You may need to be of a certain age to relate to this post but it's something I need to write because a very surprising thing happened this week. The latest issue of our local CAMRA publication, Sussex Drinker, came out last week and when it appears I have a number to deliver to various pubs so I spend a couple of weeks going to pubs I normally wouldn't go in and, when going in a pub, I always like to have a beer. Makes sense to me. There is a Fullers pub, the Royal Oak, not far from where I live. It is always popular with locals of a certain age and I always feel very young when I go in there. On this occasion the beer selection was limited to Fullers London Pride and (Gales) HSB. No contest here really as far as I'm concerned so I chose a pint of HSB.
Now it must be said here that in recent years I have become a bit obsessed with hops and microbreweries to the extent where I have largely avoided brewers such as Fullers. I also rarely read about people extolling the virtues of brown maltier beers such as HSB. Anyway, after ordering my pint I began drinking it without giving it too much attention and it was only when half of it had been consumed that I sat up and noticed what a blooming excellent pint it was. It has a lovely caramelised maltiness to it with darker fruitier notes such as raisins and dates. There's not much bitterness to it except for a small amount in the finish but it was still bursting with lovely rich flavours. It used to be a little darker and sweeter back in the 80s but it is not a million miles away from what it used to be like.
You have to go back nearly 30 years to when I tried Gales HSB for the first time and for me it was such a superb beer. I loved it to such an extent that I still have the pump clip from that time and in those days the OG appeared on them. I can't remember what the ABV was at this time but I have a feeling it was around 4.5%. Today it is 4.8% ABV and I must say Fullers have done a mighty fine job in their recreation of it because it has to be said that in the final years of Gales prior to the closure of the brewery the beer was a pale imitation of its' former self.
Drinking this lovely pint brought back memories of the Gales Ales Trail I did back in the mid 80s. Despite living in London at the time and only going down to Hampshire for football I managed to visit all 90 Gales pubs in the allotted year with one day to spare and I still have the pot tankard I received for completing it. Many of these pubs are no longer around sadly but those that are I still have a fondness for. Some of those that remain are free houses now whilst a good number of them are owned by Fullers of course.
The Royal Oak in Lagness (a small hamlet between Pagham and Chichester) was not a Gales pub back in the mid 80s but it was Gales-owned for quite some time before the takeover. It is not GBG listed but every time I visit I am served a pint in excellent condition. The staff are friendly and welcoming and the food is very popular. There is absolutely nothing to dislike about the pub and I can now thank it for helping me to remember the joy of Gales HSB. I may now be a hop monster but there are times when you need something brown! If you are ever in the area why not pop in and enjoy a pint yourself. You will even find a copy of the latest Sussex Drinker to read whilst you're there.