Last weekend I was in Folkestone with Mikey. It was at least three years since I'd last been. The longest gap, probably, ever. Well, since we started going there.
Mikey went twice every year. I'd accompany him on at least one of those trips. I became weirdly fond of the place. Perhaps because of its ordinariness. And the really good chippy.
Andrew asked on my return: "What did you do other than hang around in pubs and cafes?"
"Nothing, really. Other than a little light shopping."
It genuinely was all breakfasts and beer. And the odd whisky.
Folkestone was reassuringly unchanged. Mostly. On the way to Wetherspoons I spotted a new place opposite. In a single shop unit, it had all the signs of a micro pub. And called The Beer Shop.
"Can we have one in here first?"
"I don't mind, Ron. It's your round."
Inside it was fairly Spartan and modern. But nice enough. Glancing at the bar, it looked like all evil keg. Luckily the blackboard listed one cask beer: Burning Sky/Verdant Rumour Mill. Mikey went for a Lost Pier chocolate and hazelnut Stout, the trendy bastard.
There were plenty of beards and tattoos. And a youngish middle-class clientele. Other than me and Mikey. As so often now, I was the oldest by a few decades. Not surprising our fellow drinkers were mostly middle class, given the prices. My - very good beer, refreshing but with plenty of hop flavour - was 5.10 a pint. Mikey's was north of 6 quid.
We only had the one. Then trudged over to Spoons. Where there was a very different vibe. A generally older crowd. Or better said: a greater variation in ages. Still plenty of tattoos. But a lot more baldy heads. And rather different types of beards. Cask beer at 2.10 a pint. Less than half the price over the road.
Basically a class divide. Middle class one side of the road, working class the other. Separated by price. Where were me and Mikey? Plumb in the middle of the road.
I originally ended the post here. Well, the paragraph before here, to be precise. Then I realised, while wandering the streets just now, that I hadn't written anything about how I felt about the two pubs. Here goes.
I felt comfortable in both. It was soon obvious in the Beer Shop that I was the oldest person by several decades. They were friendly enough and didn't seem to mind my oldie presence too much.
Though The Beer Shop only had one cask beer (why would I drink keg when I'm back in the UK?), it was really excellent. An absolute pleasure. The Broadside in Spoons was OK. Perfectly drinkable, but nowt special.
I'd have wrapped my face around several pints of Rumour Mill, but for one thing: the price. At £5.10 a pop, four or five pints could work out pricey. Especially with Mikey on something even more expensive. Sure, the Broadside over the road wasn't as nice. But not three quid less nice.And good enough.
When it comes to decor, the Spoons wins hands down. A really good conversion of a Methodist chapel which manages to be pub-like, while still obviously a former place of worship. Booths along either side break up the space and stop it seeming too cavernous.
What chance does The Beer Shop have in competing with that? I mean, it's a shop unit. And is still a shop, too. Fair enough that it looks like a shop. Not somewhere you could imagine spending a long afternoon watching racing on the telly and working your way steadily through a gallon of Bitter, accompanied by several double whiskies.
Which do I prefer? I can't really pick one. It all depends on what I want. If I was after a good session, it would be Spoons all the way. While if I wanted a really good beer, it would be The Beer Shop.
Diversity is a features of pubs I've always loved. You don't have to like every one of them. I'm sure there are plenty who despise some of the boozers I adore the most. Each pub has its own audience. (However much you might think that they are all-welcoming.) And you can be in multiple audiences.
The Beer Shop Folkestone
32 Rendezvous St,
Folkestone CT20 1EZ.
The Samuel Peto - JD Wetherspoons
23 Rendezvous St,
Folkestone CT20 1EY.