Pub of the Year Presentation and 25 Years in the Good Beer Guide

The first day of the Spring Bank Holiday weekend was billed as a double event for West Kent CAMRA, in so much that we had two pubs to visit and different certificates to present to both. The first pub on our itinerary was the Hopbine, in the tiny hamlet of Petteridge, and the purpose of our visit was to present landlord Mike Winser, and his wife “B” with a certificate to celebrate 25 consecutive years in the Good Beer Guide. This is a rare achievement, and there are no other pubs in the branch area that can boast such a feat.
The award was a few months late in being presented, as we were originally due to visit the Hopbine back in January. Some of the heaviest snow-fall in years though scuppered that plan, and with a crowded branch calendar it meant that May was the earliest date we were able to re-schedule the event. Half of those attending made the journey to Petteridge by bus, whilst the rest of us, myself included, walked the three and a half miles from Paddock Wood station.

The Hopbine is a former King  & Barnes pub, which is now owned by Hall & Woodhouse, and offers the rare opportunity of sampling this Dorset brewers excellent ales. After our walk, the Badger First Gold certainly slipped down a treat. Landlord Mike was delighted with his certificate, and it joins several others, including Branch Pub of the Year, on his wall. Photographs were taken, hopefully for publication in the local papers, and then shortly afterwards we all set off, on foot, for the second pub on our itinerary.

The Halfway House at Brenchley won Branch Pub of the Year 2010 and as it was hosting its annual Whitsun Bank Holiday Beer Festival it seemed a good excuse to attend and present landlord Richard Allen with his certificate. Unfortunately, shortly before leaving the Hopbine, the day’s threatened rain finally arrived and we got rather wet walking the short, cross-country route between the two pubs.

The pub was well prepared though for the vagaries of the English climate, with the bulk of the festival beers on sale outside, from a booth-like tented gazebo structure which provided sufficient shelter for the people serving the beers, plus those queuing up to drink them. There were 60 beers on offer, all competitively priced at £2.80 a pint. Food was provided in the form of beef burgers, sausages and paella, cooked outside on a covered barbecue from meat supplied by the village butcher,

After selecting our beers, most of us ended up inside the pub, which was heaving. We still managed to find a table or two, as one of many delights about the Halfway House is that it is a maze of small, inter-connecting rooms on different levels, all exhibiting a degree of antiquity and cosiness that is the hall-mark of this pub. The beers that particularly impressed me were Coastal Hop Monster, Phoenix Hopsack, Hawkshead Lakeland Gold, Prospect Gold Rush and Fyne Ales Avalanche, all of which are golden or pale bitters. I also enjoyed Lymestone Stone Faced, Wold Top Falling Stone (excellent) and Champion Winter Beer of Britain – Elland 1872 Porter

Mid way through the afternoon the rain eased off and branch chairman Iain, managed to grab hold of Richard long enough to present him with his certificate outside the pub, and also to get some photographs taken. Those travelling by bus departed shortly after half four, but those of us on foot stayed until about seven o’clock.

The festival continued right over the Bank Holiday weekend, and whilst there wasn’t quite wall to wall sunshine, at least the other two days were dry. The Halfway House will be holding another beer festival over the August Bank Holiday weekend, so if you missed the recent one, there is the opportunity to enjoy one later in the year!

Paul Bailey