Monday, 23 November 2009

The 2 Kents Beer Festival

Question: What do you get if you take the Kent pub of the year, the Kent club of the year and add a shuttle bus and 60 casks of beer? That was the deal for the 2 Kents Real Ale Festival over the weekend (I posted the beer list here).

I started at The Bull. Lauren and I went up there and met Brad, Pete, Pete’s girlfriend Heather and Shaun. Unlike Pete and Shaun, who went straight for the 9-month aged Dark Star Imperial Stout (10.5%), I started low, requesting something pale and hoppy. I got Whim’s Arbour Light, a little 3.6% hoppy treat. I threw this one down as a stomach liner before following Beer Festival Rule Number 1: If it’s on and you want it, drink it. There have been too many times where I’ve seen a beer and thought, ‘yes, I have to drink that but I’ll get it next’ only to see it finished before I get there. So, my second beer was Moor’s JJJ IPA (9%). I loved the bottle and the cask was great too; big, earthy, full-bodied, bitter. It tasted much more barley wine-like in the cask compared to the bottle, which made it great by the half, but not really one to order by the pint.

Then came a succession of Tryst’s, another one of those Scottish brewery worth shouting about (there are a lot of them now and I stand by my claim that Scotland is one of the best brewing places around right now). Blathan (4%) was pale, hoppy (most things were pale and hoppy...) with a great floral and citrus nose, just delicious, follwed with Corronade IPA (4.2%) a zippy-citrusy US IPA. Then the Brockville Pale (3.8%), hoppy, fresh, clean; a great session beer. And Raj IPA (5.5%) which immediately reminded me of White Shield with a sweet bready nose and lots of earthy hops. Very nice. There was also a cask of Brewer’s Swansong (6.9%) but (and this is morbidly ironic, I know) it hadn’t dropped so wasn’t ready. This beer has a good story behind it so I hope to try some. Before we jumped on the bus to Dartford Working Mens Club there was time for another quick half, this time it was Moor’s Revival (3.8%). My notes simply say: ‘Pale, hoppy, tick.’

In Dartford I started on Marble Brew No.1 (4.1%). Marble Pint (3.9%) with a little extra oomph. Another pale and hoppy but better than all the others. Fruity, clean, deliciously bitter, luminescent in the glass. I tried it alongside Pint and that was on brilliant form too. Then came Brewdog zeitgeist (4.9%), one of my favourite cask ‘Dogs, which wasn’t as good as I’ve had it before but still a great beer. Brad had a Pictish Samhain Stout (5%) which everyone agreed to be spectacular - chocolatey, full bodied, roasty, as perfect a British stout as you’ll find. Then a Marble Ginger (4.5%), which may have fully converted me to ginger beers.

I tried the 2 Kents (5%) beer which the two landlords brewed at the pilot brewery of Shepherd Neame. Hopped with Amarillo and Cascade it was a really nice brew. I like that Sheps are brewing these little side-project micros, it’s a good thing, and having tasted this one, Dambuster and Grumpy’s Pale Ale, the beers are pretty good too. There was some Oakham Attila (7.5%) which reminded me of a cross between a US pale ale and barley wine, pale but full and malty and citrus hoppy. I had some of Pete’s Paradox Isle of Arran (10%) which seemed to have much more body and punch than the bottle. Then my final beer in Dartford, York’s Centurion’s Ghost (5.2%), another Great British stout, flavour throughout (how many stout have I had that just fall flat and thin in the middle?), sweet candy nose, chocolate, smoke, bitter roast.

I also had two hog roast rolls which were completely delicious and utterly essential at that stage of the drinking.

Then back to The Bull. There was some Dark Star Imperial Stout which was just too much for me, too big, too bitter and too boozy for that stage in the drinking and there was some Punk IPA which was kicking ass. And then it was time to go. The Bull pulled it off again. Great beer, great place, great people, great time. It was good to try some different beers from different breweries; breweries I wish I could get more often. Tryst are definitely one I’ll be looking out for, along with Whim and of course Marble.

The landlords at these two places really know their stuff and the beers selected were seriously good. Rarely have I been somewhere where all the beers were of this quality. Great British beer is great.

I've just remembered a couple of others but instead of trying to thumb them in somewhere I'll add them at the end. There was an unremarkable Dark Star Oktoberfest (5.2%) and a remarkably roasty but unchocolatey Chocolate Stout (4.7%) from Abbeydale. And no, I didn't drink all of these myself. Thankfully we were all happy enough to pass our glasses around, sharing the great beer.


  1. Wow! That's quite the session, and it all sounds bloody delicious!

  2. Sounds like you had a wicked time, put me down for that one next year!

  3. Pleased you liked the Samhain - it really is very good. Pictish do something called Black Shiver (6%) which is equally good.

    You shoudn't have restricted just to Whim Arbor Light - the IPA and Flower Power would be just up your street, I think.

    On the other side of the coin, I was interested to read about the Tryst - beers I shall be looking out for in future.

  4. Barry, Moggy, it was great. For someone like me who love finding great sub-5% pale and hoppy beers it was a real treat! As for the stouts... well, they were just great and a real poke in the eye of those thin excuses of beers.

    John, I've had the other Whim's before and I like them a lot. They do pale and hoppy very well. And definitely look out for Tryst. I hadn't heard of them before this weekend (except for the Brewers Swansong which I knew about but didn't associate with them).

  5. Sorry I missed this one, but is was my son's 18th birthday bash at the weekend, and also West Kent CAMRA's AGM.
    Will look out for it next year though!

    ps. To my eternal shame, have yet to visit the Bull at Horton Kirby!