Londoners have been escaping
to the Isle of Thanet for more that 200 years … for the laidback seaside vibe … breathtaking sandy beaches … fresh sea air … and romantic Turner skies …
Here at the very edge of the Garden of England, three Georgian and Victorian resorts, each
with its own distinctive character – Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate – cluster around the bays at the far end of the peninsula.
There’s a retro feel to these
harbour towns, with their remarkable 18th and 19th
century architecture, their classic seaside heritage and kitsch,
their eclectic attractions and live arts and music venues. And there is a
variety of independent places to
shop, eat, drink and stay.
Miles of low chalk cliffs
edge the peninsula, sheltering a string of secluded,
unspoilt sandy bays. Chalk rockpools,
chalk stacks and rare chalk reefs
teem with wildlife. These are the
closest surfing beaches to the
capital city: a popular choice with southeast boarders.
Artists, writers and musicians have long been inspired by this almost-island
… and continue to be drawn here. Turner said
Thanet had “the loveliest skies in all Europe” … for Dickens, Broadstairs was “the freshest, freest place” … and Tracey Emin declares in pink neon on Margate
seafront: “I never stopped loving you”.
The Isle’s a historic landing
place steeped in symbolism for the story of Britain …the first Saxons, Hengist and Horsa,
arrived and settled here … and St
Augustine first stepped onto these shores on his way to nearby Canterbury.
For this is the furthest
south east you can go in Britain … almost touching mainland Europe … yet these days only 75 minutes
from central London …
And now with the Turner
Contemporary gallery and high-speed
trains from the capital … a new
generation is discovering this original
A good friend of mine has a notion he's rather partial of, and he isn't afraid to verbalise it. It's about pubs and, unlike most of us who moan about what isn't right with them, he not only suggests a way to improve them, he proves his ideas work. And they've caught on around these parts, big time. I'll attempt to summarise his basic notion......
Pubs, as they've commonly been operated for the last couple or three decades, 'sell', say, 7 different things:
1. Cask ale.
3. Spirits and wine.
6. Live football.
What happens if you disregard the last 6 and sell only cask ale? Well, since you need no kitchen, and you can sell the pool table, you need a lot less space. And since you'll only attract cask ale drinkers you'll need less space again. Less space = lower rent, and lower rent = a lower break even turnover. Get the necessary turnover low enough and you don't need any staff either, you can cover all the necessary hours on your own.
So you end up with a small, one man business that sells only cask ale to cask ale drinkers. Overheads are very low, turnover below the vat threshold, staff costs zero and opening hours limited to those that suit the owner. That's all well and good but what's in it for the customer? Cask ale and conversation (hopefully both fresh). So what has the average cask ale drinker lost? Music, the smell of deep fried food and the threat of a pool cue round the head from a lagered up ne're-do-well - not a lot really, or so the notion goes.
The Mayor of Margate 'mashed' the 'Time Ball Special' brew in yesterday. Well, he posed for a photograph holding the brewhouse stick above the mash. Corporate snapper Sue Fisher commented "well, I tried to get him to smile but....".
Speedy Mark smiles whilst the Mayor does all the work.
The 3.9% bitter was brewed to help celebrate the re-balling of Margate's Time Ball that sits atop the Clock Tower on the seafront. The ball is dropped at precisely 1pm, helping all the watchless sailors in the harbour tell the time. First drop is on May 24th, at, funnily enough, 1pm.
Pears - there was real concern at a lack of bloom but it's looking good now.
Apples - very promising, though too much bloom is as bad as too little.
Cherries - could be good, could be very, very good.
It's the latter that interests me - a bumper crop gives me the opportunity to nick in early and grab a half tonne of lower grade fruit, pop it in some oak casks with a mild wheat beer and seal it up to mature for 6 or 8 months. This time next year we could be cracking bottles of deliciously sparkling Kentish Kriek.
That's the sunny outlook, of course the crop could be devastated by storms overnight and we get nothing. Such is a life living off the land.
Anyone remember when that most British of beer styles, India Pale Ale, was brewed with British hops? You know, when it was more class & balance and less grapefruit & lychee? Here in east Kent we get an annual handy little reminder in the late winter, when the East Kent Goldings arrive fresh (dried) from the merchants - it's our excuse to go a little overboard with indigenous hops. The result is a smooth, gently lemon-honeyed hoppy ale with a quietly nagging, moorish, dry bitter finish.
If it's a high IBU 'hop forward' tropical fruit flavoured modernista boundary-pushing rate-beerian stylebar cockt'ale you crave, go somewhere else (a long way away). If you want a decent pint, step right this way.
I'm Eddie Gadd, Head Brewer of the Ramsgate Brewery on the East Kent Coast. I've been in the Biz for nearly 20 years, working for the big and the small, the greedy and the good. And now that I only work for myself I can say what I like, which is what I do here.
All requests, the odder the better, are given full consideration. email the shop Pictures of the Brewery, the Shop, the Beers and local Pubs Photo Album Cyclops Tasting Notes for our regular cask ales are all here.