4 November 2015 - Best Beer HQ
UK micropubs driving real ale growth
New research released to mark the launch of the Good Beer Guide 2016 in the United Kingdom shows that nearly 70% of pubs now serve real ale, compared to just one third in 1975.
That’s not surprising, however, when you consider the rapidly growing number of micropubs in the UK – from zero ten years ago to a predicted 200 of them by year’s end.
Good Beer Guide 2016 editor Roger Protz says: “Micropubs prove the old saying that ‘small is beautiful’. Many of them are based in disused buildings, [which] have low overheads and can offer beer at sharper prices than many traditional pubs. They have carved out a new relationship between drinkers, publicans and brewers.”
The first micropub in the UK was The Butcher’s Arms in Herne, Kent, which, as the name suggests, is based in an old butcher’s shop. It was launched 10 years ago by Martyn Hillier, who was named the campaigner of the year 2015 by the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) due to his work launching the Micropub Association and for encouraging other beer lovers and business people to open similarly small micropubs around the country.
According to Hillier, there are now well over 150 micropubs in the UK – all of which serve real ale, which is defined by CAMRA as a natural product brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask from which it is served in the pub through a process called secondary fermentation.
“Micropubs go back full-circle to how pubs used to be, when people actually talked to one another,” he says. “If you get 15 people together in a nice environment then conversations are going to spark [but] the quality of beer is parallel to the conversation and is the reason people visit in the first place – real ale is central to everything for us.”
The pub’s beer casks are mounted in the old butcher’s freezer room, where there is room for only eight casks. Overheads are minimal and the biggest start-up investment was installing air conditioning to keep the beer fresh and cool, making the total spend for establishing the pub only £5,000.
Dubbed “the smallest Freehouse in England”, The Butcher’s Arms has space for 10 people sitting and 20 standing. Hillier adds: “The record number of customers has been 37 – and that was like being on a London Tube train.”
The success of The Butcher’s Arms inspired more micropubs to open in Kent; Herne Bay now has two, Margate has three, and Dover has four.
Protz adds: “Micropubs are appearing like mushrooms at dawn and are offering beer lovers choice, keen prices and convivial meeting places. They now exist as far north as Northumbria, across into Lancashire, in Wales, and the West Country. There are two in that bastion of beer-making Burton-on-Trent which is not short of traditional pubs as well.”