Monday, 11 December 2017

Canterbury Ales

I awake with a headache.  If only the cause was an overindulgence yesterday. A couple of paracetamol would see that off.

We have to queue to get into the breakfast room. It’s mobbed. Probably because it’s Saturday. Luckily, we don’t have to wait too long.

My stomach is playing up. I can barely eat at anything. I force down a slice of bacon and half a fried egg. What is wrong?

The plan is to go to Victoria and get a train to Canterbury East. But first I watch the Rugby League World Cup final. The first time I’ve seen England look stronger than Australia. For at least part of the game. Have the Aussies got worse of England/GB better? A single converted Australian try is the only score.

Victoria is just as I remember it from my London commuting days: totally overrun with people. And it’s the weekend. I dread to think what it’s like during rush hour. We’re aiming for a train at 12:07. We’ve got 20-odd minutes but the queues at both the ticket machines and manned counters are huge. We plump for the counter queue.

Tickets in hand, we’ve just a few minutes to rush to the other side of the station where our train is waiting. We jump on and find seats.

I haven’t brought ant train beers. Not sure my stomach is up to beer at the moment.

I notice the distinctive blocky shape of a Norman keep. “Look Dolores, there’s a castle.”

In tuns out to be Rochester. The town and its castle look impressive from the train. It seems to be a popular destination as our carriage mostly empties. Giving us the chance to swop to seats with rather more legroom.

We pass orchards with row after row of low hedge-like trees. Dolores remarks “Lots of the trees still have apples on them. That’s a bit weird considering they’ve lost all their leaves. I wonder why that is?”

“No idea.”*

I spot the distinctive poles and wires of a hop garden.

“Look, Dolores, a hop garden.”

“Yes, very interesting.” Dolores says unenthusiastically. To be fair to her, it’s not very big. Unlike in Bavaria, where hops stretch as far as the eye can see.

Jumping off the train in Canterbury, I start to take the most direct route to the town centre. Except the road I want to take is designed to deter pedestrians. Nowhere to cross, no pavements and fences at the edge of the road. I guess they don’t want us to go this way.

Instead we have to take a footbridge over the road that leads to a little park, which is separated from the road by the city walls. We walk along the top of the walls a bit, then climb a mound that gives us a good view of the town.

That’s enough dawdling. We head into town. Which is bustling with shoppers. With all the decorations, it looks very Christmassy. Which is exactly what Dolores is after.

“Can we go to a pub?” This is good news. And unusual. Dolores dragging me to a pub. “I need to go to the toilet.” That explains it, then.

I consulted my 2018 Good Beer Guide back in Amsterdam. The best bet in the centre of town seemed to be the Foundry brewpub, which is on a side street off the main drag.

It doesn’t look very open. The front door is closed. Then I notice a note on the door. It says they are open, the door is just shit to keep the cold out.

Inside it’s pretty full. The closed door is doing its job: it’s cosily warm inside.

Order Dolores Gold as the nearest to Bitter, then read what hops are in it: Magnum and Citra. Oh, er. I hope she likes it. Too late to change my mind as the barmaid is already pulling it. Dolores isn’t a fan of what she calls grapefruit beer.

“How’s your beer, Dolores?”

“Fine.” Luckily, she hasn’t noticed the American hops.

“Do you want to try my Porter?”

“Eeugh. That’s horrible.” It is a bit harsh. But it isn’t that bad. Though it’s way too pale – barley darke than a dark Bitter.

It’s getting very crowded. A group partially seats themselves at the empty spaces on our table. I reckon we were lucky to get a seat. We must have arrived just after someone left.

On the way down, Dolores noticed that there were trains going in the other direction to St. Pancras. Getting a train there would save getting the tube from Victoria. So Dolores picked up some timetables in the station and is trying to work out the best route home.

We only stay for the one. Dolores wants to have a proper poke around town before the shops shut.

The town is full of French, Dutch and Germans. I guess they’re over for Christmas shopping.

“Just wait until after Brexit. Then there will just be just us British people her.”

“Have you forgotten that I’m, German? And you’ll be Dutch next year.” She has a point.

Two burly, tattooed are men facing up to each other, hurling insults. And looking close to hurling fists.

“Come ‘round the corner where there’s no camera, you coward.”

A copper turns up and as we scuttle of hurriedly, I remark to Dolores: “Nice of them to lay on some street theatre.”

We potter around a few shops – Marks, Smiths. And pick up a few bits and bobs. We pop into a specialist calendar shop. They must have a seasonal trade. I contemplate getting a tank calendar for Andrew.

“It’s a shame they don’t have a Bob’s Burgers calendar for Lexxie.” I quip. Family joke there.

We head over to the cathedral. I’d told Dolores that it was dead important and impressive. The gate that leads to the cathedral complex is certainly impressive. But you have to pay to pass it.

“Pah! £12.50 to get into the cathedral complex – they’re taking the mick.” Dolores isn’t impressed. We decide to give it a miss.

It’s about time for another pub. Fortunately, there’s one on the little square where the cathedral gateway is. It’s called the Old Buttermarket.

“Oh look, it’s a Nicholson’s pub. They usually have decent beer.”

Dolores’s face lights up as she sees the handpulls: they’ve got London Pride.  No need to ask her what she wants. I go for a Thornbridge Wild Holly.

It, too, is mobbed, but we find a space by the window. A German couple with English friend are sitting next to us. Their conversation turns to Brexit and I automatically start shutting it out. I’m bored shitless of this Brexit shit.

I get another pie, Dolores a steak. I swop my mash for her chips again. It’s almost like we were meant to be a couple.

After a couple of pints, we stumble outside. There’s no-one on the cathedral gate so we wander inside the precinct. We can’t go inside because there’s a service. But I get some impressive snaps of the giant yellow moon over the cathedral roof.

Going back via St. Pancras is definitely a good idea. It’s much quicker. And we finish within walking distance of our hotel’

Though to break the walk we drop by the Euston Flyer on the way back. More London Pride for Dolores, an ESB for me.

There’s no Double IPA left at the Waitrose when we nip in for some hotel beers. Damn. Have to make do with Thornbrige Halcyon at a punt 7.4% ABV. At least I have a pint glass to drink it from. Dolores picked one up in a pub earlier.

* The answer is Brexit. They were short of pickers from Eastern Europe this year.

The Foundry Brew Pub  
White Horse Ln,
Canterbury CT1 2RU.
Tel: +44 1227 455899

The Old Buttermarket
39 Burgate,
Canterbury CT1 2HW.
Tel: +44 1227 462170

The Euston Flyer
83-87 Euston Rd,
Kings Cross,
London NW1 2RA.
Tel: +44 20 7383 0856


Mick said...

Ah Ron.If only I knew you were coming to Canterbury......

I could have shown you a couple little back street gems. One in particular which always has a great selection of beers in superb condition. A real old fashioned boozer with a warm welcome.


Thurston McCrew said...

Ron - how up to date is your Amsterdam Pub Guide ?
Asking for a friend.

Ron Pattinson said...


it's getting a bit dated. Mostly ony has the more traditional places in it.