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General or Historical Articles

Alec James

FiftyYears9 1Entering 2001 with the guillotine hanging over my head was a very unpleasant experience. I decided a trip to Ireland was needed after experiencing the Head of Steam Beer Festival. Came back looking like a girder as we found very little real ale and had to make do with Guinness most of the time. The Porterhouse in Dublin was the rare exception but they only had one real ale on (photograph right).

Came back from Ireland and got my final payment from Kimberly Clark. I had to have the cheque sent to a friend as Royal Mail managed to lose my redundancy notice! Still I found another job pretty quick so all in all it worked out pretty good. There was a great little beer festival that year at the Blacksmith’s Arms at Wormshill (see photo below). John Davison of Swale Brewery in Sittingbourne was running the pub at the time.

Another great time was had with a small beer festival on the Kingswear Castle paddle steamer. Drinking a pint while the boat meandered up the river was quite something and of course everything looks different from the river.

FiftyYears9 2Another week away saw us go to Norfolk, no bad beer there.

The week-end before Christmas Heather, Mark, “G” and myself went to Barnsley to watch the mighty Gills.

We stayed at a B & B that made the Chester one look like a palace! Gills got a good hiding and we left the dump without paying. Sadly the week-end before Christmas is not the best time to look for another B & B and we ended up driving straight home.

2002 saw the local Medway CAMRA branch finally organise its first beer festival. Poor Heather took the lead and spent much of the time trying to make it a success. Her idea was that perhaps some of the 300 local members might get involved. Sadly it was not to be, and the same dozen or so active members ended up doing all the work.

FiftyYears9 3At least the mighty Gills won at Preston in January and four of us had a terrific week-end up there. Coming home we found the Frankton Bagby brew pub in Church Lawford and the Three Ponds at Nuthall where we had great food and good beer. Sadly the brew pub is just an eating house now and the Ponds is a Hungry Horse with poor beer.

The usual local beer festivals were on but it was one of the last Tudor Rose (Upnor) events.

After the Kent Beer Festival at Canterbury run out of beer, Glen, Jane, Heather and myself went on to Romney Marsh and found a local fete in Icklesham. Loads of beer and watching Heather and Jane spinning round on the carousel was a delight. Not for me and the vast quantity of ale inside me!

At least the Medway festival went off without too much bother. Heather had to have a week off work and was not happy spending her holiday waiting for a lorry that got lost. Still there was always next year!

FiftyYears9 4Managed to find Ind Coope Burton Ale in the Falstaff at Higham in December. It think it was brewed in Burton at Marstons and although it was O.K., it was nothing like the beer of 25 years ago.

Sadly Ales of Kent in Boxley ceased brewing that year, but at least John Stroud took the former one barrel test brewery to North Yorkshire and used it to brew at the Four Alls Hotel in Ovington. Regrettably it longer brews on that site and has been sold again.

2003 was a year to forget really. Some great days out to watch the Gills but as usual the beer was far better than the football. One draw and three defeats tell its own sorry tale. Strange that we should finish 11th in the League, but we were quite formidable at home back then.

Highlight of the beer festivals was Nottingham in the old swimming pool. The flooring gave me the feeling of being drunk after the first pint. Having said that, the Beatles tribute band were really good but the flooring only just held up to the end.

FiftyYears9 5And so to the CAMRA Medway Beer Festival. Heather had great reservations about organising a second one.

As with most CAMRA branches the active members are small compared to the overall membership. We had hoped some would appear from the woodwork but no such luck.

The festival itself went without too much bother but the taking down and storage was the final straw.

Again Heather had to stay at the venue for the last lorry and our house and garden was packed solid with empty barrels, glasses and other stuff. We even had to drive to Harveys to take some beer back. Not much thanks either for raising a couple of grand for CAMRA funds. At least John Brice offered to carry on the name but Heather was so disillusioned we have hardly been to CAMRA meetings since.

Part 9 of 12