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Previous Pint Pleasures - August 22, 2001

Rose & Crown Old Romney's First Annual Beer Festival, August 4-5, 2001

Although there are several excellent pubs scattered here and there around Romney Marsh, most of them tend to be clustered in the west. This makes the Rose & Crown in Old Romney a thankful oasis for the Marsh's eastern coastal area. Like the Red Lion in Snargate, every real ale lover in East Kent seems to know about the Rose & Crown. Not only do they offer a nice selection of real ales, including one of the best-kept pints of London Pride outside of London, but they do decent food and offer accommodation as well, with a recently added conservatory providing additional seating space.

Recently the Rose & Crown hosted its very first Beer Festival. Fifteen real ales from local breweries were featured. It was a blustery rainy Saturday when we stopped in. Braving the gale-force wind which greeted us as we huddled under the festival marquee, we quickly bought our first pints and hurried into the sanctuary of the pub itself. Although the festival had just begun the lunchtime crowd was lively and most people there were drinking real ale.

My friend Andrew's first pint was Young's AAA (4% ABV, Young & Co Brewery, London). He described this pint simply as "Cracking!" And it is indeed: hoppy with a good Young's aftertaste, almost that of burgundy -- in other words very, very nice. My tastebuds were a bit dried out from my pint of Freeminer Bitter (4% ABV, Freeminer Brewing Ltd, Coleford, Gloustershire). This is a nostalgia-producing beer for me, very much like the super hoppy IPAs of the Pacific Northwest. I was instantly jetted back through time and space to my Seattle locals, drinking the deliriously hoppy Ananda IPA at McMenamin's or the Pike Pub's own IPA. As I found true of my favourite Seattle beers, this would be a perfect beer to follow a good espresso. (Does that seem like a strange idea? Hey, I'm from Seattle, Land of Walking Espresso Fiends, where it's not unusual in the least to intersperse your pints with double shots of espresso. Go figure.)

Our second and sadly final round (due to the need to drive) included a pint of Pigswill (4.1% ABV, Fuller, Smith, and Turner, London) for myself. I had originally planned on a pint of Freeminer Celestial Steam Gale but the beer had gone off. I've had Pigswill before, and all I can really say about it is it's simply a decent session beer. And I mean that wholeheartedly.

Andrew's second pint was Caledonian 80/ (4.1% ABV, Caledonian Brewing, Edinburgh) . This is a very nice drop indeed! It's a traditional Scottish heavy! Yum -- this is definitely the kind of malt I can handle: not treacly at all, just nice and warm like a thickly carpeted nook by a roaring fire in a big brick hearth. I realize this is not the best image for an August day, but for the palate it's a wonderful environment any time of year.

For my American readers that "/" in the 80/ means "shillings", which were a previous form of currency here in England. Since I didn't visit the UK until the 1980s, when they had already switched to the decimal system of currency, I've always been amazed at the average English adult's ability to calculate in schilling arithmetic as opposed to something much more sensible. Apparently the shilling was equal to 12 old pence or 5 new pence -- and this was back when the pound was worth a whole lot more to the dollar than it is today. There were 20 shillings to the old pound and 5 shillings to the crown, making a half crown equal to 2 shillings 6 pence. A ten-bob note equalled 10 shillings, a florin was equivalent to 2 shillings (or one-tenth of a pound, just to complicate things unnecessarily), and a tanner was a sixpence. They still use shillings in Tanzania, Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda, although they're the main unit of currency, divided up into cents. Does this all make cents -- er, sense?

The really confusing part is why this particular beer is called 80/, which is equivalent to £4.00 (or US $5.81, or 6.33 Euros, as of this particular moment). That's way too expensive for a pint of beer, even in London. Fortunately this particular pint cost less than £2.00...