Tuesday 30th April 2013
This was a first time visit for all of us. I was with Linda, Shirley and Keith and we met owner Alan Ross, who was somewhat wet. He explained that one of the casks in the cool room had exploded and there was actually a crack in the metal. I will not mention the brewery it was from to save them embarrassment. Alan asked if we could wait a few minutes while he swabbed the floor of the cellar room and cleaned himself up.
Whilst this was going on I had a look around. Downstairs the main room is more or less the same size as other micro pubs yet upstairs there is another room that might be even bigger than the one below. This is where the facilities are located. This aspect is very useful as they now hold quizzes and these can operate without interference to the great drinking public.
The pub was previously a cake decorations shop called Cake Art. The furniture is wooden and comfortably furnished with cushions for the most part. Near the front door there are several upright barrels that function as tables. There is a small bar counter in front of the door that leads to the cool room and the walls in this area are decorated with pump clips of the beers previously sold. Despite the size of this pub it is still true to the ideals of the micro pub concept, selling just cask ale, cider, wine and no lager.
There is wood panelling to waist height around the main room and there are many nautical artefacts on the walls such as charts and ship models. There is even a parrot on a perch, see photograph. These ornaments reflect Alan's past in the navy. Interestingly his last job before opening the pub was running the village fish and chip shop in Garlinge. The grand opening of the pub was on 11th March 2013 about seven weeks earlier.
By now he was ready to resume normal business and we were perusing the beer list. There were three beers on offer: Potton Brewery (Potton, Bedfordshire) The Village Bike (4.3%); North Star (Ilkeston, Derbyshire) Pathfinder (4.5%) and Canterbury Brewers (The Foundry brew-pub, Canterbury, Kent) The Enigma (4.8%).
In addition there were three ciders. From Biddenden Orchards (Biddenden, Kent) there were two, Biddenden Cider (8.0%) and Bushells (6.0%). There was also Pine Tree Farm (Doddington, Kent) Dudda's Tun Cider (5.5%). Red, White and Rose wine is served by the glass. A range of soft drinks and orange juice is available.
Eating options were limited to Crisps, Nuts, Pork Scratchings and mini cheese biscuits plus more substantial fare in the form of Steak & Ale pies and Ashmore (Dargate, Kent) cheeses with chutney.
The pub is very close to Birchington station and makes an ideal stopping off point or a true destination.
The Wheel Ale House, 60 Station Road, Birchington, Kent CT7 9RA. Tel: 07826 130927
Open: Tuesday to Saturday 12.00-14.00, 17.00-21.00; Sunday 12.00-14.00.
The pub is 300 metres from the railway station. This has a half hourly service from London Victoria via most of the North Kent towns and then on to Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate. It is hourly on Sundays.
The main bus serves are 33 (hourly) and 34 (3 times an hour).
These run through all the towns on the Thanet coast, but are extremely sparse in the evenings and non-existent on Sundays.