Canterbury Tales

Canterbury is on the tourist trail from London and takes less than an hour to get to on a high speed train from St Pancras. It’s a fascinating place with a proper ‘altstadt’, unlike most British cities, and plenty of pubs. A bit of online research before our day trip took us to the following which were reckoned by various sources to be the best.

1. The Parrot, Church Lane, is a Young’s pub with a commitment to guest beers carried over from its days as a free house. On our visit, we were blown away by Hopdaemon Incubus (4%) which is a dark but nonethetheless flowery, hoppy thirst quencher. The pub itself is a 14th century building and full of character with low timber ceilings, nooks and crannies and soft lighting.

2. The Unicorn is also wooden beamed and cosy but (as the euphemism goes) very much a local pub. There was a mixed crowd including skint students (“Shit, I’m 5p short!”) and a group of amusingly grumpy blokes at the bar who the bar staff refered to as “the sad shelf”.  The beer on tap was pretty boring (Shepherd Neame Masterbrew,  Deuchars IPA) but there was more Hopdaemon on tap and in bottles.  A pint of Golden braid was OK and not unlike one of the lesser beers from Hopback. Green Daemon Helles was like one of our homebrews (so, nice enough, but with rough edges). Their famous Skrimshander IPA was malty and biscuity but a bit muted. Maybe bottling doesn’t suit it?

3. The Cherry Tree is a very odd place. It looks like a scuzzy student pub, with a knackered tiled floor, dirty tables, loud metal music and some astounding offers on vodka shots.  Despite that, along with the rock chicks and lads with face piercings, there were a few CAMRA types and couple of pissed blokes in their fifties chaining Kronenbourgs. The ales were mostly forgettable, except one called Harrier which was a deliciously roasty, mellow mild. Shame we didn’t manage to get the name of the brewery.

11 thoughts on “Canterbury Tales”

  1. I used to drink in Caterbury a lot, being a Man of Kent and having mates studying in the city. There are some good pubs around. The Cherry Tree used to do a drink called a Pig Fucker which had about 7 shots of flavoured vodka in it!! Crazy.

    Incubus is a great beer, I had a lovely pint of it in Faversham recently, drinking it with Pete, the brewer.

  2. The only Harrier I know is the Cotleigh one — it is low in alcohol but I don’t think it is a mild, but who knows? Stranger things have happened at sea. The thought of that Incubus has made my dry Tuesday wobble!

  3. Adrian — Incubus was similar to one of those Dark Star beers which looks like it’s going to be roasty but turns out to be really refreshing and zingy. I’d go for another pint now, if there was one handy. It definitely wasn’t Cotleigh Harrier (I love Cotleigh, and would have recognised the branding at 50 paces).

    Mark — We very much felt like we’d entered Dredge Country. they’re still selling Pig Fucker (Mum — sorry, but I’m just repeating what the other boys said). Our compliments to Pete if you see him again soon.

  4. The Unicorn & Parrot are two favourites of mine along with the Phoenix, Bell & Crown, Thomas Beckett & the Dolphin. Never had a bad pint in any of them and more often than not there’s a new guest on in them each time I pop in.

    Not too fond of the Cherry Tree and they do indeed still do the infamous Pig Fucker each Thursday if that’s your thing.

  5. Glad you enjoyed the Incubus, it is a real marmite beer, some people love it, others hate it. I (naturally) love it!

    If you ever fancy coming back this way I’ll happily show you around. Come and have a look at the brewery too if you like. The Unicorn is dangerously close to my house-4 doors and a railway crossing to be exact!

  6. Shaun — hello! We’ll have to try the other pubs you suggest next time we’re there.

    Pete — who hates it!? Why? Do you live near that Belgian restaurant, then? We considered a drink there but it’s only licensed to sell booze with food. When we make a return trip, we’ll definitely be interested in a visit to the brewery.

  7. I’m pretty sure it was just called “Harrier” but there might have been a concealed “Hen” in tiny lettering somewhere.

  8. Yep I live between Cafe Belge and the Unicorn, ideal positioning! Cafe Belge is really good for beer, they do excellent beer and food pairings too.

    I’m not sure why a few people don’t like it, perhaps it is because it doesn’t taste the way you expect it to purely on looks alone? I really don’t know…anyhow you would have to be a wally not to like it!

    Any time you want to come down, just let me know and a guided tour of brewery and surrounding area can be arranged.

  9. Glad you had a good time. I’ve been visiting Canterbury regularly over the last four years, as first one daughter and then the next have attended Uni there.

    The Parrot is OK IMHO but I miss it’s earlier free house incarnation as Simple Simon’s. Very close (in the same lane) is the Dolphin, which I think is a great pub, well worth a look if you go back.

    I’d also recommend the Bell and Crown in nearby Palace Street, just up the side of the Cathedral. They always have a good range of well kept local ales.

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