Chatting in Micro Pubs/Bars – A Guide

Inspired by this post from Richard Coldwell and the initial comment from “Dave”

First of all we need to define the difference between what is a Micro Pub and what is a Micro Bar

“All pubs have a bar but no bar has a pub”

Note: this guide assumes the location of said micro outlet is in a small-to-medium sized town, not a city or tourist trap/destination.

Micro Pub

The Drinks

The emphasis is on cask beer and generally session strength at that.  If there is any keg dispense it is usually a lager because the founder understood who his core clientèle would want to drink.  There will also be a red wine, a white wine, a Prosecco and some spirits (usually gin or whatever is on trend) all in order to increase footfall over the weekends.  Cider may also exist in known bottled varieties or boxed “real” ones.  Soft drinks will be dispensed from 2 litre plastic bottles blatantly purchased from the closest supermarket.

The Drinkers

What you’d find in most macro pubs, with slight variation depending on how close the nearest bookies is.

They are the kind of people who’ll walk into a micro bar and complain about the prices.

The Décor

All wood but that is because it was the cheapest material, a lick of paint here and there but pretty much like a macro pub, only it looks like your 50 year old twice-divorced uncle has simply converted his spare room.  Has one toilet.

The Landlord

Your 50 year old twice-divorced uncle who wanted to do something different.

The Wildlife

No cats. Cats are not found in micro pubs.  Dogs are allowed; they will be hulking beasts curled at the owners feet and fed occasional crisps or hog lumps.  Drool will be present.

 

Micro Bar

The Drinks

The emphasis is on keg beer and generally bastard strength at that.  If there is any cask dispense it is usually one pale and one bitter because the founder understood what his day trip visitors would want to drink.  There will also be a plethora of red wine, white wine, Prosecco and a massive choice of spirits, at least 25 gins. Soft drinks will be dispensed from 100mL glass bottles.  Lager may also exist but in bottle form, from some obscure German brewery, this is in order to increase footfall over the weekend and then hope they never return.  Probably also doubles as a bottle shop for retail purposes.

The Drinkers

Beer bloggers, overly-agitated graphic designers and those who’ve wandered in on the recommendation of some lifestyle journalist who wrote that piece by plagiarising what the aforementioned beer bloggers wrote about the place.

They are the kind of people who’ll walk into a micro pub and complain about the lack of choice.

The Décor

All wood but is was massively over priced because of the patina effect, a lick of paint here and there but pretty much like the railway arch the beer was brewed in.  Has one toilet.

The Landlord

Your 50 year old uncle who has always had that funky beard.

The Wildlife

No cats. Cats are not found in micro bars.  Dogs are allowed; they will be small, fluffy, lap-based things brought along by the owner in order to kick start an interaction.

How To Have A Conversation

Close proximity and bench seating demands conversation be had however this still depends on where you are.

In a micro pub, assuming most of the people aren’t doing all they can to avoid eye contact, let alone conversation because they most likely lie on the autism scale somewhere, you are in for a simple and quiet drink.  Talking may occur over the clarity of the pint in front of you.  You will only drink a pint (568mL), a half is acceptable if you’ve kept your coat on because you’re going to be racing to catch a bus/train/you are driving.

In a micro bar, you will get talked at, those doing the talking even know the brewer, they are on first name terms, or at least have over heard them talking to someone else, once.  You will drink a pint as your first session ale and loosener but then progress on to halves and then thirds inversely proportional to the ABV of the drink.

Talking in the micro pub may stray on to politics, you might get offended with the frankness of the views expressed and the terms used.

Talking in the micro bar may stray on to politics, the overly-agitated graphic designers will sulk off in tears or demand you leave their safe space.

Talking in micro pubs is a rare thing, generally kept between those who recognise each other.

Talking in micro bars because massive ABV’s plus immense egos results in verbal diarrhoea.

 

Use these pointers wisely; know your surroundings, know your adversaries and your conversations, or lack thereof, in micros up and down the UK will be blissfully symphonic or wonderfully, silently golden.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

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VineHop – Poynton, Cheshire

…and then from Stockport...

You can get the train (very rarely but it does happen) to Poynton and visit…

Vine Hop

 

The annoying thing about train travel to Poynton is that it happens to be the first stop outside the Greater Manchester travel boundary, so anyone with a season ticket will need to pay extra…

…or just sit in the carriage furtherest from the conductor and hope they don’t reach you until you disembark.

A swift 10 minute walk into the town centre from the station, this is the latest addition to the growing beer/bottle bar sector but with the emphasis less on beer (only slightly) and more for wine, because Cheshire is properly middle-class and hasn’t fully dumped wine for craft beer just yet.

