After being named by CAMRA members as the county’s best pub, The Nelson Arms in Tonbridge will go up against 15 other taverns across the UK in a bid to be named the 2023 Pub of the Year.
The pubs in the competition are scored on their atmosphere, decor, welcome, service, inclusivity, overall impression, and – of course – the quality of their beer, real cider and perry.
While the CAMRA members vote for their UK favourite, we take a look at the venues which made it to the Kent final this year…
The Nelson Arms
Where else to start but the 2023 Kent Pub of the Year winner itself?
This serial award-winning pub is a well-known name to CAMRA members.
Situated on the corner of Cromer Street and Nelson Avenue in Tonbridge, The Nelson Arms has won an award every year for the past nine years.
However, the pub looked destined to be turned into flats had it not been for the local community as well as landlord Matthew Rudd, who saw it as a community asset.
It now serves a range of six to eight beers across a range of styles representing national and local independent breweries.
Claiming that “real ale lovers and real cider lovers are catered for” The Berry pub has been long revered in Deal for its range of brews.
The pub, in Canada Road in Walmer, is easily recognized by its bright green walls.
The Deal, Dover and Sandwich regional champions finished runners-up in the Kent competition thanks to “the welcome, service and quality of the real ales” according to What Pub.
This Ancient Boro'
A tapas bar and micropub – are we still in Kent or sunny Spain?
No, we have arrived at This Ancient Boro’ in the heart of Tenterden which was named the best pub in Ashford, Folkestone & Romney Marsh.
Located in the High Street, the pub offers a wide range of ales, ciders, lagers, gins and rums alongside tapas food which the owner Sarah Cleaton says makes the bar “sociable as a micropub is intended to be”.
Our Secret Drinker visited the place three years ago and said while the converted Chinese restaurant did not date back to the proud Saxon history of the area, the “owners are rightly proud of the part they’re playing in its recent history”.
The Long Haul
Now moving to the northern outskirts of Kent we head to another micropub which is walking distance from both Bexleyheath and Barnehurst train stations.
The Long Haul predominantly serves Kentish real ales, ciders and perries by “gravity” directly from the cask that is kept in a rear chilled cellar room.
The micropub opened just three years ago, but it came out on top in the Bexley category thanks to its “quality and variety of the beers,” as one Trip Advisor commented.
The Bouncing Barrel
Back to the coast of south east Kent now, where you’ll find the Bouncing Barrel in Bank Street in Herne Bay, just a five-minute walk from the sea.
The micropub is named after the bouncing bombs used in Second World War Operation Chastise – more commonly known as the Dambuster raids – which were tested off the coast nearby.
While the pub is rightly known for its pints and decor, some readers will remember when regulars became calendar girls for a Christmas fundraiser back in 2017.
The Three Daws
Coming away from micropubs, the Three Daws – which was named Gravesend & Darent Valley Pub of the Year – is all about tradition.
The building has been there since 1448, and been home to a pub since 1565.
The riverside inn overlooks the Thames sitting between West Street and Town Pier in Gravesend, with its back room and patio providing a view of passing river traffic.
It's clear to see why the Secret Drinker found the pub was “bustling and busy; it made a refreshing change to have to battle through the crowds a little to get to the bar”.
In the heart of Kent you’ll find The Armoury, run by Musket Brewery, which offers eight real ales a number of which are named after the components of the firearm.
The father and son duo Tony and Rhys Williams started brewing in an old mushroom shed on the back lots of Loddington Farm in Kent in 2013 where they still serve brews to this day.
The Coopers Arms
As one of the country’s oldest taverns, being built during the reign of Richard I (1189-1199), the Coopers Arms says it has earned itself a reputation as a welcoming family pub.
Offering seven real ales and Sunday roasts, this traditional pub is a short stroll from Rochester Cathedral.
Inside the historic inn, the front bar has beamed ceilings and impressive fireplaces. A passageway in the pub takes you into a more modern bar and garden area.
“From the painted façade, pictures of our late Queen and Britain’s greatest prime minister, to superbly politically incorrect facilities this place oozes tradition and quality” said our Secret Drinker who recently visited the Faversham pub.
The landlord Jim Pearson prides himself on serving a range of real ale including strong mild, porter, stout, strong IPA and old ale.
Thanks to Jim's “tight ship,” as the Secret Drinker put it, the pub has earned a 4.5 star rating on Trip Advisor.
With its Victorian, Steampunk and Art-Deco themes this micropub in Broadstairs is filled with interesting oddities such as planes and firearms.
The showpiece here is the chiller cabinet in the centre of the room which serves three to five local and national cask ales at a time, including high-end brewers, as well as eight to nine boxed ciders and a rotating selection of canned craft beers.