Category Archives: Micropub Reviews

Beershack, Hucknall

Beershack is one of a trio of micropubs set up by James, the other two being in Burnley and Mansfield.  A single storey building with a high pitched roof, there is a certain “shackiness” about the exterior.  The lines of empty casks outside help to carry this off.  While we’re still outside, it’s also worth noting that Beershack have installed bike racks outside – a nice touch, and one that should be good for business, as a bike is such a great way to get to micropubs – but then I would say that!

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No nonsense inside – all fit for purpose.  A plain, square-ish room with stripped pine floor.  A long bar counter down the left wall and the remaining floorspace filled with standard pubby furniture.  There’s an old hanging inn sign (The Flying Bedstead) on one of the walls (I forgot to ask if there was a story behind it, but a quick google search when I got home revealed it to be the name of a former Hucknall pub that had succumbed to “development” and become a co-op store.  The pub itself had been named after a prototype vertical takeoff flying machine that was tested at Rolls Royce Hucknall in the 1950’s). The remaining wall space is filled with the pumpclips of beers gone by – and there have been many of those!

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Ales are served by hand-pull, with the casks in a separate temperature-controlled room.   Cider boxes sit on the bar and are served at room temperature.  We chatted with barman/manager Dave who was friendly and knew his beer.

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Marlpool Brewery Ale House, Heanor

The Marlpool Ale House can be found on a residential street in Hucknall.  Rather impertinently, it occupies a small unit, a former butchers shop, right nextdoor to a more conventional pub.

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It was Derbyshire’s first micropub, and only the 4th micropub in the country to open.

As soon as you walk in you realise this place is special.  The first thing you encounter is a tiny room dominated by an ornate bar counter which, ironically, was rescued from a former Methodist chapel.   Four handpumps on the bar announce Marlpool’s own beers with great names like “Scratty Ratty” and “Otters Pocket”, because, of course, Marlpool is not only an Ale House, but is has a small brewery out the back.

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This just gets better.  On the way to show us the brewery, Andy the landlord led us through a labyrinth of tiny rooms (well, at least 3) each with their own quirky character, and then finally across a partly covered beer garden to the outbuildings where the ale is brewed.  About 50ft from Brewery to Tap – not many food miles in this business!

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So, there you have it.  A great little bar, where you might not expect one, made up of a series of snugs, a garden for the fine weather, and beer brewed on the premises.  Residents of Breach Road, Heanor: you have a gem on your doorsteps.  But I suspect you already know this.   Well worth seeking out, but check opening times as they are quite limited during the week.

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Arkwrights, Belper

You’ll find Arkwright’s Real Ale Bar in Belper, tucked away just off the high street near the train station.  Strictly speaking, I wouldn’t really describe Arkwrights as a micropub;  but, to be fair, I don’t think Arkwrights claim to be one either (although they are a member of the Micropub Association).    However, this place does do exactly what it says on the tin – it is a real ale bar and a great one at that.

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It’s a single room affair with a long bar across one of the walls.  There were 6 real ales on handpull, plus a number of keg fonts dispensing ciders, a lager and a craft IPA.  In addition to this, wines, country wines and spirits are also served.

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Apparently, the premises were previously part of the private members club next door and the bar is named after Sir Richard Arkwright, a local dignatory and mill owner from the 18th Century.

The Chequered Flag, Castle Donington

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The Chequered Flag is a little different to your typical micropub.  It feels more like a cross between a continental cafe and a museum of motor-racing memorabilia!  It has a more “upmarket” feel to it than most micropubs, but without losing any of the friendly atmosphere that I have come to expect as a given.   The pub is right in the centre of Castle Donington village and was originally opened by Mick and Caroline in April 2014 – the 51st micropub to open in England, if you’re counting.   Sadly, due to health issues, Mick and Caroline had to give up the pub so, since late 2014, it has been owned and run by  former publican (and former Chequered Flag regular) Bert Sandham.

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The interior of the place is tiny, but when the weather is good there are cafe-style tables and chairs out on the pavement, not only in front of the pub itself but outside the adjacent shop.  Ales are stored in an air-conditioned room just behind the small bar, and the stillage is visible though a small window.   Ciders, perries and wines are also available.   Those into motorsport will marvel at Bert’s collection of racing memorabilia, and if you engage him in conversation you will discover he has many of his own anecdotes from the motor racing world.

