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General or Historical Articles

Alec James

FiftyYears10 1In 2004 at long last Heather and myself finished going round the pubs in Tubbs's book of 1966. Not only had many closed but most of them bore no resemblance to the pubs mentioned in the book.

My biggest disappointment was the Crown Point Inn at Seal Chart. Yes the beer was fine but the price and welcome was pretty poor, they appear only interested if you are eating.

Best pub by a mile was the Six Bells at Woodchurch (see photo above right) but even now Ray, the landlord, has left for pastures new. My brother in law decided to get married and yes it was just outside Sheffield and another good excuse to sample the Kelham Island crawl. (Please see photo of the Kelham Island Tavern below.) One pub we tried was the Cocked Hat on the tram route. The barman was so short he used crates to reach the bar!

FiftyYears10 2Recently we saw that the whole area was being re-developed and the pub looked very dead, yet another deceased watering hole.

Only one away trip worth mentioning was an evening game at Sunderland. My boss at work borrowed the company car and drove the 600 odd miles in one hit. Of course we lost but the Good Beer Guide came up trumps for beer and food. We got home at about 3am.

I had the day off work but my boss had to go in, hard life isn't it? One great day out was the “Harvey Hopper” do. Miles Jenner lays on one of the best spreads a brewery can do. Even a carry out of local cheeses for later!

Early January 2005 saw Colin Maskell celebrate his 50th birthday by organising a coach trip round all the Kent breweries. At this time there were only ten so it seemed reasonable even if we started before 9am at John Millis's brewery, near Dartford. The task was easily achieved but only after Colin was taken ill in the Swan on the Green at West Peckham.

FiftyYears10 3He replicated the trip for his 60th birthday but only breweries within the ME postcode area as 30 or more breweries would have taken forever; he even managed a beer at the Swan this time! (See the photograph of the brewery at the back of the pub taken on Colin’s 60th birthday bash.)

One cracking beer festival was at Grays (Essex) Football Club. I wonder why more clubs don't try it as they have all the facilities, all you need is the local CAMRA branch to do the beer. Many years later Tonbridge FC made a success of the idea.

This year we started going to the Rotherham Beer Festival, another good excuse for doing Sheffield and Barnsley! The brother in law could not believe that if you bought a glass that gave you entrance to all sessions and free travel on First buses who had sponsored the event.

FiftyYears10 4Sadly there was no Tudor Rose beer festival as Roger and Kay had finally retired. Yet at least the Swan at Wittersham had begun their beer festivals. September also saw the last Barge Beer festival in Gillingham.

Our holiday that year just happened to take us near the Talbot just outside Worcester and, low and behold, there was a Green Hop Beer Festival on in the city!

Early in February 2006 we went Chesterfield for an away game. Not a bad day out, Chesterfield Beer Festival, a 1-1 draw and good meal in the Old Smithy at Church Lawford near Rugby, Warwickshire, on the way home. If only more away games were like that.

In June Fred, Margaret, Tony Page and myself toured East Kent judging that CAMRA region’s pub of the year. Sadly the hot weather spoiled visits to a couple of the pubs but we survived. The tour included the White Swan at Wittersham where we found out Ray, later to run the Six Bells at Woodchurch was the landlord and was also running the bar at the village fete a couple of weeks later. Say no more; we hired a large taxi and six of us went for a drink. It turned out to be a memorable day out watching the gun dogs performing, and us getting well oiled.

FiftyYears10 5Heather and myself had a few days in the Lake District in July but the trip was soured by the hotel in Wigan and being kept awake by what sounded like gunshots, and yobs running along the roofs in the car park. This year we found the Bromsgrove Beer Festival and enjoyed it that much we have returned a couple of times since. (Please see photo of this festival taken in 2010.)

After the usual skull-bashing week-end at the 2007 Dover Winter Ales Beer Festival, the CAMRA Thanet Beer Festival was moved from Ramsgate to the Winter Gardens in Margate.

Thus the Planet Thanet Beer Festival was born and it turned out to be one of my favourite weekenders. (Kindly see photograph on left.) Sadly Dartford’s great festival in Central Park turned out to be the last.

FiftyYears10 6I managed to coerce the wife into driving up to the North East for a few days. In all we spent 17 days “up north”. Nearly a week was spent with John Stroud and his parents (formally of Ales of Kent) in his hotel/ brewery/ restaurant in Ovington, North Yorkshire.

Too many pubs and beers to remember but it rained and rained even more. So much rain that after a few days we had to buy more shoes!

One beer festival we found was at a rugby club outside Newcastle, a really good do. I think it was Corbridge but so much good beer addled my brain. Another good festival was Eastbourne but haven't been lately because of more pressing things.

FiftyYears10 7After a quite start to 2008 the footie picked up with a great day out at Leyton Orient. The club lets away supporters in their club bar and have half a dozen real ales on. (See photo on right.) Why can't more clubs do this? And we got a draw which was more like a win in those dark days.

Then to prove the team was on the up we went to Huddersfield and won 3-1. Of course a session in the nearby Rat & Ratchet brew pub finished the day off nicely.

By this time the Sweeps Festival in Rochester had really taken off. Many pubs had worked out that real ale and the dancing really do go together. Real beer was flowing the whole week-end and hardly any trouble in sight. After a great holiday in Wales that included the CAMRA Cardiff Beer Festival. SIBA (Small Independent Brewers Association) had their day at the Hop Farm, Beltring. Not a bad event but a pig to get to.

Just to prove it was a flash in the pan at Huddersfield the Gills got thrashed 7-0 at Shrewsbury but as Pete from the Will Adams says...“Why let a crap game of football spoil a good day out drinking.”

Part 10 of 12