Tag Archives: NorthWest

The Albion Ale House, Standish

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The Albion Ale House is on the High Street in Standish, a small town near to Wigan. Before Kevin acquired the premises for his micropub, it was a pound shop. (Kevin’s beers are good value but, alas, they are slightly dearer than £1).

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Much like the Market Ale House that I visited earlier the same day, it has a bright modern feel to it. It’s another of those narrow but deep places: the bar is set against the right hand wall about mid way back. There’s a small pleasant outdoor drinking/smoking area at the back with wooden benches, and casks as tables. The “cellar” is upstairs.

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There are 8 handpumps on the bar, although only 6 were being used when I visited. For the record, I had a pint of APA – but I failed to make a note of the brewery – suggestions please?

After a pint, the lads from the Shepherds Hall left me to ride back to Chorley, while I pointed my bike in the opposite direction, but then decided that I had time for one more beer before heading to Wigan for my train home.

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The Shepherd’s Hall Ale House, Chorley

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The Shepherds Hall Ale House is housed in a narrow shop unit, part of the former Shepherds Victoria Hall in Chorley, an imposing building of character, the upstairs of which is used as a gym.

This micropub is a family affair – it is owned and run by three brothers. While Graham and Stuart have other occupations, youngest brother Tom runs the micropub full time. At only 25 years old, could he be the country’s youngest micropub landlord? Or do you know different?

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The bar occupies the right hand rear corner of the bar room. The interior is classic pub decor much of which has been cleverly salvaged from various local establishments. There are 5 handpumps on the bar and Tom explained to me that their policy was to stock 4 ales from local breweries with the fifth handpump reserved for brews from further afield. I had a pint of Ossett Silver King. They also sell wines and continental bottled beers. If there’s a beer that you’d like them to get in then pop the details in their “beer suggestion box” – a great idea!
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This is another micropub that is fortunate to have a “proper” cellar. Another feature worthy of a mention (and a photo!) is the toilets. It was possible to retain and restore the original brickwork from the original toilet block.

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It speaks volumes about the spirit of the Shepherds Hall Ale House that they managed to get together a team of 7 to join me in my day’s riding. I really appreciated their company and their fundraising efforts.

The Market Ale House, Leyland

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It will probably come as no surprise to you that the Market Ale House, Leyland can be found next to Leyland Market. The market was built on (or, rather, relocated to) what was once the site of the Leyland Motors manufacturing plant. Another reminder of the Leyland’s industrial heritage is just around the corner at the British Commercial Vehicle Museum which I’m sure would have been interesting to have visited if I had had more time.

When the Market Ale House opened in December 2013, it was the first micropub in the area. Owners Alison and Danny had visited micropubs in Kent for inspiration for their own premises. The shop unit that they found used to be a travel agent.

I arrived just as barman Jack was getting ready to open up. The pub is decorated in a bright and modern style while still feeling homely. Dark wood floors and light wood bar-height tables and chairs. On the walls, among other things is a photo gallery of black and white prints of the neighbouring market. The bar occupies the rear left hand corner of the room. Unusually for a micropub, there is also an al-fresco, cafe-style drinking area out the front. The rear of the building houses the cellar and the toilets.
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The bar is fitted with 7 handpumps (6 for ales and 1 for cider) although the full line-up is only used at weekends. Tasting paddles are available (3 x 1/3 pints). Red and white wine, Prosecco and a selection of single malt whiskies are also on offer. My pint of Crown Best Bitter from Stockport Brewing Co was excellent.

Before long, seven bikes pulled up outside. It was the lads from the Shepherds Hall Ale house up the road. They had arrived to lead the way to the next 2 micropubs on my list. But obviously they stopped for a pint first!

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Beershack, Burnley

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Beer Shack is a small chain of three micropubs: one in Mansfield, one in Hucknall, and this one in the centre of Burnley.

Outside, the impression is of a fairly plain shop-front.   Inside, the room is long and thin, a bit like yours truly. As you walk in, the first thing you see is shelves and shelves of bottled beers, behind sliding grilles. Look a bit closer and you’ll see that the shelves are quite cleverly made up of lots of wooden crates. This shelving takes over the right-hand half of the room for about a third of the depth of the pub. I later noticed that this was a smart way of disguising a stairwell that descends behind them to the cellar and the gents toilets.

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Next is the bar, also along the right-hand side.   Chairs and tables are arranged along the left-hand side of the room.   So the effect is a little like drinking in a corridor.

The decor is quite austere, almost industrial, as compared to “cosy and pubby” feel of some micropubs – it reminded me a little of some of the Brewdog pubs that I have been to. Perhaps not to everybody’s taste, but wouldn’t it be boring if all micropubs were the same?! Vive la difference, as they say in Lancashire.

There’s a generous helping of 7 handpumps on the bar. I plumped for a pint of Milestone Classic Dark Mild, but there was a good range of beer styles available, including a cask lager (I think) which I forgot to enquire about, and all were very reasonably priced.

BeerShack is owned by James, who originally hails from Essex. I was running late, so I didn’t have a chance to chat for as long as I would have liked (James, you could say you had a lucky escape!)   But I did learn that the pub was due to host several live acts during the Burnley Blues Festival and that they had also started up music nights on the first Tuesday of every month featuring various live acoustic artists.

I look forward to visiting the other Beershacks later in the year.

