Monday, 8 June 2015

Top Sussex Pubs

It's been a while since I last wrote a post on here.  I have not been idle though when it comes to checking out new pubs and new beers.  Much of May was taken up with finding the time to visit the best pubs in Sussex as selected by the local CAMRA groups.  Once all the scores are collated from the various branches we will have a winner to go through to the regional finals.  There are five CAMRA areas in Sussex and you cannot vote for your own area pub of course so that meant visiting four pubs which may not seem much but the transport links in Sussex are awful with some of the worst roads in the UK to contend with.

I started with the nearest pub to home.  The Parsonage Bar is listed under Worthing but it is really in the old village of Tarring which has been swallowed up by the urbanisation of the Sussex coastal regions.  The Parsonage is possibly the smallest pub I have been in although there is also a separate restaurant and it is all housed in a lovely grade II listed timber-framed building.  The bar area could seat a dozen at a squeeze and a separate room that was in darkness when I visited was slightly smaller.  There was a great selection of Locales and the Charcoal Burner (4.3% ABV) from the local High Weald brewery was a superb oatmeal stout and was in perfect condition.  However, I did find the pub itself a bit cliquey and lacking atmosphere.  Perhaps you have to be a local to appreciate it.

A couple of weeks later I was heading to the north of the county.  The White Horse in Maplehurst is a pub I visited many years ago and I don't think it has made any changes in the intervening years.  The village of Maplehurst is tiny and the White Horse is the obvious focal point.  

The inside is like a living museum with wood block flooring, wooden beams, wood panelling, exposed brickwork and all sorts of antique items with some dangerous looking agricultural equipment scattered around and hanging from the walls.  

To the rear the conservatory is a real sun-trap and the garden is large and sunny too.  Overall it is a very pleasant country pub of which there are many such places hidden away in the pretty Sussex villages.  Where it possibly beats the rest though is in the beer choice.  It has always had a good reputation for beer and the Red Cross Mild from the Weltons Brewery just up the road in Horsham was absolutely superb and a perfect beer for CAMRA's 'May Is Mild Month'.  This was one of four Locales available and I don't think I could have chosen a better pint to be honest.  

When planning the visit to the last couple of pubs I suggested to my wife that she might like a day in Lewes.  This would enable me to visit both pubs on the same day as well as allowing me not to have to drive home.  A cunning plan.  After dropping the wife off I headed out further east to the coastal town of St Leonards near Hastings.  It really is a horrible drive along the south coast and I was in need of a pint when I got there.  The Tower is out of town on the main London Road and it is a very imposing street-corner local.  I wasn't too sure about the Arsenal FC badge on the pub sign but I can forgive them this small indiscretion.  

It is a genuine local pub with a fantastic beer range which on the day I visited included a good range of beer from Dark Star as well as the excellent Thornbridge Jaipur and the one I decided to try, a beer called Mort Cheval from Brewsters, which I was told translates to 'Dead Horse'.  This mild was very pleasant but it didn't hit the heights of the aforementioned Red Cross.  The pub had a single central bar with seating going off at right angles to each other.  Two TV screens were there for sports and there were comfortable sofas alongside more traditional wooden tables and chairs.  The welcome was the friendliest of any of the pubs by far with some chatty locals at the bar adding to the friendly atmosphere. The bar prices were also exceptionally good value with my pint just £2.80.  A relaxed, convivial atmosphere to enjoy a pint.

I then headed back to Lewes where I met up with my wife at the Brewers Arms.  This town centre pub is in the High Street nearly opposite the really wonderful Lewes Castle.  It is a bit of a climb from the Harveys Brewery down by the river but it is well worth fitting in a visit to both when you are visiting Lewes.  

The Brewers Arms is a very traditional town centre pub which is fast becoming a rarity in these days of Wetherspoons dominated towns and cities.  It was popular with lunchtime diners enjoying the traditional menu as well as others enjoying a drink or two.  It is a genuine free house but of course the choice had to include Harveys.  As with all of these winning pubs there was a great choice of Locales and my choice at this pub was Bedlam Porter (5.0% ABV).  The Bedlam Brewery is not far from Lewes, being just over the border in West Sussex.  The porter was robust and full of everything I love about this kind of beer.  Dark roast malt flavours with chocolate, coffee and liquorice notes.

So, four very different pubs all with the common theme of selling a great choice of Locales.  My favourite pub was a close run thing between the last two I visited, with the Tower just edging it.  All of the five local branches will be submitting their results about now and the winner will be announced shortly.  Our branch winner, the fabulous Inglenook Hotel in Pagham will have been visited by the other four branches and I hope it scores favourably.  Are these the best five pubs in Sussex?  Well I can think of quite a few pubs in Sussex I would choose above any of these four to be honest but that is the beauty of the great British pub.  There's one for everyone and I don't think the beer drinker will come away disappointed from visiting any of these pubs either.


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