Sunday, 7 September 2014

A Canterbury tale.......via Broadstairs and Westwood Cross.

After a quiet morning, a couple of Daily Mail cryptic crosswords and endless cups of coffee, we popped onto the Thanet Loop bus (an excellent service which can be used for the purpose of damn good pub crawls around the area.) for the 15 minute trip to nearby Broadstairs. Famous for being the place that Charles Dickens holidayed in and based the novel "Bleak House" on, as well as "Morning Cloud" Skipper and former PM, Edward Heath's birthplace (among other numerous notables) this is a very old style resort, steeped in history. On the way to the seafront, we stopped at the Chapel Pub in Albion Street, the sister pub of Margate's Lifeboat. This little micropub has been created in an old bookshop and still hosts many traits of its past including the mustiness particular with these establishments. We chose the Hopdaemon "Incubus" a 4% copper coloured bitter which was smooth and malty. Again, all beers are straight from the barrel in here, a sight I wish we had back home. We took the early afternoon air along the promenade and onto the pier before heading for an ice-cream in the drizzle. Then the stroll back,taking in the deli's and cakeshops, in search of Gypsy Tart. No, not one of those ladies one bumps into down Freemo (Freeman St in GY) on payday...allegedly, but the very sweet,sickly favourite of Kent's school dinners (so I am told). I experienced this once before when "T'other 'arf" baked one at home. That must be at least 4 years since and I can still detect the cloying sweetness on the back of my teeth. I managed to steer the tart hunter towards another "must visit" inn on my mental list and soon we were admiring the vast display of beers behind the bar in The Thirty-Nine Steps.
A small selection of beer pump clips
at the Thirty-Nine Steps
The name comes from the John Buchan novel. The steps are supposed to be those still there at North Foreland and this tale of espionage has been lapped up by many through a few film varients (Kenneth Moore's was my favourite), stage plays,TV series et al.The beer?? Well, straight from the barrel and perfectly served. I understand that this micropub features beers from a particuler brewery en-bloc which, I believe, is a good way to get a full taste of the different varients in ales from each area. York's Rudgate Brewery beers were well in evidence here with 7 of their brews on tap.I chose the "Chocolate Stout" whilst a half of "Jorvik Blonde" was also quaffed.Mine was smooth, full bodied and very flavoursome, with a wonderful chocolate finish and was very moreish, and, I am told, the lighter beer had a lovely freshness to the taste with a bitter finish( still training T'other 'arf's tastebuds, but were are getting there!) It was a shame to have to go after just one, but we had arranged to have a meal out that evening.Leaving, we admired the 800+ pump clips from over 500 breweries to have been presented at this gem of a pub since opening a mere 2 years ago.And so that was that for this tour of Broadstairs.We never managed the welcome in The Tartar Frigate, the view from The Charles Dickens or the relaxing atmosphere of The Dolphin as we have in the past, but these guilty pleasures are to come. That evening we went out collectively for a meal.We first tried the Toby Carvery at Westwood Cross but an hour for a table on a Monday night?? We set off back towards the coast and ended up at The David Copperfield, a Harvester pub. The meal was adequate, and drinks (including my coke!) ok but the company present,relaxing and most welcome. Tomorrow is Canterbury.


