County Stat Attack Week 18 - Kent

This week we are in the far South East, the main gateway to the continent and the garden of England. Counted as one of the Home Counties it has long been on the front line going back to the Roman invasion, through to the settlements of the Germanic tribes after the Roman withdrawal and on to the Battle of Britain in WW2. The defence of England has always centred in the county, from the Cinque ports, Medway towns and the airfields and radar defences. The White Cliffs along the coast are always a welcoming sight for returning Brits, before the Chunnel was dug that is which emerges near Folkestone. Whilst discussing history, Kent is of course the home of the original Micro Pub and the return to very traditional Beer Houses starting with the Butchers Arms in Herne bay.

Kent is a county of gentle rolling hills which along with a favourable climate made it an agricultural county, fruit trees, sheep and of course hop fields, giving it the tag of ‘Garden of England’. The main geographical features would be the Thames Estuary, the Straits of Dover with its white cliffs, the North Downs and Kent Downs running East, West across the county.

Perhaps surprisingly there is only one city in Kent which is Canterbury and this is down to it being a centre of Christianity in England with Canterbury Cathedral and the seat of the Archbishop. The largest areas of population would be Maidstone, Gillingham, Dartford, Chatham and Ashford.

Brewery wise on Ratebeer there are a total of 72 Breweries, 56 currently active, 16 closed. There are 5 Commissioner / Client Breweries amongst these.

The oldest Brewery is certainly Shepherd Neame of Faversham (Est 1698) which claims to be the longest continuously running Brewery in the UK. Brewing on the site actually dates back to 1573. Ownership of the Brewery stretches through an unbroken succession of 5 families. In the early years the Brewery was set up by Richard Marsh as a local enterprise, on his death his widow and daughter sold the property to Samuel Shepherd, a maltster, in around 1741. Samuel Shepherd expanded the business with the addition of local Public Houses, and was followed by his son Julius Shepherd, Julius also introduced what is believed to be the first steam engine, outside of London, to be used in the brewing process. The last of the Shepherds was Henry (1816 – 77), the first of the Neame family joining during this time in 1864. The brewery continued to grow under the Neame family and remains a private family business with a countrywide distribution into the 21st century.

The brewery with the largest range on Ratebeer is also Shepherd Neame with 184 beers.

The Ratebeer Awards for 2020 the Best Brewer was declared as Shepherd Neame, the Best Beer was Gadds / Pohjala Spread of Democracy. No award for Best New Brewery was made.

The Overall Top 10 Beers for Kent are –

  1. Shepherd Neame / Stone California Double IPA
  2. Alpha State Vanilla Mocha Shake
  3. Alpha State Kiss The Alderman
  4. Alpha State Levemand (Laphroiag and Kentucky Bourbon BA Blend)
  5. Alpha State DIPA
  6. Alpha State Vengeance (Kentucky Bourbon & Laphroaig BA Blend)
  7. Alpha State Larsen’s Ruin (Ardbeg BA)
  8. Time and Tide The Kraken Coffee Stout
  9. Alpha State Vengeance (Vanilla and Mocha)
  10. Alpha State Larsen’s Ruin (Moonshine BA)

The Top Bars / Pubs in Kent are –

  1. Thomas Tallis Alehouse, Canterbury – 88
  2. Butcher’s Arms, Herne Bay – 88
  3. Foundry Brew Pub (Canterbury Brewers), Canterbury – 83
  4. Berry (aka Green Beret), Walmer – 80
  5. Firkin Alehouse, Folkestone – 77
  6. Red Lion (Doris’s), Romney Marsh – 77

There are also 2 highly regarded Bottle Shop / On Line retailers of beer –

  1. beermerchants.com, Larkfield – 95
  2. Bottle Shop – Canterbury – 91

The Top 5 Raters of beers from Kent are –

  1. @harrisoni
  2. @fonefan
  3. @imdownthepub
  4. @madmitch76
  5. @Theydon_Bois

You will require 81 beers from Kent to get into the top 50.

The Rater from Kent with the most ratings is –
@harrisoni who certainly is still rating beers currently.

