Some of my first memories of being in a pub is ones from the social club my family are members of. Memories of Christmas parties and pressing the buzzer for the Sunday afternoon raffles puts a smile on my face, my clothes stinking of cigars the next morning is not such a pleasant memory! There is a shortage of good pubs where I grew up, not even good beer pubs just a decent pub in general. But there are a number of social clubs. The Wickford Railway Club (now Platform 3) was ours. In exchange for a yearly membership fee you were able to use the club and get great benefits like all the events, music nights, quiz nights and cheap pints to drink. There were always at least two ale options that were kept well and they usually have a beer festival once a year. I think social clubs are great and it saddens me to see how some of my local ones now struggle.
One social club that is far from struggling is the multi CAMRA award winning Orpington Liberal Club. My good friend and fellow Leyton Orient Supporters Club committee member Pete has been trying to get me down his local for ages, so when I heard the news of their beer festival and saw I had a blank space on my calendar I see it the perfect opportunity to make a rare trip south of the river!
Orpington was a fairly easy and quick train journey from Victoria train station and the walk down to the club was an easy 5 minute walk downhill on the way but slightly more of a work out on the way back! From the outside you can tell the club used to be a large house, fitting in with the surrounding neighbours image. The club is made up of two rooms, the main bar area which you first enter and the side hall, which is where the main part of the beer festival was set up. The walls are covered with old photos and news articles as well as hundreds of old pump clips, sprawling up the bar onto the walls and ceilings. Top quality breweries like Brixton, Waen, Pig & Porter, Brentwood Brewery, Gipsy Hill, Marble, XT as well as local breweries like Brewbuddies and Bexley show that the beer selection here is a mix of both contemporary and traditional. It’s refreshing to see such a forward thinking beer list within a social club.
This was the same with the festival beer selection. I honestly think it’s one of the best selections for a festival of this size I have seen for a long time. Beers from Canopy, Atom, Siren, Bristol and Loddon among others graced the 20+ strong beer list. I was impressed with the beer selection and I walked away feeling gutted that there was beers I wanted to try but didn’t have time to, a huge compliment to the quality available. I was very impressed with my first try of Canopy Brewing, and their Brockwell IPA, as well as Elusive Pig V2, a Black IPA collaboration brew with Pig & Porter and Elusive Brewing. A new brewery to me was Three Sods Brewery from Bethnal Green, their Saison tasted great although I’m not sure on the name Belgian Bugger.
Everyone was really friendly and engaged in good conversation. As pub numbers fall it’s great to find somewhere that has that warm, welcoming, community feel to it still. It was also great to meet Cliff and Jane Murphy from local brewery Bexley Brewery, a brewery that has impressed me in the last year. As I made my way home back to Essex I thought back on my own social club memories and wondered if a similar set up would work in the craft beer world? Membership fee for cheaper craft beer and with regular meet the brewer events… It’s an idea!