The next leg of my mission to finish the southern Beer Guide counties took in Hailsham and Lewes.
You can see Lewes lying like a box of toys under a great amphitheatre of chalk hills … on the whole it is set down better than any town I have seen in England.
Even without its brewery it would be an essential visit. I’m surprised Lewes isn’t better known, or better served by budget hotels. There is nowhere that can’t be improved by a Premier Inn and Beefeater combo, perhaps in Lewes on the site of that derelict castle at the front of the photo below.
I did a heroic trip round the Harvey’s pubs a few years back, and recommend Paul Bailey’s blog if you want more detail on those. Paul doesn’t mention the Chinese takeaway (in my Top 10) near the Lewes Arms though.
Each year sees a new Beer Guide entry, and this year it’s a Greene King pub. You wouldn’t know that from the frontage, or the South-East London pubby feel, or the beer range. I’m not a fan of GK pubs, but they do have a few crackers new to the Beer Guide this year (e.g. Duncombe in Hertford, Carlton in Pontefract), and they’re not all Local Heroes either.
The pub had a good mix of lunchtime drinkers, but I can only put the quality of the Burning Sky Plateau (NBSS 4, a rarity) down to cellarmanship. Burning Sky make great beer, but it needs to be served as cool and sparkling as this was.
I’d been looking forward to a Harveys in Hailsham, and the King’s Head is as close to a basic Harveys boozer as I’ve seen anywhere. I had to wait an hour though, as the pub has joined the ranks of those giving up on lunchtime opening (the landlady shamed me by listing her morning chores undertaken while I dossed about).
Unless you’re doing food (only weekends here), drinking only starts mid-afternoon now There are, of course, exceptions to that rule;
The wait gave me the chance to explore Hailsham. Apart from that excellent Wetherspoons It might seem a bit of a letdown if you visit after Lewes, but there are some gorgeous buildings including this;
OK, they’re mainly pubs. I did find the town very friendly though, including a second cheery Costa in a week.
Almost as cheery as the King’s Head, where the buzz of chat started pretty quickly after I barged in on the stroke of 3 (is there an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t stand at a pub door waiting for opening time ?).
Just the one beer, but as some of our best free houses know, a good Harveys is hard to better. This pint was up there with the one at the Resting Hare (NBSS 4), and wiped memories of some fairly dull halves last week from my mind. A one-beer pub as basic as this probably wouldn’t get in the Beer Guide in some parts of the country.
QUIZ TIME – How long, to the nearest 5 minutes, did it take to walk back to Hailsham’s railway station ?
So that’s East Sussex for another year then. Any county with Hastings and Brighton is always going to provide some of the best pub walks of the year, but Hailsham may have just provided the best beer.
BRAPA point. I thought the King’s Head looked familiar, and the CAMRA award banner (from 2011) was a further hint that this wasn’t a Beer Guide first time. But it wasn’t till I got back to The Spreadsheet that I realised I’d already done this. A great return visit.