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A beer that can truly be called legendary - Shepherd Neame / Stone California Double IPA

I struggled with this at first but the on a later occasion I asked them to remove the sparkler and it was sooo much better, but still only a 3.8 for me, I would love them to brew this again and I would love to try this again, I think a 2021 Fin would really be all over this beer now. This is a cask beer that will live long in Ratebeer memory, if you go to the top IPA’s and click include retired, it is by some distance the top IPA on there and yet lets not forget it is a cask IPA, unbelievable. I respect Shepherd Neame and their brewing history but I doubt that they will ever brew a beer quite like this again.

Perhaps we should campaign for this to be brought back that would be fantastic.

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I know very little about Kent apart from the roads to the channel ports (Dover, Folkstone and Ramsgate) and of course the Chunnel, all of which I have used many, many times. Always seem to be in a hurry when in Kent, either going on a trip/holiday or returning home from one, just transiting through.

My brother lived in the county for a while (Tenterden) but I only visited once. I was on an 8 week course during the early 90’s down at Chattendean, so no rates from back then, although I drank plenty of beer. My one and only beer visitation was an overnight stop in Canterbury, Aug 2018 when I reviewed 4 places, which is my only contribution to the counties place totals. A night match in Gillingham way back in 1976 (0-0) being my only footballing visit.

My Stats are not too exciting, a bit like my Kent reminiscing! I even missed out on that Shepherd Neame and Stone collaboration in 2008.

93 Beers rated, my 20th highest county. Puts me on the top table at 44th.

Gadds/Pohjala Spread of Democracy is my top beer @3.9. Nothing is therefore over 4.
Three beers on 3.8.
Gadds Imperial Stout Wild Turkey 2012
Old Top Red Top
Shepherd Neame 1698

15 breweries (1 closed) and 1 Cidery.
Shepherd Neame with over half of my rates on 54, the rest spread around the county.

That’s it from me, I hope @harrisoni has an input on his county as he’ll make it sound a lot more interesting than I have; plus he’s my only friend I’ve got that lives in Kent.

<*))))))><

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I hadn’t really visited Kent that much until more recent years, it was just a place to drive through to get to the ferry ports, which was a mistake really as it is worth spending time there. Since righting the wrong we have stayed between Folkestone and Dover a few times, doing some of the coastal paths and ports. We have also stayed near Maidstone. Canterbury is a lovely city and well worth visiting for pubs and the Canterbury Beer Festival, Folkestone is certainly improving a lot also. We haven’t really done the more northern towns, other than Maidstone, in the county unfortunately.

Can’t think of any visits for sporting events though, although I would love to go to the County Ground for a day. Walks have mostly been confined to the coastal paths.
Apart from the ubiquitous Shepherd Neame I suppose many of the Kent breweries beers are reasonably difficult to pick up, the odd Gadds and Kent Brewery I presume, so my infrequent visits have managed to squeeze me into 3rd place for the county, miles behind Ian though. Both Banbury and Coventry Beer Festivals have done Kent specials boosting my numbers.

I have tried 315 different beers from Kent, placing it in 21st place on my counties list, mid table stuff, with an average rating of 3.19. I have tried beers from 45 different breweries placing me in 2nd place for the county in that list.

The Kentish Breweries giving me the most ratings are :-

  1. Shepherd Neame – 72
  2. Kent Brewery – 24
  3. Pig & Porter Brewing – 19
  4. Whitstable Brewing – 15
  5. Nelson Brewing – 14
  6. Westerham Brewery – 14

I have rated 8 beers with a mark of 4 or over, the best for me are –

  1. Whitstable East India Pale Ale – 4.2
  2. Shepherd Neame / Stone California Double IPA – 4.2
  3. Shepherd Neame Original Porter (Cask) – 4.1
  4. Westerham Black Eagle SPA – 4.1
  5. Whitstable Oyster Stout – 4.1
  6. Shepherd Neame / Port Brewing Grumpys Pale Ale – 4.1
  7. Caveman Chinook – 4.1

I have only had 2 of the top 10 beers from Kent though, thoroughly enjoying the SN / Stone collaboration at the time.

