The other day was supposed to be Steppingly beer and curry festival. Me and my mates had been planning on going for a while after the great time we had had there last year. Steppingly had everything you could want from a beer festival. There was good beer, good prices, good entertainment, good food and if that wasn’t enough at the end of the night they started giving away the last of the beer for free. This year, however, there have been complaints. Apparently there was too much noise last year and as a result, this year, the council refused the licence. Perhaps singing in the street on the way home last year wasn’t such a good idea.

This left me and my mates with a problem, what to do with our day of planned drinking, now there was no beer festival to attend? A quick Google showed that there was another beer festival in Letchworth. That’s not too far away, but looking into getting there without driving would have cost a fortune. Instead we plumped for a visit to Toddington.

Toddington is a small village nor too far from us. It was always supposed to be a really good night out, which is in no small part due to the large number of pubs in the village centre. Last year there were seven, since then The Bedford Arms has been sold for redevelopment, The Sow and Pigs (one of the few pubs to be in every single edition of CAMRA’s good beer guide) has been put on the market with planning permission to be converted into four flats, and The Red Lion has been converted into Ritzy bar and Indian Restaurant. Why is it that all the pubs in the world are being converted into Indian restaurants? Why never Chinese or Italian or anything else for that matter?

Anyway, this leaves us with The Angel, The Oddfellows Arms, The Bell and The Griffin, which we visited in that order.

So what were they like? The Angel, a Greene King pub, obviously just been refurbished, everything was still a bit new but nice enough, signs up for live music, quiz nights and other events which no doubt keep the locals happy. There was Greene King IPA and St. Edmunds on cask, I decided on for the latter. This was the only pub that I saw all day to be showing an in date cask marque certificate. Free WiFi as well is always a bonus.

Walking past the memorial garden and its duck pond and just a little bit past the village green, we entered The Oddfellows Arms, although we nearly used the wrong door and ended up in the village library. This was an old building with low ceilings and blackened oak beams throughout. This pub has probably been here in one guise or another for hundreds and hundreds of yeas. There is no sign that it is a tied house, three guest ales, which I guess rotate a lot judging by the hundreds and hundreds of pump clips which they have suspended from the ceiling. There was a cask marque on the wall but it was well out of date. I had a pint of Chugborough Brewery’s Butler’s Revenge, and very nice or was too. No WiFi here and poor mobile signal meant that it was a nightmare trying to update my untappd app.

The Bell, which is just across the main road from The Oddfellows Arms, was easily my least favourite of the Toddington pubs. There was very little seating, and what there was were huge sofas, and massive tables, which weren’t all that comfortable. Sticky floors and a general feel of grubbiness didn’t help, but the final thing was the only real ale they had was off, Doom Bar as well! One of my favourites. Making the best of a bad situation I had a John Smiths. I don’t know if the others felt the same way as me, but we did leave pretty quickly.

The final pub in Toddington, The Griffin, always looked to me, from the outside at least, like it would have lots of little snugs. Old upholstery on the seating, which was wearing a bit thin, possibly a dog, charming landlord and probably only just switched from candles to light bulbs at the turn of the millennium. What impressions you can get from the outside of a pub. The inside couldn’t have been any more different. Polished floors, modern bar, white washed walls. I’m guessing that my vision of this pub was probably correct about a year ago. When a new manager thought that (s)he knew best and decided to scrub away all of the character from the place. This modern approach did at least mean there was WiFi though. I has a pint of the guest ale, Vale Brewery’s Gravitas , which confused the bar maid. She readily admitted that lots of people had been asking for it, and yet she was surprised every time by the strange request. Deary me!

We finished off in Toddington with a game of pool in The Griffin while we waited for our lift home.

Looking back I would have to say my favourite pub was The Oddfellows Arms. It had a good range of ales to choose from. The bar staff were friendly, there were books on the side which could be read by anyone and there was more charm and character than any chocolate box lid. In a way, I’m glad the beer festival was cancelled  it gave us a reason to visit the pubs of Toddington, which, at the rate they are closing, is something that we needed to do sooner rather than later.