Monday, 4 July 2011

Royal Tunbridge Wells Brewing Company, Golden Ticket

The company opened last year at the Spa Brewery, 18H Chapman Way, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on a 10-barrel plant purchased from Advance Bottling UK Ltd. The equipment was originally installed at the Forrester & Firkin brewpub at Stafford (1994-99) before being used by Acorn Brewery, Barnsley. Company owner, Simon Lewis, an experienced drinks marketing specialist, developed his brewing skills by taking a Brewlab course at Sunderland and receiving help and advice from Purity Brewery. Simon highlights in particular the invaluable experience bought into the team by Ian Dorman, who was one of the four founders, in November 1982, of the original Royal Tunbridge Wells Brewing Company Ltd. This operated until 1983 at the Grange Brewery, Grange Road, Rusthall. After merging with the Ashford Brewery (Units 125/126 Ellingham Way, Ashford, Kent), it reopened at the same Grange Road site in 1984. Acquired by Sapphire Ltd. in October 1985, it closed the following year. The plant and site were acquired by the Docherty family for the setting up of their Larkins Brewery.

My first taste of a beer from the Spa Brewery was on 5th March this year at the Duke of York, in the town’s historic Pantiles. Royal Best Bitter is a revival of the recipe for the beer brewed under the same name by Ian Dorman in the 1980s. I’m fortunate to have found it the second time around. This chestnut-brown 4.1% bitter is made from a mix of pale and crystal malts; Challenger hops are used for bittering and Goldings used for aroma. I noted the excellent condition of the beer; its fruity, red berry nose; the smooth, sweetish, full-bodied roundness well-balanced by notes of burnt caramel and toffee.

More or less opposite the Duke of York is the Ragged Trousers.

It was here on 25th June that I had Golden Ticket. This golden-hued summer ale was possessed of a distinct tangerine aroma; my first taste was of a very dry bitter-hop with slight grapefruit hints. Another well-balanced, full-bodied beer, only the fact it was 5.0% and my first of the day restricted my intake.

I was told by the very helpful barman that the Ragged Trousers, Duke of York and close-by Sussex Arms are owned and run by the same people with a shared network of staff; that one of the managers, Jamie Sim, is now brewery assistant at Royal Tunbridge Wells; that Golden Ticket is his recipe; and that, furthermore, one of the barmaids at the Sussex Arms was responsible for the pump clip label design. I concluded the day by buying a couple of bottle-conditioned versions of the brewery’s beers – Royal Best Bitter and Dipper Bitter – from the Bitter End Off Licence in the town’s Camden Road. Here’s looking forward to trying more beers from this excellent brewery, in particular the 4.8% Beau Porter.


Barber, Norman (edited by Mike Brown and Ken Smith) (2005) A Century of British Brewers, Longfield: Brewery History Society,

Keoghan, Jim with Palomeque, Manu (2011) Brewing up a storm, Kent Life (March), pp. 56-58.

Royal Beer for Royal Spa, The New Imbiber, Issue 39 (Oct/Nov) 2010, pp. 3.

Royal Tunbridge Wells Brewing Company Website,

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