Tuesday, 22 July 2014
A dog, a chocolate coloured Springer, bouncy and boisterous, straining at the leash held by a man leaning at the bar, attention on his paper and pint, greets a woman who makes a fuss and gifts him a treat. There’s a rumble, a polite clang perhaps, as a man pushing a porter’s trolley upon which a cask reclines, Cleopatra-like on a divan, enters the door of the pub, en route to the cellar. He’ll be back with another in a few minutes, taking his time to cross the street back to the brewery, from whose tall chimney I’d seen smoke, Vatican-white, twist and rise before entering this pub, which is just across the road. At the back of the bar, recumbent, less Cleo, more Bolt in the blocks, ready for the start off, I scan a quartet of casks, from which my glass of Sussex Best Bitter comes. Oh how I do love this beer that comes from the brewery across the road, with its pungent, sulphury, musky nose and bittersweet, citrus, deep rich palate; how I do love this beer with its broad, almost monochromatic sense of bitterness and hoppiness, though there’s a friendly malt sweetness that stops its deep booming nose from being the beery equivalent of that bit in the Magic Flute where Sarastro’s bass seems to descend into the pit. Meanwhile at the table, where the windows overlook the sluggish Ouse, the sound of birdsong drifts in through the window as well as — gleefully I note — the occasional scent of the boil, tendrils of weeds outstretched in the river’s current. The dog lies down, excitement still for a moment, the man at the bar continues with his paper and glass of cider, while around the fireplace, whose deep seats at each end were once a mash tun, a man and a woman, elderly, having taken an exit from their shopping, turn to each other and toast the day with a glass of Sussex Best Bitter. Quietly, unobtrusively, I join them. Meanwhile, the noise of a porter’s trolley rumbles through the room again, as the man from the brewery across the road brings in another cask for the cellar.