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Secret Drinker reviews The Malling Jug in West Malling

Blink and you could miss it. The only sign there’s even a pub close by is a blackboard about a foot wide standing on the pavement. This directs you into the sort of alleyway that in other places, late at night, you’d think twice about walking down.

But, if you did miss the sign, or were put off by the narrow alley, it would be a great shame as you’d miss one of Kent’s true hidden hostelry gems.

The Malling Jug may be small, it may be off the beaten track, but it is beautifully formed and is the best place in town to visit by a mile.

She might be smiling, but barmaid Tapi is keen for as many folk as possible to enjoy the Malling Jug
She might be smiling, but barmaid Tapi is keen for as many folk as possible to enjoy the Malling Jug

Nestled right in the centre of West Malling this superb micro-pub has no pretension about it and shies away from competing with its larger, brasher, and frankly, less impressive competitors elsewhere in town.

The names over the door at West Malling’s only micro-pub
The names over the door at West Malling’s only micro-pub

The Five Pointed Star desperately needs the same love spending on it internally as has recently been lavished outside, The Farmhouse has improved hugely but, as a result, has a massively over-inflated impression of how good it really is, the nearby Joiners Arms is, well... and the less said about The Swan the better.

The fact is, the only other pub to even get close to the Jug in West Malling is The Bull.

The blackboard displaying the range of ales is a good deal bigger than the board outside the Malling Jug. It also has a sister Jug in Market Street, Dartford
The blackboard displaying the range of ales is a good deal bigger than the board outside the Malling Jug. It also has a sister Jug in Market Street, Dartford

Now, I always intended visiting but, even if I hadn’t, I didn’t have any choice. Bubbly barmaid Tapi made sure she blocked the path for me and my SD buddy to explain exactly why passing the pub wouldn’t be in our best interest.

Once inside it opens up and turning to the left you pass a much bigger blackboard displaying an incredibly varied and extensive selection of cask ales, along with all the important details you need.

The menus, which are even more detailed than the board, are on clipboards so they can easily be updated. It doesn’t matter how selective you are about your beer I guarantee there will be something for everyone. When it comes to food, it’s strictly snacks only – scotch eggs, pork pies, scratchings, pickled eggs, olives and cheese boards – the food listing plays very much understudy to the lead role of the beer menu.

Well decorated with a great blend of old and new, there’s plenty of interest
Well decorated with a great blend of old and new, there’s plenty of interest

We took a seat in the superbly-kept ‘garden’ area and joined an equally well-kept mature lady who introduced herself as a true beer lover. And, given she lives in Bristol, and only visits the area to catch up with friends, she manages to frequent the Jug on a reasonably regular basis. By her own admission, a beer in one hand and a crossword in the other, is her idea of heaven.

As you would expect, the bar staff welcome requests to ‘try before you buy’ and beer bats allow you to sample a selection of beers in third of a pint measures – three for £4.20, six for £8 or nine for £12.

Another colourful corner in this inviting local micro pub
Another colourful corner in this inviting local micro pub

There are no TVs, no jukebox, no fruit machines, no darts, no pool table, but there was table service, stacks of great conversation and the friendliest vibe I’ve experienced in a pub for a long time.

The beers are rotated each week, four pint takeaway carriers are available and the pub organises a whole host of special evenings. A pub quiz is held on the first Wednesday of the month and the next beer tasting night is Wednesday September 11.

There’s a small but well-formed bar but table service is available at the Malling Jug
There’s a small but well-formed bar but table service is available at the Malling Jug

Just be aware it’s closed on a Tuesday and doesn’t stay open quite as late in the evening as other pubs – mind you, after sampling the best on offer at the Jug you won’t be staying up too late!

It’s been open a few years now but the Jug has never advertised, they simply don’t need to.

Frankly I’m concerned giving the Malling Jug such a positive review might rebound on me, I don’t want my new favourite haunt to become over-run.

The toilets are clean, fresh and well maintained
The toilets are clean, fresh and well maintained

Read more Secret Drinker reviews here

How the Secret Drinker rated The Malling Jug
How the Secret Drinker rated The Malling Jug

You can follow Secret Drinker on Twitter here

Even the casks add colour to the Jug, and some are turned into stools
Even the casks add colour to the Jug, and some are turned into stools

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