Monday, 6 July 2009

Three Beer Festivals and a Trip North



It's been a very hectic seven days. Last week saw me making a whistle stop business trip to West Yorkshire, whilst back home there were three local beer festivals on over the weekend. This coupled with the long awaited publication of the "Gateway to Kent Pub Guide", meant that my feet have hardly touched the ground recently. Now that I've had time to catch my breath, it's worth looking back over these events.

I didn't get much chance for some serious ale-supping in Yorkshire. The two business colleagues I travelled up with are not really cask-beer drinkers, and by the time we found our hotel in the small pleasant town of Brighouse, checked in and enjoyed an excellent Italian meal in the adjoining restaurant, there wasn't much of the evening left. The local Wetherspoons though was quite a revelation, being a conversion of a Grade II listed, former Methodist Chapel. If you are ever in the area, then check out the Richard Oastler. They had a good range of local ales on sale, including offerings from Goose Eye and Elland Breweries. There just wasn't the time to sample as many of them as I would have liked! Our business visit the following morning, to nearby Elland, was also successful, and was well worth making the 500 mile round trip for.

As mentioned earlier, there were three beer festivals taking place back home. The first was the 3rd SIBA South East of England Beer Festival which this year was hosted by Tonbridge Juddians Rugby Club. The previous two events were held at the former Whitbread Hop Farm (now known as the Hop Farm Country Park), near Paddock Wood. Tonbridge, with its excellent rail connections is a much better place to hold such an event and whilst not actively invovled with the organisation of the festival, West Kent CAMRA were invited along to assist, where necessary, and to run a stall promoting both the campaign and our newly launched pub guide.

I was there on the Friday evening, which was perhaps a bit quiet for the opening night, but there was a good atmosphere and some cracking beers on offer. For the number of people who attended over the 3 days there were far too many beers (100 + from 30 different breweries) but it is worth remembering that these SIBA events are primarily run as competitions for their members, and with some eight different categories of beer to be judged many breweries will supply quite a range of beers in order to enter as many categories as possible. The beers are also supplied at the brewer's own expense, so any financial losses to SIBA, and the host organisation, are kept to a minimum. Even so, for a beer lover like myself it is heart-breaking to see so much unsold beer left over at the end of an event.

On Saturday, a number of us did a similar spell at a beer festival in nearby Sevenoaks. This event was organised by the local Lions Club, as part of the Sevenoaks Festival and, with just 30 firkins of beer, was a far more modest affair. As a CAMRA branch we had tried to disuade the organisers of this festival from holding their event over the same weekend as the Tonbridge one, but their hands were tied by the dates of the town festival. and the availability of the venue. As their first attempt at such an event though it was quite successful, and I understand is likely to be repeated.

A local pub was also holding a festival; the Beacon at Rusthall, just outside Tunbridge Wells ran their own, slightly more modest event. A couple of branch members were present at this do as well, once again promoting CAMRA and selling our new guide.

The three events did stretch our resources to the limit though, and I think in the end worked against each other by spreading the attendance of drinkers too thinly. We were quite pleased though in having sold around 100 of our guides, but next year please can the organisers of these events try and avoid clashing if at all possible?

1 comment:

Ale Fan said...

I like the irony of the JDW in a former Methodist chapel.

I won't go to a beer festival unless I can get there easily by public transport, and preferably by rail. Like you say, bad timing to have three on in a weekend.