The backpacks are loaded for bear, uh, beer, hoist them onto our backs, and out the door. A typical sunny San Jose day. Not 100 feet from our door, we catch a ride with Allison, good timing. Off the the SF airport, to wait around for a while because the flight time has changed. Ask me where not to get your airline tickets sometime. The thirst is beginning to build, but Stratin is too blame, because we left the pig early last night. Something about needing to be sober for the flight. How can we possibly get some sleep on this flight, its the middle of the day in the good ol USA. It is a very long flight, some 10 hours in the air, and 8 hours worth of time changes. Heathrow is hopping at 9AM on Friday. Oh yea, its tomorrow already! Customs, and a lot of walking later, the tube. Lucky for me, the Mad Brewers wife has planned ahead, and has Sterling for the fare.
Victoria Station. Just the name invokes visions of times gone by. The station is very crowded for a week day. But we know where we are headed, the international ticket office. Now, how can BritRail have an international ticket office? Who knows. But we are lucky enough to not get lost, and find the right desk to exchange our BritRail tickets for real passes. Kim wants to shop here, but the thought of carrying such treasures around the country for the next 18 days discourages her. "Will we be back?" she asks. Stay tuned.
We still needed train tickets to get to Arundel, and the line was very long. But tickets in hand (less #12.80 each for the privelidge), the train doesnt leave for at least 30 minutes. Whats a Mad Brewer to do. There must be a pub around here somewhere... Actually, there are several, but the one that did the honors was Molly OGradys, which is upstairs in the mall part of the station. Its a nice Irish pub, run by really stupid people. "Cask Conditioned Ale?" says I. Blank stare says she. "Hand pumps?" says I, Blank stare replies. But then "Ales and Lagers have we" she says. "No shit" me brain replies, but mouth has the sense not to verbalize.
For me, a nice Abbot Ale, and for Kim, a Stella Artrois. The lager choice was allowed, as this was not cask conditioned territory. The damage was #4.18, and the beers quite nice, although great thirst we must concede. So on to Arundel.
The trains in England are quite comfortable, and fast. We suffered thru the trip we a couple cans of fizzy McEwans Export, which were to be had for a measly #1.70 apiece. The train ride was an hour and a half, but who knows what time my body thinks it is. This is going to be interesting. We packed about half a mile from the station to the town of Arundel, where we have reservations at the Swan Hotel. This is the first of several picks from the Beer, Bed, and Breakfast book, written by Roger Prost in 1989, and now hopelessly out of date. The Swan has good food in the bar menu, and a selection of beers from the Arundel Brewery, which is not in Arundel. My choice was the Arundel Bitter (#1.75), truly a best bitter with great hop character. Kim chose the Fullers London Pride, which had a malty aftertaste, much appreciated by Kim.
So now that we have been awake for the last 24 hours or so, it was time to take a walk to stay awake, and hopefull adjust to the massive time change all at once. Or maybe it was just no rest for the wicked. Anyway, we walked by the Arundel Castle, a massive structure, along a little blacktop single lane road to the Black Rabbit. Its only a mile the book said. Well, its a lot longer on foot, my feet replied. The walk was worth the effort. The beer garden is arranged along the waterfront of the river, and inside there is a simmering fire, with a wonderful aroma. They even have beer! Badger Best Bitter (#2.00) was palatable, but needs more hops. Tanglefoot Strong Bitter has an old ale flavor, but lack the body behind it. Black Adder II (#2.20) at 5.8% ABV is dark, caramel, malty, alcoholic, with a roasted aftertaste. This place has great food, and atmosphere to burn, and was empty because it was off season. The wait staff was found lacking in advanced social graces, but was found to be marginally acceptable. The baby back rib dinner was huge, and very tasty, for only #5.90, highly recommended.
Having lingered long at the Black Rabbit, waiting for the rain to stop, it was very dark. We chose to hoof it anyway, big mistake, because it was pitch black all the way back to town. When we arrived, it was time to visit the local pub, White Hart. Kim tried the Sussex Bitter (#2.00), which was not so hot, having the aroma of playdough, and taste to match. Typical of a real ale left on tap too long. For me, it was George Gales Best Bitter (#2.00), with a dark copper color, and good hop balance, a lucky choice on my part.
Things are getting very strange, as we approach 30 hours without sleep, so its back to the Swan for a nightcap. Summer Daze is summer seasonal beer from Arundel Brewery, with a malty flavor, with some caramel thrown in. Kim attempted the Stronghold, also from Arundel, and was disapponted to find it having major sourness to it. She exchanged the beer for a different one, over the protests of the barman, who was fool enough to claim its supposed to taste that way. One last Arundel Bitter, then the lights in the Mad Brewers brain start to dim, off for a long overdue visit to the Sandman.
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