CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 3 Folkestone Area Pubs

Previous Pint Pleasures - January 30, 2001

guinness eileen

The Lifeboat, 42 North Street, Folkestone, Kent

guinness eileen

The Nailbox, The Wilderness, Coolinge Lane, Folkestone, Kent

guinness eileen

The Royal Oak, New Dover Road, Capel-le-Ferne, Kent

It's hard to believe I hadn't discovered the Lifeboat until recently. I suppose I was avoiding this CAMRA-approved pub because of the stories I'd heard about the possibility of the landlord giving up on real ale. Also, during a brief visit last year, the prices were a bit over the top, and this is the direction in which I assumed things were going.

But how wrong could I be? The Lifeboat is a great pub with great real ale and friendly conversation, and I'm sorry I didn't discover it earlier. Located on a quiet corner near the Folkestone harbour, it's a small square pub dominated by a bar which makes for lively pub conversation. On the Saturday afternoon of our first visit it rapidly filled with real ale lovers celebrating the weekend, and a large number of canines were in attendance as well.

We had pints of Stonehenge Pigswill (4.0%, Stonehenge Brewery, Salisbury, Wiltshire). On the chalkboard someone had cleverly changed this to "Pigswilly", which gives it a completely different slant. It's a nice drop with a rather plain introduction which quickly develops its bitterness, a bitterness encased in parentheses -- like a phrase in an advanced mathematical formula. Seeing as how this beer is brewed on the Salisbury Plain not far from Stonehenge, could this be a calculation of time and seasons? Rumour has it the brewery lies on a if we take the cosine of the alcohol by volume and run it through the hand pump, we could end up with the exact time of tomorrow's sunrise in Bangkok, if a butterfly happens to flap its wings in Topeka, Kansas, at the same exact moment Venus and Mars are in trine over Stonehenge. If we'd had time for a couple more pints we could have easily come up with a new Theory of Irrelativity.

Our second visit was on a quiet Wednesday afternoon. Andrew had a very nice pint of Ruddles County Bitter (4.7%, Morland, Abingdon, Oxfordshire) and I tried a pint of Ridley Blizzard (4.5%, td Ridley & Sons Ltd., Chelmsford, Essex), which has a nice, dark, roasty flavour suggestive of a warm fire in a ski lodge. On the pub clip is a drawing of a snowclad skier -- but this was a sunny day and the weather was warmer than it had been recently. So I had to stretch my imagination a bit.

The Lifeboat has a very interesting-looking food menu, too, short but reasonably priced. I'm very tempted by the calamari with garlic dip (£2.25) and the smoked salmon rolls with Port Stilton Pate (£3.75). Ahh, to future lunch dates...

Over near Folkestone West Rail Station is the Nailbox. Situated opposite what was once a builder's workshop, this Shepherd Neame pub has only Master Brew and Spitfire on tap. But, like all Shepherd Neame ales, Master Brew (3.7% ABV, Shepherd Neame, Faversham, Kent) can be a very welcome pint, especially after having spent the afternoon driving around in an oblique circle between Lyminge, Posling, and Etchinghill in search of some seemingly nonexistent pub. The Nailbox is another small pub, with a pool table in one bar and friendly chat in the other. There's a beer garden out back if you prefer a little privacy. Seeing as how you must exit the front door and wind your way down the drive and past the rear car park in order to get to the beer garden, you can expect a good deal of privacy. This is perfect for romantic trysts, secret agent meetings, and other clandestine affairs; I think I'll stick to the conviviality inside if you don't mind...

Just north of Folkestone in Capel-le-Ferne, across from the White Cliffes Caravan Park, is the Royal Oak. This split-level free house was built in 1611 as a farmhouse and, after being passed through several families, finally opened as a pub in 1930. There's a pool table in the larger room in back, and pictures of guide dogs all over the walls. It's often full of locals and was quite packed on the Friday afternoon of our first visit some months back, when everybody there (except for us) seemed to be dressed in white and off-white. A cribbage game was in progress and lively conversation prevailed. As an old black dog with a thick tail slept on the floor near us we sat at a table under a sign which said we were seated at 51° 06' 13" North, 01° 13' 56" East, at a height of 447 feet 7 inches (136.436 meters) above sea level. These coordinates, of course, had a profound effect on our pints of Bateman's XXXB (4.8%, George Bateman & Son Ltd., Wainfleet, Lincolnshire), perhaps making them a quarter of a degree cooler than perfect. Still, it was an interesting pint, malty yet bitter, calming, a bit like floating in water on your stomach, your face submerged, mouth open, lethargically puffing water in and out of your mouth...

On a visit one busy Saturday afternoon we had pints of Master Brew (3.7% ABV, Shepherd Neame, Faversham, Kent). The small bar was full of locals and there was the distinct feeling of camaraderie. Considering the isolation of the pub this proves it's an excellent community-supported venture, a good thing to see in this day of rapidly vanishing village pubs. As we sipped our pints we watched the results of the meat raffle drawing and then people playing Shut The Box, a communal dice game. And the same old dog was sleeping nearby...

Lifeboat Updates
(Last updated 7th January 2002)
Royal Oak Updates
(Last updated 1st October 2001)