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I doubt I will ever grow bored of touring the country visiting micropubs.  The Chequered Flag is yet another great micropub with its own individual style and character.

The Little Chester Ale House, Derby

The Little Chester Ale House (named after the Chester Green area of Derby in which it resides) was set up by Wentwell Brewery and was Derby’s first micropub when it opened back in 2012.  At the time I visited it, September 2015, it was just about to change hands and will be run in the future by another local brewery, Hartshorns.  Despite the ownership, the pub is not merely a brewery tap, and showcases beers from other breweries.

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The pub sits behind an unspoilt old-fashioned shopfront on the edge of a large green.  The premises were previously used as a laundry, but make a perfect micropub.  As you walk in, it feels like one of those tiny old corner locals that, I’m told, occupied many street corner premises of yesteryear.  Lots of old photos in the walls. Drinks are served from a small bar counter (more of a hatch) at the back of the room.  There’s also a long, narrow snug to the rear with its own bar counter.

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It is a friendly and welcoming place.   I enjoyed chatting with George, one of the Wentwell owners,  and could see that the pub had a good community spirit.  There are several other micropubs in Derby now, along with other interesting pub, so worth a weekend trip.

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The Chip and Pin, Melbourne, Derbyshire

The Chip and Pin proves that old bank premises (in this case HSBC) can make great micropubs! David and Elaine Carpenter have converted this character building in Melbourne, South Derbyshire in to a lovely venue where the local community (and the occasional touring cyclist!) can gather and sup great beer.

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David and Elaine drew upon the nearby Cask and Pottle for inspiration in their micropub design (which, itself, bears many of the hallmarks of a Kent-style micropub). So expect high tables and benches around the walls, standing room in the middle, ales served straight from the cask in an air-conditioned stillage room, and the absence of a bar of any kind. But the Chip and Pin’s interior differs from many Kent micro’s in that the furniture and decor feels less “rustic” and more “polished” – if you get what I mean.   And the high arched windows, as well as adding character, also grant more of a sense of privacy than one gets drinking behind the plate glass shop windows of many micropubs.

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One dilemma when using a former bank branch must be deciding what to do with the bank manager’s office. Back in May, when I visited the Bankers Draft in Barrowford (also a former bank, as you might just guess from the name), I discovered that they had used the managers office as the stillage room. At the Chip & Pin, the manager’s office has remained a “private” room – by appointment only – it’s off the main saloon and it’s set up a little like a boardroom, with a single table surrounded by chairs. I’m guessing this could be used as a meeting room for clubs and societies? It’s certainly an interesting feature.

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I learned that, as with many micropubs, the Chip and Pin had a rather rough ride through the licensing and planning process, with a small number of residents having made objections based on rather alarmist predictions of the mayhem that would ensue if a micropub were allowed to open in their town. Fortunately, as always seems to be the case, these fears have turned out to be unfounded. In the future, I hope that miicropubs become universally recognised as the great assets to the local community that they clearly are. If you’re reading this and live in or near Melbourne then do drop in to the Chip and Pin, as I’m sure you will receive a very warm welcome – and a well kept pint!

The Cask and Pottle, Tutbury

They do say you should try to learn a new word every day. On September 12th my new word was “pottle” – a pot that holds 2 quarts. The Cask and Pottle is a classic Kent style micropub in the delightful Midlands town of Tutbury. Gary, the landlord, a former Electrical Engineer told me that he used to live in Kent and the Just Reproach in Deal was his local. Gary and his wife fancied opening up a micropub in a part of the country where there were not so many, and so in October 2013 the Cask & Pottle was born.

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The characterful shop unit, a stone’s throw from the central crossroads in Tutbury, used to be a sweet shop. The narrow front window gives the impression that the place will be really tiny inside, but looks can be deceptive and the building is actually a little wider than it seems.

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The inside is furnished with chunky high wood tables with benches that run all around the walls. Ales are served by gravity from a stillage in a chill room at the back, which can be viewed through a small window from the main saloon.

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I had a pint of Froth Blowers Piffle Snonker (nobody ever warned me against learning more than one new word a day, so I googled that at the first opportunity and spent at least an hour learning about the history of the ancient order of Froth Blowers!).

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Anyway, the Cask & Pottle has been getting a name for itself, not only being included in the 2016 good beer guide, but also being awarded Burton and South Derbyshire country pub of the year 2015.