THE GARDEN OF ALE
Earlier this year, we enjoyed a family holiday in the Kent coastal resort of Broadstairs. Over the course of the week, we were able to soak up the traditional seaside fare that the town has to offer, visit attractions such as the World War II tunnels at Dover Castle and enjoy fish and chips after a walk to the nearby town of Ramsgate.
Despite just missing the 10th Planet Thanet Easter Beer festival at Margate’s Winter Gardens, I was of course keen to check out the East Kent real ale scene and broke our journey down by calling at the Rose and Crown, a 16th century free house in the rural location of Perry Wood a few miles south of Faversham. As well as decent food and an extensive garden, this reputedly haunted inn offered real ales in the shape of Woodforde’s Wherry, Adnams Southwold Bitter and Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter (4.0%). I chose the latter which was in decent nick, before making our way east.
Upon our arrival in Broadstairs, it became apparent that the town was gripped with election fever with one Nigel Farage attempting to steal the South Thanet constituency from the Tories whilst seeing off ‘Pub Landlord’ Al Murray in the process. Also contesting the seat was Nigel Askew (a real pub landlord) representing the Bez’s Reality Party whose battle bus could be seen on the town’s High Street.
Having settled into our self catering accommodation in a quiet square near to the sea front and containing a blue plaque dedicated to Bagpuss, Clangers and Noggin The Nog co-creator, Oliver Postgate, I took the opportunity to call in at a couple of Broadstairs hostelries. First up was Neptune’s Hall, a former Good Beer Guide listed pub close to the town’s harbour (on Harbour Street, in fact) which had gone into the notebook (not an actual book on this occasion) on my only previous visit to the town. Like many Shepherd Neame pubs I observed during the week, this well maintained pub has a handsome exterior and as well as SN’s Master Brew and Spitfire, guest ales such as Aurora (4.8%) a nice golden beer from Great Yarmouth brewer, Lacon’s.
After this, I made the short walk to The Chapel, a unique 2012 conversion of the former St Mary’s Chapel into a pub-cum-second hand bookshop offering a special Kentish menu (crab and stuff) and ales straight from the cask from local breweries including Hopdaemon and Gadds of Ramsgate. The Chapel has a sort of bohemian atmosphere and is the sister pub to the award-winning Lifeboat Ale and Cider House in Margate which was recommended to me.
On Easter Monday, we visited Canterbury which boasts several Good Beer Guide entries and chose to eat in the City Arms on Butchery Lane, close to the city’s famous cathedral. Beer of choice on this occasion was GB (4.2%) from local micro, Canterbury Brewers.
Having bumped into the Archbishop himself outside Canterbury Cathedral, my voyage along Stella Street continued back in Broadstairs when I sighted dem’ Kumars, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal strolling along the beach and later that evening, 2006 X-Factor finalist, Ben Mills guzzling white wine in the Wrotham Arms, a back street Shepherd Neame pub.
Micro pubs are clearly thriving in this part of the world and they don’t come much better than The Yard of Ale in the St Peter’s part of town which I visited on Tuesday evening. The recently crowned Thanet and East Kent CAMRA Pub of the Year is in an old stable yard with an original cobbled floor and a great range of gravity dispensed beers. Customer service is high on the agenda here with co-owner, Shawn Galvin and wife Clare taking time to meet and greet customers old and new. Not too far away in St Peter’s, ale drinkers and Two Ronnies aficionados will find the Four Candles, home to Britain’s smallest brewery. This small one-roomed pub was opened in the premises of a hardware shop in 2012 by owner, Mike Beaumont with a one barrel plant in opened in the pub cellar two years later. Another great addition to the local pub scene.
On Wednesday evening, it was time to visit The Tartar Frigate which occupies a splendid harbourside position in Broadstairs and is home to an upmarket seafood restaurant and weekly acoustic music (Chicory Tip are regulars!) sessions. After an fine pint of Gadds’ No 5 (4.4%), we made our last port of call,
The 39 Steps Alehouse, a micro pub sporting film posters of the John Buchan novel of the same name, a myriad of pump clips and real ales straight from the cask. On this occasion, we both sampled Devil’s Dyke Salted Caramel (5.0%) from the Downlands Brewery in West Sussex.
Patrick Hancock, Dronfield & District CAMRA