Called to the bar: Four top drinking spots

Called to the bar: Four top drinking spots

Fuggles Beer Cafés, Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge

In a part of town not associated with good pubs, Grosvenor Road, TW is very lucky to have this establishment. It’s not just the best boozer in midtown, it might just also be one of the town’s best pubs.

The range is rarely bettered for beer geeks in search of what’s hopped and hyped-up and there’s a complete dedication to the craft of serving on display here. Incredibly, this former pound shop has only been a pub since proprietor Alex Greig took it on in 2013. In 2017 he opened another Fuggles in Tonbridge High Street which is going great guns, reflecting the same ethos and experience as its sister site.

Once you’re seated and perusing the beer list, you’ll soon be overwhelmed at what’s available because it’s the most exciting, appealing, wow-inducing beer list – a rare opportunity outside London to be able to pick from so many treasures. The only questions are where do you start and when do you end? 

The nights get busy chez Fuggles and you’re almost forced to make friends as you jostle for space, but in a place like this you’ll want to. As well as lots of brilliant beer on offer you can also enjoy gin, snacks, meat and the famous ‘cheese mountains’. Get there early and browse the incredible shelves and half-dozen fridges before settling in with a pint or two.

With the huge tap turnover, you’re almost guaranteed to have the freshest pint. It’s the kind of boozer where a colleague goes to the bar for a round and comes back with a pint each and a £20 sharing bottle. They also serve delicious English sparkling wine from Hampshire, Black Chalk, and are now making their own beer.

Whether it’s standing room only or a (slightly) less busy Sunday session, everyone in this ‘café’ thinks the same thing: beer should always shine like this, and pubs should always feel like this.

Make mine an: Orval, the world-class, skittle-shaped, dry-hopped/ wild-yeast seeded Trappist pale ale that’s great with venison or fish.

Fuggles, 28 Grosvenor Road, Tunbridge Wells & 165 High Street, Tonbridge

The George, Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells

You walk into The George and it’s warm, friendly and welcoming. I love it because it’s a proper pub (not a bar) and always has amazing beers.  From Larkins’ Porter, made just a few miles away, to Beavertown’s seminal Gamma Ray American Pale Ale, I know the beer is going to be decent – and even better with a pulled pork bun or George burger. Yes they also serve food. So far, so perfect…

The George website is constantly updated with ‘what’s live’ and ‘what’s waiting in the cellar’, so you can make sure it’s up to scratch before you arrive. The food is a cut above the usual pub grub, while not being overly pretentious. When Sunday and the occasional hangover hits you, it’s time to head here for its tasty Sunday brunch or a roast. Throw in the beautiful beer garden and you have a pub in which you’ll want to linger for longer.

It’s the kind of place you can stay a night thanks to the good buzz and vibe, which means non-beer drinkers won’t argue with you getting another round in. Brilliantly managed by Paul, this is Tunbridge Wells hospitality at its best. No wonder it’s currently the West Kent Camra Pub of the Year. Welcoming dogs and families, this place is an emphatic vote of confidence in the future of the pub.

Make mine a: pint of Larkins Porter.

The George, 29 Mt Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells, 01892 539492,

Chapel Place Gin & Wine Bar, Tunbridge Wells

Tunbridge Wells is also forging its own identity as an unmissable destination on the cocktail scene. Among the town’s busy watering holes, you’ll find the same sort of reverence for gin, and this inspiring bar has explored gin’s botanical bonanza to create an unforgettable experience with over 120 gins and a house cocktail menu comprising six drinks.

Each one delivers a compelling story, courtesy of a curated selection of local spirits. It’s the intimacy between the bartender, the tipple and the space that I enjoy most at Chapel Place, which is located on the street that bears the same name.

Oh and the cocktails are pretty delectable and elegant, too, if you want something more served up in your glass.

If you want a calmer experience in order to take in the magic of Chapel Place properly, may I suggest you go on a midweek afternoon?

If, however, you want to be part of the busy buzz that has made this fine establishment one of the town’s most popular drinking holes then go along on the weekend. You won’t be disappointed!

Make mine a: Bootleg Boulevardier with Abelforth’s Bathtub gin (not the usual whisky)

Chapel Place Gin & Wine Bar, 18 Chapel Place, Tunbridge Wells, 01892 522304,

The Pantiles Tap, Tunbridge Wells

The craft beer scene is thriving in Tunbridge Wells, with The Pantiles Tap offering a pleasing, down-to-earth approach. Our area is well-placed for pubs but the atmosphere here and variety of beers mark this place out as special.

It’s the kind of venue where you can meet your best mates and find new ones. Whether you pay it a visit when the weekly Jazz on The Pantiles event is on in the summer or drop by on a wintry midweek night, The Pantiles Tap is a lovely place to be, whatever the occasion.

Although a little hidden away, the Tap’s definitely worth seeking out for its simplicity and extensive, brilliant beer list. Live music can be found on some evenings, which adds to its relaxed ambience. The beer is judiciously chosen with 16 taps featuring such stars as the fantastically named Weird Beard as well as New Bristol Brewery, Magic Rock and local heroes Pig & Porter and Curious Brew. 

In a town that those in the know nickname Beervana, The Pantiles Tap is a bright beacon for beer lovers and a mainstay of local drinking culture. While some pubs can make non-regulars feel a little out of place, everyone is a local at The Pantiles Tap from the moment they walk through the door. Don’t expect cocktails or sharing plates, here you’ll just be served good beers and ciders. In a world of chain pubs, this boozer offers the real deal. Make your pilgrimage there and settle in for a proper session.

Make mine a: pint of Magic Rock Fantasma Gluten Free IPA

The Pantiles Tap, 39 The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells, 01892 530397, @thepantilestap

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