The Abbey Hotel, in Battle, has been named pub of the year at the annual Shepherd Neame Pub Awards, held at Canterbury Rugby Club.

Shepherd Neame pub year
Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame (left) with Kate and Charlie Thompson, who run the company’s pub of the year, The Abbey Hotel, in Battle

A total of 15 awards were given out at the event, which celebrates exceptional achievement in the teams across the brewer and pub owner’s 300-strong estate.

Winning licensees Sharon and Gordon Thompson took on the Abbey Hotel eight years ago, with help from their grown-up children and partners, and today run a total of four pubs with Shepherd Neame. Their other sites are The Castle Hotel, in Eynsford, The Woolpack, in Chilham and The White Horse, Maldon.

Sharon and Gordon’s son Charlie and daughter-in-law Kate run the Abbey Hotel, where they met six years ago. Sharon said: “Their attention to detail is so good. They are a credit to themselves with what they have brought to the business. The pub of the year award is something they really deserve.”

The family also celebrated winning best accommodation offer for The Castle Hotel, which is run by Sharon and Gordon’s daughter Elizabeth and fiancé Jacob Harper.

Sharon paid tribute to her family for their efforts, describing herself as ‘very proud’. She said: “They work so hard, all of them do. We couldn’t do it without them and I cannot stress enough how much it is a team effort, all of us working together.”

Managed pub of the year went to The Market House, in Maidstone, which was praised for providing excellent service, top quality food and drink, and creating a regular following for the live music it hosts every week.

The Bear, in Faversham, took the award for tenanted pub of the year. Praised as an ‘all-round proper pub’, it serves a quality range of Shepherd Neame beers, a varied home-cooked menu, and organises regular themed nights and events.

:: Enjoying Beer Today? Become a Patreon supporter from £1.50 a month

The award for apprentice of the year went to Andy Hawkes, general manager at The Limes, in Faversham, who was 52 when he joined the hospitality industry and started his apprenticeship last year.

The best food offer was given to the Castle Inn, Bodiam, which has been run by licensees Wendy and James Mills for more than 20 years, with James working alongside head chef Bob Leeper in the kitchen. Chef of the year went to Andy Proctor, who has been at The Marine Hotel, in Tankerton, for six and a half years.

Hannah Grantham, of The Spitfire, in Kings Hill, was named best barperson of the year. She is one of Shepherd Neame’s Service Champions, supporting team members at other sites to deliver the highest standards.

The best beer offer was awarded to the team at The Parrot, Canterbury, which was praised for consistently high quality beer and an excellent selection of cask ale rotated frequently, tested daily, and delivered with passion and love. General manager Francis Williamson said: “I’ve worked for Shepherd Neame a long time and this is the award I’ve always wanted.”

The customer service pub of the year went to the Old Ivy House, London, while The Oak on the Green, in Bearstead, was named Heart of the Community award winner. Turnaround pub of the year is the Carpenters Arms, Eastling.

The lifetime contribution award went to The Pepper Box, Ulcombe, which has been run by the same family for more than 60 years. The current licensee, Sophie Pemble, follows in the footsteps of her parents Sarah and Jeff Pemble, and grandparents Jack and Betty Wood, who came to the Pepper Box in 1958.

There were two awards for outstanding contribution. The first went to The Alma, Painters Forstal, which has been run by Clare and Richard Annand for the past 13 years, with help from their sons. It is a hive of activity with quiz nights, music, and even a spot of bat and trap.

The other went to the Market Inn, in Faversham, which has been run by David and Sue Pott for almost 20 years, and who are taking a well-earned retirement next month. A hub for local music, along with bat and trap in its huge beer garden, it will be taken on by Tim and Lacey, from The Bear, in Faversham.

Beers of Europe affiliate link