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No frills, just good beer: the first micropub guide charts the revolution across Kent

By Angela Cole

Turn the music, the tele and the jukebox off and listen out because there’s a quiet revolution going on.

The first micropub in the country opened here in Kent in 2005 – the Butcher’s Arms in Herne. Their appeal was simple: no frills, just good drink and good conversation.

And they were appealing to so many of us that they have sprung up all over the country.

The Micropub Guide by Mat Hardy and Dan Murray
The Micropub Guide by Mat Hardy and Dan Murray

In the first such guide to be published, The Micropub Guide by Mat Hardy, from west Kent, and Dan Murray, features some 41 Kent examples, plus three more than slipped into the “others” category, for less mainstream offerings, and the Freed Man in Dover Road, Deal, made it into the “stop press” section, just opening in time.

The small team researched every one of their inclusions, chatting to owners, staff and, most importantly, regulars, and gave their verdicts on all, and whether they were child and dog friendly, as well as accessible for the disabled.

Their local favourites included the Just Reproach in Deal and the Wrong Turn in Barfrestone – a micropub in a garden shed.

The Past and Present micropub in Gillingham
The Past and Present micropub in Gillingham

The team wrote of the Four Candles at Broadstairs, which gets its name from the famous Two Ronnies sketch: “We don’t do prizes or awards – if we did, the Four Candles would get one. It has an outstanding buzzy, friendly atmosphere, it’s quirky and characterful – a true community hang-out and has its own microbrewery in the basement.”

Medway’s first micropub Past and Present at Gillingham’s huge popularity – having to close to new customers after 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays – and different way of serving is highlighted. “There is no bar. To order a drink, ring the bell on your table to get the attention of the hosts. In the early days, these bells used to disappear all the time,” the book says.

And the Cellar’s Alehouse, housed in the former Medway Brewery in Maidstone, gets a good write-up, not least for its location. “There’s something special and authentic about drinking beer in this underground space with its long association with brewing.”

The Cellars Alehouse micropub in Maidstone
The Cellars Alehouse micropub in Maidstone

In the foreward, Martyn Hillier, who opened the country’s first micropub, writes: “This tells the story of the first decade of the micropub revolution. I like to call it a revolution but perhaps its more accurate to call it a movement because nothing was overturned. There are now well over 200 across the country – not bad from a standing start!”

Editor Andrew Duncan added: “It’s unusual to get to write a guide completely fresh. Mat and Dan just walked into our office off the street and we listened to what they wanted to do and we said “we’ve got to do this”. We’re quite surprised we got in first with it, but we did!”

The Micropub Guide is published by Duncan Peterson, costs £14.99 and is published on Thursday, April 13.

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