I’ve written before, back in 2010, here at The Brewclub, about the ongoing demise of the traditional British pub.
Pubs are still closing at a rate of about 29 a week, with numbers down from 69,000 in 1980 to fewer than 53,500 today. In 1979 pubs sold 29.2m pints of beer a day, in 2014 this had fallen to 10.9m.
High rents and fierce competition from supermarkets have been blamed for many closures. When one can buy a four pack of beers for the price of a single pint in the pub then the temptation to grab a four-pack and sit at home watching ‘game of thrones’ is tempting; that there’s no need to walk home is a bonus.
I remain, however, a firm believer that the local pub is a social hub. In my ‘local’ I regularly drink with builders, electricians, plumbers and plasterers. If I need a trusted tradesman, there they are, and if things don’t go well, I know where they drink.
And as a local councillor, people know where to find me, at least on Friday and Sunday evenings.
However, there is hope for ‘the Pub’ in the recent growth, here in Blighty, of Micropubs. I know of several that have opened reasonably close to me, each the size of a large lock-up garage or small retail shop. Most have a target capacity of twenty drinkers, the largest, I’m told, has a capacity of forty.
Let’s clarify for a second, according to ‘The Micropub Association’ which currently has over 100 Micropub members, ‘A Micropub is a small freehouse which listens to its customers, mainly serves cask ales, promotes conversation, shuns all forms of electronic entertainment and dabbles in traditional pub snacks‘.
And to further clarify a ‘free house’ is a Pub that’s not tied to any particular brewer, allowing it to source its brews from a wider range of brewers.
Personally I find the ‘mainly serves cask ales‘ objective to be a little ‘worthy’ and frankly elitist; as the headline of this website reads “it’s about the beer” – not how it’s delivered. On one evening in Manchester I enjoyed a blissful pint of ‘keg’ Thornbridge Jaipur, and later returned a sour pint of the same brew, at a different bar, served from a cask.
I digress, I pondered the whole Micropub thing for a while, over a pint or two in my ‘local’.
My ‘local’ – for the record – is a fairly small, neighbourhood ‘pub’ with a single horseshoe shaped bar, two (little used) gaming machines, a jukebox and a pool table. The floor area probably totals three or four times the previously mentioned “lock-up garage or small retail shop” a. A couple of times a year – Christmas Day lunchtime for example – it’s rammed, but at 7pm on a typical Friday evening I counted fewer than twenty drinkers in my in ‘traditional’ neighbourhood Pub.
And twenty people is the reported target capacity for most Micropubs.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d hate to lose my local, but if Micropubs provide drinkers with more opportunities and venues to enjoy good beer, and more places to enjoy beer with friends rather than sitting at home, then surely that’s a good thing?
What are your thoughts? Please let us know.