(Bob Dylan) – The Wheel Alehouse, Birchington
I’d been invited by a friend to Birchington in darkest Kent to talk about beer – a story for another day. We’d arranged to meet at ‘The Wheel Alehouse’, a micro-pub on what appears to be one of Birchington’s main drags.
It is, as one would expect for a micro-pub, tiny outside and inside, smaller than my friend’s lounge, but with seating for about twenty people. The décor is a mixture of maritime paraphernalia and beer tap badges.
My host explained that they used to list the number of brews they’d served (much like the early days of McDonalds) but he said that they’d stopped sometime after six hundred brews. On the evening we were there they had three brews ‘on’ with another two settling, they also serve ciders and wine.
I enjoyed a couple of pints of Black Ops from Rother Valley Brewing, about thirty miles away on Kent’s high Weald. I was surprised because my brother lives near the other Rother Valley, in South Yorkshire.
The newspapers regularly report that twenty or thirty pubs close each week, and while that number is (no pun intended) sobering, that’s the way it’s been for many, many years.
If micro-pubs step in to replace them, owned and staffed by enthusiastic if not passionate beer lovers, then there’s hope for drinkers yet.
And if they’re as welcoming and enjoyable as ‘The Wheel’ then bring it on.