UK micropub movement gains momentum

Susanna Forbes

22 September 2016

The micropub phenomenon continues to gather pace, with over 50 new openings in the last year, taking the total to 251, according to the 2017 edition of CAMRA's Good Beer Guide. Just under half of these feature in the Guide, a high hit rate, since less than 10% of the nation’s pubs make it into the Guide.

Roger Protz
Roger Protz

The movement started with The Butcher's Arms, opened in Herne, Kent, just over a decade ago by Martyn Hillier. 'He really set fire to the concept,' the Guide's editor, Roger Protz, told Imbibe. With less than ten up until five years ago, the craft beer revolution has fuelled a rapid increase.

One advantage, Protz points to is lower overheads. For example, small business rate relief is available, depending on the rateable value of the property. Also, with the pubs being by their very nature small, 'publicans get to know the regulars well, and build up a great cameraderie', added Protz.

Kent leads the way in terms of micropubs appearing in the Good Beer Guide, notching up 21. Yorkshire is catching up, with 13 across its four counties, while Greater London accounts for nine. Wales and Scotland have been slower to embrace the concept, with less than half-a-dozen mentions between them.

One of the most recent, The Bumble Inn in Peterborough, is in a former pharmacy. Tom Beran, the licensee, can host 35 people, in contrast to Oakham Ales' Brewery Tap, a few yards away, allegedly 'the biggest brewpub in Europe'. Another newcomer opening this week in Monkseaton, Tyne & Wear, is called the Left Luggage Room. Run by engineer Steven Buckley and former solicitor, Andrew Findley, it is, as its name suggests, in a building that used to store bags and parcels for the train station.

'I do see the trend continuing,' said Protz. 'And not just micropubs but pubs and bars created in places such as old railway stations. You can't keep the good old British pub down. It has always regenerated itself over the centuries and made spirited comebacks after wars and Puritan revolutions. Now beer lovers can enjoy great beer in often amazing and bizarre surroundings as a new wave of enthusiasts rides to the pub's rescue.'

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