I have a confession to make; until last Friday’s excursion to Thanet, I had never set foot inside a Micro-pub. For someone living in the county where the Micro-pub concept was established, this is not a good thing to admit to, but it is nevertheless a fact. Having now visited, and drunk, in a few I can safely say I’m sold on the idea, but for the benefit of those not familiar with the concept, what exactly is a micro-pub?
According to the Micro-pub Association, which was established in 2012, “A Micro-pub is a small free-house which listens to its customers, mainly serves cask ales, promotes conversation, shuns all forms of electronic entertainment and dabbles in traditional pub snacks”.
In 2009, Martyn gave a presentation to the Campaign for Real Ale AGM, held that year in Eastbourne, showing the simplicity of the 'Micro-pub' model and encouraging other people to follow his lead. It proved to be a catalyst with the opening of the Rat Race Ale House in Hartlepool six months later, and the Just Beer Micro-pub in Newark-on-Trent, which started trading in August 2010. These two were followed soon after by the Conqueror Alehouse in Ramsgate, which opened later the same year.
Since then, there has been a flurry of Micro-pubs opening, and the number now stands at 68! I am pleased to report that 25 of these are in Kent, which can therefore truly proclaim itself as “Home of the Micro-pub”. There may be differences between the pubs; they may or may not have a bar, they might serve beer straight from the cask or through hand pumps, but they are united in one philosophy - a simple pub with the focus on cask beer and conversation for entertainment.
Having been in a few micro-pubs now, I can certainly vouch for them being real community locals, attracting a range of like-minded individuals, drawn from a wide cross-section of the local neighbourhood. All the establishments visited on Friday were places where conversation ruled, or where during less busy times, customers can come and sit and read the paper, or a good novel, whilst enjoying a well-kept pint.
The latter is obviously of high importance, and the fact that all the pubs we visited kept their beer in a temperature-controlled area, and dispensed it straight from the cask, shows a commitment to maintaining the high standards of quality which many of their macro counterparts could do with copying.
The Micropub Association website lists all 68 Micro-pubs in chronological order of their opening, along with brief details of each establishment and links to various reviews plus, where applicable, links to the pub’s own website. The association also offers lots of practical advice for people wanting to open their very own Micro-pub; in fact they say “Open a Micro-pub in your town before somebody else does!”
Footnote: Tonbridge has been promised its very own Micro-pub. Planning permission has been obtained for the conversion of a former tattoo parlour into a Micro-pub, which will be called the Two Pigs.