Friday, July 27, 2007

The Brewers Arms

A couple of years ago I sold a very special pub. The Brewers Arms it was called, although the locals new it by it's nickname 'The Clappers'.
It was built in 1753 as a hostelry, and has been open uninterrupted to this day. It's not easy to find, and without Sat Nav or local knowledge, you wouldn't stand a chance! It's in deepest East Sussex, in a web of country lanes surrounded by fields, farms and hedgerows. The car park doubles up as a paddock and a tractor park!
My decor was somewhat unorthodox! The public bar (the drinkers room for those not familiar with English pub layout) was enormous. A cavern of a place with ceilings that touched the sky! From there I suspended a collection of antique cycles, along with lots of ancient wicker baskets and a 200 year old wheelbarrow. Cleaning
them required your host to climb to the top of an equally old set of wooden steps - feather duster in hand- whilst the floor swayed around several yards below. For some unknown reason, I always felt the urge to perform this hazardous task after partaking of copious quantities of IPA, much to onlookers horror.
The saloon bar had a more practical ceiling height, and this was adorned with vintage farm implements. In the the restaurant I again continued the theme of ceiling covering, only this time it - and the walls- where completely covered with plates, cups and saucers!
There was also an enormous inglenook fireplace which remained unused, so this was filled with the contents of an old farmhouse kitchen which were given to me. Add to all this, several hundred paintings and fading photos, loads of very old books, and I guess you get the picture! Dust ruled, but that was all part of the charm! Or so I told myself!
During the war, the public bar doubled up as a school room to cope with the increase in kids due to evacuation from London. Yet many of my locals had been in the village all their lives and had never even visited the wicked city.The regulars were a diverse a bunch as you can imagine. Farmers, local crafts folk, tradesmen and an ex-bank robber! Mix them up with the well healed, the odd lord and lady, a couple of reclusive celebs and I think you get the picture. All ages too. Some not old enough to be drinking, and others old enough to know better.
I could always spot the underage drinkers though, because when I rang the bell for last orders, they'd put their chairs up on the tables and go outside to play! I saw babies take their first steps in my bar, and others their last ones too. One of my customers sat on the same bench week in, week out, for 80 years.
My pride and joy however was my cellar. Deep underground and said to be haunted, it was a dark and full of atmosphere, a constant 15 degrees with a wonderful beery smell that will remain with me for ever.
From there I pulled up pints of Greene King IPA, spectacular Speckled Hen and ravishing Ruddles County. The marvelous Moorland Original and my personal favourite, Abbot Ale. Add to that a couple of guest ales which changed every couple of weeks. I think that you can tell that we were THE place to enjoy a pint of frothing real ale, served in a dimpled tankard or a straight thin glass ,filled almost to the brim, then topped with a creamy head.
Alongside my real ale portfolio, I grudgingly sold a couple of draft lagers. This was for the benefit those who's taste buds were not sufficiently sophisticated to appreciate the joys of a proper pint of beer!
Our food was simple and traditional. Ploughman's lunches - crusty chunks of bread with strong cheddar and pickled onions - and steak and kidney pie. Sausages with bubble and squeek. And my special baked ham, with hand cut fries and free range eggs from Mary down the lane.
It could be a bit of a noisy place at times! I used any excuse to put on live music. Locals would turn up with a fiddle or a banjo. Big Al would bash seven bells out of my piano in a performance of boogie-woogie and R&B, rivalling anything you'd hear in town. Every now and then, the main drink of the night changed to Guinness because Seamus turned up and entertained us with songs and odes from Ireland which became bawdier as the evening went on. It is often said that Guinness is one of God's miracles. It goes down as black as coal, and comes out a stream of pure gold!I even gave in, and got a Karaoke machine! Unfortunately I tended to hog it - particularly when I was feeling a little bit merry!
My customers loved their bar games. Dominoes and crib. Chess, and shut-the-box! I held quiz nights and video horse racing. There was never a dull moment at the Brewers. Every New Years Eve our fancy dress party was the place to be!
Licencing laws stated that we were supposed to close at eleven. Somehow that didn't really bother us too much, and we tended to go on until everyo
ne had had their fill. On many an occasion we'd continue right through the night, and watch the sun come up over the Brewers Field, leaning on the fence with a cup of coffee in hand. On others, we would all adjourn to a neighbour's house and return in the morning for a good old fry up and a 'hair of the dog'
We loved our outings too! Twice a year we hired a coach, and off we went to the horse races. Stand by Goodwood - the Clappers are on their way!
The biggest night of the year was November 5th - Guy Fawkes night. For weeks beforehand we would built an enormous bonfire in the Brewers Field. On the night we would have a torchlight procession around the village with 3 marching bands, ending with one of the biggest firework displays in the county. The car park was turned into a market of stalls selling crafts, soup, and flashing hats and necklaces. Beer flowed straight from taps in the barrels, and 2500 people would pack into our tiny village centre.

