Eltham Palace is one those local gems that you may not visit often but you're glad it's there. It's strange to come across the grand palatial grounds nestled in the bland suburban sprawl of Eltham. I went inside the Palace grounds for the first time yesterday for their annual "Grand Medieval Joust" event, which was a lot of fun. The grounds had been turned into a full fledged medieval "faire", with plenty of stalls, activities, and portly men squeezed into chain-mail and armour. It was all entertaining and even better there was a beer tent, the aptly named "Stagger Inn" selling real ales and ciders. The beers were listed as "Tudor Tipple" and the "Stanley Surprise" but they were actually Bath Ales Gem and Barnsey, both of them in good nick. The chap behind the bar mentioned that he liked Gem because it travels well and is ready to go in three hours. The flavours backed up his claim, it was in great condition with plenty of subtle fruity flavours. If you're ever in Eltham take the time to visit the palace, it's well worth it and there's bugger all else to do in Eltham anyway (except maybe visit The Park Tavern or the Eltham GPO)
It's World Cup time and I've made the terrible mistake of watching the England games. What a frustrating experience it is, watching a shower of clowns attempting to work together and get a ball into the back of a pretty wide net. Now they're safely knocked out I'll probably not watch the rest of the cup as I'm one of those terrible people who only watches football during the World Cup or Euro championships, and only when England are playing. I just don't have the stamina to watch overpaid knuckleheads kick a ball around for ninety minutes of which about seven of those minutes contain any excitement, the boredom and the jealously of how much they're getting paid is too much for me.
I watched the first England game at the Baring Hall Hotel, which has really come along since my first visit there. It's become a true local gem, with friendly staff and an excellent selection of ales, although they have gone a bit cider crazy over the past few weeks. What I like about the Baring Hall is that even though it's the only pub in the Grove Park/Downham area it hasn't rested on its laurels and it is determined to offer a quality pub experience. They're now serving food and it's really good, and the beer is top notch. During the game I enjoyed a By The Horns Stiff Upper Lip and a Hastings Best, both of them in excellent condition and very tasty. Sadly the football wasn't anywhere as good as the beer, although it was fun and a little surreal being in a pub at 1am watching the football. I'd like the Baring Hall to make it into the Good Beer Guide this year, but I'd also like the place to be the little secret it is at the moment and not overrun with beardies hogging all the tables and selling the place out of pork scratchings.
The second England game I watched at home, using the terrible ITV Player, which meant having to watch a poor quality match in poor quality video - not exactly a winning combination. I had a top notch beer to "enjoy" the game with, Pressure Drop Stokey Brown. I'd forgotten just how rich and nutty this beer is, a great bitter and it makes such a nice change from the usual IPA's and Porters that flood the craft beer market.
Next week I'm hoping to pay a visit a new micropub which has opened not far from me in Petts Wood, One in the Wood. I was actually thinking of opening a micropub in Petts Wood before realising I'd be terrible at it and it would shut within days, so I'm interested to see how the micropub is doing. If I don't make it there I'm sure I'll find something else to witter on about next Sunday. See you then!