If anyone asks me what my favourite beer festival is then Planet Thanet is always my first answer.
It's where I spend Good Friday every year; in the Winter Gardens, a large venue with a long line-up of beers, a stage filled with activity, a room out the back where you can chill out and drink and eat (and listen to Michael Buble, which is seemingly on repeat) and a sloped garden to sit in the sun (unless it's snowing, which it was a few years ago, in massive contrast to today's sunshine).
This year the beer list was top-heavy with treats to tick off. Gadd's Low and Behold, a 2.8% up yours, was the festival beer, a deep amber, over-hopped, low-abv anomaly that's full bodied and bitter yet barely registers on the boozeometer. A strangely brilliant achievement.
There were many other stunners on the list this year and DarkStar owned a large section of awesomeness: Six Hop was a nose of mandarin and a faceful of hops; Tripel was dry, bitter, botanical and peachy; Maibock was caramel malt and smooth, puckering with lemony and floral hops, really tasty.
As it was hot, and because I love the style, I wanted a lot of pale and hoppy beers, the best were Whitby Abbey Ale from Black Dog, Brewsters Hophead, Yakima Gold from Crouch Vale, Blackwater Surrealism, Dorking Dry Hop Gold, Hornbeam Top Hop Best Bitter, Marble Manchester Bitter, Phoenix Ressurection and Kent Pale. I'd happily drink every one of these again.
Some of the bigger beers included Summer Wine's citrus juice Apache APA, Raw Brewing Grey Ghost IPA and London Brick brewed by a combination of Redemption, BrewWharf, DarkStar, Kernel, Brodies and Zerodegrees. All good, but pale and hoppy was what I wanted.
And as it's Planet Thanet, Ramsgate Brewery also bring out the big guns to go alongside Low and Behold: Bock was brilliant, a caramel and chocolate treat; West Coast IPA was a hop ripper; No.3 was a pint of Kent, all malty and spiked with local hops leaving a lemony finish; and Black Pearl Oyster Stout was sweet, salty, roasty and bitter in one dark package.
The festival is a tickathon of new beers and old favourites (plus a few grim ones which aren't worth mentioning), in a great venue next to the sea. There are few better ways to spend a very good Friday.