My lot liked to dance. I had a brilliant sound system which could shake the building to it's foundations! There was a special secret way of letting the locals know when I was up for late night bop. I simply played 'Mambo Number Five' and they knew that Keith was having a party after the strangers had gone home to their cocoa and bed! The heavy curtains would close, the volume wind up and by three in the morning the party was in full swing. Dancers on the floor, on the tables, and even on my precious bar top! Other nights we would adjourn to a neighbours house to party the night away, returning to the Clappers first thing in the morning for a good old fried breakfast and a 'hair of the dog'
There is so much more that I could write about the Brewers Arms. Perhaps one day I will. My only regret is that I had to give it up. One February my doctor told me that if I didn't change my lifestyle straight away, I'd be lucky to see Christmas. Some thing had to go , and I preferred it not to be me!
It's all different now. The mountains of bits and pieces have gone. The walls are trendily modern, and the decor minimalist. The drinkers have gone too - driven out by the 'townies' who travel from afar to imbibe fine wines, nibble posh food, and gawp at those funny old country people outside the window. I returned once and was moved to tears, when amid the silence,my head filled with the sounds of those happy reckless days of not so long ago.

I need a drink!


  1. Oh is so sad that you had to give it up but the good news is you are still here. Sounds like you guys knew how to party and just have a good ole time. That is what you should do is live your life to the fullest continue doing that. Cheers!!!

  2. hey! i'm going to cali this weekend and won't be back until is the website i was talking about where i made extra summer cash. Later! the website is here

  3. Keith you never cease to amaze me with your stories. Great read ,I enjoyed it.

  4. Lovely one Keith!
    Real Ale v Lagers; When I joined Bass, I was based at their brewery in Cardiff. On my first day, at lunchtime, the M.D. took me into the hospitality bar to meet the Management Team. They stood respectfully back and allowed me to order my drink. I asked for a Carling, and you could have heard a pin drop. I looked at the M.D. who was apoplectic, and the Head Brewer leaned towards me and said in a whisper, "We drink beer in here"!!!
    I also re-visited my old pub in Eynsham, but like they say, "Never go back". How true.

  5. I love this post. It took me there ... so much flavor. Now I wanna go for real!


    PS: Do you have a spammer posting comments?

  6. Wonderful walk down memory lane !
    Good memories are the best medicine !
    Memories washed down with a beer are even better !

  7. I absolutely LOVE English pubs like that. I had a favorite in Canterbury I used to go to all the time when I lived there. (I get to visit again this week!!!!)

    America, as much as I love her, just doesn't have places like your old pub.

    I'm sorry to hear you had to give it up... it would have been so much better had the new owner been true to the old style, but heh, you'll always have your memories, and that's what really matters.

  8. I feel like I've visited the Brewers Arms just by reading your tale. Thanks Keith!

  9. You would enjoy 'Mute Monday' Keith..It's all about pictures..You can click on the 'ArtfulSub' link on Morgy's or my blog..You'll find the details there..Tomorrow the is 'Dog Days'..go into the archives to read the directions and your off!

  10. be sure to sign my guestbook at the bottom of my blog

  11. Gentrification. It's a shame when the authentic flavor and feel of a historic place is destroyed like that. I really enjoyed this post. I felt as if I were there during those good times with you at the old pub.

    Too bad you had to sell it to people who didn't strive to maintain the old ambiance. But at least they didn't tear it down!

  12. Hey there I just wanted to let you know you can now see my interview answers without going dizzy lol.



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