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Best Kent pubs feature in the Campaign for Real Ale's Good Beer Guide 2021


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Today sees the publication of the Good Beer Guide 2021 - the Campaign for Real Ale's guide to the country's very best pubs.

Our reporter Rhys Griffiths got his hands on the beer drinker's bible and takes a look at some of the Kent pubs that made the cut this year.

The County Hotel, Ashford
The County Hotel, Ashford

Ashford

Just the one Ashford watering hole makes the latest Good Beer Guide, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) annual collection of the land's best boozers, and we start with one of the big chains.

The County Hotel, slap bang in the High Street, is a Wetherspoon venue situated in a building which was probably built around 1710, when it was, the chain says, a doctor's home and medical practice. It became an inn around 1890 and was named the County Hotel in 1926.

Described in the Guide as "spacious" with one bar and three separate seating areas, the pub features a regularly changing selection of real ales and also serves real ciders too.

Canterbury

The cathedral city, with its two universities, certainly has no lack of places to stop for a refreshing pint - and this year five pubs have made the grade.

Rebuilt in 1902, Eight Bells in London Road retains original embossed windows and outside toilets, and is decorated with memorabilia.

The Unicorn Inn, Canterbury
The Unicorn Inn, Canterbury

In Stour Street the Foundry Brew Pub is the home of Canterbury Brewers & Distillers. Guest can expect six ales usually on tap, all brewed on site.

The Unicorn in St Dunstan's Street draws praise for its garden and regular guest beers from several Kent microbreweries. New Inn and Thomas Tallis Alehouse, described as the city's first micropub, round out Canterbury's entries this year.

Chatham

Another town whose sole entry is a Wetherspoon, showing that although the pub giant may sometimes divide opinion, it can be trusted to deliver decent real ale.

The Thomas Waghorn in Railway Street is named for postal pioneer Thomas Fletcher Waghorn, a Chatham-born naval officer and merchant seaman who developed a new postal route from Great Britain to India.

It's place in the Guide is secured by the promise of "interesting and unusual guest ales" served alongside the usual fare associated with Spoons.

Thomas Waghorn, Chatham
Thomas Waghorn, Chatham

Dartford

Four pubs make the grade here, including the Dartford Jug in Market Street - the town's only micropub - and Foresters in Great Queen Street, with its U-shaped bar and log-burning fire.

In Essex Road the Dartford Working Men's Club, a finalist in 2017 for CAMRA National Club of the Year, is praised for serving 15 ales on handpump plus ciders on gravity.

Malt Shovel in Darenth Road is described as a "traditional pub in the country style" dating from 1673, with a small taproom and a larger saloon bar.

Deal

One of the county's original micropubs, the Just Reproach in King Street is one of three venues to represent the seaside town in this year's Guide.

Its "welcoming ambience" and selection of drinks are noted, but drinkers would be well advised not to let their mobile phones ring while supping their pint. You have been warned!

The Just Reproach in Deal fines people who use their mobiles inside
The Just Reproach in Deal fines people who use their mobiles inside

Elsewhere Farrier in Manor Road wins plaudits for "a friendly environment with a real community feel", and Ship Inn in Middle Street is described as an "unspoilt, traditional inn" situated in Deal’s historic conservation area.

Dover

The port town supplies an eclectic mix of hostelries among its four entries. At the Breakwater Brewery Taproom, which opened in Lorne Road in 2016, cask ales from the brewery are served on gravity along with the pub's own house ciders.

In contrast to a small indy, it's time for another Wetherspoon, with the "popular and bustling" Eight Bells in Cannon Street making the Guide once more.

A leisurely stroll away in Maison Dieu Road is the Louis Armstrong, an iconic local venue that has featured live music for over 50 years. It offers four real ales, sourced mainly from Kent microbreweries.

Last but not least is the White Horse in St James Street, whose history can be traced back to 1574. The pub is home to a unique feature, walls and ceilings covered in handwritten messages from cross-Channel swimmers.

The White Horse, Dover
The White Horse, Dover

Faversham

As home to Shepherd Neame, Britain's oldest brewery and a firm Kent favourite, it is unsurprising to see Faversham once again well represented.

In the Market Place we begin with Sheps-owned The Bear Inn and what is described as a "regionally important historic pub interior with wood panelling". It is suggested as a great place for people to try the brewery's Kentish ales.

