Well the last Bank Holiday weekend of the year is nearly over, and like the weather it's been a bit of a mixed bag. August Bank Holiday sees many beer festivals taking place, including on our own doorstep the one at the Halfway House, Brenchley. This award winning pub, and current West Kent CAMRA Pub of the Year, holds two such events each year;one over the Late Spring Bank Holiday and one over the August Holiday weekend.
Unlike previous years, and indeed the earlier festival, the forecast for Saturday was wet and windy, with torrential thundery downpours predicted. It certainly wasn't the weather for walking, so I joined a few of my CAMRA colleagues and caught the bus over to the pub. We arrived in the midst of a downpour, so went straight inside the pub, rather than sitting out into the garden where the majority of the beers are normally racked. Fortunately the pub was quite quiet, so we were able to grab a table and peruse the beer selection at our leisure. Compared to the event held over the Jubilee Weekend, this festival was somewhat toned down in nature, with only 50 beers available instead of the 70 on sale earlier in the year. Possibly landlord Richard Allen had seen the long term forecast, or alternatively with many people still on holiday at this time he though it wise to cut back on the beer order. Nevertheless, the beers that were available were a good selection from Kent and Sussex brewers, which was the theme behind this particular festival.
Beers that really stood out for me were Gravesend Guzzler from Millis Brewery and Beyond the Pale from Kent Brewery, (my beer of the festival). I also caught up on same old favourites, including Blue Top from Old Dairy, Dark Star Original, plus a couple of beers from the Swan brew-pub at West Peckham which, although quite close to where I live, is not a pub I get to visit as often as I would like.
Round about one o'clock the sun came out, so we decided to move out into the garden, and the enjoyed the rest of the afternoon sitting outside. I grabbed a very tasty Cajun chicken burger to help soak up the beer, and whilst people began arriving as the day wore on, I can't say the festival was as busy as previous events.
On the way home we stopped off at the Bedford, in Tunbridge Wells, where alongside a selection of different beers two 5.0% offerings from Royal Tunbridge Wells Brewery caught my eye; Helles and Golden Ticket. The former is, as its name suggests, is a pale German-style beer, whilst the latter is a golden ale, with a fine slightly fruity flavour. Both beers were good, but of the two I preferred the Golden Ticket (think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roal Dahl).
I have written before about the renaissance of the Bedford, under the careful stewardship of Simon Lewis, who is also the founder, owner and the driving force behind RTWB. Well the pub just seems to get better with each visit; it's certainly the place to enjoy a relaxing pin in pleasant surroundings in the company of like minded people, and so it proved on Saturday. Do call in if you are in Tunbridge Wells and see for yourselves.
The rest of the holiday weekend has been pretty mundane, catching up on domestic chores, gardening and even a spot of decorating! Having got these tasks out of the way by mid-afternoon, I jumped on my bike and headed down into Tonbridge to pick up a few last minute items. I also took the opportunity of calling in at the Humphrey Bean, (our local JDW) to see what was on offer. I was disappointed not to find Thornbridge Jaipur on sale, as this excellent beer has become a semi-permanent fixture on the bar. My disappointment was mitigated though by two beers from Hopdaemon from Newnham, near Faversham. I tried both the 4.0% Incubus and the 4.5% Skrimshander; the latter beer definitely having the edge over the former. I bumped into a couple of friends at the pub, so was able to enjoy a pleasant interlude catching up on things over my beer.
Tomorrow it's back to work. No doubt the weather will suddenly take a turn for the better but hey, that's what English Bank Holidays are all about!
ps. Check out the purpose built shelters in the bottom photo. With the summer we've just had, these could soon be catching on at other pubs.