If you live in Brighton you may well have noticed that it has a big beach. You may have also enjoyed spending time in, on, or around it.
There may well be those, however, that have not spent any time on the city’s hallowed pebbles, so in the name of hard-hitting journalism we spent most of the weekend down the front chinning tins and splashing about for you, dear reader.
Brighton beach, as generally tends to happen, is situated just between the city and the sea. To get there it is normally best to head due south until you get wet and then back track 15 yards or so. If you’re getting revved at by some lad in a rented BMW on Madeira Drive you aren’t there yet and if you’re amongst wind turbines you’ve gone too far.
Having located the beach the next task is to get down to it, luckily, it is is accessible by a number of staircases or ramps, depending on your preference or how you feel on the day.
Once you are on the lovely, awkward, pebbles your primary consideration should be east/west positioning.
Someone potentially said that all beaches are created equal, but such is not the case in Brighton. A general rule of thumb is to avoid the stretch between the two piers as it features the highest concentration of total whoppers, but such is not set in stone.
As mentioned, the worst of the worst tend to pitch up in between the two piers turning the stretch into a cacophony of Essex accents, cruddy trap tunes played from phones and proper lads lads lads shouting about this that and the other.
For those looking to engage in similar debasements the short walk between Shoosh… and Coalition will provide ample atmosphere, but it is worth keeping one’s shoes in in this area for on any given Saturday the floor is often more broken glass than concrete.
Heading east past the screams of people finding out the zipline costs £17 a pop the beach becomes a great deal quieter both in terms of volume of people and volume of shouting. This stretch, which runs the length of Kemptown, is for those wanting a more measured experience, largely free of cheap BBQ fumes and general tequila-soaked chaos.
It is a similar story should you head west out towards lovely, lovely Hove, although this part of the beachfront does pose its own issues. The screams of small-town daytrippers are not to be found down in the BN3 postcode, but you will invariably be met with an ocean of Fato A Mano boxes (this season’s hottest instagram accessory) and the nightmare of Hove children; the byproduct of bullshit holistic parenting and rubbish wooden toys.
The beach does continue in both directions, but if your idea of a good day out involves spending time in either Peacehaven or Portslade I would like you to stop reading this right now and never come back.
Whilst the central stretch does indeed draw the worst of all humanity in all its sunburt tribal, Carling-drinking glory, it does also feature the most bars. Should you wish to spend £6 on a pint in a plastic cup and hear Essex holidaymakers shriek at each other, this is the place for you.
Fortune of War, The Tempest Inn, Brighton Music Hall, Shoosh… (lord knows what the ellipses are for) The Arch, Coalition and the one right by the Pier no one goes to, if ice-cold pints are your game, you’ve got options.
The main strip also offers a number of food options, most notably the new Shelter Hall Raw kind-of-food-court experience which includes options from Curry Leaf Cafe, Fato A Mano and Carlito Burrito, all of which are tres bien (French for very good).
If by this point you’ve decided the crowds aren’t for you, it is best to get the old compass and sextant out and plot a course for peace in the east. As previously mentioned, you will encounter less loathsome individuals out between the Palace Pier and the Marina, but you will also encounter less amenities.
In the immediate vicinity of the pier (and the crowds it draws) there are a number of cruddy Fish and Chips joints, the games-themed hideaway of Loading Bar and a short parade of bars that time seemingly left behind. This stretch of refreshment joints runs from Volks to The Madeira Cafe and as a general rule is best avoided. Not only are they on a road and not the beach, they seem to be a magnet for weird older blokes, all puffed up guts and barely-clinging-on hairlines. Not the best view in the world.
The tide eventually changes when you get down to Bison Beach Bar some time later. This star of the Sea Lanes will still charge you six entire pounds for a beer in a plastic cup but you’ll have at least traded lairy Essex groups for people that have words like “lifestyle” and “new media” in their job titles, which I guess is a bit better.
Alongside a selection of crafty beers (no standard lager in sight, boo hiss) the Beach Bar also serves up a range of BBQ favourites that are very good indeed. Cold beers, great views, less dickheads, Bison is a Red Stripe tap away from being the perfect beach hangout.
Heading west there is marginally more to find. First up there are two small cafes on the lawns (the type that will charge you upwards of £3 for a cup of rubbish instant coffee) and then there is Maroccos, a lovely little family joint serving up top drawer ice cream and drinks. Keeping your back turned to the piers you will eventually encounter some beach huts serving up pints, but given the queues they seem to generate it barely seems worth it.
There are also a couple of cafes down by the lagoon, but given how many kids are normally in attendance it’s just really not worth the hassle.
Bring Your Own Beach Booze, Baby (BYOBBB)
And now for the real appeal of Brighton beach.
Whether you’ve decided you want to save beer money, want to free yourself from the main drag of bars or you’ve just got your head screwed on properly, getting a big bag of tins in is the true way to enjoy the seafront.
For those still wanting to spend time in the prime time central beach area the best bet to acquire tins is either from Co Op on North Street or one of the many off licenses on Preston Street. There are a number of shops along Madeira Drive itself, but these are Sirens, luring foolhardy travellers to graves of despair.
Not only are these shops extortionately expensive, they are typified by poor fridge management. A combination of high stock turnover and unrelenting consumer demand means that any tins brought from these locales will be room temperature at best and kind of warm at worst; not what you’re looking for on a hot day.
The small walks up Preston Street or similar are worth it for the hardy tin traveller.
Heading west the game is similar. There is an increase in bonafide supermarkets one road up from the beach including all the classics; Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co Op, Mullberrys and Londis.
Any and all of these are a good bet for a bag full of tins, owing largely to corporate-mandated fridge temperatures and cold storage facilities at the bigger venues.
Out east there are three real standout performers in the Tinlympics; Morrissons for sheer drinks choice, Co Op St James’ Street because all tins are behind the till meaning less fridge door openings, and the best bad shop in the world, Mullberry’s Kemptown.
There are few joys in life quite like slogging down the pebbles, deciding on a spot, falling onto your butt in unceremonious fashion and then cracking that first and only ice cold tin.
For the price of two pints from a seafront bar (£12) you can get yourself eight tins (Four tins for a fiver, twice) and two bags of those salt and vinegar spiral crisps, it really is a no brainer.
Besides the basic pecuniary considerations, there are a number of key benefits to drinking tins on the beach:
The physical build of a tin makes it perfect for burrowing into the pebbles, a sense of stability sorely lacking from plastic cups; when you come back from taking a dip your next beer has a fun salty edge; you choose the beer you actually want not some shonky IPA that everyone pretends to like; it is always enjoyable creating makeshift shade to cover your beer stash; tins are visually more appealing than non-descript cups; and you can be set for literally hours with enough planning, as opposed to having to queue up regularly with lads that aren’t sure where their jaws are anymore.
Brighton Beach does what it says on the tin; it is a beach, which is great, in Brighton, which is also great. It’s a real winner.
Whether you want to muck in with the daytrippers, go and sit with the bourgeois droves of Hove, or cast yourself adrift Kemptown way, there is a beach for all seasons as long as its summer.
You will not get any phone signal, you probably will have to see some old bloke in a pair of speedos and you very well may get sunburnt, but when you stumble back out of the sea from a refreshing dip and take that first salty sip of Red Stripe you will know that you made the right choice.
Brighton Beach official verdict: 10 tins out of 10, the greatest of all time.