30 June 2008

Kent's Only Brewpub

Deep in the heart of greenest Kent sits the idyllic village of West Peckham - about as far removed from its South London namesake as you could possibly imagine. With a population of around 350, the community is centered around the village green, home to West Peckham Cricket Club, on a tranquil no-through-road. Dotted around the green, you can see the village's history before your very eyes. St Dunstan's Church with its 9th Century tower and, on the opposing side, odd cone-shaped structures, possibly part of an old mill from years past.

But the jewel in the green's crown is the village pub.

An inn has stood on the site of The Swan on the Green since 1526 and whilst various extensions have been added over the years, parts of the building date back to this era. The most notable addition was the creation of the Swan Microbrewery at the rear of the pub in 2000, making it the first and only brewpub in the county. Over ten cask conditioned ales and top pressured beers make up the core range and specials also compliment the portfolio.

On our recent visit five cask ales were on sale: Fuggles Pale; Ginger Swan; Trumpeter Best; Cygnet; and Bewick Swan, alongside the tank conditioned Swan Blonde. Jimbo and I managed to work our way through the handpulled range and we were both delighted with the quality on offer.

The seasonal Ginger (3.6%), far from a smack-in-the-chops, brutish ginger ale, was subtly spiced and easy drinking for a summer evening. The Bewick (5.3%, pronounced Buick), the strongest bitter in the range, has a sweet and creamy chocolate body counterbalanced by a Target and Goldings hop finish and would make a perfect aperitif to a hearty dinner.

However the best of the bunch had to be the Cygnet (4.2%). This deep golden-brown ale is complex with a predominant caramalt palate and the winning addition of juicy Cascade hops. It really was a belter and worth the half hour journey time alone.

Sat outside the front of the building watching the sunset over the green, keenly supping away, you really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.

Swan beers are only available at the pub, which is a bit of a shame as I truly believe the Cygnet and Bewick would compliment any festival lineup. They are clearly limited by capacity but, based on the wares sampled, I would be reluctant for the brewing setup to be changed one bit. Plus their exclusivity only serves to make the pub more special. They were advertising 18-pint minipins behind the bar, although sadly only the Fuggles and Trumpeter were available to take away, in our opinion two from the weaker end of those available that evening.

If the Swan has a ‘fault’, it’s that it can be described as “gastrofied” – a sin that I don’t find as irredeemable as some other bloggers. A large proportion of the pub’s interior is dedicated to dining, not a problem on a warm summer’s day with the benches out front but perhaps more restrictive for winter drinking. The food is of a gastronomique nature; a top-notch rib-eye steak with salsa, sautéed potatoes and string beans will set you back around £15. Mains are at least a tenner and starters around £6-7. A glimpse at the classic motors, including a Lamborghini Diablo, in the car park was an indicator of the target demographic. There is, however, a good selection of bar snacks from crisps and a variety of nuts to olives and even beef jerky.

We found the service to be very friendly and professional too. The pub was busy for a Tuesday night and in terms of table space was operating at near capacity. The barmaids were apologetic for our short wait times at the bar and explained that they were two members of staff down. They worked hastily throughout the evening to ensure each party left with a smile of their faces.

We certainly did.

As we pulled away, taking one last glimpse of the picture postcard scenery an unusual thought escaped me: it’s not all that bad living in England after all, is it?



  1. Looks like a great day trip.

    Don't suppose this place is on public transport, is it?

  2. Hi Boak,

    We've only ever driven there before. Public transport is awkward but looks do-able.

    The nearest train station is about 3 miles away. The only bus service direct to West Peckham runs just once a day on Tuesdays and Fridays. But the no.7 bus from Maidstone (7 mile journey) runs daily (except Sundays) every 20 mins and will take you to '7 Mile Lane' within a mile of the pub.

    Well worth a look if you fancy a day out scooping in Olde England.

  3. Cheers for the info. I'm particularly interested in this place as it looks like a German beergarden. I have withdrawal symptoms..

  4. This is a really cool brew pub. I had dinner there a while back which was great as far as I can remember - all I know is that I tried a half pint of all their beers and had a fantastic night!!

  5. It's had the thumbs up from everyone I've recommended it to. It's just one of those places that is difficult not to like, I think. I must go back again soon. It's been too long.


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