One thing about Kent is evident. The public transport system is great. We boarded the number 8,"The Breeze" service from the Thanet coast to Kent's capital, and within 50 minutes we had arrived. After a bit of window shopping and trying to find an ankle support for my troublesome leg,we settled down in The City Arms, Butchery Lane. After a fire in 2001, this alehouse re-opened in 2004 and is a showcase for Canterbury Brewery's beer and local ciders. I had a pint of the very aromatic "Little Red Rye" 4.5%, whilst a half of Henderson's "Toffee Apple Cider" ,a 6% delight, was also taken. A busy pub and a pure gem with knowledgeable staff and a friendly feel.After this,we popped around the corner to The Old Buttermarket. A pretentious looking pub and bland tasting ale was my summing up once we had struggled to finish a pint of Nicholson's "Pale" at 4% and half of the 4.4% Woodfordes' "Norfolk Hawker". Both lacked that fresh taste of a good conditioned beer.A disappointment.In the meantime we had received an expected phone call from "T'other 'arf's" brother and sister-in -law  Andrew and Jayne , who, along  with Tom their son,would be meeting us for a few.Did we know where The Parrot pub was? Of course we did. The Beermonster had sniffed this one out on a previous visit. Canterbury's oldest pub was soon on the horizon and we were presently sat in the comfortable beer garden enjoying various measures of  Shepherd Neames "Whitstable Bay Pale ale" , 3.9%  and "Spitfire"at 4.2% along with the 4.8% "Samuel Adams Boston Lager" brewed under licence by the same brewers. These went down well and we accompanied these with some rather filling posh sarnies from the lunch menu. We decided to walk round to The Foundry Brew Pub in White Horse Lane,
The bar at The Foundry.
home of The Canterbury Brewery. A full collection of therir wares were on display and during our visit we tried sampled the Amber ale "Torpedo" 4.5%, "Street Light Porter" an excellent dark beer of 5.8%, ,the Golden Ale,"Foundry Man's Gold" 4% 5.6% "Red Rye", "Topaz", "Hop Doctor" and, somehow I managed to down two pints of the 7.4% and very smooth drinking "Revenge". For such a strong  set of beers, these are all very enjoyable on the tastebuds and all go down a little too easily. This is the perfect showcase for these ales and I will never tire of visiting The Foundry. We left late in the afternoon to visit, if memory serves me right,The Bell & Crown in Palace St. Here I had, according to my notes Wantsum "Red Raddle" a 5% Summer Ale , and the same strength Old Dairy brew "Gold Top".My notes suggest one of our company,at least, chose the Old Fountains' brew of "Whitstable EIPA" a +4% IPA. My memories at this point are somewhat sketchy and with my achilles throbbing like Billy-o, my capacity of alcohol almost exceeded, we should have popped on the bus back to Margate. We should have,I know but with such great company, we went back to Fordwich and The George and Dragon where we met up with the final family member, Ellie.I have been to
The George & Dragon,Fordwich.
If memory serves me right !!!
The George a few times, and a lovely family pub it is. It always carries a good range of local ales, and one can struggle to leave the welcoming atmosphere here. After quite a while and a few more beers (can't remember exactly which but I do remember a lovely Porter), we went back,or struggled back, to our hosts' for an improvised supper of pizza,chips etc. as the Chinese Take-Away was shut. We thoroughly enjoyed our day and, as we set out for the last bus back, we felt absolutely shattered. With the motion of the bus, a loving and long suffering partner to rest my weary head on,& enough booze in my bloodstream to float the QE2,I was soon embarrassingly snooring my way back to Thanet. Ooops.The next day we had planned a crawl on The Loop. I was aware, as we entered Margate at 00-10, this may not happen!!


On Wednesday, we had a run out in the car to Ramsgate, only a couple or so miles away. As expected, we did not partake of the liquids but, on first appearances, it certainly has much to offer the connoisseur of ales. We had a lovely "Whippy" ice-cream by the harbour,a wonderful area with so much maritime history abounding it, and watched the people go by.The range of real ale pubs around the harbour area was many and varied. We promised ourselves an afternoon in this historical resort next time we visit, but our time in Thanet was coming to an end.It is nice to leave a couple of places on ones "list" to re-visit in the future. All that Shepherd's Neame, Gadd's and the rest of the Kentish brewers' wares, would have to wait. The next day, we were heading back to North East Lincolnshire. 
We left Kent, and Tony to a bit of peace and quiet, just before 09-45, gypsy tart safely stowed for the long journey home. We made good time, and, after a 15 minute stop for fuel near Peterborough, arrived back home around 2pm.Another trip over,and another tasting session ! Roll on the next one.
Cheers and keep it "Real"

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