Yapton is a village in West Sussex close to the town of Arundel and about a mile from the sea. In days long gone it was famous for smuggling and the doors of Yapton were always open to smugglers (so they say) at any time day or night. In the Murrell Arms, a pub in the nearby village of Barnham, there's a warning inscribed on the door of the bar aimed at people forgetting to close the door with the words 'do you come from Yapton?'. A friendly little dig at the nefarious past of its neighbour.
My wife and I moved to Yapton in 1997 and we soon made the Maypole our local pub. It is on the outskirts of the village a few hundred yards down a single track lane that leads nowhere but you will find a large sign advertising the pub from the main road (North End Road) that takes you from Yapton to the A27. The lounge bar was fairly small and it was often incredibly smoky. The public bar was larger with a pool table and there was a door through to a traditional skittle alley. It always had an excellent beer selection and it won the Western Sussex CAMRA pub of the year on quite a few occasions.
Since moving from Yapton in 2006 I don't think I had been back to the Maypole until last night. The only changes I detected were the lack of smoke (lovely), the construction of a wooden covered patio area (for smokers) replacing the couple of tables outside the entrance to the lounge bar and a new manager. It had the same welcoming atmosphere and there was still a large stack of copper coins on the bar that they build each year for charity. The skittle alley is still there too.
As I was there last night with lots of CAMRA members for the regular monthly meeting the lady behind the bar offered us all a sample of a mystery brew. The pump clip for Ale Fresco (4.3% ABV) gave no indication as to the brewery at first inspection but it did have a description saying it was a fresh golden ale with a citrus hoppy aroma. So this was a genuine blind tasting. The aroma was not hoppy at all. The colour was more brown than golden. The taste was more caramel and malt than citrus and hoppy. Finally, the harsh bitter aftertaste was not very nice. Needless to say nobody bought a pint and we then noticed in very small writing Westgate Brewery and everything fell into place. Another beer from Greene King masquerading as something else!!
The remaining beer selection was very impressive. I'm not sure which beers were regulars but I think the Dark Star Hophead (3.8% ABV) can always be found here. This is what I went for first of all. This beer does have a delightful citrus hoppy aroma and it was in excellent condition. Judging by the number of members ordering it with huge smiles on their faces I think it is the favourite beer of this CAMRA branch.
The second beer I went for was from the Wessex Brewery. This micro is based in Warminster in Wiltshire and is totally new to me. Wyndham Pride (4.0% ABV) is a traditional well balanced session bitter with a nice malt character. Plenty of flavour with caramel and peach coming through. There was a slight bitter aftertaste to it that was both smooth and pleasant. We were told that another beer from Wessex would be on the bar soon - a 9.0% ABV Russian stout (named Russian Stoat). Sounds good!!
The third beer I went for was from Cheddar Ales who are based in Somerset. It was a beautifully golden coloured 4.0% ABV beer called Gorge Best. The aroma was very fruity as was the initial taste. Lots of sweet fruit flavours came through such as peach, pineapple and orange. It was very robust and the flavour held throughout before giving way to a lovely subtle bitter aftertaste.
Finally, I tried a pint of Shark Head (5.0% ABV) from the Sunny Republic Brewing Company, a new micro based in Dorset. Shark Head is described as a Friesian Pilsener which makes it a cask lager I guess although I found it to be a delightfully crisp and refreshing hoppy beer. It is brewed using lager malt and the hops are the German Spalt and New Zealand Pacific Jade. After being lagered for three weeks it is run through some of my favourite Citra hops. The grapefruit notes from the Citra were very subtle and not overpowering. I absolutely loved it. I would probably say it was my favourite beer of the night (those Citra hops do it every time) but it was up against some very stiff competition.
It is good to see that my old local is still a pub worth visiting and with my local CAMRA branch using it as their venue for meetings every couple of months I will look forward to sampling more delightful beers from their ever changing lineup.