Tag Archives: SouthCoast

The Wight Bear, Southbourne, Bournemouth

You would be forgiven for assuming that the Wight Bear alehouse was on the Isle of Wight, but its name originates from the view across to the island from Bournemouth. The shape of the chalk cliffs near the Needles looks uncannily like a polar bear! Landlady Nicola told me that before they had the polar bear idea they had come close to calling their pub the Wright Flyer after Charles Roll’s aircraft that crashed nearby in the early 20th century causing the first aircraft fatality in the UK. I think they made the right choice.

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So you’ll find this micropub in the Southbourne area of Bournemouth, on a busy high street, with a bus shelter outside that hampers any attempt to take a decent photo of the pub’s exterior! 🙂

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Headed up by David and Nicola, the Wight Bear really is a family affair with various family members working shifts behind the bar (well, ok, there isn’t a bar, but you catch my drift!) Not only that, but Nicola’s brother, Sean, who lives in New Zealand, designed all the artwork for the pub, including the polar bear logo. At the time I visited he had never seen the fruit of his designs, although I’m told that he has since been over to the UK to visit the pub and the family.

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The micropub is set up in a broad, square-ish room and so it feels quite spacious.  It is furnished with chunky timber bar-height tables and benches, with quite a large standing area in the middle.

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Across much of the rear of the room is the air-conditioned beer room, visible to customers through glass panels.   When I visited, they had a choice of three cask ales on offer.  Also ciders, perry, wines, spirits, teas and coffee, soft drinks and cans of beer (incl lager!) but somehow they have managed to pull this off without detracting from the “micropub” atmosphere.  They also have 2 pint pitchers available.

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When I visited the Wight Bear it had only been open for a couple of months but they already had a loyal following of regulars.  The place was packed and buzzing on a Sunday afternoon.   Unlike many micropubs, the Wight Bear has all-day opening (roughly regular pub hours) every day of the week except Monday.  I guess that’s one of the advantages of getting family members involved.

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As with so many other micropubs, it’s the kind of place I’d love to have as my local.

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The Butcher’s Hook, Southampton

The Butchers Hook is on the outskirts of Southampton, in an area called Bitterne Park. The pub forms part of a parade of shops on a pleasant street opposite a park.

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Given the pub’s name, it was no surprise to learn from co-owner Anthony that the premises had been a butcher’s shop in a past life (although it has been several other things, including an antique shop, in between).   More surprising, perhaps, is that the original tiling from the butcher shop has survived intact and this forms a striking feature of this stylish micropub’s décor.

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At the rear of the pub, the right hand side is taken over by an imposing stillage made from scaffolding, from which the jacket-cooled cask ales are served by gravity. Three cask ales were available when I visited, along with 3 craft keg options.

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OK, I’ll have to admit, I’m not the greatest fan of craft keg: Firstly it’s not my personal preference to drink beer chilled and fizzy, and I’m also a bit cynical about the practice of pricing beer by the half-pint which tends to disguise the fact that it’s significantly more expensive than its cask equivalent (even if it may often be a teensy bit stronger!).   That having been said, when in Rome, as they say, so after I finished my pint of (cask) Moor Revival Pale Ale, I opted to try a half of (keg) Dark Star Revelation APA. And I had to admit that it was jolly pleasant, although I believe I would have preferred the cask version (and price!) Oh well, each to their own.

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The interior is simply and fashionably furnished with large trestle tables, with a more comfy seating arrangement around the bay window. There are also a couple of outdoor tables at the front on the pavement, sheltered by a sun-blind.

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The Butcher’s Hook is the first (and, at the time of writing, as far as I know, the only) micropub in Southampton. Well done Anthony and Dan, keep up the good work!

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Anchored in Worthing

Anchored in Worthing was the very first micropub that I ever visited, back in September 2014, long before I embarked on this adventure.  I had been attending a course in Brighton and one evening had caught the train down to Worthing to find out what all the micropub fuss was about.  I had a feeling that I would like micropubs – walking into Anchored had confirmed that!

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While I have been travelling the country it has been interesting to witness how the micropub concept has evolved and mutated to suit the local area and/or the circumstances of the owner(s).  While variety is the spice of life, it is always good to encounter a micropub where the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree, where the ethos of the original micropub can be seen from every possible angle and “Keep it Small, Keep it Simple” rings true in every way.

If you’re looking for the real McCoy, look no further than Anchored in Worthing!

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Firstly, it’s a one-man operation.  Nigel the landlord lives above the pub.  I don’t know if he employs any staff, but even if he did (and everybody needs a day off, don’t they?), I could imagine that Nigel would not be far from the place.

Secondly, it’s truly “micro”.  The lack of seating between the double rows of bar height tables is out of necessity here as there is standing room only down the middle.  If you need to go outside for a smoke or some fresh air then there are somee small benches and tables out the front too.

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And it’s certainly all about the beer.  (well, ok, beer and cider and Sussex Wines)   Ales are served straight from the cask from an air conditioned room out back.  There’s no bar to create a divide between Nigel and his customers and as far as I could see Nigel expertly divides his time between mingling with his customers and dealing with their drinks orders.

