New Year, and time for resolutions. In 2013 I have vowed to get outside and take far more exercise. Nothing too strenuous, mind, just a regular stroll and a chance to stretch the legs.
And what better excuse to get out and about than the promise of tracking down the very best real ale pubs the south east has to offer.
Our walk today began at Walmer station. Turning left onto Station Drive, we walked a short footpath onto Court Road, where we passed Deal Victoria & Barns Close Cricket Club on our right before meeting the junction with Salisbury Road.
Turning right onto Salisbury Road, we carried on to Granville Road which we followed across the main Dover Road and on towards the sea. Here we met the main seafront path and took a bracing walk along the shore past boat huts and the castle to Deal.
Passing Deal Pier, we then took a turn inland on King Street and after about 100 yards reached our first stop, The Just Reproach.
Opened in December 2011, The Just Reproach is one of a number of micropubs that have sprung up across East Kent in recent years. The philosophy is clear: great beer, good company and none of the distractions that have come to blight so many pubs over the years.
(I welcome any suggestions in the comments below as to what the initials ‘NFL’ etched on the pub’s window might stand for.)
Entering the one-room ale house, we were greeted by a crowd of around ten drinkers and landlord Mark Robson. Taking a seat on a raised bench against the far wall, we began our afternoon’s drinking with halves of Ripple Steam Brewery’s Black IPA (5.8%) and Plain Ales Brewery’s Sheep Dip (3.8%).
My companion always favours an in-your-face hoppiness in her beer, and was not disappointed by the Sheep Dip. I enjoyed the Black IPA, but would normally prefer something a little maltier. But both were excellent brews – as one would expect in a micropub where the emphasis is on decent beer.
As our first round came towards a close the bell for last orders was rung, and a combination of our lie in and Mark’s 2pm Sunday closing time meant we had to act fast to get in halves of Hopdaemon’s Skrimshander (4.5%) and Old Dairy Brewery’s Red Top (3.8%).
We enjoyed our drinks with a plate of Canterbury Cobble, an unpasteurised British Friesian cows’ milk cheese. And this was accompanied by some locally-sourced pickled onions – which were offered on the house for a small donation to a local charity.
By this point the crowd had thinned out, and we headed onto the High Street and south back towards Walmer. We followed Victoria Road to Deal Castle before veering right onto Gladstone Road. Passing the former Royal Marines barracks, we reached Canada Road where we turned left and soon reached The Berry.
It shames me to say this was the first time I had visited this pub, which is rightly known as a leading light of the local real ale and cider scene.
Run by Chris and Harriet, The Berry is a true neighbourhood pub that prides itself on offering the very best brews from Kent and further afield. Having won the local CAMRA branch Pub Of The Year award for five years on the bounce, we knew we would be enjoying some great beers.
We were certainly not disappointed. Approaching the bar we were welcomed by a row of handpumps promising a full ten guest ales, not to mention numerous real ciders.
We opened with halves of Liverpool Craft Beer Company’s IPA (5.0%) and Dark Star’s American Pale Ale (4.7%). Both were crisp and flavourful, with the APA nicely light and delivering a fine hoppy aroma.
The bar was comfortably full when we arrived shortly before 3pm. The atmosphere was welcoming, with regulars happily striking up conversation with first-timers such as ourselves. We stayed for a few more rounds, and particularly enjoyed a malty Harveys Old Ale (4.3%) and a Canterbury Brewers’ Loco IPA.
Leaving the warmth of The Berry for the cold January evening outside, we turned left on Canada Road before taking another left on Gladstone Road. Ducking under the railway bridge, we headed along Telegraph Road to the junction with Salisbury Road, passing the cricket club to the footpath leading back to Walmer station and our train home to Folkestone.
In all we probably covered around six miles over flat ground on street and footpath. This walk is perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll, and there are plenty of other pubs and sights to see in Deal and Walmer.
The map below shows the location of venues in Walmer and Deal recommended in the 2013 CAMRA Good Beer Guide: