Our local JDW outlet in Tonbridge, the Humphrey Bean, is currently running a Thornbridge Festival, featuring six beers from this highly respected brewery. The festival runs for a fortnight, so on the first Saturday of the event, I decided to call in and see what was occurring.
Fortunately I picked a quiet time and was served straight away. True to the management's word, all six of the Thornbridge beers promised were on sale. There was even a printed sheet telling customers a bit about the brewery, together with a description and tasting notes of the six beers. The beers featured were Wild Swan, Lord Marples, Brother Rabbit, Sequoia, Kipling and Jaipur. I went for the Sequoia - American Amber Ale 4.5% to start with, described as "smooth and velvety, medium-bodied with hints of roasted hazelnut, toffee and caramel malt flavours. combined with beautiful citrus and pine notes". It certainly was a fine beer, and I settled down at one of the tables to enjoy it.
Not long afterwards I was joined by my friend Eric who, like me, had dropped in to see what was going on. This called for another pint, so I decided to go for the Brother Rabbit - Crisp Golden Ale 4.0%. Unfortunately the staff were just changing the barrel on this one, so I opted for the weaker,White Swan - White Gold Pale Ale 3.5% instead. I have drank this beer in bottled form before and found it a trifle on the weak side. The cask version proved to be the same, but I've no doubt that on a baking hot July day this white gold coloured beer, with its light bitter lemon aromas and subtle spiciness, would be the ideal refreshing summer beer.
The following Saturday I was tied up with our CAMRA branch social at the Dovecote, Capel, described here, and then on Sunday the weather was too atrocious to contemplate leaving the house. However, mid-week I called in again and was pleased to see four Thornbridge ales still on sale. This time I was able to try the Brother Rabbit, a beer I found quite similar in taste and appearance to the White Swan. This just leaves the Lord Marples and the Kipling to try, as Jaipur often features at the Bean.
The pub's management are to be congratulated for their initiative in showcasing beer from one of the country's finest breweries, thereby helping to introduce them to the good citizens of Tonbridge. This is not the first time though that the Bean has hosted such an event. Last autumn, the pub laid on a similar festival which featured Adnams beers; the event included a "meet the brewer evening", at which one of the brewers from Adnams was present to talk about, and answer questions on the company's beers. They also ran a similar festival featuring Hog's Back beers. Wetherspoons often receive a lot of flack over their range of beers, but given the right person at the helm, local outlets can often shine out as examples of excellence in a sea of mediocrity.