The Saturday before last, Tonbridge held its own Oktoberfest, in a large marquee attached to the town’s football ground, at Longmead. We first became aware of this event through one of the building firms that Mrs PBT’s does accountancy work for. The company’s yard and office are adjacent to the Tonbridge Angels ground, so they often have first hand knowledge as to what’s going on at the club.
It was Mrs PBT’s boss who tipped us off about the event, although I do recall seeing some early advanced publicity for it, but the thing that really sparked my interest was the event’s sponsor. This was the people behind Hofmeister Helles, the re-vamped 1980’s lager brand. The beer is now an authentic German Helles, brewed by a small brewery in the heart of Bavaria, and very tasty it is too.
Tonbridge Oktoberfest was as a “ticket only” event, with the option of pre-booking a table. As well as Hofmeister Helles, there was food in the form of Bratwurst and pulled pork, supplied by local butchers Hayward’s, plus classic Oktoberfest entertainment provided by the London Oompah Band.
Sponsor, Richard Longhurst, one of the two people behind the re-launch of Hofmeister, said: “I love Oktoberfest and I am so excited that Hofmeister can sponsor the very first Oktoberfest in Tonbridge. It will be a true Bavarian experience and Hofmeister Helles is the perfect beer sponsor for this – a truly authentic Bavarian beer.”
Mrs PBT’s boss booked a table for 10 people, which included the Bailey family. Included in the ticket price was the first beer of the evening, along with a complimentary “Stein.” Now anyone who has been to Bavaria will know, that the large, glass one-litre drinking vessels are known as a Maβ Krug, rather than a Stein; the latter word, of course, being German for "stone."
Stein can be used to describe a ceramic, stoneware drinking vessel, but leaving semantics aside, the drinking vessels at Tonbridge Oktoberfest were made of non-breakable polycarbonate, no doubt for safety reasons. They were CE marked as two pints, so were slightly larger than the traditional Munich one litre Maβ Krugs.
The beer was token only, and if I did my maths correctly, the beer worked out at £7.50 for a full two-pint refill. The polycarbonate drinking vessels were returnable; Matthew kept his but I exchanged mine for a charity donation at the end of the evening. The food was also token only, which I thought rather unnecessary.
Once you’ve experienced the real thing any attempt to replicate Munich’s world famous Oktoberfest is bound to end up leaving one wanting more, so the thing to remember about these “copy-cat” events is to not even attempt a comparison with the real deal. Instead treat them as something enjoyable in their own rights and then just go with the flow.
Mrs PBT’s and I wore the pointed felt hats we’d purchase at Oktoberfest 2017, but there were a surprisingly large amount of people who went several stages further and turned up in traditional Bavarian costume. There were a lot more Lederhosen and braces being worn than Dirndl’s, whereas in Munich, the split is much more 50:50.
If truth be known, the event didn’t really compare with the real one, but on the plus side, the beer was very drinkable, being brewed to a much more sensible strength than the 6% plus Festbier, served at Oktoberfest Munich. The London Oompah Band were good, and helped get people in the mood, but the timing of their set was too early in the evening,
The DJ set that followed was far too loud, making conversation impossible, but it did get people up on their feet and dancing. As at the real Oktoberfest, dancing on the tables was not permitted; although several people did get carried away. Mrs PBT’s boss was amongst them, and had to be helped/persuaded down by security. He ended up falling off the table, but apparently can remember nothing about the event!
I was quite restrained, in comparison, sticking to two x 2 pint mugs, plus another one which I shared with Matthew. We also enjoyed a pulled pork roll each, along with a Bratwurst – two in Matthew’s case!
Will we go next year? It depends really on what else is on, but if we do we might have to go the whole hog and don traditional Bavarian attire; just for the sheer hell of it!