May 21 2015
(Brighton almost blew me away. Literally)
Some of the more perceptive of you may have realised that I care about the more social side. In that regard, I am indeed, a bit of a Socialist. Over the years, I have held a number of roles in the various Unions that protected my rights. So, when a Senior fella from the Union’s London HQ asked me to fill a role at Conference this year, I accepted. With my stress issues, I could never be a rep again, but if there was a little something that I could give back, I would. Willingly.
So it was, that I found myself in Brighton, walking into the teeth of a gale on the seafront.
I don’t travel TOO much. When I do, I like to catch up with people from the areas that I visit. On this occasion, it was my buddy (and my favourite blogger from that there South) Glenn Johnson. And a young man I have grown to rather respect, Karl.
Glenn suggested meeting in the first of the two pub/bars that we went it. And when I finally reached it, having walked up the hill from the seafront, to Surrey Street, it was only then that I realised that I’d been in a Brighton legend before…
The Evening Star (Surrey Street)
I’m no expert on this pub, but I know that Dark Star started brewing in the cellar in 1994. Last time I was at Conference, I went in and just presumed it was a Freehouse with good beers, which it did (and still has) and didn’t realise it was a/the Dark Star pub.
The pub is a single room with the smallish bar occupying a corner area. Stripped wooden floor, lots of bare wood tables of various shapes and sizes, for a Nationally renowned pub, this had a real feel of a “local”. The conversations were the thing with just a light background tunage going on. It just felt so….me. Just my kind of pub.
The pub is located on Surrey Street, mere yards from Brighton Train Station. Now then. Those who know Brighton, will know that there is a bit of a slope from the beach, up West Street to the Station. Which I trolled up. Quickly. because I hate being late. And Glenn was travelling from Yapton, some miles away. The only pint to have was the iconic HopHead. Nicely bitter if not as sharp as I was expecting, this was still a damn fine pint with which to slake a thirst.
As I started to drink, Glenn turned up and after a short while, while he froze a bit (I, being a porker, am numb to the cold), we went inside to carry on our chat.
I was starting to love this pub. Uncluttered, just tables, chairs and damn good beer. The chat flowed. Inevitably, it was about beer. Glenn knows his stuff and we chatted about a wee plan that he has up his sleeve that he is exploring. When it comes off, I’ll be shouting about it! I’m quite excited for him.
Then Karl contacted me with the words “Was it tonight?” “I take it that you’re in The Evening Star?” He turned up and I got him a pin sharp pint of Arise by Burning Sky. Which he adored. An unfiltered session IPA. When the barman said “It IS £4.40 you know?” My response of “That’s OK, I’m from Manchester. This is cheap!” made him chortle. I could have listened to Karl’s stories all night. One of the three most ferociously smart people I know (the others being a close friend of us both and that friend’s recently deceased Dad), he also possesses a great social conscience and bucketloads of empathy. A man of the same tribe.
After Karl had to leave, I downed my excellent pint of a beer from Brick House Brewing of Brighton which I think was called Requiem (a session strength IPA) which was a beauty. Nice and hoppy. They’ve only being going a couple of months. If this is any indicator, they’ll do damned well. A fine beer. We moved on, to a bar of a more recent vintage.
The Brighton Beer Dispensary (Dean Street)
Glenn suggested this place. What. A. Bar.
The place is not much larger than a Micro pub, but with the addition of a Conservatory to the rear that would increase capacity, with much wood and exposed brickwork, including a few tables with high bar stools. And damn friendly and helpful bar staff.
The four hand pumps on the bar were split between the joint owners, with two further casks on gravity from Liverpool Craft (a welcome sight so far south!) and Williams Brothers. Glenn had the Willams Brothers’ “Mystery Stout” which he enjoyed, whilst I (being a “when in Rome” kinda fella) tried the Brighton Bier Co “Thirty Three” Pale Ale. Which was bloody gorgeous. Surprisingly full-bodied for a beer at 3.3%, it was a hoppy and bitter little gem
The food was of the Craft Burger variety and I plumped for a Portobello & Brie burger. A Huge Portobello mushroom topped with Brie with a nice sweet chutney and some greenery. And gorgeous beer battered gherkins! With great chips. It was superb. And went down even better with a Brighton Bier Co South Coast Pale! Big, juicy, resinous and bitter. As hoppy as I could want.
Glenn had to get himself back home at this point. It’s nice to meet good beery folk. And Glenn is certainly one of those. Proving that “Beer People Are Good People”. There’s another mini crawl in Manchester just waiting for him!
More “Thirty Three” was followed by a can from the well stocked fridge (how remiss of me to omit the excellent keg and fridge choices!) – a Holy Cowbell India Stout from Beavertown. Just wow! A hoppy Stout counterpart for 8 Ball. I gave my Dubliner associate (Denis) a taste. He was bowled over. By an English brewed Stout. Wonders will never cease!
After that, time was up. I love this bar. A little pearl in the Brighton oyster. And well worth a visit.
Thanks to Glenn for the mini tour. And Karl for making the effort. Good people.
That’s it for a wee while. Well, London Part 2 next weekend!
“I want to forget how conviction fits
But can I get out from under it?
Can I cut it out of me?
It can’t all be wedding cake
It can’t all be boiled away
I try but I can’t let go of it
Can’t let go of it, uh huh.
Cause you don’t talk to the water boy
And there’s so much you could learn but you don’t want to know,
You will not back up an inch ever,
That’s why you will not survive”
(“The Underdog” – Spoon. Clip courtesy “Alphamatrix1” on YouTube)
This track is from the album GaGaGaGaGa. It was the first thing that I heard by Spoon. From the first brass stab, I was hooked. In the US they are (kind of) known as the kings of minimal Indie. If you listen, you can hear why. There is no frippery, no fat. The tunes are pared down and lean. No wasted guitar or keyboard. The music is almost skeletal. Now that may read weird, having used “The Underdog”, but listen to them on Spotify and see what I mean.
It was at the time that I found Spoon and bands like The Decemberists and The New Pornographers ( as well as getting deeper into Wilco) that I became utterly disillusioned with current UK guitar based music. To be frank, it bores me. I haven’t had my ears prick up to anything from these shores since the first Arctic Monkeys album.
Go on. Tell me. “My loss”!
Whilst this song may seem to have nothing to do with the piece above it, I guess that it’s here because I want to get back to a personal space where I’m less ….. I suppose…arsed? To acknowledge that there are things worth giving a shit about. And some that aren’t.
Cutting the latter out of my psyche might mean that I add a few more years to this existence. That, or stronger blood pressure meds!