What do you get if you cross two girls and a shed load of beer? Well if it’s this April and those gals happen to be in Newton Abbot, Tuckers Maltings 25th Beer Festival is what. Ok technically it wasn’t a shed, it was a malthouse, masquerading for three days as Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory (where all of the chocolate is beer and you don’t need a golden ticket to get inside the joint).
The festival which is arranged by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) and hosted at Tuckers Maltings has over 250 beers to tickle almost every variety of taste bud. The fact that these Independent Brewers have their own ‘society’ is also pretty intriguing stuff. We can confirm that to get to Tuckers Maltings (which is snuggled away near the railway station) we didn’t have to solve a series of cryptic clues or evade capture from the French police (although Vix did have to stand on the train from Exeter whilst avoiding the advances of fruit bearing strangers).
So if you haven’t checked out this little gem of a Devon based beer festival, it works a little like this:
The event takes place over three days.
- On the Thursday the beers are judged and prizes awarded before the event opens to the public at 5.00 p.m.
- On the Friday the doors open from 11.00 a.m. to 11.00 p.m. (and if it’s the beer sampling that’s your top priority we’d definitely recommend a visit on the Friday as the very best of the beers fly out of the barrels).
- The Saturday’s event also runs from 11.00 a.m. to 11.00 p.m.
All tickets are purchased on the door and for £5 (£7 if you’re going from 6.00 p.m. on the Friday) you get access to the festival (the maltings building and an outside area containing food and portaloos), a very pretty wristband so you can come and go as you please (which seemed to include nipping up to one of the local Indian restaurants), a magazine containing the ‘menu’ of beers on offer, entertainment in the form of live music, and a half pint SIBA emblazoned glass (which we couldn’t help but hold like a pirate grasps a tankard).
On top of that bargain of an entry fee, it’s then up to you how many beer tokens you buy. One token is half a pint. We went for two £10 strips which we think (but don’t quote us on it) was around 7 or 8 half pints. A little tip though but when you’re arriving at the festival look out for those who are leaving (you can’t miss ‘em as they’re usually smiling, hugging and sometimes skipping) as they’ll often give away any tokens they haven’t used. Tuckers Maltings festival goers are pretty generous when it comes to sharing the beer love.
So why did we love it?
- Everyone is welcome and if you don’t know your beers it doesn’t matter. The people serving the drinks are always happy to give advice and let you have a sample before spending your tokens.
- You get to meet the brewers themselves and it’s awesome watching the look on their faces as you take your first sip, smile and tell them you like it. You can really tell they care about what they’re serving you. The beers aren’t just products for random consumers, you can tell they contain heart, soul, effort and stories and the brewers really care about what their customers think.
- Ladies aren’t made to feel like they shouldn’t be there. The ratio of men to women felt like 100 – 1 but as two beer loving young fillies at no point did we feel out of place or intimidated.
- The food is awesome. With great beer comes great responsibility, and an overwhelming desire to eat. Tuckers Maltings cater for big appetites and if you don’t fancy what’s on offer Newton Abbot has a whole host of restaurants and takeaways a short walk/stagger away.
- It’s easy to find your way about the beers. Brewers are listed alphabetically and if you stand in a very specific spot between A and B, your trousers will automatically burst open in a very Carry On Tuckers Maltings kind of a fashion (although that may have been just Vix).
- If you’re local you’ll probably bump into someone you know, and if you don’t you’ll leave with new friends. Tuckers Maltings is really really social, whether that’s chatting to one of the brewers (we nicknamed one of them ‘Flaps’ thanks to an impressive Deer Stalker), or dancing with a fabulous woman in yoga wear or a cardigan wearing chair riding chap…. or a man dressed as a lady in flippers.
- It’s not too big for its boots. This beer festival knows what it’s about, sticks to a format that works, and is about good beer and good company. The music entertainment is great as an add on to give the place a little spirit but doesn’t take over or get out of hand.
- The security staff are lovely. They are just lovely. They worked really hard to keep the environment safe with a fantastic ambience. That number of people in a relatively confined space with that amount of alcohol could really get tasty, but they kept everyone in order with a dose of good humour. Another tip but if you do nip out of the festival to the shops, bring them back a treat. Finger of fudge or something similar.
- The ladies portaloo never seems to run out of toilet paper or paper towels (but occasionally does contain a misplaced male so it’s worth checking upon entering).
- It’s so close to the train station that getting home isn’t a problem as long as you don’t miss the last train (we may need a separate blog post purely on the last train home, which already sounds like an Agatha Christie novel).
Overall, Devon Knows the SIBA Tuckers Maltings Beer Festival gives this three day extravaganza a thumbs up. We’ll be back next year (with a pocket full of fudge).
Let us know what you thought along with your favourite tipple.
Michelle’s favourite was Love or NOTHING (emphasis hers).