"Micropubs" are an attempt to bring back the good old fashioned community boozer - no music, no fruit machines, no Fosters or Carling. Real ale is the focus, sometimes ciders as well. They are designed to encourage conversation amongst punters, rather than everybody sitting in their own groups on their mobile phones while the latest pop pap blasts out in the background. Micropubs are mainly in the South East, especially Kent, maybe because most of the pubs in the county are either chav infested booze barns or high end gastropubs, and places for a reasonable pint and a decent chat are getting thin on the ground. The movement doesn't seem to be making much impact in the North, maybe because their pubs aren't filled with insular southerners and a place were the punters are happy to have a chat with each other isn't such a hard thing to find.
One Inn The Wood is a new micropub that has opened in the quiet suburb of Petts Wood. The area already has two pubs - a Wetherspoons and The Daylight Inn. The Spoons is as average as they come, and The Daylight Inn is a cavernous pub which unfortunately attracts a slightly unsavoury crowd - there always seem to be an edge to the atmosphere when I visit. One Inn The Wood fills the gap between the two pubs quite nicely - less likely to get stabbed by the punters than in the The Daylight Inn, less grubby than the Spoons. Clearly a place like this was needed as it was busy on a Saturday night, punters overspilling on to the pavement. Of course the place is small so the crowds seem bigger - in the Spoons the crowd would barely be noticeable. I visited with a friend and we had to enjoy our first few drinks outside but later on in the evening we managed to grab a space on one of the comfortable benches that line the side of the pub.
The layout is clever, with seating along the sides and high chairs encouraging people to have a chat. A no mobile phone rule encourages mingling. A small selection of pub games were available and the manager bought out a Shove Ha'penny board for us to have a play on. I didn't win because I've got the dexterity of a drunk bat. A small selection of food is also available comprising of good old fashioned pub stodge - pork pies, sausage rolls and cheese. Perfect for sopping up the beers and getting a healthy dose of gout.
The beers were excellent. It's served from a cold room behind the bar, a glass door allows punters to see the booze being poured. Beers were being served quickly, efficiently and always with a smile. All the beers are from Kent breweries, and five were on offer. Four ciders were also available. I would mention that cider is a terrible drink that tastes like apple juice gone horribly wrong and is only suitable for schoolchildren hanging outside an off license asking grumpy punters to buy them a bottle of White Lightning, but the last time I insulted cider drinkers I got a response so vehement I was afraid I was going to get kidnapped and wake up in a filthy bathtub in Somerset missing my kidneys.
I tried every beer on offer - for research purposes of course. Genesis from Goody's was a good start, a refreshing, easy drinking bitter - the perfect session ale. Silver Top from Old Diary was an excellent stout which went down very smoothly indeed with lovely coffee flavours. Clarence & Fredericks IPA was the only disappointment of the night. I've enjoyed their beers in the past but this one was lifeless with no punch to it. I think it needed a little more conditioning. Pow Wow from Mad Cat Brewery was a return to form - excellent grassy, crisp flavours which got better with every sip.
I managed to get the last pint of Rockin Rio before it ran out, and I was glad I did as this was a slightly spicy treat. The Kentish Best from Millis which came on to replace the Rio was a fine, if unexciting, drop to finish the night on. The atmosphere was jovial throughout the night, and even at 10:30pm when we left the place still had a buzz to it. I really enjoyed my time at One Inn The Wood - my only wish is that it was a little bigger - but then it wouldn't be a micropub I suppose. Well worth a visit if you're in the Petts Wood area.