I mentioned my visit to Ramsgate in an earlier post and rather than bore you with, "We went here and drank this" I'll stick to a few basics which illustrate a bigger picture. Ramsgate has a lot of friendly pubs and friendly people. Every pub we went in to had someone keen to talk to us. OK Nick is an American and attracts the "nutter on the bus" types, but even allowing for that, we did rather well on the chatting front. It was like being in pubs of yesteryear, with very mixed clientèles making the visit pleasant by including us. Perhaps it is that inclusiveness that is most missing from pubs nowadays as the market has fragmented and segmented into particular types sticking to particular pubs.
Secondly - and this is important - we didn't get a bad pint. In two tiny micropubs, including one in which we were the first customers, the beer was cool and well conditioned. That's important. That's not to say I liked every beer. I didn't. I particularly disliked and was disappointed by the so called replacement for Ind Coope Draught Burton Ale, also called Draught Burton Ale by Burton Bridge Brewery, which tasted nothing at all like the original and left me fuming about it, but that happens. This was in the second micropub of the day, the Hovelling Boat Inn which was simply superb. We were immediately included in the shouted banter with locals, one of whom travels frequently from Northampton just to be there. It is that good. Thirdly the prices. It wasn't uppermost in our minds, but most beers were around the £3 a pint mark which is pretty damn good for that part of the world.
Local beers were to the fore. Most beers were unashamedly brown. One landlord told us bluntly, but kindly that he didn't like golden ales. Well I might not agree, but at least what was on was good. I was particularly impressed by Gadds and by Westerham, but really, nothing was that bad at all. I liked the Ravensgate Arms where we exchanged good natured banter with the many bearded denizens, the Queens Head with its ornate front and craft keg, the Artillery Arms which could almost be described as a micropub and my favourite of them all the Montefiore Arms with its square bar, characterful locals, excellent Gadd's beer and a great atmosphere. I asked the landlady if a taxi could be ordered for me around 45 minutes before I needed it. "Best get one right away" she said "It's Bingo night!" Great stuff. I didn't enjoy the 35 minutes wait at the deserted station though.
Sometimes, as a pub man, I despair, but a visit to Ramsgate with its great pubs, good beer and above all smashing people, was a real tonic.
The other great thing about micropubs is selling simple things like filled rolls and pork pies. Just what you need, though in fact it was a local baker that sorted me out with a whopping corned beef and tomato crusty cob for £1.55. Splendid.
Worryingly the largest Wetherspoons in the UK is being built on the seashore. Hope that doesn't bugger it all up!
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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