Popular micropub Corner Tap in Preston Street is noted as "an established feature of the local drinking scene" with beers dispensed from taps on the wall behind the bar in the front room.

The Elephant in The Mall is a two-roomed traditional free house and has won numerous CAMRA awards over many years, while Furlongs Ale House in Preston Street is the town's first micropub, opening in 2014.

Edenbridge

Housed in a former florist’s shop, the Secret Cask micropub was opened in the High Street in the summer of 2018 and is making its Good Beer Guide debut this year.

Secret Cask, Edenbridge
Secret Cask, Edenbridge

Owner Simon Dismorr said he was delighted that his pub - which serves an ever-changing selection of ales mainly produced in Kent, Surrey or Sussex - has been recognised as one of the best in the county.

Folkestone

The town's first micropub, the Firkin Alehouse in Cheriton Place, is once again featured in the real ale fan's bible, and is among five recommended pubs in the town.

Landlord Neil King said: "It's great to be in there again. It's been a bit of a tough year in some ways, but we've adapted with things like delivery and takeaway, and it's good to be recognised for what we do."

Elsewhere in the town it's a debut listing for the recently-expanded Bouverie Tap in Bouverie Road West, which the Guide says serves drink early "for those who like a hair of the dog with their breakfast".

The Chambers, only a few doors down from the Firkin in Cheriton Place, is something of a Folkestone icon, with a spacious cellar bar with six handpumps beneath a licensed coffee shop at street level.

Neil King behind the bar at the Firkin Alehouse in Folkestone
Neil King behind the bar at the Firkin Alehouse in Folkestone

East Cliff Tavern in East Cliff is described as a "friendly terraced back-street pub" which dated from 1862 and has been in the same family since 1967. Opening hours vary, so do check if making a special visit.

At the top of the Old High Street, Kipps’ Alehouse is similar in style to a micropub, serving real ale directly from the cask, although some food is served and live music is occasionally staged.

Gravesend

Four venues in Gravesend merit inclusion this year, including the Compass Alehouse in Manor Road, a genuine micropub which opened its doors back in 2014. Regular events include a weekly games night and bi-monthly Belgian beer tastings.

In Wellington Street the Jolly Drayman is noted for featuring "quirky low ceilings and a relaxed atmosphere", while at Town Pier the Three Daws is a "historic riverside inn with stories of ghosts, press gangs, smugglers, secret tunnels and more". Three Pillars in Wrotham Road complete the Gravesend entry.

Hythe

Just the one entry in the Guide from Hythe , and the town is represented by the Three Mariners in Windmill Street. A traditional corner two-bar pub not far from the Royal Military Canal, it receives praise for the "excellent quality and selection of real ales and cider" on offer.

Maidstone

The Flower Pot, Maidstone
The Flower Pot, Maidstone

Five pubs in the County Town make the cut this year, including The Flower Pot, which has been described by our very own Secret Drinker as "definitely one of the best pubs you’ll find, not only in this part of Maidstone, but right across town" . The Guide agrees entirely - calling the Sandling Road boozer "a must-visit".

Elsewhere the Cellars Alehouse in Buckland Road offers a wide selection of drinks and evening entertainment, and the Olde Thirsty Pig in Knightrider Street - originally a farmhouse within the estate of the Archbishop’s Palace - offers beers mainly sourced from Kent microbreweries.

Rifle Volunteers in Wyatt Street is a Victorian stone-built single-bar venue which is listed on CAMRA’s Regional Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors, and in Middle Row the Stag, which has been known by several names in recent years, makes a return to the Guide.

Margate

Two pubs make the grade in Margate , the eclectically-furnished micropub Fez, which opened in 2015 in the High Street, and the Two Halves micropub in Marine Drive, a local CAMRA Pub of the Year in 2018 where the "beer and cider are kept in immaculate condition".

Pembury

A refurbished free house under family ownership, the King William IV in Hastings Road has been given a new lease of life as a thriving community pub and is making its debut appearance in the Guide

Siobhan Hanley is landlady at the King William IV in Pembury
Siobhan Hanley is landlady at the King William IV in Pembury

Landlady Siobhan Hanley, who took over the running of the business in October 2018, says she was "ecstatic" when she found out they would be included in the latest edition.

