Margate's pubs with a Beer Sommelier

Imagine tasting beer for a living… Jo Miller, one of the UK’s first female Beer Sommeliers, does just that.
“I’ve always had an obsession with great food and drink and how it’s made. I’m a sculptor too, so I think craftsmanship draws me in to things”, said Jo, who moved to Margate earlier this year. Wanting to expand my beer knowledge and to know where to find a good pint, Jo kindly agreed to accompany me on an educational (yes, really) mini Margate pub-crawl.

Our first stop was The Tap Room. Jo suggested I tried Gadd’s No. 5. Classic and British with a subtle flavour, Gadd’s is brewed in Ramsgate, so you’ll find it throughout the local area. “The beer quality is excellent here,” Jo said, as she sipped on her Big Chief Redemption IPA. What is immediately clear with The Tap Room is that it’s at the heart of the Cliftonville community; there’s a warm atmosphere and it’s a great place for those who are new to the area to meet people.

Jo told me that being a Beer Sommelier is a relatively new thing. There are around 100 people with the title in Europe and the qualification has only existed for 5 or 6 years. Jo has two businesses based around the marketing of drinks. On her experiences of working with breweries, she said “I love working with the makers to get the real essence of the product; the people behind it, the passion, the stories”.

Next was The London Tavern. I love this pub and have blogged about it before. A traditional pub, it has been the site of public houses since the 1850s. Jo recommended the Cloudwater White IPA Mosaic. Describing it as peppery and umami, she talked about how the single hop gives it an honest flavour. I was introduced to Lambic beer here and what a revelation! A bit like a bridge for cider drinkers into the land of beer, Lindemans Faro Lambic was a totally new experience for me; I have never tasted beer like it. It’s sweet, refreshing and almost fruity. Perhaps an acquired taste, but it’s one that I am delighted to have.

“Beer is much broader than wine for flavours, and the carbonation adds even more to it. Sometimes beer is wrongly described as the poor man’s drink, but we shouldn’t be snobby about it. It’s the fabric of our society and has been for thousands of years. It’s affordable and even the beer equivalent of a fine wine is an accessible price – it’s the drink of the people”, Jo said.

Third on our list was the fairly new kid on the block, The BottleShop. Already popular on Margate seafront, all I knew about this place was that they had G&T on tap. Some might say that’s all you need to know, but we had beer on the agenda. From the row of shiny copper taps, Jo chose Westbrook Udderly – a milk stout. “It’s a rich complexity of flavours and reminds me of sitting by the fire in my PJs,” she explained. The Bottle Shop is a new favourite of mine; the staff really know their stuff and I love the contemporary interior. Being able to meander through such diverse establishments is the beauty of drinking in Margate.

 Our final stop was The Two Halves. Always busy, always friendly…do I even need to mention that sea view? Here we chose Black Sheep Ale. With a malty backbone and a splash of floral hops, it’s a quintessentially British best bitter from the heart of Yorkshire, where Jo is originally from. She recalled drinking it at the end of long walks. “It’s traditional”, she said. Beer is about sharing experiences and creating memories. The pubs in the town are playing an important part in bringing the community together. And with that, we had reached the end of our pub-crawl. We sipped on our final drinks and did what you do in Margate; enjoyed another gorgeous sunset.

This blog post has been taken from my feature in Margate's brilliant independent magazine
 - Margate Mercury.

1 comment :

  1. I love the two halves sitting there with a beer and good company. Craft beer is fantastic each one made with love to give a different flavour. For those of us bought up on big brewery beer and lager it is a revelation and Shaun at the Two Halves has a constantly hanging choice always something different.