LUSCIOUS LEWES

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Five points if you recognise the chap above.

Three points if you can explain why East Sussex gets it’s own chapter in the Beer Guide when, say, east Manchester doesn’t.

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Never mind, it’s good to complete another chapter, even if it is months after Pubmeister.

The highlight of East Sussex is, of course, Hailsham, where I had a stellar pint of Harvey’s last year. I appreciate this is a minority view.

But there’s few better ways to finish off a “county” than Lewes, one of England’s great towns.

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With the proviso that you never, ever, attempt to drive through it. It’s probably easier to walk from Brighton & Hove Albion’s charmingly named AMEC Stadium in Falmer than driving through the roadworks of Lewes. Speaking of which, the AMEC is probably closer on foot to Lewes than to Brighton seafront.

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Since my pub has wowser opening hours (noon) I did a meandering stroll up and down the lanes below the High Street for an hour. It’s the worst place to drive in the country, but one of the best to walk. Straight from the station you get steep hills, classic looking pubs,

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gorgeous architecture,

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and the peace of Southover Gardens.

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Despite a fair few appreciative Japanese tourists, presumably on day trips from Hailsham, the town still feels a bit underrated to me.

As a gorgeous and prosperous old town dominated by a well regarded old family brewer, Lewes has a lot in common with Bury St Edmunds. Bury similarly loses out in the tourist stakes to neighbouring honeypots like Cambridge and Stowmarket.

I’d come here just for the Chinese takeaway near the Lewes Arms and the sourdough bread shops all around town, never mind the Harvey’s.

There was a bit more scaffolding than usual, both around the brewery,

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and the legendary Lewes Arms.  Talking of which, I mentioned I’d be visiting Lewes to my father–in-law (“Grandad Tunbridge Wells” to my boys).  “You’ll be going in the pub that Greene King got in trouble over” was the first thing he said.

I wasn’t.  I was headed for the Rights of Man, the GBG newbie, and a pub I can’t believe I haven’t been in before, particularly given the location.

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Actually, mirroring Bury, the High Street itself isn’t quite as Harvey’s dominated as you’d guess.  The busiest place were the café bars and the Gardeners, the classic free house.

I joined a small but impressive queue of an elderly gent and a middle-aged Japanese tourist at 11.59.

Clearly bemused by the large cask line-up, our Japanese visitor did what I’d have done, and ordered a second pint of Wild Hop to leave the pumps by 12.01. Even more impressively (and you’ll know this is sincerely said), he counted out the £3.60 in exact change, before taking residence at the bar. #PubMan

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I should have followed that lead myself, but had to test the Best. Look at that head.

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There’s some lovely places to sit, but most of them had tell-tale napkins, so I plonked myself in a booth opposite the bar.

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If those seats look odd, it’s because they’re too small for sitting on; you have to lean. If you sit down you can’t see the bar. Weird.

Still, the Sussex was cool and challengingly bitter (NBSS 4), good enough to justify the trip. Not being a real #PubMan, I had calamari from the Tapas menu; that was even better.

Yes, this is a pub that appeals to the substantial Laura Ashley set. Yes, I did hear “Are you looking to eat with us ?” on several occasions.  And yes, tonic water and spritzers were the drinks of choice after that early run on the cask, but choice of drink is the Right of (Wo)Man.

 

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