Friday afternoon, a wonderfully sunny day, spring sprung and I’m thirsty for a pint. “You fancy a drive for a couple of beers?” I ask Lauren. “Okay.” She says to my happy surprise. I know where to go: The Royal Oak in Crockham Hill, the pub owned by Westerham Brewery. I want to go because I want to buy a couple of bottles of Viceroy IPA – one for me and one to send for Beer Swap – the beer they brewed for the National Trust using Little Scotney Farm hops.
The pub is about 11 miles away – a nice drive through the country. We arrive and it’s dark inside but that’s fine as it’s sunny and they don’t need the lights on yet. It’s 5.15pm on a Friday at the end of one of the weeks of the school holidays and, as I mentioned, it’s a gloriously lovely day. If any pub is going to do some good business it’s now, right? Apparently not... the pub was shut. Shut! Through the door I could see a few handpulls, all Westerham, all of them I wanted to drink. Dejected we went back to the car and pulled out of the empty car park.
On the way in, about a mile up the road, was a sign saying ‘BREWERY’. There’s only one brewery around this part of Kent so driving back we turned down the rough track road and headed to the barns at the end where the blue, red and white badge of Westerham watched over the surrounding farmland. We didn’t even get out of the car. That was also closed.
We ended up stopping at The Little Brown Jug where I had a pint of something with ‘Hopping’ in the name by Greene King (I think) and a pump clip with a rabbit on an actual spring, the kind of thing which would make the Parade.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long to find the bottles as we went to Tunbridge Wells on Saturday and in a farm store in town, which sells lots of local products, they had Westerham’s Viceroy IPA. Result.
Sunday and I cooked pollack, new potatoes and green beans with garlic and lemon and opened a Viceroy IPA in what is deserving of FABPOW status. The beer pours a wonderful orange with a fluffy head. A swirl and a sniff and there’s some fresh citrus, lemons and lime, underneath there’s peaches and flowers. A mouthful and it’s caramel, a spicy marmalade, smooth with a fruity, vibrant hop flavour, peaches, apricots, spicy malt, a floral perfume and just a hint of Orval-like peppery tartness (there’s something a little wild about the nose... but all in a good way). It’s very tasty with a similarity to Fuller’s Bengal Lancer. It was also perfect with the dinner, the lemon and garlic working a treat with the hops. If you visit any National Trust sites and you fancy a beer then check it out, it’s good.
Now I just need to work out when the Westerham pub and brewery are actually open so I can visit them properly...