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General or Historical Articles

Alec James

FiftyYears5 11990 saw the final brews from the Fremlin’s plant in Faversham, (formerly George Beer & Rigden) and with it the demise of Tusker Bitter. All we were left with in Kent was Shepherd Neame, Goachers and Larkins. Canterbury Ale was still available but was brewed elsewhere. Thankfully the 1990's started quite brightly as the Roseneath in Gillingham, the Ropemaker’s Arms in Chatham and the Britannia in Rochester followed the Who' a thought it with all of them serving Goachers and other beers from around the country.

FiftyYears5 2By far my favourite however was the Horseshoe in Strood. They only served Ind Coope Burton Ale but what a pint it was. Peter and Doreen ran the pub but it was the locals who made it such a wonderful watering hole. Wonderful characters like Banana, Dodge, Mick Pepper, Mike Booey and the delightful Aubrey Matthews. Having gone blind at a very young age it didn't stop him liking a beer or three.

FiftyYears5 3Many pints of Burton and Josh his dog guided him home! By the early nineties Aubrey had decamped and gone to live in Tickhill, South Yorkshire. Mike thought nothing of picking up Heather and myself and driving 200 miles for a lunch time session and then driving home!

Spring 1991 saw Colin Maskell, Ted Whittaker, Heather and myself spend a week end in Dudley. This not only coincided with Dudley Beer Festival but also Dudley Council Leisure Services arranged tours around some local breweries and pubs. Early morning boozing is not my cup of tea but where needs must.

FiftyYears5 4Holt, Plant & Deakin Brewery at 9a.m. Followed by quantities of Entire Ale. Next came the breweries of Holdens (photo above left), Bathams (photo: above right) and my favourite Sarah Hughes (Photo of Beacon Hotel with brewery behind: left below). Holt, Plant & Deakin has now closed.

This was just the start and we were then taken to the famous Crooked House (Bank’s). The next few hostelries were quite a blur and did I have a headache in the morning!

I remembered a great pub called the “Shakespeare” from a previous visit so when I saw it we all went in. What a shocker, it was awful. Then I found out there were two pubs called “Shakespeare” and we found the wrong one. The first Roseneath Beer Festival in Gillingham followed in June and I'm sure it was one of the first pub beer festivals in our area.

FiftyYears5 5July 1991 found Heather and myself cycling round Romney Marsh. Heather's father parked his caravan at Folkestone Racecourse and we spent the whole week cycling round the marsh. I think we drank in all the pubs and had a great time.

In August of that year, with Colin Maskell, we cycled to a beer festival at Dunedin Park in Tunbridge Wells (with a bit of help from B.R).

Sadly by this time some lovely old pubs were closing. The Staff of Life at Cooling Street and the Sun at Higham had gone and many more were not far behind them.

Spring 1992 saw one of those events that to this day still makes me laugh. Colin and myself went for a bike ride in the country. First pub no problem, but then we got ambushed by a group of youngsters on bikes.

The ringleader was a bit older than the rest and egged them on to make life hard for us. This went on for quite a while and most of them turned back leaving three or four to give us grief. Suddenly the leader skidded in front of me and parted company from his bike. Now I had his bike and he begged me to let him have it back. “Who’s a bald headed old w**ker now” I shouted. “Come on mister, I didn't mean it”.

FiftyYears5 6I decided to throw his bike over a fence. The bike duly landed in the orchard amongst the startled sheep. He had a long walk home and we raced off to avoid capture. Colin reckons if cycle throwing was an Olympic event I held the world record. We spent the rest of the day checking for irate parents looking for us.

In May 1992 Colin, Heather and myself then embarked on a canal holiday. My handling of the craft left a lot to be desired, but the rest of the crew had to do all the locks. I nearly got booked for speeding but the pubs were open and these barges are hard work! The water levels were rather low and I managed to run us aground but mooring up at a pub was great fun. The drinkers laughed their heads off at my attempts to get the bloody thing straight, still the beer was pretty good that night.

My first visit to the White Horse Winter Beer Festival in London occurred in November 1992. Not for the faint-hearted this one. Aubrey Matthews used to live in Parsons Green so Heather, Aubrey and Josh (his dog) and myself arrived on the Green. Josh would not relieve himself whilst on his harness so Heather had to walk him round the green every so often.

FiftyYears5 7We started off on the weaker beers, Ridleys Christmas at 5.1% being the best. Wadworth Old Timer at 5.8% was O.K. Then we really got started. Burton Bridge Old Expensive 6.5%, McMullen Stronghart 7.0% and Morrells College at 7.4% soon followed. Aubrey seemed unaffected but Caledonian Edinburgh Strong at 8% finished him off. Aubrey, Josh and myself slept all the way home. Heaven knows what would have happened if Heather wasn't there.

Part 5 of 12