My exploration of the Garden of England continued last weekend with a visit to Rochester. This was the first time I'd visited this quaint town on the banks of the River Medway. I was meeting friends there and we managed to cram in a few tourist attractions including the cathedral for tea, a look around the castle and the Guildhall Museum, a free museum detailing the history of the town which was worthwhile. It was all very pleasant and with the sun shining, the lovely market town scenery and the castles and cathedrals I felt like I was on a actual holiday, even though I was only a half hour train ride away from my house.
I wasn't there just there to look at the tourist sights, pubs were also on the agenda. First up was The Eagle Tavern, located on the high street and near the main attractions. This is a live music venue and the furnishing reflected this - very basic so it won't be too expensive to replace should a old rocker get a bit too excited and start smashing up tables and chairs in wild abandon. The beer selection was basic, no craft ales here, but my pint of St Austell Tribute was in good condition and was very refreshing. There was a simple food menu and a plate of chips soon arrived on our table. Although the atmosphere was a little dead at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, I can imagine this place would be good fun at night when the live music kicks off.
Next up was supposed to be a pub called the Britannia Bar Cafe, but I was warned by my friends that this pub was getting too close to Chatham for comfort, which apparently is a place best avoided by middle class wimps like myself who get nervous and cross the road when they see a young bloke in a hoodie heading towards them. Instead we went off the beaten track to a pub called The Good Intent. From the outside I did not have high hopes for this place - it looked like a generic council estate pub and not particularly appealing. If it wasn't in the Good Beer Guide I would have avoided it entirely. But with my sternest face I made my way in and was pleasantly surprised. A friendly bunch of locals were in and behind the bar were three gravity dropped casks of beer on offer. I went for the Skinners Spriggan Ale, which was a refreshing pale ale if a little light on flavour. I wouldn't make a special journey to this pub but it did exceed my expectations and for that I'm glad.
A pint and a game of pool done, we moved on to the final pub, the Man of Kent. I'd heard good things about this place. Walking in the place was packed, far busier than the previous two pubs we'd visited. A large number of handpumps were on display, all with beers from the Kent area. This is the CAMRA LocAle scheme taken to the extreme. Incidentally I really hate using the word LocAle - it just seems wrong to me and I just want to pronounce it as "Lock Ale."
First beer up from the wide selection on offer was a Goachers Extra Mild which wasn't the best example of a mild I'd had - it was a bit limp and the coffee flavour usually associated with a mild just wasn't coming through strong enough. It was definitely suppable, just not a knockout. The next beer, Golden Braid from Hopdaemon, was a disaster. Flat and lifeless, I had to choke this one down. Hopdaemon are usually very reliable so I don't know if it was supposed to taste like a muddy mess or if it was off. The pub itself was great - friendly service, comfy seating, jovial customers and even a dog. But I didn't particularly enjoy the beer I had there.
With the Man of Kent done and dusted it was back to sunny London for a visit to The Gowlett for a friends birthday. I haven't got much to say about this pub except that it's in the middle of nowhere nestled between East Dulwich and Peckham Rye, and that the beer selection was surprisingly boring considering the trendy area it's in. My pint of Moorhouse Black Cat and Harveys Best Bitter were fine but I was hoping for a bit more rather than the sub-Wetherspoons offering of ales. The pizza being served was magnificent though.
If all goes well I'll be writing about Maidstone pubs next Sunday, if not I'll be warbling on about some nonsense. See you soon.