CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 4 Pubs East of Ashford

Previous Pint Pleasures - July 3, 2000

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The Farriers Arms, The Flood Street, Mersham, Kent

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The White Horse, 18 Kennington Road, Willesborough Lees, Kent

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The Woolpack Inn, Church Street, Smeeth, Kent

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The Duke's Head, Ashford Road, Sellindge, Kent

As Ashford is such a national as well as international junction, it's not surprising there would be a few pubs around the town. If you're in the southeast of England and are travelling, it's highly likely you'll find yourself at least passing through the area. Not only does Ashford boast the International Terminal where passengers catch the Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel to France, but it's also the junction of five railway routes leading from London to Folkestone, Canterbury, and Rye. And both the A20 and the busy M20 pass through as well.

There are a couple of reportedly excellent pubs right in Ashford, but I haven't had the chance to try them yet. I have tried four pubs east of Ashford, though, just down the motorway below the North Downs.

The Farriers Arms lies at the end of a country road in the village of Mersham. It's an attractive low-beamed place with a nice solarium and a garden looking out onto green fields and a mill stream. The Farriers used to be known for its pub meals and especially its Sunday carvery; but alas, as is often the case, the quality has gone down in past months. Still, it's a pleasant bucolic setting. One Sunday last year we had pints of Young's Special Bitter (4.6% ABV, Young & Co. Brewery, Wandsworth, London). This is a good straightforward bitter with a perfectly-balanced hoppiness and a good bitter aftertaste. It's a fine pint to drink while resting your eyes on fields of green, green grass under sunny autumn skies. Looking at the fields, I mean -- not literally resting your eyes on them. Ouch! That would be extremely painful, don't you agree? I suppose how painful depends on how many pints of Young's Special you choose to drink before taking a stroll (or a stagger) through those green, green fields. My advice is to enjoy the view from the Farriers and leave rolling in the grass for the kids.

On the other side of the motorway in Willesborough Lees you'll come to the White Horse, the kind of pub you can take your elderly mother to. The lunches are decent and quite generous and the atmosphere is calm. The first time we stopped by we had pints of Nimmos XXXX (4.4% ABV, Castle Eden Brewery, Hartlepool, Durham ). Named after the original Nimmos Brewery established in 1826 which was bought out by Whitbread in 1963, this beer is reminiscent of something else...another beer we had? Somewhere? Where? What? Have I been to this pub before? Did I drink this same exact pint? It's smooth, with a hint of...of...the smell of a pub, the smell of a beer...a mysterious, reminiscent taste, oblique and misty, which tickles the most primitive recesses in the brain's olfactory centre. It's definitely a déjà-vu beer. On our next visit we had pints of Beckets Best (Grimesdale Brewing Co., Ashford, Kent). The first pint out was bad, but it was exchanged with no problem by the friendly bartender for fresh pints. This is a Level Best-like beer, infused with hints of vegetable stew. It was served too cold but it was pleasant enough: lightish, like a river of vegetable stock slipping over the bridge of my tongue. I could even detect hints of pond pebbles and the sound of bullfrogs harrumphing nearby.

On down the motorway and off towards Brabourne Lees is the village of Smeeth and the Woolpack Inn. This pub offers tolerable real ale and reasonable food but is otherwise rather unimpressive. Here we had pints of Young's Ordinary Best Bitter (3.7% ABV, Young & Co. Brewery, Wandsworth, London). This is another fine beer and I've spoken about it before. But somehow drinking a pint at the Woolpack was rather an unmemorable fact I can't remember a thing about it. Is it from Woolpack-induced amnesia? Or is this simply a jamais-vu beer?

Further east on the motorway towards Hythe is the village of Sellindge and the Duke's Head. This is a pleasant, reasonably friendly pub featuring a pleasant conservatory dining room, and there's usually at least one interesting real ale on tap. On one visit we had pints of Mr. Grimesdales Bitter (3.5% ABV, Grimesdale Brewing Co., Ashford, Kent). This is an extremely nonremarkable beer; therefore I assume Mr. Grimesdale must be an extremely nonremarkable man, like the stocky bloke standing in front of you at the supermarket, or perhaps the plain bespectacled man in line beyond you at the bank. During the pre-Christmas season last year we had pints of Rosey Nosey (4.9%, George Bateman & Son Ltd., Wainfleet, Lincolnshire). Spotting the flashing light on the beer clip right on Santa's nose we half expected the beer to be illuminated as well . It was strong, orange, and distinctly a Bateman's ale, but there were no flashing lights in the pint itself. More recently we had pints of Tiger Best Bitter (4.3% ABV, Everard's Brewery Ltd., Narborough, Leicestershire). Although still not much in the way of a ferocious beer, this Tiger was better than previous pints I've had.

Speaking of déjá-vu beers and jamais-vu beers, why not brew ales which are intended to have a specific psychological effect on the brain? Other than the obvious effects of relaxation, pleasure, and well-being, we could drink sleeping beers to soothe us into a restful sleep, antidepressant beers to get over those hard times, mind-sharpening beers to help us think clearly, and beers brewed specifically to stem off anxiety attacks. Perhaps they could even brew beers which aid in certain psychological disorders -- it's just a matter of using the proper herbs in the hopping process.

Of course I suppose convincing clinics and hospitals that they should install some hand pumps would be a bit difficult...