THOUSANDS enjoyed Kent’s famous green hop beers at last weekend’s CAMRA Real Ale and Cider Festival along the Spa Valley Railway.

The seventh running of the four-day festival was dubbed the “most successful yet” by organisers after nearly all the stock was finished by Sunday (October 22).

Hundreds of ales, beers and ciders were put forward by local breweries to be tasted at
Tunbridge Wells West station and at High Rocks, Groombridge and Eridge, along the historic line.

Green hop beers, described by beer Sommelier Sophie Atherton as the “last taste of summer”, were the focus of a competition on Thursday night to find the best.

CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) expert Roger Protz joined her on a team of judges to name Dark Star Green Hop IPA as the best in show.

Craig Beeson, festival organiser, said: “Green hop is specific to Kent and something we have honed in on and events like this try to increase peoples’ awareness of it.

“It is all volunteer run, and really offers several festivals in one with the historic railway involved.”

Alex Greig, owner Fuggles Beer Café which has branches in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge, helped organise the beer competition.

He said: “It is the biggest one in the south east, it is interesting there is a chance to try traditional and new beer.”

Ever jovial former mayor Councillor David Neve was also on the panel of judges who groaned at his ‘can I take a photo at this CAMRA event?’ pun.

He said after the weekend: “It was amazing to see thousands of people come and there was not a lot of beer left by Sunday evening. The organisers must be chuffed.”

WHAT IS GREEN HOP BEER?

Hops act as the seasoning ingredient in beer, adding an aroma, flavour and bitterness. For a product to carry the Kent Green Hop Beer tag is must: Be brewed in Kent, only contain hops grown in the county and must be flavoured with undried hops used within 12 hours of picking. The crop ripens in September and goes through a drying process. The specific taste of green hop gives beer a unique flavour and aroma.

AND THE WINNERS ARE…

The winners of the Iain Dalgleish Award for Green Hop Beer of the Festival:
GOLD – Dark Star Green Hop IPA
SILVER – Downlands Green Hop Root Thirteen
BRONZE – Cellar Head GH Pole Dancer