Friday 15th May 2011
Some of our readers may remember the Canterbury Beer Shop in Palace Street, Canterbury, which was operated by Martyn Hillier. It was well known for its take-away draught beer, amongst many other exotic offerings.
When this venture closed after a branch of a national off-license opened nearby, he decided to move to Herne and rented a former butcher's shop in the centre of the village. From these premises his wife ran a florist shop at the front of the building and Martyn continued the Beer Shop at the rear.
All this was to change in 2005. That was when the Licensing Act came into force and local councils took on the responsibilities that had previously been dealt with by the Magistrate's Courts. Martyn could see that the process of application, and the conditions, were not as onerous as before, with less to prove before the application was granted.
Thus the Butcher's Arms was born, opening on the very first day of the new legislation and the rest is history, as they say.
The pub is run on minimal lines, and is all the better for it. The public area is just 12ft by 14ft, with seating for about 16, at a pinch, at the tables, which are the blocks from the previous butcher's business. Decor is brewery drip mats, pump clips and brewery posters, along with some more eclectic items like a life-size mannequin in a corner. Plastic items like pork chops, legs of lamb, and rubber chickens hang from the ceiling, and provide a very unconvincing feeling that one is still in a butcher's shop.
Beer is served direct from the cask from a small room at the back of the pub and there at least four on offer. Dark Star Hophead is always available, yum. The other three vary, but always include something from a small Kentish brewery. Normal facilities are provided as there is a WC at the rear reached through the "cellar". As can be gathered, beer is the staple offering of this pub, with very little else. There is a white wine, but no cider or spirits.
The menu consists of home-made pickled eggs and onions, and the pre-packed snacks you find in most pubs, and that's it. No piped music, machines, televisions or other distractions. People talk to each other here, which I'm sure, would be quite a novelty to some pub-goers.
Since opening, Martyn has won several awards for the quality of the beer and the pub itself. A pivotal moment was when he gave a speech to members at the 2009 CAMRA AGM, explaining the processes he had gone through to establish the pub. It was intended to inspire, and it did, but you wouldn't have believed it when you read the next edition of What's Brewing, the CAMRA newspaper, which printed a member's letter condemning his presentation. How blinkered can you be? He has directly influenced the opening of at least six successful micropubs and beerhouses.
To check up to date details please see website www.micropub.co.uk.
The Butchers Arms, 29A Herne Street, Herne, Kent CT6 7HL
Open: Tuesday-Saturday 12.00-13.30, 18.00-21.00; Sunday 12.00-14.00.
Closed Monday. Will remain open later if customer numbers are sufficient.
Bus route 4 and 6 from Canterbury, Whitstable and Herne Bay run every 10 mins Monday to Saturday, less frequent in evenings and on Sundays.