This weekend saw our local football team, Tonbridge Angels FC, holding their 4th beer and music festival. Billed as Angelfest 4, and featuring around 40 cask ales, local ciders, plus a scattering of Belgian beers, my son and I took a trip down to the club’s Longmead Stadium for a closer look.
It took the best part of an hour to walk from our house in south Tonbridge, to the Angel’s ground at the opposite end of the town. We found the place buzzing and, unlike in previous years, the marquee which holds the event had been moved to behind one of the stands, giving much more space.
After collecting our £10 “starter packs”, consisting of a glass, plus five tokens, we set about trying a few of the beers. There were only nine breweries represented, but each had between four and six beers on sale. Apart from North Yorkshire; a brewery whose beers we rarely, if ever, see in this part of the country, all the breweries were local. Beers were sold at one plastic token per half pint, regardless of strength, which probably explains why the stronger ones sold out first.
Local brewery, Tonbridge were well represented, as were one of my favourite breweries; Gadds of Ramsgate. New to me were Bexley Brewery, and I tried both their 4.0% Golden Acre and their 4.5% Howbury. Both beers were golden in colour and well hopped using a combination of American, Australian and English hops.
I also went for a couple of porters; one from North Yorkshire and the other an old favourite of mine, Powerhouse Porter from Sambrooks. My son, Matthew couldn’t be bothered to queue for the Belgian lager, so he enjoyed a few glasses of Alsace Gold from Tonbridge Brewery, plus Pumphouse Pale from Sambrooks.
There were several live acts, although the best one, in my book, was a girl singer whose set finished shortly after we arrived. There was Thai food on sale outside the marquee plus the usual selection of burgers and hotdogs. By around 9pm the marquee was pretty full and one or two of the beers had started to run out. Unfortunately the 6.0% Thoroughly Modern Mild, from Gadds, which I had been working my way up to, was amongst the empties. Being a local festival we bumped into quite a few people we know, so news of the event had obviously got round.
We left around 10pm; mindful of the long walk back. We were tempted to call in at Wetherspoons on the way, but decided against it, even though the place looked half empty and the two bouncers on the door were standing there twiddling their thumbs.
Angelfest isn’t the most challenging of festivals for the beer connoisseur, and definitely has little to offer the “tickers”. However, as a good, local festival which appeals to a wide cross-section of the local community, it ticks all the right boxes and appears to be going from strength to strength each year. As one acquaintance I bumped into there remarked, “This is a festival where you don’t have to drink numerous halves, in an attempt to try as many different beers as possible. At Angelfest, you find one or two you like, and you stick with them.”
Later this summer, from 10th to 12th of July in fact, Tonbridge plays host to another and much larger festival. I am referring, of course, to the SIBA South East Beer Festival, which is now in its 9th year. The event takes places, as usual, at Tonbridge Juddians Rugby Club, which is right in the centre of the town. There will be around 100 different cask ales to try, all brewed by SIBA members drawn from all over the south-east. I’ve already booked my place!