The rapid expansion of micropubs hasn’t reached Scotland, where there is a grand total of one, albeit a good one – Rutherford’s in Kelso. At a pinch, we can also lay historical claim to another good one- Curfew, in Berwick-upon-Tweed. There may be a number of reasons for this, one of which, it is speculated, is a more restrictive approach to licensing.
Those wanting their micropub fix have to travel south, where there are now over 300 and plenty more that don’t meet the criteria of the Micropub Association. Inevitably this volume creates a range of quality but three I have visited in recent weeks would satisfy most critics.
The first, the Wath Tap in Wath-upon-Dearne, was the friendliest. Situated in an old butcher’s shop, with retained tiling, my attempt at finishing a crisp half of their weakest beer – Elland Bargee (3.8%) – was pleasantly derailed by enquiring chat and a request to sign the visitor’s book.
Depending on your disposition, one observation of micropubs is that they are so small it is almost a requirement to join a conversation. There are, of course, many pubs where the reverse is also true. And it would have been a shame to have not spoken with the warm-hearted John and Jaqui, satisfied regular customers and enthusiastic advocates of the delights of living in Wath.
Further south, York Chambers in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, was a much grander affair (pictured top), situated as it is in an handsome, even exotic, former bank. Built in 1903 with a pronounced Dutch influence, cylindrical windows and a barn style overhanging roof, it makes a great space for a pub. I again went for the weakest beer, an easy drinking Flipside Bit Coin (4.1%), served from the stillage below.
As well as the usual CAMRA branch magazines there was a copy of Japan Beer Times, handy for anticipating what pubs might be in the next Japanese Good Beer Guide.
Finally and further south still, the Pup and Duckling in Solihull, West Midlands served up an unfamiliar beer – Modus Savant, a 4.3% blonde from Thousand Trades. The clip mysteriously metamorphosed into something a bit more er, personalised. It depicts owner Jeff, who together with wife Sue, recently celebrated Solihull branch Pub of the Year 2017.
*If Dickens was alive today he would obviously blog A Tale of Two Micros. He has form, after all. Little Dorridge is about a micropub near Solihull. Our Mutual Friend is about an estate pub in Stevenage. And Bleak House is also about an estate pub in Stevenage.