George, in Tunbridge Wells.
The runners up are the the Windmill in Sevenoaks Weald and Fuggles Beer Café in Tunbridge Wells, both themselves previous winners. The award for Club of the Year 2018 goes once again to the Tunbridge Wells Constitutional Club, where members and CAMRA guests can enjoy a range of four hand pumped ales, along with a friendly welcome.
Cider Pub of the Year 2018 goes to the Pantiles Tap, in the Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells for the third year running, thanks to its mighty “Great Wall of Cider” offering cider and perry from a wide range of producers.
The managers and owners of the establishments concerned have all been informed of their award wins and official presentation events will be arranged at each venue over the coming weeks. This will enable staff and customers to celebrate their successes alongside local CAMRA members, by raising a glass together.
This year's contest was extremely close, and there was very little separating the top three pubs. In the run-up to the contest local CAMRA members were encouraged to visit the six chosen finalists and then score each pub according to a number of different criteria.
As might be expected, the quality of the beer and cider served was at the forefront, but other factors to be considered were style, décor, furnishing & cleanliness; service, welcome and offering; community focus and atmosphere; and alignment with CAMRA principles/overall impression.
The votes were then collected and analysed to establish the winner. Much of the assessing took place when a group of branch members toured the nominated pubs, by mini-bus, over a one day to give their final assessment, but members were also able to visit the six finalists over a longer period, should they have wished.
Winning Pub of the Year 2018, is a particularly fitting moment for the George, after the indignation of being turned into a rather tacky night-spot (Liquid Lounge, TN4), earlier this century. Fortunately this attractive old coaching inn, which can trace its history back to the Georgian era, has been lovingly restored to something approaching its former glory, and reverted, thankfully, to its original name.
The George is now a smart, friendly free house, which provides an exciting new venue at the "top end" of Tunbridge Wells. The pub has eight hand pumps, two of which are dedicated to real cider, whilst the other six offer a changing range of ales from far and wide. There are several distinct areas inside, with wooden floors
and panelling, and plenty of comfortable seating. A couple of open fires
provide a welcoming warmth in winter, and for the summer months there is a
patio area in front of the pub, plus a hidden, “secret garden” down some steps
at the rear of the building.