My breweries with the highest average for 5 or over beers are –

  1. Time & Tide Brewing – 3.68
  2. Kent Brewery – 3.55
  3. B.A.D Beer Company – 3.46
  4. Ramsgate Brewery – 3.382

I have reviewed 18 places in Kent, making it my 22nd highest county in that chart, my favourite Bars / Pubs are –

  1. Thomas Tallis Alehouse, Canterbury – 88
  2. Kipps’ Alehouse, Folkestone – 80
  3. Olde Thirsty Pig, Maidstone – 78
  4. New Inn, Canterbury – 76
  5. Potting Shed, Hythe – 76

Just a quick word in favour of beermerchants.com too who have given great service when I have ordered from them.

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48 beers from 17 breweries. I guess I should pick up two more.

Most Rated Breweries:

• Shepherd Neame @ 10
• Alpha State / Boutilliers / Pig & Porter @ 4
• Cellar Head / Westerham / Whitstable @ 3

Top rated Beers:

3.9 = Low Key Barrel Project Jormungandr

3.8 = Ramsgate Blend 17; Iron Pier / Steam Town Crumble

3.7 = Alpha State Kiss the Alderman; Alpha State Kiss the Alderman (Rum BA); Iron Pier / Elusive BRIPA

I used to go to Maidstone 3 – 4 times a year and always thought of going for some beers afterwards but the lights of London were always more tempting. Therefore I’ve just been to the one Spoons and had a Maidstone Utd themed bitter.

I did however visit a lovely pub on the way home on one occasion in order to tick off the Larkins beer that is in the Protz 300 book. I am the sole person to have rated the Rock in Chiddingstone Hoath which I thought was a great country pub: https://www.ratebeer.com/p/rock-larkins/75329/

One of my wife’s good friends lives in Rochester. She promised me a bottle shop but when we got there it had shut down. Therefore ended up giving a bad review to a posh wine shop that only stocked a few Old Dairy beers.

Come to think of it my Kent highlight was the aforementioned friend’s wedding at Leeds Castle, near Maidstone. We paid extra to have a tower room. Had an original four poster. Did wake up in the middle of the night with moonlight coming through a gap in the curtain and shining on one of the portraits on the wall. I half expected the eyes to start moving. Beer was just Shepherds Neame in bottles though.

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One of the furthest away English counties for me, and like others it’s not been a destination often, more a conduit to the continent, and its breweries (excluding Shepherd Neame) are not seen by me often, hence why I’m sitting on just one RB rate - but it was a good one, Kraken Coffee Stout from Time & Tide, which scored a 3.8 for me. Kent is one of those counties which I’m not 100% sure where it ends and Greater London starts, and one I know very little about, so have very little to offer here!

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38 beers from Kent have found their way to me although none of the ratings reflect my time in the county itself. I did have an uncle who farmed near Canterbury and even had some hops, but he passed away before I even reached legal drinking age.
Looking at my ratings, I am struck by how often it is the collaborations that bring Shepherd Neame up the score sheet. However, I would tend to choose a Pig & Porter or a Time & Tide or a Wantsum ale over the regular SN fare. In fact, I will give an honorable mention to Wantsum Black Prince as a good example of how the Mild style can still charm. Overall the Mild and the Stout and Porter Trails seem to have fed my Kentish ratings. Of the larger brewers, Gads seems the one that rarely travels.

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Kent is one of those counties where I’m probably never going to get on the leaderboard and I think I’m okay with that. I’m sure there are some lovely areas in Kent and some cracking breweries & pubs, but like Cumbria and Tyne & Wear, it’s just too ‘corner-y’ for a guy living smack dab in the middle of England. (The OS-approved ‘centre’ of England is closer to Coventry, but you get my meaning.)