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Nigel has had a varied and interesting life, from a music business in Africa to a sailing business in Spain and other countries.  Nigel opened his micropub to become more settled, hence the name Anchored in Worthing.  Anchored opened in August 2013 and was the first micropub on the South Coast.  Now there are three others within a few miles, and also other micropubs not too far away in Hove and Southampton.  Certainly worth a weekend trip to visit them all!

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The Brooksteed Alehouse, Worthing

Brooksteed Alehouse, just around the corner from Worthing railway station, was one of the first micropubs that I ever visited, months before I embarked on this cycling trip. At that time they had only been open a few weeks. I remember talking with Nick, the landlord, about his move from a job in IT to opening his own micropub. Now I was interested in how he had found their first year in business.

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The main change has been that Nick’s wife, Paula, has now also left her job and joined Nick running the Brooksteed, which must be a good measure of the success of their business!

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The Brooksteed was formerly a hairdressers and Nick and Paula found ways to integrate some features of the old premises into the design of the micropub, such as utilising 1960’s hairdryer heads as light fittings.

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The interior is smart and stylish but with common micropub features such as high wooden tables and benches. There are also a couple of cosy nooks with more conventional seating.

There’s a tiny bar – a counter really – where you can place your order if you wish (table service is also an option) but ales are poured direct from the casks, which are stored in an air conditioned stillage room (which has a viewing window). However, Paula told me they were considering having a larger bar fitted.

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Four different ales were available when I visited. Tasting notes for present and future beers are provided on the tables.   Also available is a selection of bottled beers, real ciders, quality wines and soft drinks.

Bar snacks and basic food is available, with the menu changing between summer and winter, but there is also a Thai restaurant/takeaway next door and Nick and Paula are happy for their customers to bring Thai food into the pub.

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The place was busy when I visited early on a Saturday evening, but still managed to retain a peaceful atmosphere. The Brooksteed is a great example of what can be done with a simple shop premises.

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The Stanley Ale House, Lancing

The Stanley Ale House is an offshoot of the nearby Stanley Arms, a popular and award-winning real-ale pub.  The landlord of the Stanley arms had been looking to branch out with a micropub when he found a former launderette up for rent in the town of Lancing, set between Shoreham and Worthing on the South Coast.   And so the Stanley Ale House was born, just under a year ago, in October 2014.

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The Stanley Ale house is part of a quiet, modern cul-de-sac parade of shops, about a 5 minute walk from lancing station. Inside, the micropub is quite spacious, laid out much like a traditional pub, with homely furniture, bookshelves and board games..   There’s even a piano inside!

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Real ales are served from jacket-cooled casks that sit on a wooden stillage behind the wooden bar. There are also, ciders, perries, keg ales, bottled beers, and a selection of single-malt whiskies on offer.

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Unfortunately Steve, the landlord, was not there on the day that I visited but I had a chat with Viv the barmaid, and several friendly regulars, Johnny, Ripley and Launski.  The pub holds regular live music nights and also quiz nights.

There’s also a sheltered outside drinking area on the pavement at the front, with tables and chairs laid out.   This was the most popular area when I visited, which was hardly surprising as it was a lovely sunny day!

All in all, a great micropub. Go visit.

The Old Star Ale and Cider House, Shoreham-on-Sea

The Old Star now has new stars running it!   A few weeks before my visit, local couple Richard and Jenny had taken over this micropub from the two chaps who had originally created it back in August 2014.   Richard is a real ale enthusiast, but neither he nor Jenny had run a pub before. (Richard and Jenny are the couple on the left in the photo below, the man on the right is Nick, who cycled with me from Shoreham to Worthing)

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The Old Star can be found on a quiet side street just off Shoreham High Street and riverfront and about 5 minutes walk from the station. It is called the Old Star because it occupies part of the building that used to be a pub called the Star Inn.

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Although the micropub has quite a wide frontage, looks can be deceptive as, once you get inside, it is actually quite small, even for a micropub. Décor is bright, with chunky light wood  tables and benches.  On the magnolia painted walls hang various interesting pieces of transport memorabilia. There is a bar which occupies quite a bit of space, and the ales are served from jacket-cooled casks in a stillage behind the bar. A choice of three ales were on offer when I visited. I sampled a pint of India “Plain” Ale, made in the heart of Salisbury Plain.

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The Old Star seems popular and welcoming, with people overflowing onto the street when I visited.   A good situation for Richard and Jenny to be in, but I feel they may need to find additional stillage space if they are to keep up with demand!

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In addition to the cask ales, a selection of ciders, wines, Prosecco and quality soft drinks and bar snacks are on offer. And if you can’t hang around, 2 pint carry-outs are available.

The Old Star is just one of a small cluster (constellation?) of micropubs that has sprung up in the Shoreham / Worthing area – all train-accessible. Micropub fans would find a weekend trip to the region would be time well spent!