and seemed to be busy so I thought it might be good for a beer. My friends hadn't been there in quite a while but were open ti the suggestion, despite some reservations. It was my round and as I stood looking at the pumps and finding no real ale I wanted, instead of saying 'hey lets try a different pub', I found myself saying 'three pints of Hop House 13 please'. Again with the lager!! As I waited for my beers, a bloke at the bar said...something unintelligible. I replied "I'm sorry, I have no idea what you just said". He repeated, with a little more effort on not being so pissed and said "you look like her, with hair" motioning to the barmaid with the Sinead O'Connor cut. The barmaid looked nonplussed. "Because we both have glasses?" I replied. He said something even more slur-ey and I repeated that I had no idea what he was saying, while feeling increasingly uncomfortable. 

Back at the table the change in the feel of the pub was the topic of discussion, as well as people they knew who had been barred and the infamous (and awful sounding) Pig F*cker cocktails they sold. After the barmaid came and joined us for a cigarette, and a shoulder-shrug about the drunken barflys, we moved on.

What: No. 5, Gadds

This pub was chosen because of it's location relative to the train station, as I'd just discovered my last train was at 9.30pm. We grabbed one of the last tables outside and my friend went to the bar. He came back with a best bitter, not my first choice and it didn't go down too well but it did stay down. We discussed relationships while watching the street traffic starting to busy for the Friday night ahead and I was a little pleased to be heading home soon. 

After promising to let him know when I got back safely, I put in my headphones and started to dance on the platform. I can't remember a time when I  cared so little about anyone else around. My fella and his friends were in our local, and he asked me to pick up some beers on my way back. Unfortunately the shop was shut at 10.30pm, so I joined them for a beer anyway.

Where: The Windmill, Gravesend
What: Birds & Bees, William Bros. Brewing

I had my usual, in my new local and joined the conversation, blissfully unaware that I was a fair few beers ahead of everyone else. It didn't stop me trying to get a job as a barmaid though or from carrying on at home for a couple of hours. I had that moment many drinkers have - it's only when your friend finally says 'I think I'm going to go home' that you realise just how tired you are. I slept into lunchtime on Saturday and swore never to drink lager again. 

The York Tavern

I wrote this for my PSB column in Outline Magazine, but it wasn't used, so here it is in full!

Where: The York Tavern, Norwich

What: UBU, Purity Ales

It’s been a good few years since I last visited The York Tavern (I have to make a concerted effort to get over that side of the city). From memory it was a spacious pub, with a pool table and outside smoking area (I never made it as far as the garden), wooden floors and unintentional mismatched furniture.  A little rough round the edges, but nicely worn in. This time I walked into a pub painted what my dad would call ‘fashionable greige’, with candles on the tables and a trendy menu serving artisanal pies. The place was spotless, the barman was friendly, knew his stuff, and the plush red booth-chairs looked inviting. The atmosphere was comfortable and as I ordered an UBU, from Purity Brewing, I wondered why I felt so odd. Much like UBU, a drinkable amber ale at a middling 4.5% with nothing offensive or challenging about it, The York Tavern had become standard. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t complain about a decent, clean pub with friendly staff (or a perfectly drinkable beer), but I realised that sat in this pub I could have been anywhere. It looked like any other upmarket gastro-accessible pub (The Unthank and The Rosebury spring to mind). Nothing wrong with it, lots of things right with it, but nothing to make it stand out either. As my party decided the pool table was never going to be free, we played a card game (of which I still don’t understand the rules), laughed and drank and went home to eat Chinese food. Standard.

The Kings Head, Magdalen Street

My last PSB (published) column for Outline Magazine before I moved away from Norwich -

Sometimes I want to go to a bar with tattooed bar staff, retro yet trendy music, a wide selection of craft beers and some kind of mash-up, Tex-Mex tapas-pizza street-style food available. Other times (more and more frequently these days) I just want to sit in a pub with a few (preferably local) real ales to choose from and few (preferably local) old man drinkers in a (preferably local) local and a have a quiet evening catching up with friends. The Kings Head on Magdalen Street fits this desire perfectly. Read the full column here. 

The Rumsey Wells and Christmas Drinkers

I know I'm behind on my column posting but, here's my December column for Outline Magazine

Ah, the work Christmas party. Some people look forward to going, others make their excuses, some (like me) feel like they should go and hope it’s not too much of a disaster. I generally try to avoid drinking in city pubs during December – too many part-time drinkers who can’t handle it and either get aggro or paralytic, taking up space at the bar usually reserved for all-weather beer lovers like myself. Read the full column here. 

Norwich Cocktail Week

My column from Outline Magazine - 

I usually prefer a pint, but sometimes I fancy something a little…fancier. Norwich Cocktail Week has been going a few years now and Norwich has a lot more cocktail bars than I imagined. Read full article here