CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 7 Hythe Pubs

Previous Pint Pleasures - February 28, 2000

Guinness Eileen

The Globe Inn, 6-8 High Street, Hythe, Kent

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The Swan Hotel, 59 High Street, Hythe, Kent

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The White Hart, 71 High Street, Hythe, Kent

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The Kings Head, 117 High Street, Hythe, Kent

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The Butt of Sherry, 132 High Street, Hythe, Kent

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The Bell Inn, 1 Seabrook Road, Hythe, Kent

Guinness Eileen

The Dukes Head, 9 Dymchurch Street, Hythe, Kent

Several columns ago I suggested the idea of conducting a pub crawl across the Romney Marsh on the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Miniature Railroad. But I neglected to mention Hythe, the northernmost junction which lies on the eastern edge of the marsh. A pleasant little town often swarming -- and traffic-clogged -- with tourists and retirees, Hythe was one of the original Cinque Ports (along with Hastings, Romney, Dover, and Sandwich). The oldest building in Hythe is believed to date back to the 1100s. There's even a famous grave in the Hythe churchyard which I have yet to visit: that of Lionel Lutin, inventor of the lifeboat.

But the most notable thing about Hythe is that for a small town it's practically overflowing with pubs. I'll mention just a handful here.

The best by far is The Globe Inn located at the top end of the high street. This Shepherd Neame pub has won numerous awards for its fine cellar and real ales. Having previously reviewed all of Shepherd Neame's regular and seasonal ales, all of which are quite good, there's no need to repeat myself for the Globe's sake; suffice it to say our pints of Original Porter (4.5% ABV), Spitfire (4.5%), Bishops Finger (5.2%), and Goldings Summer Hops Ale (4.7%, all from Shepherd Neame, Faversham, Kent) have all been anywhere from quite acceptable to thoroughly enjoyable. Proprietors Pete and Gill also offer a wide range of malt whiskies and wines by the glass. This is an excellent pub for cosying up to the bar for conversation, joining in on communal crossword puzzles and quiz questions, and for escaping your rest home if you happen to be a spunky elderly lady who enjoys dressing up in lavender and having a sherry or three or four. A sign on the menu chalkboard says "Mieux Vaut Boire Ici Qu'en Face", undoubtedly referring to the notorious Red Lion across the way.

Further on down the High Street you'll come to The Swan Hotel. Recently remodelled, the Swan features ensuite rooms, a pub, and a full restaurant. The interior of the pub is elegantly pleasing with a dark green and yellow colour scheme. The restaurant boasts a vast menu featuring specialities such as tandoor monkfish or duck, but unfortunately the quality of the food can be spotty. For lunch one day I had a tasty salad along with a disappointing jacket potato with Stilton cheese and apple; on another occasion our service set the current Kent lunchtime record for slowness.

Unfortunately the real ale at the Swan is served chilled, which always detracts from the strong flavour of our pints of Abbot Ale (5.0%, Greene King, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk), and the last time we stopped in the beer wasn't in very good condition anyway. Painted on one wall of the pub is the following: "E'en Swans seem whiter when black Crows be by." Are they referring to the Black Crowes?

Smack in the center of the High Street is the White Hart, another pub with a yellow and green colour scheme -- in fact, the colours are so bright and the red-patterned carpet so jarring you get the feeling you're sipping a pint in a Middle Eastern garage -- not that I've been in that many Middle Eastern garages, mind you. If you stop here for lunch I wouldn't advise ordering a sandwich unless you happen to be a lumberjack or marathon runner. Actually, I wouldn't really suggest stopping here at all since I wasn't that impressed with the beer. Our pints of Ind Coope Burton Ale (4.8% ABV, Marston, Thompson, & Evershed, Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire) were a bit on the turn, a taste experience akin to having an irritating thumbscrew immersed in your pint.

Further on down the High Street you'll reach The Kings Head. This pub, although recently remodelled, is still somewhat plain and smoky, but it's a comfortable place nevertheless. The current landlord who is originally from Belfast is trying very hard, although the service in the busy restaurant could improve. The full menu features some nice lunches and appetizers, though I've been told by my carnivorous friends to stay away from the ham sandwich. On our first visit here we had a fairly average pint of Shepherd Neame Master Brew (3.7% ABV), drinkable but nonmemorable. To be honest I think the problem with Master Brew is that I've become quite bored with it, so I think I won't review it anymore. On succeeding visits we've opted for pints of Spitfire (4.5% ABV), a nice change from Master Brew: strongish and crunchy, a sweet-charactered beer with a bitter streak running through.

One thing I can say in favour of the Kings Head is that the barstools have backs to them. I greatly appreciate pubs which offer such comfort for my pint-hoisting weary back.

Across and down a bit from the Kings Head is the amusingly-named Butt of Sherry, a cosy historic pub consisting of two small bars which snuggle cosily around the center area. The food menu is impressive -- the scampi tails are excellent. The fact that our pints of Wadworth 6X (Wadworth & Company Ltd., Devizes, Wiltshire) were slightly chilled was okay by me, since this was the best pint of 6X I've had so far -- a relief in this world of questionably-kept beers. The fact that we could actually detect the cask breather didn't worry us, either; in this case the device was welcome, presenting us with a drinkable pint which otherwise may not have been. Regardless of what CAMRA says, there is a place for cask breathers in this world.

The High Street isn't the only place you'll find pubs in Hythe. Out on the main road you'll come to The Bell Inn, one of 1600 establishments across Britain run by the PubMasters group. The first time we stopped in here last year the pub was busily advertising its £35-a-head Millennium Party including bar, buffet, and jukebox. Judging by the disappointing New Millennium Eve parties around the globe, especially in my hometown of Seattle, and the fact that the London Millennium Eye has yet to carry passengers on its inaugural revolution -- and the fact that the food at the Bell is overpriced and ordinary and the beer is disappointing -- I wonder how successfully their party turned out. Perhaps they have a superior jukebox; I haven't actually checked it yet. But our pints of Flowers Original Strong Bitter (4.4% ABV, Boddingtons Strangeways Brewery, Manchester) were served too cold and were acrid and yeasty anyway, feeling watery on my tongue like the bad perfume worn by the young woman next to us. (What is that alluring aroma -- Eau de mothball?) Anyway, this was a great disappointment because I've been assured this can be a very nice pint when kept properly.

Up on the other end of Hythe is The Dukes Head. This is a rather run-of-the-mill pub, but we did have a pleasantly entertaining conversation with a world-trekking barmaid one afternoon. Our pints of Abbot Ale (5.0% ABV, Greene King, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk) were pleasantly drinkable, and the pints of Tetley's (3.7% ABV, Carlsberg-Tetley Brewing Co., Leeds, West Yorkshire) we followed with were reasonably good pints for the South. This is a definite plus, since it's a real challenge to get a decent, drinkable pint of Tetley's outside of Yorkshire.

I suppose I should explain what a cask breather is. This is a device which allows a volume of gas into the cask to replace the beer as it's drawn off. What this accomplishes is the prevention of oxidation and overmaturity, making beers that have shorter shelf lives and that aren't turned over fast enough last longer. Opponents of the system complain that the beer ends up tasting faintly carbonated and that this simply isn't a traditional or honest way to treat real ale. Proponents of the system cite the device as a boon for pubs which simply can't turn their real ale over very quickly; they have a longer time over which they can offer a pint of real ale which is drinkable and good. Personally I'm happy to see a system like this which will prevent the occasional pint of beer in the occasional pub from destroying my pleasure. I simply have no tolerance for a pint of real ale which has gone off.