The first thing the real ale drinker will notice on entering is the bar counter groaning under the weight of 13 handpumps. 11 of these dispense cask beers with Crouch Vale Brewer's Gold, Oakham JHB, Thornbridge Jaipur IPA, Tim Taylor Landlord and the house beer Nethergate Kingston Drop as permanents accompanied by changing guests which have a bias towards East Anglia. A Mild and a Stout are always on offer Elgoods Black Dog and Buntingfords Oatmeal when I last called). The other pumps host a changing local cider and Broadoak Perry.
Now that summer is here, the monthly beer festivals have also returned and on my visit the barrels had been set up in the garden. Paul has developed an ingenious cooling system using a pond pump and a fridge (total cost £200) which works superbly. Customers vote for their Beer of the Festival each month and the awards are well received by the breweries concerned.
A very noticeable aspect of the Kingston is the plethora of innovative schemes which customers can take advantage of. Several of these originate from Paul's IT background. The Kingston Privilege Club for instance enables members to be notified by text of special offers such as price reductions on particular beers which need shifting. Paul has also custom-made kiosk software which allows you to get straight and securely onto the internet with no maintenance requirements he' made this available as a free download which has been taken up not only by other pubs but also by schools and others in India and elsewhere. An on-line office suite for pub landlords is another of Paul's creations.
When the recession hit a couple of years back, the pub began offering a Recession Beer at a maximum price of £2.10 a pint (it was Ushers 1824 on my visit), There are also Recession Dishes on the menu at £4.99 so students and others can have a meal and a couple of pints for less than a tenner.
The main menu is extensive and Jane and Paul are very happy with their new chef, Michael, who previously worked in Spain hence the Tapas Tuesdays which have just come on stream. There's also Steak & Wine Wednesday (free bottle with your meal), BBQ Thursday and Sunday Hangover Breakfast (from 11am)
Other schemes include (hurrah) a 20p per pint discount for CAMRA members, gift vouchers and blanket loans, ideal for cuddling up in the garden when the temperature drops.
Looking ahead there's a possibility of the old Lidstone's brewery being reactivated Jane's family still has access to the site and a 4/5 barrel plant might happen. Meanwhile, in a part of town stuffed with great pubs, the Kingston continues to be unmissable when in the area.