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Shepherd Neame brewery saw a dramatic increase in visitor numbers during 2010.
There were 25 per cent more people on brewery tours compared to 2009, and 10 per cent more overall, including special events such as Beer and Food Evenings and Ale Samplers’ Suppers.
Brewery tours now include the recently converted wine and spirits store, The Vaults, where there’s a fascinating display of original pub signs, hop picking memorabilia and the brewery’s collection of vintage delivery vehicles. Other tour highlights include visiting the brewhouse with its 100-year-old mash tuns, tasting water from the artesian well and sampling a selection of traditional Kentish ales.
Shepherd Neame also caters for large groups and coach parties, teaming up with other local attractions, such as Brogdale Farm, to offer full day excursions with lunch or tea at the brewery.
Visitor Centre manager Graham Hukins said: “As Britain’s oldest brewer we are proud of our heritage and delighted to show visitors the heart of the working brewery. Our beer and food matching evenings have proved extremely popular and we have had to increase the number of tours to meet demand. With even more events planned for 2011, we are looking forward to another busy year.”
Shepherd Neame’s spring events include Ale Samplers’ Suppers on 18 February, 11 March and 15 April, where guests can enjoy a two-course seasonal supper after an evening tour of the brewery.
To celebrate the beginning of spring, there will be an Equinox Beer and Food Evening on 19 March.
There’s a treat in store for Mum on 3 April with a special Mothering Sunday Lunch, served in the charming 15th century function room, featuring exposed beams. The traditional roast dinner will be freshly prepared with the finest local ingredients.
To celebrate the Patron Saint of England there will be a St George’s Day Beer and Food Evening on 23 April, complete with Dragonfire Ale brewed especially for the occasion. Traditional English pub dishes will be served with a modern twist.
A Murder Mystery Evening will take place on 13 May, where Inspector Jager will lead dinner guests through a series of statements and clues to help solve a terrible crime. The evening includes a four-course dinner.
Faversham’s Classic Car & Motorcycle Show has proved so successful in the past it has been extended to the whole weekend on 21 and 22 May. On Saturday there will be a vintage bus display and on Sunday hundreds of classic cars and motorcycles will descend on the town. Shepherd Neame will be running guided tours over the two days and serving lunch in the brewery – though advance booking is advised.
The Spitfire Steam Train will also be making an appearance, running from London to Faversham on the Sunday, with a shorter return trip in the afternoon.
Shepherd Neame was named Small Visitor Attraction of the Year 2010 at Tourism South East’s Beautiful South Awards.