Many traditional brewers of cask beer have found the lockdown hard with a loss of custom and orders from local and national pubs. I was glad to see that a local beer was being delivered by Hops and Bubbles, an events company who’ve had to diversify during the Coronavirus lockdown into delivering food and drink locally. I saw that they had a few minikegs from Larkins, a brewery based in Chiddingstone, a quaint village based in Kent’s South Downs. Chiddingstone has a lovely pub called the Castle Inn where I’ve enjoyed Larkins beer on many memorable occasions. Adjacent to the pub is Chiddingstone Castle and there are several distinctive, tall Oasthouses found nearby. While some are now houses (my uncle-in-law lives in one) Larkins Brewery have their own, which they still use to dry and process hops in a traditional way. Not many breweries can boast that all of their hops are provided by their own farm next to the brewery. The three main varieties grown by Larkins include Early Choice Goldings, Bramling Cross and Whitbread Golding. As the pubs have been closed for a few weeks, it’s been a while since I’ve had a good cask ale, and this beer fills the void nicely. Perfect for spring, it’s been great for the surprisingly hot weather we’ve been having. After a few days gardening during the Easter weekend, a glass of this straight from the keg was divine. The hops are floral and herbaceous, with bitterness in perfect balance with the sweetness of the malt. The beer has certainly benefited from the freshness of the hops the farm has provided, coming through well in the glass. Cask beer is usually served warmer than my fridge, but for this pale ale in this weather it worked very well indeed. So, a minikeg with no one to share it with – best get cracking!
There was sad news this week as Hop Stop’s Oxted beer shop closed its doors. But, like a beer-fuelled phoenix, they return from the flames with a new service.