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General or Historical Articles

Alec James

FiftyYears7 1Early 1996 saw the arrival of the excellent Viking ales in the Man of Kent. They brewed beer that just appealed to my taste buds. I went on a stupid pub crawl to Brighton in January. I say stupid because I forgot I didn't have Heather with me to guide me home! I drank an awful lot of beer and made a pigs ear of getting home. Wrong platforms, wrong trains, you name it. I made the journey home last over six hours!

FiftyYears7 2My daughter kindly ran Heather and myself down to the Golden Galleon tea rooms near Seaford. Of course I knew that Cuckmere Haven were brewing next door. A great brewery tour and plenty of beer. The brewery closed in 2003 and the plant now resides in Harveys for their special and one-off brews.

After Battersea Beer Festival (one I never really liked) it was off to Hove (one I do like!). Later that month I went to Canterbury for a wander round and found the elusive Minnis Ale in the Bell & Crown. Shortly after that the brewery closed for good.

In early May, a trip round London was organised taking in a few brew pubs. A couple of Firkin pubs were tried but stars of the show were the Orange Brewery (Pimlico) (photo left) and the Yorkshire Grey in Bloomsbury. These were examples of good beers but sadly not in keeping with owning company’s image. Both Brew Pubs have closed their breweries.

FiftyYears7 3Roger always enjoyed good weather for his beer festival and this year was no different as we had a lovely afternoon in the sun at the Tudor Rose at Upnor.

This was followed by possibly my last taste of Fremlins Bitter. I think the beer by this time was brewed at the Cheltenham Brewery. Nowadays the Upper Bell in Upnor and the beer have disappeared for good.

Another good beer festival convenient to get to was Catford. There was always a good selection of beers and great company as well.

FiftyYears7 4
Later in June we all went to McMullens in Hertford (above) for a brewery trip, and if I remember rightly the food they laid on was all but a three course meal!

July now and whenever I look at the Kent Beer Festival (at Canterbury) beer list, it always looks the same but at least they do a really good spread of Kentish beers.

FiftyYears7 5In August whilst waiting to see if I still had a job at Kimberly Clark, we went to Scotland with our daughter. Stopped overnight in Derby (not bad for a jug or three) and on to Stirling. After the usual trips round Edinburgh and Dundee we tried the Moulin Hotel in Pitlochry, Perthshire and tried some of the beers from their micro-brewery. We also visited a brew-pub, the Mansfield Arms in Alloa.

Ambling back south we stayed over in Blackpool. It didn't rain, it lashed down. A quick tram ride to Fleetwood was followed by a taxi back to the Flying Handbag. The taxi driver warned us it was one of the biggest gay bars in the North West. We had one of the best nights up there. When Heather mentioned her nickname was handbag they gave her a T-shirt as a memento!

FiftyYears7 6As my daughter had to go back home she dropped us in Derby and we had another few days sampling the beers in Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield. After the Maidstone Beer Festival it was a quite few weeks till the Gravesend and St Albans festivals. Sadly the Gravesend festival has gone, as has Catford.

After our usual Liverpool / Manchester winter break there were a quiet couple of months punctured by a lovely beer festival at the Barge at Gillingham in early December. Looking back to that winter I can recall twelve pubs in Medway I had a drink in, and all have now closed.

FiftyYears7 7January 1997 saw us on a CAMRA bus trip to Larkin’s Brewery. This time we had snow to contend with, but we all survived to drink loads of fine beer. Ray Stevens remarked it was warmer outside than in the brewery, half expecting Jeremy Beadle to pop out any minute. Heather spent most of the time with Ma Dockerty in her office drinking coffee, lucky girl!

Any trip to London always ended at the Wheatsheaf at London Bridge and a stop off at the Crystal Palace Tavern in Deptford. Sadly that pub closed early this century, a great pity as they served a wonderful selection of ale. Hove Beer Festival was always one of my favourites but as soon as you needed an advance ticket I gave up, too much hassle.

Heather and myself went up to Liverpool and met Don Quayle for a tour of the pubs. The Philharmonic has one of those ornate Gents toilets (please see photos: above left, right and below). Don simply walked in said hello to the barman and proceeded to show Heather the loos. Cheers, he said on the way out, and not even a drink!

FiftyYears7 8Possibly one of the strangest drinks was in the Head of Steam at Euston on the way to a beer festival at the White Horse, Parsons Green. A beer ticker who remains anonymous started to debate the quality of the Selby Old Tom. He said the beer wasn't right, the barman said it was.

The ticker promptly pulled his beer guide out and phoned the brewery. Not only did he get through to the brewer but also had a debate on the date it was brewed. Sadly the pub is now tied and Selby no longer brew.

The Dog & Bone in Gillingham held its first beer festival as the Rosey (Roseneath, Gillingham) had pulled out. Heather and myself went to stay with her brother who had now moved near Barnsley. I had the job of showing him some of the watering holes in Sheffield. He still reckons I know more about drinking there than he does. If we are in the area we always meet in the Fat Cat for a few jars.

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