Monday 16 July 2012

No f****** lager

Back in March there was an entertaining, if slanted, article about micropubs in the Sunday Times. I promised to write about it as the tight bastards won't let you see it online.

In a remarkable display of slackness it's only now,  four months later, that I'm finally getting round to it. Good job I'm not in the British Guild of Beer Writers or I'd be up before the committee.

Reading about micropubs was a sheer delight. Being mainly into cask beer and traditional pubs I often feel like an old git compared to the hip young neophiles of the blogosphere. But the world of micropubs is so retro it makes me feel like I'm positively at the contemporary cutting edge.

It starts with Martyn Hillier and The Butchers Arms, where the whole micropub thing started. No alcopops, TV, music or food (except for three flavours of crisps) here, but four real ales, often from local microbreweries.

Sounds great doesn't it?

 "I used to do red and white wine but it confused the ladies," Hillier says. "They'd start asking what red wine it was, and I'm not here to sell wine. So now it's just white wine. Simpler that way."

That bit got me raising an eyebrow.

The article moves on to The Just Reproach in Deal, where anyone who's mobile phone rings is fined £1, and even more if they actually answer it. The letters 'NFL' are stenciled on a window near the door - it stands for "No f****** lager"

None of that ecumenical nonsense here. Doesn't it warm the cockles of your heart?

The Just Beer in Newark takes things even further, refusing to sell lemonade as it's "the slippery slope to shandy."

I'd love to visit a micropub, all the ones mentioned look like they'd be a great place for a night out. But I'm not sure I'd want one as a local, they do look a bit pokey.


  1. "No lemonade" - someone might criticise them for irresponsible retailing ;-)

    While they sound very entertaining, haven't micropubs as a trend been built up out of all proportion by the media?

  2. There's definitely been a lot of press interest, following on from Martyn Hillier's talk at the CAMRA AGM. As to how many there actually are I'm not sure but I know we supply a few of them :-)

  3. There's more to "proportion" than sales volumes of course. Otherwise, we'd only ever mention the big supermarkets when talking about food retailers. Will Hawkes in The Independent had a go at the story back in 2011

  4. Yes, but how many micropubs actually are there? That article says "For the moment there is a handful" and I see no evidence of them taking off on a large scale. Plus they are precisely the kind of wet-led, drink and chat establishment that has suffered most in recent years.

  5. There's definitely not big numbers of them. But I think the point of being 'micro' is to keep costs down and allow wet-led, drink and chat establishments to be economically viable. Being free of tie no doubt helps too.

  6. I think Ed's right, the significance is that it's an alternative "model". If it works once there's no reason to suppose that it can't work many times. Low overhead, low debt, well-defined offering, etc. Of course, the backlash re. licensing will probably allow established operators more chance to keep the lid on this kind of thing.

  7. A fascinating post Ed, and some interesting links. There seems to be more of these micropubs in Kent than anywhere else. I wonder what sort of a living their proprietors make? I will certainly have to check a few of them out next time I'm over in the east of the county.