I’m currently sitting on 48 rates. Kent breweries don’t pop up all that often in pubs around here, but I’ve been able to find a few in bottleshops & online stores over the past year. The top beers for me are very stout-oriented:

  • · Gadds Black Pearl Oyster Stout 4.3
  • · Time and Tide Depth Charge 4
  • · Shepherd Neame Double Stout (5.2% - Bottle) 3.9
  • · Gadds Oatmeal Stout 3.6
  • · Wantsum Ravening Wolf 3.6
  • · Time and Tide Domino 3.6

I’ve sampled a decent amount of breweries (15 open and two closed), with the most-rated being Shepherd Neame (17) followed by Pig & Porter and Ramsgate (5 each). I used to drink a lot of Shepherd Neame because, well, you saw it everywhere and they are an okay supermarket tick, but I don’t see them around here at all. (My last SN beer was in a pub in Liverpool a couple of years ago.)

Surprisingly I have five Kent place rates although this is a bit of a cheat: four were from a day when I was in South London and thought, ‘Hey, I’ll get some Kent rates today!’ and took the train to Dartford. The other, of course, is the wonderful beermerchants.com which is currently my sole place rate for 2021 and only the third in 12 months. The top places are:

Dartford Working Men’s Club 82
beermerchants.com 80
Dartford Jug 76

Next time I’ll spend the extra money & time and take the choo-choo to Canterbury. But this was a good afternoon out.

Of course I can’t really write about Kent beers without thinking of harrisoni, who come to think of it I haven’t seen around here recently and whose input is always worth reading.

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The centre of England is in Meriden, between Coventry and Birmingham, there is a cross that marks the spot just outside the hospital where I was born.

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Splitting hairs though, as they aren’t that far from one another.

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I wonder if with the erosion of the east coast, the centre will gradually head back towards Meriden?

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Where is @harrisoni ? I want the lowdown on the county from the King of Kent. C’mon Ian, we need you!

So, my Kent stats. I’ve rated 57 brews, making it my 14th most rated county, but leaving me well outside the top 50.

My top 5 Kent brews so far are:
Gadds Black Pearl Oyster Stout 4.1
Shepherd Neame / Fat Heads Yakima Sun 3.9
Shepherd Neame / Central City Red Racer IPA 3.9
Shepherd Neame Kent’s Best (Cask) 3.8
Whitstable Oyster Stout 3.8

I’ve rated 4 places, my top one being the Bottle Shop in Canterbury. I should give a special shout out to the 'Spoons in Margate which despite its interesting name (The Mechanical Elephant, names after a contrivance that used to give rides up and down the seafront) is the lowest rated of all the pubs I’ve rated on this site - insolent service, burnt cold food, gone off beer and stinking, filthy loos.
I’ve tried brews from 14 breweries and one cidery. Strangely, more than a quarter of the producers I’ve rated start with the letter W. The one I’ve rated most though doesn’t start with W, and is predictably Shepherd Neame, with 33 rates - well over half of all my Kent rates.

I’ve stayed in Kent for weekend trips quite a few times over the years - in Margate, Broadstairs, DOver and near Canterbury - although all family trips, so limited beer drinking. Things I particularly remember are:

  1. The amazing, if sadly slightly decaying, Margate Shell Grotto.
  2. Eating sandwiches outside the police station in the town of Sandwich (which I suspect we founf rather more amusing than the Sandwich Police did…)
  3. Morelli’s Gelato in Broadstairs - one of the classic ice cream experiences, if a little pricey and crowded.
  4. The bizarre, surreal landscape at Dungeness. Although it’s completely flat, it is mountain-shaped on the map, and apparently groups of “mountaineers” have often “climbed” up the side of it with full crampons, ice axes, and ropes!

I’ve actually always found Kent quite a pleasant place - very green, with a pleasing sprinkling of oast houses and the lovely North Downs (I won’t mention Operation Stack…). It’s a shame then that the high point of the county is such an abysmal one. It’s a driveway off the very busy A233 right on the boundary of London. There’s no views, and I had to park half a mile up the road and walk down the non-existent verge, with just a few inches between me and thundering high speed lorries. Horrible.

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Kent, a county that on many occasions I’ve stopped for one night en route to France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands etc or occasionally for a weekend in the camper, certainly recall Canterbury at least 2-3 times. it’s also yet another place where I spent a couple of months in my younger days and in a different working life, once again refurbishing a swimming pool and pool surroundings at a holiday camp, this tine Camber Sands. We stopped in one of the nearby Cinque towns, namely Ryde.

