A SEARCH FOR SUPPABLE BEER IN SOUTHBOROUGH

Loads of posts from (checks notes) Alton Towers, Wigan, Darwen, Bodfari, Cambridge, Bridport and Tonbridge to come, but here’s one from this very night, while I remember.

All the relevant points of interest there, including Pashmina Pauline Mansions (there’s a new GBG pub in Maidstone, must go).

I’ve mentioned Southborough’s Imperial (the ONLY real pub in town) before, but every time I visit there seems to have been another transformation. On my visits I end up driving so never get the chance to properly score the beer. This time we’re staying over in the spare bedroom as Mrs RM enjoys the in-laws internet, so I get an actual pint.

It looks properly pubby in the dark, and impressive earlier in the light. A top class transformation, says my father-in-law.

I’s really fancied a Spitfire, but felt oddly worried by the lone handpump with the Whitstable Bay clip turned round and a keg range saved only by Neck Oil. And what on earth is Spitfire Lager etc. etc.

Note the grim determination with which our casketeers approached their Spitfires, served in thin glass and resembling what I can only describe as “cold tea“. It’s fine said a stoical mother-in-law, no doubt aware that the coveted “#PubMan of the Year” award is still up for grabs.

Mrs RM and I switched to Beavertown, which was very tasty but fizzier than you’d hope, and you can only spend so long rubbing a beer glass against your groin to warm it up before the Tunbridge Police get called.

It was all fine, great to chat in a pub rather than a house, their pizzas are REALLY good, and the staff are lovely.

But I really fancied something other than cold tea or fizzy craft, and the small fridge seemed to boast only Crabbies, Rekorderlig and Heineken 0.0.

What happened to pub fridges with exotica like Gold Label ? Or Sam Smiths fruit beers. Or Mackesons Milk Stout ?

While the Spencers slunk up the lane home, I popped in Southborough’s Tesco Express. A large bottle of Leffe, Doom Bar, or Proper Job. Blimey, Proper Job is overrated, but then drinking beer at home IS a mortal sin so I got what I deserved.

At least they had cheap chocolate buttons.

16 thoughts on “A SEARCH FOR SUPPABLE BEER IN SOUTHBOROUGH

    1. That is absolutely true.

      Tricky one too, as if the beer tastes like “cold tea” am I suggesting a sparkler ? Certainly Master Brew can still be a lively, fresh beer, as good as Adnams or Harveys but you’d have to be very lucky.

      Spitfire is one of the few real ales that would have any brand recognition among the population in the south.

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      1. That got me thinking, what brands might have such recognition – amongst the general occasional pub going majority of the population, rather than the professional drinkers – whether they themselves ever drink cask or not, in the South of England. For purposes of this have drawn an almost straight line from Ipswich through Milton Keyes to Hereford, which might be contentious – Brackley, Gloucester and Hereford itself play in the National League North 🙂.

        Both Doom Bar and Greene King IPA are so ubiquitous that they the obvious starting point.

        For the similar reason that one sees it an awful lot, maybe Abbot. But it falls (just, at 5.0%) outside the range that research shows a great swathe of drinkers see as ‘normal’ cask beer.

        Would then suggest London Pride. Fullers pubs stretch further than one assumes, west to Bristol and north as far as Birmingham. And Pride pops up in many a non-Fullers pub.

        Bombardier? Plenty of TV advertising. The one suspect stuck in most people’s mind, with Rik Mayell, was around a decade ago now, but they did continue pushing it, if less impactfully e.g. with Bob Mortimer.

        Tribute? A beer that has very successfully pushed out from its heartland in the South-West, and now appears all over the place across the south. Particularly frequently crops up in the non-specialist pubs with two or three handpumps where the landlord wants something the customers will recognise (so not Hipster & Beatnik Brewing’s Onion Bhaji Double IPA) but also isn’t a Big Brewer option.

        Maybe a decade ago would have suggested Pedigree for the list. But by common opinion the rebranding was a bit of a disaster; and Marston’s has seemingly now lost interest in it. Had a quick look at the sales figures – been seriously declining.

        Ruddles Best? Probably not. For whatever reason, seems to decreasingly appear across Greene King pubs and is increasingly confined to Spoons. Any other beers people can think of that cross the whole region widely?

        Then thought about smaller areas within the South. Know it’s fashionable to bewail a disappearance of beer localism – there’s been whole books written focusing on it – but maybe it’s still clinging on? Would our non-professional non-dedicated-to-cask occasional pub goer in Wiltshire instantly have brand recognition of say, 6X? In Suffolk, of Ghost Ship? Across east Dorset, Hampshire and into West Sussex, of Tanglefoot? In East and West Sussex and into southern Surrey, of Sussex Best?
        This supposition of more local brand recognition may reach breaking point when it comes to the lucky folks of the Cotswold’s and their Donnington’s though.

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      2. Great comment.

        Hard to argue with any of that. Some brands that folk visiting dining pubs would have recognised 10-20 years ago have lost their place at the bar, like 6X, Pedigree and Tanglefoot.

        And beers that regular pub goers like us see as ubiquitous wouldn’t be recognised by the average occasional pubgoer. I’ve heard Old Boys confounded by the sight of TT Landlord, let alone Ghost Ship.

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    1. Thanks. Wish you’d been there; not for the beer, but the observational aspect of small-town English pub. Most tables set for non-existent diners, only a few stools for drinkers (none actually at the bar), a sense the traditional Old Boy popping in for Carling or Master Brew or Guinness has gone. But as I say, a lovely looking spot for a pizza or fish stew.

      I’m sure my mother-in-law would make you cake and my father-in-law would research your family tree.

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  1. Thanks for putting me on the map -not been to this pub though -we tend to avoid the Sheps ones for some reason -probably because it is the beer served at Mr Sharps bowls club where he works on the bar occasionally.. .The Spitfire lager has been gong down well this year though

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  2. The “small English pub,” that is the Imperial, is run by a Polish couple. I know this because the Polish lab technician, who worked for me until my recent change of job title, told me some friends of hers took over the pub, several months before the start of the pandemic.

    I’m pleased to learn from your report, that they are doing OK, and I showed her some of the photos from your post, in order to prove it.

    Unfortunately, it’s now the only pub left in Southborough, unless you include the Hand & Sceptre Hotel, overlooking the cricket green, the other pubs having all now closed (Bat & Ball, Beehive, Crown, Flying Dutchman, Royal Oak and Weavers) within the last three decades. I’m sure Christine and/or her parents, will remember some of these establishments).

    Southborough, and virtually the whole of that stretch of the A26 between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells, has morphed into McCarthy & Stone-ville, with their God-awful retirement flats, spreading like a disease, along the main thoroughfare. A whole host of different properties, and businesses, have been demolished to make way for these places, and with the former Maidstone & District bus garage in the final stages of being razed to the ground, McCarthy & Stone haven’t finished yet.

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