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The Bankers Draft, Barrowford

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In the case of the Bankers Draft in Barrowford, both the owner *and* the premises began life in financial services! The imposing detached building is a former bank (hence the name), although it had been used for other purposes in the intervening years.   And the owner, Tracey, worked in a financial services practice for many years before making a brave, fresh start by opening her own micropub!   The Bankers Draft opened in November 2014. She runs it with help from her sons and her partner, David.

Although it’s not that big, the pub has a more spacious feel to it than many other micropubs. That’s probably because of the high ceilings, and also because Tracey has opted not to provide an abundance of seating.

Four handpumps on the bar. The beer room is the old manager’s office immediately behind the bar, so a nice short pipe run. I had a Dark Drake Oatmeal Stout from the Dancing Duck Brewery.

Sorry for the quality of the photo’s. Some of them were taken through the window while I was waiting for the Bankers Draft to open: I turned up 2 hours before opening time! My fault! But it does reinforce the advice to always check opening hours (and days!) first if you’re travelling a long way to visit a micropub. While some owners employ staff and open more or less normal pub hours, many micropubs like to keep it just a family affair, and you can’t have a work/life balance if you’re opening 7 days a week from 11 till 11!

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Boyce’s Barrel, Colne

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Boyce’s Barrel occupies a narrow shop unit on a quiet side street near the centre of Colne. It opened in November 2014 and is run by three partners: Andrew (aka “Smiler”), Carl and Nina. Nina (Carl’s other half) is also involved with the Flying Firkin beer distribution company, which must be a handy connection for a micropub!

As is quite often the case, this micropub’s narrow appearance from outside belies a quite large, deep interior, with the bar and unisex toilet set right at the back. The decor has a warm, dark, retro feel to it: the most striking features being the handmade bar-height tables and barstool-height fitted benches along both sides of the room. This style is borrowed from many micropubs down South; I had not found it to be much in evidence “north of Watford Gap” , so this was a refreshing change. And these are not just any old tables and benches – they are solidly built from railway sleepers. When Andrew told me how much it had cost to have them made I nearly fell off my bench! But they are clearly a solid investment and built to last!

There’s lots of interesting memorabilia on the walls (and in the loo’s!). Fans of Minder and the legendary Arfur Daley will not leave disappointed if they look carefully.

On the bar there are 5 handpumps. Andrew explained that while many micropubs stock mostly local brews, his philosophy was deliberately to do the opposite, the argument being that many other pubs in the area stock the products of those local breweries, and that his customers come in to try something different. Going with this theory, I had a pint of Houston Killellan, an amber ale “brewed with pride in Scotland”, and I did not regret it.

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Micropubs often have to be quite inventive when it comes to beer storage. Boyce’s Barrel were fortunate enough to find a premises that already had its own cellar, accessed from a hatch behind the bar. I was told that lunchtime sessions tended to be quiet but the pub became very busy in the evenings. (Don’t use my photo’s as a guide to the popularity of any place – the nature of my ride is that some of my visits are at weekday lunchtimes, and others could be late on a Saturday night.)

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Boyce’s Barrel sponsored the recent Colne Beer Festival, a smart move for any new micropub. They are also organising music nights in the pub.

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The Beer Engine, Skipton

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The Beer Engine is another of those micropubs that is tucked away down a quiet side street. The location is perfect, close to the scenic canal and the town centre. Any concerns I may have had earlier in my trip about these hidden micropubs not drawing in enough passing trade have evaporated as the evidence speaks for itself, all these micropubs are doing all right – and anyway, perhaps random passers by are not the kind of customer a micropub wants – those who are actively seeking somewhere special will have done their homework and find out where the best pubs are in a town before they visit. Or will they?

Run by couple Steve and Janet and ably assisted by several bar staff, The Beer Engine is a marvellous pub in a small town that is not that blacking in decent “normal” pubs and so has some stiff competition. If you fancy a bit of a crawl, you could also try The Narrowboat, just around the corner, and The Woolly Sheep in town. Over a chat, Steve told me he used to do legal work before they opened The Beer Engine, but now the micropub is his full time vocation.

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Ale is served from 5 handpumps on a traditional bar, but with a very similar setup to The Snug in that the casks are visible behind the bar. They even have the same hoist arrangement as the Snug so, hopefully, both pubs will remain hernia and backache free zones. There’s a row of pump-clips on the wall indicating which beers will be on the bar next.

Jules, who served me, explained to me that they arrange the beers by colour/style from left to right, i.e. Blonde, Pale, Golden, “Quirky”, Dark. I went for dark and quirky – my wife would not have been surprised.

I enjoyed spending the evening in the Beer Engine. I got talking to some of the drinkers there, and finally with a nice couple who had been visiting Skipton for a few days but live in Blyth, on the North East coast. The Oddfellows Arms, where I had lodged a few nights previously turned out to be their local. Small world! (This kind of thing kept happening to me – a couple at the campsite in Beal turned out to have been in the Liberty Belle in Ely about a month earlier on precisely the same night that I had visited it with a group of friends)!. Anyway, back to Alan & Sheila from Blyth, because they contradicted what I had been saying earlier about micropubs not missing good customers by being too hidden. Alan and Sheila judged the Beer Engine to be the best pub they had tried in Skipton, but despite having walked past it several times over the previous few days it was only that evening, their last night in Skipton, that they had actually realised it was a pub! So they came close to never finding it at all! I would have thought the name and the empty casks outside the front door might have given some clue as to what went on inside, but perhaps people have an inbuilt expectation that a pub should look like a “pub”.

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