I notice that I am near the bottom of the Top 50, residing in 48th place with 84 ratings. It’s 27th on my county list so mid table mediocrity.

Breweries with most ratings

Shepherd Neame 26
Ramsgate (Gadds) 9
Kent 5
Canterbury 5
Whitstable 5

I’ve had beer from 20 breweries 17 of which are still in operation and 3 sadly closed.

My top five beers are below and interestingly the top 4 all within the last 2-3 years, so clearly a great scene currently in play in Kent.

Ramsgate Blend 17 4.1
Gadds Imperial Russian Stout Brettanomyces Lambicus 2012 4.1
Boutilliers Cat Brain Land [Redacted] 4.0
Boutilliers One Winged Angel 4.0
Shepherd Neame / Stone California Double IPA 3.8

15 place ratings and quite pleased to see that these are spread around, indeed my top five are all from different places.

  1. Bottle Shop - Canterbury 11/03/2016
  2. Just Reproach - Deal 12/03/2016
  3. Firkin Alehouse - Folkestone 17/07/2019
  4. The Flowerpot - Maidstone 4/12/2014
  5. Berry (aka Green Beret) - Walmer 12/03/2016

I agree with @wheresthepath talking about Kent without input from Kentish legend @harrisoni seems wrong, in fact two of those place visits (Deal & Walmer) were on a pubcrawl of micropubs with the Kentish legend, and on one of our visits to Canterbury we did a pubcrawl with Ian. It would be lovely to get the lowdown on the county from Ian, he is so knowledgeable on all things Kent and very involved in the scene.

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He’s not posted since June of last year.

I remember a cracking Kent vs Oxfordshire conversation with @harrisoni at Merton Beer Festival one year, Ian certainly loves his home county and he was tiddly. Every point we put forward pro Oxfordshire was answered with ‘but you haven’t got a coastline’. He still had to cycle back to Bicester Station to get home I believe.
@Fin I’m wondering about the S.N / Stone collab, it was a very early version of the style over here and blew our socks off, would it be a little staid / safe now compared to what we have, it would be nice to find out though if they did do a repeat.

Ian is still rating on here, so hasn’t actually left the site like so many others. I beermailed him yesterday to tell him about this thread and asking him to post something.

He hasn’t replied as yet. He may well have taken a “Vow of Silence” (like a Buddhist Monk), I am sure he has his reasons for not using the forums, his input has been missed.

<*))))))><

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@SilkTork is also a Man of Kent or Kentish Man (I think which side of the Medway determines this) I know/think Steve has moved to Hampshire now but he is another legendary guy on this site who was extremely knowledgeable not just on all things beer but his beloved Kent as well. It would be lovely if one or both of them popped by and left a comment.

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Not forgetting other fab’ Kent folk and previously very active Ratebeerians Phil Lowry @Phil of Breakwater brewery and Angelo @reakt who I do keep in touch with and who is now brewing with the excellent Burnt Mill.

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We need him back to keep dishing out hearts to us:

image

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Right here we go. Built to Spill is ont wireless. Lovely sunset. Just had a nice Marzen. So all the pieces seem to be in place for me to write my summary.

Last time I visited Kent we spent a really nice afternoon / evening in Whitstable when passing our dog Elliot over to the in-laws to look after in France while we went to Oregon / Washington back in 2019. Really like Whitstable, and it’s got some fantastic pubs.

The time before then was a day in Canterbury when collecting Elliot from the in-laws after a previous trip away. Its then that I discovered the Thomas Tallis alehouse and had to add it to RateBeer I think! Really like that place, and good to see it’s now the top rated spot.

Sadly it seems those trips are not likely to happen in the future due to Brexit making it too expensive for them to look after Elliot when we go away. Else the plan was to meet in different towns every time. Ah well.

103 ratings from Kent and unlike others, my top rated beers do not feature Shepherd Neame.

I’ve rated 16 breweries

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