Published: 06:00, 08 September 2021
Tiny caverns of locally-brewed ales, signature cocktails and traditional English food. Punters in Kent love a micropub but what is it about these miniature establishments that keeps the customers flowing through the door?
Almost every micropub in Kent has at least a four-star rating on TripAdvisor, so taking it from the mouth of the regulars, we found the top nine micropubs to enjoy a pint or two.
The Tankerton Arms, Tankerton
116 reviews – five stars
In the seaside town of Tankerton, not far from Whitstable Harbour, is The Tankerton Arms. The microbrewery and pub is rated as a five-star establishment, with one customer hailing it "the friendliest pub in Whitstable".
Jon Moxon is the general manager and attributes its success to the customers who always return and create a friendly atmosphere.
He said: "We've always tried to give the best pub experience and treat every customer as regulars. Good beer creates a good atmosphere. The smaller space pushes people to speak to one another and then the community create their own events. We even run trips on the Thames barge for our regulars and host pub quizzes."
It aims to serve beer from mainly local brewers, with the current specials courtesy of Rocking Robin, Old Dairy and Goody Ales.
Mr Moxon said: "It started when Martin Hillier set up the first micropub in the UK over in Herne Bay. That created a great melting pot of good beer coming from small-scale breweries.
"There was then a big interest from retired people and they loved the idea of being able to open up an establishment later in life.
"We now run beer tasting evenings for new brewers or people with an interest in brewing their own beer."
10:50 from Victoria, Strood
60 reviews – five stars
Next up is 10:50 from Victoria in Strood. This railway-themed micropub also received five stars and rave reviews, as well being Nominated for Best Micropub at Medway Food & Drink Awards 2021.
This venue takes 'micro' to the next level with extremely limited seating inside. However, during the summer months it is a firm favourite for the spacious beer garden with local ales served from a hatch under the railway arch. One customer on TripAdvisor claims it is "the best pub in Medway".
Managing director Wendy Jackson said: "I think the secret to our success is that the 10:50 from Victoria is a small, simple, family-run pub that maintains the ethos of the original micropub. No music, draught beers, spirits, gambling machines or mobile phones. Just friendly chat over a nice chilled real ale or craft cider."
She continued: "Having a ‘tiny local’ takes pubs back to the old days of when you went out and met new people.
"We have noticed how couples that come in on their own have made a point of getting together with others every weekend in the bar. These are people that come from all walks of life and possibly wouldn’t have met in a noisy town pub.
"Another benefit of a tiny pub means that you get to know what people do for a living. This has meant that when you need a builder, plumber or mechanic for example, we all know somebody!"
The pub has also become a community hub and encourages the celebration of Kent culture with regular visits from morris dancing teams in the summer months.
Four Candles, Broadstairs
72 reviews _ five stars
The Four Candles in Broadstairs lays claim to being Britain's smallest brewpub.
When Mike Beaumont opened the doors back in 2012 it was only the 12th micropub in the UK – the total figure is now closer to around 800.
However, what makes this establishment so unique is the perilous flight of stairs to the cellar where they brew their own Kentish ales to sell to punters upstairs.
Mike Beaumont, owner of the Four Candles brewpub in Broadstairs, checks his latest ale as it continues the fermentation process
They brew 11 casks at a time which are displayed in a chilled cabinet with glass doors so customers can see the full process from fermentation to pint glass, and Mr Beaumont assures that every batch of their house ale is meticulously recorded to comply with beer duty office guidelines.
When the first pints were pulled at Four Candles, Mr Beaumont had a budget of £2,500 – the chest freezer cost just £40, supplemented by gel ice packs. Initially, spirits and soft drinks were off the menu, although this has since been relaxed and they also sell beer you could find in a regular pub.
Although the beer brewed on site is still incredibly popular and he has evolved to supply other micropubs with the brew – it has even been served up in the House of Commons.
There is no doubt this tiny brewpub is a firm favourite with an incredible 63 five-star reviews from customers.
Admiral's Arm, Queenborough
99 reviews – five stars
The Admiral's Arm was rated the Swale CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year in 2020, just one of the many accolades it has won.
The nautical-themed micropub on the Isle of Sheppey boasts four real ales, seven tap lines and a craft beer bottle shop. They also serve 20 different ciders and more than 50 gins for the daring drinkers.
The pub hosts a regular quiz night on Thursdays in support of the RNLI Sheerness lifeboat, creating a true community haven on the island. With the perfect destination near the seafront and quay for a pre-beer walk, there is no surprise this pub also has a five-star rating.
Inn Doors Micropub, Sandgate
67 reviews – five stars
The Inn Doors in Sandgate ranks highly with both locals and tourists. It also boasts five-stars on TripAdvisor for the "friendly hosts" and "great atmosphere".
They brand themselves as a "micropub with a difference" and serve ales straight from the cask, as well as a ciders, wine, prosecco and more than 70 different gins.
Located near the seafront and close to the esplanade, once again the coastal micropubs seem to be proving the most popular in the county.
The Butchers Arms, Herne
30 reviews – five stars
This is the godfather of micropubs – the country's very first and a catalyst for the evolution in tiny boozers. The tables perched around the edge are original butcher's blocks for a truly authentic feel.
Landlord Martyn Hillier took a risk back in 2005 with 'Chatham House Rules' – no lager, no bar and no music. However, it seems the risk has paid off as more micropubs continue to open following the success.
Punters have left reviews online with special mentions to the "ambience" and "welcoming banter" with the regulars.
The Just Reproach, Deal
161 reviews – 4.5 stars
A quirk of this micropub, which helps keep conversation flowing as well as the booze, is the infamous mobile phone ban.
Owners Mark and Bronwen Robson made it part of their brand to issue a £1 fine to any customer who accepts a phone call, with all money donated to charity.
The establishment opened in December 2011 and specialises in real ales from microbreweries across the UK. Beers are kept in a temperature-controlled room and served directly from the cask.
As soon as you walk through the door, mobile phones must be switched off
The Thirty-Nine Steps Brewhouse, Broadstairs
157 reviews – 4.5 stars
Another highly-rated seaside town establishment is The Thirty-Nine Steps Brewhouse in Broadstairs.
The alehouse also serves cider, wines, gins and bar snacks for the ultimate pub experience. It sometimes acts as an occasional music venue with events such as folk weeks.
With an upstairs area hosting a pool table and games, this is probably the largest micropub on the list.
Harbour Arms Micropub, Margate
125 reviews – 4.5 stars
The final micropub on our list is based in a former fisherman's hut on the Harbour Arm at Margate.
The nautical-themed single square room has an eclectic collection of trinkets on the wall and fishing nets covering the ceiling.
Some reviews say the atmosphere is more akin to a tourist bar rather than a local one, perhaps with attractions like the Turner Contemporary in sight.