Dover, Kent: Roger Marples Beer Festival
at the Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club
Friday 7th March 2014
Firstly I'd like to explain the reason behind the name of this festival. The late Roger Marples had been a member of CAMRA almost from the beginning and tirelessly campaigned for the causes surrounding cask ale for over 40 years. He was also a member of the Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club and was instrumental in getting them to stock real ale from local producers and also for setting up their annual beer festival that we were attending on this visit.
He was a larger than life character with some strong views yet he could always take on an opposing viewpoint and sometimes (rarely), he even changed his mind.
He was a big man in many ways, and he is definitely missed. In fact it was at this very beer festival two years previously that I last spoke to him, and it was a very interesting conversation, as usual.
This yacht club has got some interesting history. It was formed in 1872 and in its early years enjoyed considerable patronage from the Royalty. The Duke of Connaught, son of Queen Victoria, was the first Commodore.
Also heavily involved in the early years was the Prince of Wales, later to be King Edward VII. He, of course, was another of Victoria's sons and she often presented prizes at the Club's regattas.
In 1875 the Club welcomed Captain Mathew Webb at a reception to mark his achievement as the first person to swim the English Channel. Over the years there have been many luminaries holding the position of Club President, an honorary appointment. These include the Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. In 1940 the club's premises burnt down and they moved to the present building on the waterfront, once the Dover Club.
Considering all of its history, it comes as quite a surprise to find that the premises are quite modest. After entering, signing in and hiring a glass from the ladies manning the entrance desk, Linda and I walked into the main bar room.
The bar itself is on the left and this is where the regular four beers of the club are to be found. On the right we saw the magnificent trophy cabinets with their gleaming silverware. We met several friends including Alec, Colin, John and Peter.
However, the most important area was the terrace where the casks of beer were waiting to be emptied. I have to say the prices were very reasonable indeed, being a flat £2.50 a pint, which I presume is what the club normally charges. I was slightly disappointed that there were not more from local brewers, but on reflection it was a pretty good selection.
We had a choice of: Acorn (Barnsley, South Yorks) Barnsley Bitter (3.8%); Ascot (Camberley, Surrey) Posh Pooch (4.2%); Bespoke Brewing (Micheldean, Gloucestershire) Running the Gauntlet (4.4%); Dark Star (Partridge Green, West Sussex) Hophead (3.8%) and Partridge Best (4.0%); Mauldon's (Sudbury, Suffolk) Micawber's Mild (3.5%), Moletrap (3.8%) and Silver Adder (4.2%).
There were more in the form of: RCH (Weston-super-Mare, Somerset) Hewish IPA (3.6%) and PG Steam (3.9%); Triple fff (Four Marks, Hampshire) Alton's Pride (3.8%) and Pressed Rat and Warthog (3.8%).
Finally there were three from this area of South East Kent as follows: Ripple Steam (Sutton-by-Dover, Kent) Best Bitter (4.1%); Old Forge Brewery (Farrier's Arms, Mersham, Kent) and from the Tir Dha Ghlas brewery in Dover there was a special commemorating the life of Roger called Jolly Roger (3.7%), how very appropriate.
There were two ciders from the Kent Cider Co (Canterbury, Kent) Tydeman Early, a single variety cider, and Bittersweet, which was dry. Regretfully I didn't note the abv's of these.
On the bar there were the four beers that would be normally on sale at the club: Goacher's (Maidstone, Kent) Fine Light Ale (3.7%) and Real Mild (3.4%), also from Hopdaemon (Newnham, Kent) there were Incubus (4.0%) and Skrimshander (4.5%).
This was a great little festival and we hope to be back next year.
The club is private and therefore for members only, with the exception the beer festival.
It is located at Waterloo Crescent which is under the subway at the southern end of the High Street.