Wednesday, 9 March 2016

More micropubs

The latest from the Micropub Association suggests there are now over 200 micropubs in the UK and the number is increasing every week.  This is fantastic news.  Last week I visited a couple more for the first time in the Midlands with mixed thoughts on them.  This is new to me because I have not come across one yet I have not loved.  

On Wednesday I popped over to the Old Post Office in Warwick.  I was planning on an evening in Warwick but train times to and from Stratford-upon-Avon made this difficult so I decided to drive over and just check out the micropub.  It's a lovely building on the left as you go into Warwick from junction 15 of the M40.  If you reach the High Street you have gone too far so turn round.  You enter into the lowest level.  The place is full of antiquities and curios and it had a cosy, pubby feel.  There is probably seating for around twenty in this area and then there is a big step up to the bar area straight ahead.  Plenty of people were standing around at the bar and were very friendly and there were tall stools to sit on in this area too.  Beyond the bar area there was another step up into a back room with more seating.  Overall it was more like a small, traditional pub, not as micro as some micropubs and there was a traditional bar albeit without the spirits, lagers and stuff..  

The bar did have plenty of barrels lined up behind in what was quite a restricted area.  The owner did say the lack of space was a challenge but he seemed to have got things manageable.  There were about five beers available and all were just £3 a pint which matched the prices at the Stratford Alehouse I went to on numerous occasions over the past two weeks.  The beer was my only disappointment really.  I chose a half of Priory Mild (3.5% ABV) from Essex micro Nethergate which was ok but the WPA (4.2% ABV) from Ambridge, a micro from nearby Worcester, was bland and lifeless.  The alternatives included Youngs Bitter.

Overall this is one micropub that I will go to again when I am in the area.  The pump clips on the wall in the bar area suggests the beer selection is often excellent so today I was just unlucky I guess.  It is a friendly place and there were plenty of people enjoying the hospitality which has to be a good sign and overall it is a very good micropub 

On Thursday I visited family over in Loughborough so it was an opportunity to visit the Needle and Pin, a micropub which only opened in December.  It is a lovely building with a downstairs bar and an upstairs room with an old gramophone and vinyl records and I could hear that some of these were being played.  The name was derived from a number of sources.  Needles represent the cotton industry which was thriving in Loughborough during the last century.  The pin because it is a former electrical shop.  There is a bell to call last orders that was commissioned from the local bell foundry, Taylors, a factory which has been producing bells from the factory in Loughborough for nearly two hundred years.  Bells cast here can be found all over the world.

Everything has been done in the Needle and Pin to a high specification it seems.  Lots of wood with modern stylish high tables, wood flooring throughout and wooden bench seating along one wall.  At the small bar area there are plenty of ciders available and a fridge containing cans and bottles of beer from some of the most reputable UK brewers such as Magic Rock, Thornbridge, Beavertown and Marble.  The cask beer selection seemed spartan in comparison.  The three available were Reverend James (the sort of beer I expect to see in an Enterprise Inn and not one I would consider drinking), Hop Back Entire Stout (perfectly drinkable) and Milk Street Funky Monkey (4.0% ABV).  I went for the latter as I had not tried anything from this brewery and on this evidence I won't rush to try anything from them again.  It is a very bland slightly sweetish bitter.  

The Needle and Pin is a micropub that is quite a bit different from others I have visited.  I visit micropubs for the excellent choice of beer and to chat with whoever happens to be in there.  I didn't get any of that from this place.  The Swan in the Rushes, a really excellent pub in Loughborough a short walk away from here, will still be my regular pub of choice in what is an excellent town for beer pubs.  A great choice of beer at good prices.  That brings me onto the beer pricing here.  I think it was about £3.70 for my pint and this is more than I pay in micropubs down south and considerably more than I paid in Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon.

As well as trying out these two new micropubs last week I went back to the Stratford Alehouse of course (twice).  The second visit there I had a great chat with a couple of regulars who I had got to know quite well over the past couple of weeks and the owner Bill did his best to keep us there as long as possible.  I was going to have one or two but then he put on the Cotswold Best (4.0% ABV) from the local North Cotswold Brewery.  A very drinkable best bitter.  That will be it though.  Time to make way for the incoming customers waiting for folk night.  Then he goes and puts on Proverbs 31:7 (4.5% ABV) from Great Heck.  Have a smell of this one he says.  Bloody hell ok you've twisted my arm.  I'll stay a bit longer.  The folk music was actually great once it started so I enjoyed a couple of songs whilst downing this superb hoppy beer from one of my favourite brewers.  That turned out to be a fantastic evening.  So that's why I love the Stratford Alehouse.  A proper micropub.  I'm not sure the Needle and Pin is actually trying to attract the usual micropub clientele.  Loughborough is a university town and I think it wants some of their custom.  I'm sure it will do well but I think the more elderly beer drinkers will go elsewhere.