The drinking scene in West Kent really seems to be looking up, and nowhere is this more the case than in Tunbridge Wells. Drinkers in the town are now almost spoilt for choice, with the recent opening of Fuggles Beer Café being the icing on the cake. I was in the town last Sunday, getting some of my Christmas shopping done, but also taking the time to check out a couple of the best local drinking establishments.
First on the list was the Beer Seller; a recently opened speciality beer shop, situated on Mount Ephraim, a few doors away from the ever popular Sankey’s. A work colleague had recommended this place to me, and whilst the shop was a bit spartan inside, I was not disappointed by what I found. The Beer Seller does exactly what the name above the door says: it sells beer and nothing else. Bottled beers, rather than draught, with the majority coming from Belgium. There are also quite a few home-grown examples, alongside a few from North America and Germany. I treated myself to a small selection towards my Christmas stockpile - Rochefort 6, De Koninck and Silly Saison, all from Belgium, plus English speciality, Ampleforth Abbey Beer, a 7.0% Dubbel style beer from Little Valley Brewery of West Yorkshire, and made a promise to return, before heading down the hill back towards the town centre.
Fuggles was my next port of call as after buying some beer in bottles, I wanted some to drink there and then. The place was pleasantly busy without being totally crowded out. Alex the manager recognised me from my previous visit and, as on that occasion,, there were four cask ales on tap, plus ten keg ones. I opted for a tasting bat (three thirds of a pint) of the cask beers to start with, my selections being Burning Sky - Plateau, Harbour - Amber and Redwillow - Heartless Chocolate Stout. All three were good but I have to say the 3.5% Plateau was outstanding. This is understandable as Burning Sky has been set up by former Dark Star brewer, Mark Tranter.
Afterwards I moved onto the Beavertown - Gamma Ray APA, a beer that I had seen on sale in bottled form, at the Beer Seller, a short while before. It was a tasty and well-hopped beer, not quite as good as the Plateau, but still eminently drinkable. I was surprised to see it looking quite cloudy, in the glass, thereby shattering my delusions that all keg beers are filtered! Before I left, Alex offered me a taste of the Alpha State Orange Zest IPA, a stunning, zesty IPA, brewed with Belgian yeast, which imparts a distinct taste to the beer.
Regrettably, or perhaps sensibly, I had to leave. There was only an hour remaining before the shops shut for the day, so I took my leave of Alex and Fuggles and headed for the shops. Purchases complete for the day I made my way back down towards the station, before calling in on the way to Tunbridge Wells’s premier alehouse, the Bedford. There were around 10 cask ales on tap, and like at Fuggles I decided to go for a tasting bat. The ones I chose were Isfield - Bitter, Langham - American Pale Ale and Late Knights - Old Red Eyes. All were good, but the one that really stood out was the Langham APA.
I met four friends in the pub; not all at once, but enough to extend my stay quite a bit longer than I intended. I had a couple more halves, but I can’t remember what they were. All in all it was a fruitful visit to Tunbridge Wells, both on the shopping and the beer sampling front. It’s just a shame there is nothing quite like these places in Tonbridge.