CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 5 Pubs in Hastings

Previous Pint Pleasures - April 3, 2000

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The Dripping Spring, 34 Tower Road, St. Leonards, East Sussex

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The King's Head, 25 Courthouse Street, Old Town, Hastings, East Sussex

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The Hastings Arms, 2 George Street, Old Town, Hastings, East Sussex

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The Havelock, 27 Havelock Road, Hastings, East Sussex

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Old Golden Cross, 56-57 Havelock Road, Hastings, East Sussex

Although Hastings' reputation as a charming seaside holiday spot has diminished in recent years, it's still a fun place to visit. You can hang out by the waterfront, stroll the streets of Old Town, spend the day at Alexandra Park, and there are a lot of other nearby sights to take in such as Bodium Castle and the towns of Battle and Rye.

And then there are the pubs. I've already reviewed two of the better ones -- the Stag and the First In Last Out, both in Old Town. Also in Old Town is the Kings Head, a historic neighbourhood pub near the seafront. Here we had a fairly average pint of Greene King IPA (3.6% ABV, Greene King, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk) -- not terribly exciting but drinkable. There is a nice collection of single malts available as well. Our visit was in November but there were already twinkling Christmas lights galore blanketing the old beamed ceiling, which is sort of like Old St. Nicholas bungee-jumping down a postmodern chimney. A chalk drawing of the Hastings waterfront runs along the length of the bar, and the pool table is refreshingly not very noisy.

Nearby is the Hastings Arms, an old pub dating from 1740 which does a large restaurant business. Our pints of Late Red Autumn Hops Ale (4.3% ABV, Shepherd Neame, Faversham, Kent), however, weren't very good. This is a fine beer but it really needs taking care of. And the food at the Hastings Arms was a bit boring as well.

Up in the center of town on a busy pedestrian corner is the Havelock. This city pub is quite attractively and richly decorated, with two entry doors, one which exits onto Havelock Road and the other which spills out onto the pedestrian walkway. One wall sports a large mural of warriors -- but is that a wall-sized Budweiser poster as well? Ah, well, there goes the atmosphere... The pints we had were acceptable but nothing to write home about. And before the Courage Best (4.0% ABV, Scottish Courage, John Smith Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire) was put on we had to settle for John Smith Smooth (3.8% ABV, John Smith's Brewery Tadcaster, North Yorkshire), a reasonable non-cask ale to go for when there is no real ale option. There seems to be a lot going on at the Havelock, with loud disco nights and wide-screen football afternoons. But we've heard there have been troubles here as well, so watch your step.

On the north end of Hastings in St. Leonards is a wonderful little find, the Dripping Spring. This backstreet pub has been voted the CAMRA Sussex Pub of the Year in 1999 and 2000. It doesn't have much in the way of atmosphere, with two snug rooms on each side of the bar. But this is a great place to drink a fine pint of real ale. The bartender was extremely friendly as well; she told us she didn't drink much real ale but was learning, and learning very quickly. Our pints of Cotleigh Brewery Tawny Bitter (3.8% ABV, Cotleigh Brewery, Wiveliscombe, Somerset) were served at the perfect temperature. This is a very smooth bitter, but otherwise it doesn't have too memorable a taste. Still it was welcome relief from the prospect of those pints of John Smith Smooth a couple of blocks away. (Thankfully the landlord of the first pub we stopped in, when noting our reaction after informing us of the lack of real ales, directed us down an alley or two to the Dripping Spring.)

Also on tap at the time we stopped in was RCH Old Slug Porter (4.5% ABV, RCH Brewery, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset) and Roosters Millennium (Rooster's Brewery, Harrogate, North Yorkshire). Soon to come were Blues (5% ABV, Rother Valley Brewing Co., Northiam, East Sussex), Chieftan, Californian, Otter, FFF Moondance (4.2% ABV, Tripple FFF Brewing Co., Alton, Hants.), Oakwell Bitter (4.0% ABV, Barnsley Brewing Co., Barnsley, South Yorkshire), Mendip Gold (4.5% ABV, Oakhill Brewery, Oakhill, near Bath), PG Steam (3.9% ABV, RCH Brewery), and Swale Ruby (Swale Brewery, Sittingbourne, Kent). If that seems like a lot, they've already had over 800 guest beers to date.

Although Hastings has several pubs well worth visiting, I'm also completely convinced it's the home of the worst pub in the south of England. No matter how much you're tempted never make the mistake of walking into the Old Golden Cross, located centrally on the corner of Havelock Road and Middle Street just kitty-corner from the rail station. Don't be fooled by the agreeable exterior of this town pub on a quiet afternoon; the place offers everything in seediness and mediocrity, from the seen-better-days decor with torn upholstery, dented walls, and food-and-crumb-strewn tables to the obnoxiously irritating cacophony belching simultaneously from the jukebox, TV, and all the fruit machines, not to mention crying babies and screaming kids if you time your visit just right. The beer is awful, too, and don't even dream they'd have such a thing as real ale on tap. If you spend your evening nearby in Havelock Road you can enjoy all the pub patrons stumbling around in the streets having drunken fights and yelling things at each other. Yes, this pub deserves some sort of award.