As I mentioned last week, Saturday was the date set for the West Kent CAMRA Branch AGM. It was a foul day, weather wise, so what better place to spend the afternoon than in a pub? The pub in question was the Chequers, an unspoilt 16th Century inn on Sevenoaks High Street. Being close to the apex of the junction where London Road splits away from the High Street, the Chequers also has a back entrance, and it was in this rear part of the pub that our meeting took place.
We had a reasonable attendance of 18 members, plus Regional Director, Kae Mendham. In view of the atrocious weather the turnout wasn't too bad, but one can't help wondering where the other 480 odd members were? All members would have been notified in advance of the meeting, either by e-mail or post, so they had no real excuse (apart from apathy) for not attending. Having said that I accept that today, people live busy lives and often have other more pressing priorities, so perhaps we ought to be thankful for the handful that did turn up!
So what of the meeting itself, well the various branch officers presented their reports, there were elections for the various committee posts, branch accounts were presented; in short all the usual formalities that take place at Annual General Meetings. Afterwards, campaign goals were set for the coming year, and a shortlist of pubs was drawn up for possible inclusion in the 2014 Good Beer Guide. In between the proceedings we managed a short break for solid refreshments, in the form of a buffet, supplied by the pub.
So far as liquid refreshment was concerned, there was a good choice of beers on at the Chequer, which included Black Sheep, Harvey's, St Austell (Tribute), Tonbridge (Ebony Moon) and Westerham (Spirit of Kent). It was also good to see the pub so busy on such a wet day, although I imagine the market stalls, just outside the front door must have helped to encourage trade.From my point of view, the Chequers takes me back to how I remember town centre pubs; bustling, busy and packed with a good cross section of customers, all enjoying good beer, good food and good company. If I lived in Sevenoaks the Chequers would definitely be my pub of choice.
The meeting broke up around 5pm, and a group of us headed down to the Sennockian, Sevenoaks' Wetherspoons outlet. Unfortunately the beer range was not that inspiring, with just Old Hookey, plus Grasshopper from Westerham Brewery, to complement the usual Greene King regulars. Both the aforementioned beers were on good form though, but after a couple here those of us who aren't inhabitants of Sevenoaks decided to head back to Tonbridge. Two of us had journeyed over by train, whilst the other two remaining members had travelled by bus. We therefore decided on a slightly silly, "Top Gear"-style race to see which couple could make it to the Tonbridge Wetherspoons (Humphrey Bean) first. It went without saying that, as it was virtually door to door, the pair who had travelled by bus won hands down!
There was a much better range of beers on in the Humphrey Bean, including two beers from Hopdaemon; a very interesting and innovative brewery which, in my mind, is often overlooked. Both Incubus and Golden Braid were on offer, with the latter being especially good. A bit later in the evening Thornbridge Jaipur made an appearance on the bar. Although welcome at the time, it was probably not a good thing in view of the amount of beer we had already consumed. I certainly regretted it the following day! However, it made a fitting end to a good day out, and even made the trudge home through the rain a bit more bearable.