Heard the one about the publican, the pubco rep and the punter …

… who walked into a bar? Well, in this case, a series of micro-pubs?  You had to be there to enjoy it fully.

I was the punter who, in the company of a publican and a manager from a pubco, decided to embark on a tour of east Kent’s micro-pubs, before there are too many: it took us two days to get around, but more are planned.

Contemporaneous notes

I sent Facebook updates from (nearly) each pub, as follows –

#Micro-pubs – the tour: The day has arrived! Not the best of weather, but still – a couple of days away from the office in (almost) any weather is better than nothing. Have done as much work on today’s post and emails as I can – time to close down the PC, join my travelling companions and set off on the mini-adventure …
March 08, 2013 at 10:12AM
#Micro-pubs your: on the way to the Butchers Arms at Herne, sampling various bottled beers from Spencer’s brewery in Ashford – very nice!
March 08, 2013 at 12:43PM
#Micro-pubs – the tour: 01: Butchers Arms, Herne – good choice of real ales. We had Old Dairy Gold Top (my choice), Dark Star Hophead and an unspecified Mild and a good history/economics lesson thrown in!
March 08, 2013 at 12:49PM
#Micro-pubs – the tour: 02: Bake & Alehouse, Westgate – Wantsum Yellow Tail for me and Canterbury Ales Wife of Bath for the others – and the next table had some “real pub food”
March 08, 2013 at 02:10PM
#Micro-pubs – the tour: 03: Why Not, Westgate Nice Goachers ale – we all chose that! Fish and chip shop closed so the Why Not proprietor is rustling up some pasties and giant sausage rolls for us: brilliant!
March 08, 2013 at 02:17PM
#Micro-pubs – the tour: 03A: Why Not, Westgate Nice Goachers ale – again, as it is soooo nice
March 08, 2013 at 02:37PM
#Micro-pubs – the tour: 04: Lifeboat, Margate: Not a micro-pub (but a great – small – pub)? Westerham ale excellent
March 08, 2013 at 10:25PM
#Micro-pubs – the tour: 05: Chapel, Broadstairs good pint of beer (Gadds No5) but strangely quiet
March 08, 2013 at 10:27PM
[The 6th micro-pub was the 39 Steps at Broadstairs, but I seem to have sent no update from there]
Avoiding the issue of #micro-pubs we are in the White Swan, Reading Street
March 08, 2013 at 10:45PM
#Micro-pubs tour still off piste – now at Gadds’ trying their repeated best ale of Kent: Gadds No 3 -lovely condition
March 09, 2013 at 11:40AM
#Micro-pubs tour:  07: Four Candles in St Peters, Broadstairs: lovely Goachers Fine Light ale and a very chatty, friendly landlady. Gives true meaning to the term “village local”
March 09, 2013 at 12:14PM
#Micro-pubs tour: photos from yesterday by Richard Setterfield: http://t.co/zbufOQjyIW
March 09, 2013 at 12:21PM
#Micro-pubs tour: still at the Four Candles – too nice to leave! Tried Concrete Cow’s Bit o’Bully – not my sort of beer, so back to Goachers but now their Imperial Stout
March 09, 2013 at 12:56PM
#Micro-pubs – the tour: 08: Conqueror, Ramsgate. Another corner site, friendly locals, and a runner-up for CAMRA Pub of the Year nationally – incredibly good for a two year old pub!
March 09, 2013 at 02:08PM
#Micro-pubs tour: at Peters Fish Factory in Ramsgate for lunch
March 09, 2013 at 03:15PM
#Micro-pubs tour: now in the Belgian at Ramsgate – killing time before the Just Reproach at Deal re-opens for the evening session
March 09, 2013 at 04:09PM
#Micro-pubs – the tour: 09: Just Reproach, Deal. Three Castles Spring Haze – very nice and the venue is quite busy for a micro-pub: 15 customers at the moment.
March 09, 2013 at 05:20PM
#Micro-pubs – the tour: 10: Firkin Alehouse at Folkestone: Spencer’s Brewery’s Galaxy – back to where we started with the beers in the car. Very Greek drama!
March 09, 2013 at 07:03PM

Apologies for the brevity of the comments, but I was paying more attention to the beer and the chat. As you can guess, the two days left me a little the worse for wear, but it was well worth doing. Not least, it was good to hear the viewpoints of the publican and the pubco on the business merits of micro-pubs, as well as on a range of other topics, and fascinating to see how much they in fact agreed on most issues, despite approaching them from almost diametrically opposite viewpoints.

I will update this post with a link to the second day’s photos, taken by our driver, Richard Setterfield – excellent quality from the first day, as can be seen here

My conclusion

For a friendly couple of pints and a chat, micro-pubs are excellent. Not all of the beers were in top condition, but that’s not surprising with real ale being a “live product”. All the publicans that we spoke to were enthusiastic and friendly, and that counts for a lot.  In some instances, the range of ales on offer was as few as four (I don’t think any had fewer) – in others there were substantially more: almost a mini beer festival!

The tour of micro-pubs demonstrated that they have their place, and should win enough customers to survive, bearing in mind their low overheads. However, I can’t see them making significant in-roads into the business of a “proper” pub that is well run and sells a reasonable range of real ales.

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