"It's a proper boozer," she said. "We do food, but that's not really what we are all about. We are about the drink offering, it's very traditional, it's where people come to chat and have a good beer."

Queenborough

Frequented by locals and visitors alike, the Admiral’s Arm micropub in West Street has a strong nautical theme, including local shipping maps. The awards have been plentiful, too, with the pub named the local CAMRA Pub and Cider Pub of the Year 2018-2020 and Kent Pub of the Year 2019.

Ramsgate

The sheer variety of Kent's pubs is celebrated in the Good Beer Guide, from small one-room micropubs all the way up to the Royal Victoria Pavilion in Harbour Parade, a former concert hall which claims the title of Britain's biggest Wetherspoon pub.

Opened in 2017 after undergoing a £4 million redevelopment , it is spread out over two floors with two bars as well as a first-floor roof terrace.

The Royal Victoria Pavilion, Ramsgate. Picture: Wetherspoon
The Royal Victoria Pavilion, Ramsgate. Picture: Wetherspoon

Elsewhere the Artillery Arms in Westcliff Road earns its spot thanks to a "tradition of stocking a carefully considered range of real ales", while Montefiore Arms in Trinity Place is described as showcasing the beers of the Ramsgate Brewery, changing guest ales and Biddenden cider. Gcti

Red Lion in King Street is, according to the Guide, probably the oldest surviving pub in Ramsgate and in the evening predominantly attracts a younger crowd.

Rochester

The 12 Degrees micropub in the High Street is one of five pubs in Rochester to feature in this year's selection of great venues and offers a wide range of real ales.

In St Margarets Street, High Street is said to have become an inn way back in 1543 and plenty of the original character remains. Also in the High Street, the Golden Lion Hotel is a Wetherspoon pub which also offers nine hotel rooms, while the Man of Kent Ale House is described as an ever-evolving destination with a sun-trap garden.

The uniquely-named Who’d Ha’ Thought It in Baker Street is praised as a "friendly back-street local" with a rotating selection of beer.

Sandgate

Inn Doors, Sandgate
Inn Doors, Sandgate

Just a stone's throw from the beach, the Inn Doors micropub makes a return to this year's Guide. A cosy setting is the perfect place to sample the beers brewed by landlord Gary at the Four Candles brewery in Broadstairs.

Sittingbourne

Opened in 2017, Donna’s Ale House in West Street offers five regularly changing beers chalked up on a blackboard, but also stocks more than 100 gins.

Paper Mill in Charlotte Street consists of just the one room, with bench seating around four large wooden tables, while Yellow Stocks in the High Street micropub which opened in September 2018 in what used to be a clothes shop.

Tunbridge Wells

Seven pubs listed in the Good Beer Guide gives Tunbridge Wells a decent claim to be a go-to destination for beer in the county.

Fuggles Beer Cafe in Grosvenor Road has a "distinct European feel" with cured meat and cheeseboards, open sandwiches and salads on offer to accompany a good pint or two.

Donna's Ale House, Sittingbourne
Donna's Ale House, Sittingbourne

The George in Mount Ephraim is decribed as a Georgian coaching inn that has "rediscovered itself as a smart and friendly pub", while the Grove Tavern in Berkeley Road - a long-term Guide fixture - is home to a "display of images of fondly remembered former patrons, friends and their dogs on the far wall".

Mount Edgcumbe in The Common is lauded as a "country pub in the middle of town", while the Opera House in Mount Pleasant Road is described as "a jewel in the crown" for the Wetherspoon following restoration.

In Prospect Road the Royal Oak serves "an eclectic range of real ales and ciders", and the town's selection of top pubs is completed by the Sussex Arms in Sussex Mews, which promises a programme of regular live music and comedy in the basement to go with the great beer.

Whitstable

An attractive town-centre micropub named after a Led Zeppelin song, the Black Dog in the High Street offers five changing real ales as well as up to 25 ciders and perries.

In Canterbury Road, Handsome Sam has walls "adorned with modern art and guitars", while at Ship Centurion in the High Street visitors can enjoy a "friendly and traditional town-centre pub".

Read more: The oldest pubs in Kent - and what's there now

To read the Secret Drinker’s pub reviews click here

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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