The following article is the first of two interrelated posts, both connected with last Saturday’s presentation of a CAMRA certificate for “Beer of the Festival”, to local brewers Larkin’s. The award was for the brewery’s Green Hop Ale, which emerged as the clear and worthy winner, as voted for by punters at last October’s Spa Valley Railway Beer Festival.
The presentation took place this weekend (21st February), at the unspoilt and National Inventory-listed Queen’s Arms at Cowden Pound. (More about this gem of a pub in the second article). All the volunteers who helped at the festival were invited to the presentation, with a specially chartered mini-coach laid on to transport those volunteers who accepted the invitation to Cowden Pound. The Queen’s Arms was chosen as it is a regular outlet for Larkin’s beers and, given its history and unchanging nature, was considered a fitting place to hold such an event.
The presentation marked a very special day for both Larkin’s and the Queen’s Arms. The latter does not normally open on Saturday lunchtime, but new owner, Jonathan had agreed to do so especially for us. Some of the younger members of the Larkin’s team had been in earlier to get the place ready for us, and had lit the fires in both bars. Most importantly they had racked up several casks of Larkin’s beers to sell alongside the Traditional Ale, which is the pub’s normal tipple.
|Waiting for the pub to open|
Two dozen of us travelled by mini-coach, and we were joined later by several other members plus, of course, representatives from the brewery along with a compliment of the Queen’s Arms’ regulars. We arrived slightly early, and waited outside in eager anticipation for the pub to open. We were not disappointed by what greeted us, for alongside the award winning Larkin’s Green Hop Ale, were Traditional Ale and Porter, plus the brewery’s new 4.2% Pale.
All the beers were in fine form, and for most of us this was the first opportunity to try the new Pale. It is considerably paler than the other beers in the range, with the exception of the seasonal Platinum Blonde of course, but is well hopped with that distinctive Larkin’s taste. It certainly got the thumbs up from all who tired it, as did the Green Hop Ale. The latter was the last cask of this beer, which was originally brewed back in September last year, at the start of the hop harvest. The brewery had kept a cask back especially for this event, and it was interesting to experience how the beer had mellowed over the last five months. Like most “green hop” beers there was still that layer of hop oils as a reminder of the hop gardens, coating one’s tongue. Excellent stuff!
|Award-winning brewers - Chris & Harry|
The pub was pretty full, and we ended up occupying both bars. Along with the excellent selection of Larkin’s beers, the pub had laid on sausage rolls plus cheese and crackers. The presentation of the certificate took place outside. As the beer buyer for last year’s festival, yours truly ended up presenting the certificate to Harry Dockerty and his young helper Chris. My short and off-the-cuff speech praised Larkin’s for their longevity; the brewery will be celebrating its 30th anniversary later this year. I also mentioned their commitment to brew full-bodied and well-hopped ales in the true Kentish style; a stance which continues to be non-compromising in keeping the tradition of Kentish brewing well and truly alive.
Larkin’s founder and, until very recently, head brewer Bob Dockerty missed the actual presentation due to a spot of car trouble, but turned up a bit later to enjoy the beer and a chat with the assembled guests. It was good to see Bob up and about, enjoying a few of his brewery’s beers, particularly as he underwent major surgery earlier last year.
|The award winners with their certificates|
A second presentation also took place that day; this time for the “Cider of the Festival”. This award was won by Oakwood Farm Cider & Perry, of Robertsbridge, East Sussex, and cider-maker Matthew Wilson travelled up specially, along with his family, to be presented with his certificate. Keith Ennis, who was the cider buyer for the festival, did the honours in handing over the certificate.
Our coach party departed around 2.15pm. The pub was getting ready to close, and we were in need of some solid sustenance. This was provided at the Fountain; an excellent Harvey’s pub in nearby Cowden village. Don, our tour organiser, had arranged for the pub to extend its kitchen opening hours in order to accommodate us for a pre-booked lunch, so with our bellies full of beer we departed in search of something to soak it up!
To be continued………………………..