You’d be unlikely to stumble upon Beerhouse by accident, tucked away as it is off a yard down a side lane off a high street in Market Harborough. Owners Ivan and Helen have created a popular haven for beer lovers, with a good array of cask ales and also a selection of Belgian beers. I plumped for a tasting paddle of 3 different ales, including my first taste of Timmy Taylor’s Boltmaker.
The pub has a contemporary feel, with clean lines and simple décor. The walls are whitewashed and the back wall has a large “Beerhouse” logo painted on it. As well as the quite spacious main bar, there is also a small side room. Helen told me that they have plans to use this, amongst other things, as a gallery for local artists.
Ales are served from jacket cooled casks behind the bar, where a huge metal stillage holds 12 numbered firkins, with generally around 6 ales being available at any given time. As with the Cuckoo, you order your beer by name or number.
In addition to the cask ales, there is a good selection of bottled beers including Belgian favourites such as Quak (never again!)
Food is the standard micropub bar snack fayre, but Beerhouse is next door to a great chippy and the owners are happy for customers to bring fish and chips back to the pub to eat.
Beerhouse is fast becoming part of the community; Ivan and Helen are helping to cement this relationship with a good selection of events planned, ranging from comedy nights, quiz nights to Scrabble evenings. All in all it is a great place in an area where, so far, there are very few other micropubs.
The next morning I found myself back at Harlington station with a sense of déjà vu and a mission to ride to Market Harborough. Today my only company was wind and sleet! Last night my Garmin had seemed so useful, but today it chose to reveal its mischievious side. At one point it directed me across a muddy field when it turned out there was a perfectly good road a few huncred yards to my left. Overall it took me on a route that was 10 miles longer than strictly necessary and which felt like it took in every cycle path and back-alley in Northampton just for the hell of it! The strong headwind didn’t help and I finally limped into Market Harborough just before 5pm, just as it was getting dark. A long hard bike ride with just one pub at the end of it. Fortunately, Beerhouse was well worth it! Miles Ridden Today: 67.7 Total Miles Ridden so far: 116 Before setting off on this trip there had been times when I had wondered whether visiting 100 micropubs might become a bit repetitive. But after visiting the first three on my bike tour, I’m pretty sure there’s not much danger of that! All 3 pubs were very different from each other.
If you found yourself driving through the village of Toddington you could be forgiven for thinking that the Cuckoo had always been a pub. It’s hard to believe that this micropub opened a mere 3 months ago in October 2014 – before that it was an abandoned Town Hall. Ben, the landlord, has fitted out the interior like a cosy country pub. For a micropub, some might say it is not very “micro”; for a start it has 2 rooms, but only one of them with a bar. And what a bar! A classic pub-style work of art (built by Ben’s late father-in-law) and adorned with no fewer than 8 handpumps! Even a couple of craft keg beers and a l*ger (the mere mention of which in some micropubs, so I’ve heard, might require a contribution to the “swear box”). I opted for a pint of Shefford Best Bitter, a refreshing local session beer! The handpumps are numbered and the available beers listed on a blackboard so, if you wish, you can order your beer by number instead of by name – it felt a bit like ordering a Chinese takeaway, but with the names of some beers these days it could make things easier when you’ve had a few! Ben has also sourced a selection of pork pies, scotch eggs and pickled eggs!
I visited the Cuckoo with a friend who used to live in Toddington until quite recently. He explained to me that Ben’s father had been the landlord of another pub in the village, the Sow & Pigs, until his death a few years ago. After he died, the Sow & Pigs had closed and has since been converted into housing, and the village has lost several of it other pubs too. It seems the micropub revolution has given an opportunity for Ben to follow in the family tradition and for the village to gain a new watering hole. The Cuckoo is certainly popular, and I wish Ben every success.
Husband and wife team Jay and Steve have done an excellent job of converting the former Blockbuster video shop in Henlow into their very own micropub, which they opened in October 2014. Walk in through the door (I find it helps!) and you’ll find a spacious interior furnished with mixture of cafe style tables and comfy sofas. Ale is served directly from firkins with cooling jackets in a rack that stands right behind a small bar counter. Four different beers were on offer when we visited, plus a selection of ciders in polypins on the counter. The Transporter also serves soft drinks, teas, coffees and sandwiches. I enjoyed a pint of Smokin’ Angel porter (4.5%) from the Leighton Buzzard Brewing Co! I’d just cycled 10 miles on a cold January evening so it really hit the spot. My pal Stuart opted for the Highwayman (3.6%) by Buntingford Brewery, a refreshing session beer and a bargain at only £2.50 a pint! I liked the atmosphere of the Old Transporter – down to earth and nothing fancy. There’s a transport theme to the pub which I get the feeling will evolve with time – right now it’s a bit sparse, but Steve told me that some of the transport memorabilia on show in the pub had been brought in by regulars. I like the thought of these contributions gradually making the pub what it is, it feels more genuine and less contrived. I wish we could have stayed a little longer but we had another micropub to visit that evening.
At 10 miles from my office, the Old Transporter is my nearest micropub, and I can see groups of us coming back for many return visits. But before that, there is the small matter of visiting the other 99 micropubs!
Can the word ‘anticlimax’ be used to describe the beginning of something?
On the one hand, setting off on my bike this morning was the symbolic start of a long journey.
On the other hand, it was the same ride to the office that I have done a hundred times before and I knew all along that, all being well, I would be back sleeping in my own bed that evening. No “grand depart” – Sujal and the girls were still tucked up in bed at 7am (and rightly so!) when I set off from Enfield in the dark and freezing cold.
After work, I was joined by workmate Stuart on the ride out to the Old Transporter Alehouse in Henlow. Until now I have been a dedicated follower of Ordnance Survey maps (if not fashion!), but a week ago I invested in a Garmin (a SatNav of the 2-wheeled variety), which really came into its own today, while navigating narrow and unfamiliar country lanes in the dark.
We found the Old Transporter without much fuss, locked up the bikes and stepped in out of the cold. A few minutes later we were joined by another friend, Mike, who lives in Henlow. It was that easy! One micropub visited. 99 to go !!
All too soon it was time to bid goodbye to owners Jay and Steve, as we had to move on to the Cuckoo.
Miles Ridden Today: 48.3
Total Miles Ridden so far: 48.3
I felt it was about time I stopped talking about this ride, and started visiting some micropubs! So, earlier in the week I decided that tomorrow (30th Jan) would be the day of the ‘grand depart’, and then promptly announced this to all and sundry on Facebook. No sooner had I made that ‘unbreakable’ pledge than the weather forecast took a turn for the worse and so it looks quite possible, in fact very probable, that it is going to snow overnight. And even if it doesn’t it will be bloody cold.
I thought I should start off with an easy journey – what our marketing manager would call the ‘low hanging fruit’. There are very few micropubs near my home in North London, but there are two that are a fairly short ride from my workplace in Stevenage. And so it was decided that the journey would begin with my ride into work tomorrow (which, alas, is not a micropub), and then after work I would ride to the Old Transporter Ale House, about 10 miles north of the office then on, the same evening, to The Cuckoo in Toddington a further 15 miles from the Old Transporter. And while I’m on a roll, why not ride on from there on Saturday and tick Beerhouse in Market Harborough off my list – that day will be a 50+ mile ride with only one micropub at the end of it. I’ve bought my (advance) train ticket home from Market Harborough now, so there’s no backing out!! I’m too tight to waste £17.