As you may be able to tell, this new venture’s previous building identity was a butchers, inside the only things hanging are the 6 keg lines…

 

And the 8 (4 white, 4 red) wine lines that you buy a special card for (and top-up I expect)…

 

Its like looking into the future with this set-up, I was more struck by this than the very large range of bottle/cans of beer that were available, very reasonably priced, though to drink in you did have the additional £1.20 charge…

 

Spirits, heavy emphasis on gins, are also available…oh and a box of cider (along with a choice of bottles too)…when you aren’t lost between all the wine…

 

Look…coat hangers…

It is a nice place for a few quiet drinks but then again Poynton has a drinking establishment for everybody’s tastes and maybe a full on blog is required.

Warning: You may well get to meet Stanley at this venue…

 

Which would be fantastic…if he wasn’t accompanied by his entourage of hangers-on owner.

 

Thanks for reading.

Burnage to The Heatons – A Crawl of MicroBar Bottle Shops

Burnage (Pronounced: Bur-ni-d-g; or Bur-n-arrr-ge if you want to sound posh) always registered in my young mind as one of those places you don’t want to get caught out being in after dark.  Not quite as ominous of Longsight, Broughton or the infamous Moss Side but still just an “avoid” place.

All titles are links.

So you get the train out of Piccadilly for 2 stops, about 10 minutes, get off at Burnage Station and walk 1 minute to…

Reasons To Be Cheerful (@R2BCBeerCafe)

 

Of course I never had any reason to go to Burnage until the news was announced that this place was opening (it opened in January 2017) and I needed to do a recce to gauge roughly where it would be located and what this crawl would be like.

There is cider, 6 keg fonts and 3 casks (cellared) and most importantly…coat hooks on the bar…

 

Lovely little venue with a guy serving the beer, at the time of calling, called Dave who was very friendly and talkative.

The only odd thing about the place is its frontage is kind of subdued next to the ramp way of the take-away next door.

 

You then walk back passed the train station and continue over Kingsways in a straight line for about a quarter of an hour, passed the sign the lets you know you’re entering Stockport, you can tell this too because they’ve still got Co-Op stores, and you’ll end up at…

The Beer Shop

Which was closed on this occasion…but I had been before…

 

Beer Shop opened in 2011, and the place acts more like an off-license with a great range of beer bottle AND that happens to have a couple of casks (jacket chillers) that an actual micro boozery.  With its TV usually showing sports and its location in the middle of a housing estate it also feels more like someone’s front room, so overall it is a bit of a unique experience in the realms of drinking in Greater Manchester.

It is a bit of a windy 15 minute walk (that’s wind as in the movement that isn’t of the bowels) to Shaw Road which it the venue of the next place, which is…

Bottle Stockport

 

Opened in 2015, recently extended opening hours make this place more likely to be open when visiting these days, it is all keg and bottles and the seating and tables are those high, posing ones but its a nice little place with a good and varied range of beers.

 

Beers Manchester wrote a more detailed blog about Bottle here.

Then all you have to do is get up and take a left on to Heaton Moor Road which merges into School Lane when it crosses the A6 and you have reached…

Heaton Hops

There isn’t much more to be said about this place seeing as since its opening in 2015 it won award after award and the only time I’ve been able to get a seat is if I get there just as the shutters open.

2 cask, 8 keg, loads of bottles, a downstairs I’ve still never visited and the 70% chance you’ll get ranted at (and can join in with) by Jimmy from Malay Street Food  which is always good fun, though not as much fun as his food.

Once again, Beers Manchester writes more on this place, here.

After you’ve sampled the delights of Heaton Hops you can then walk back on yourself to Heaton Chapel train station and take the train back the Manchester (passé) or go via Stockport way and onward to where the drinking delights of Cheshire await.

Of course, other beer outlets are available

 

Thanks for reading.

Pub Guilt

I was going to start this off with a lyric that Ian MacKaye wrote when he was in Minor Threat, but that would detract from the focus of this piece.

One of my mates commented that I can now disguise any heavy drinking I do as “part of my hobby.”

A quick flick through the vast ways I can keep track about what I drink (this blog, Twitter, Untapped, photos, good old-fashioned memory) highlights that over recent months I’ve imbibed a lot of beer, but seldom was it in pubs.

I drink bottles at home, bought from a vast array of local beer shops, many of whichthemselves now serve alcohol in the increasingly micropub (or microbar) vane via keg and/or cask.

I’ve been to a hell of a lot of beer festivals and even the breweries themselves and/or associated brew taps.

I’ve been to beer tastings and meet the brewer events, which though held in pubs seldom see me venture into the reaches on the actual pub and purchase anything from the bar.

In fact as I type this (while not drinking) I do think; I could buy myself a laptop or tablet and quite easily stroll down to my local and compose this there.

But that in itself it quite an insular thing – why would I go out to a social environment and then put my face into a big electronic screen for the entire time I was there?

What there is, is a feeling, the pub was and still very much is about a community spirit and about comfort.

I’ve been to beer festivals and some just feel too regimented- you are there to drink, interaction with anyone outside your social circle is minimal.

Many modern bars that just feel empty.  Hollow carcasses where people wish to been seen to be drinking rather than getting any actual pleasure from the experience, but I suppose if you are surround by plywood, IKEA-lite furnishings or the very strange industrial-chic stylings, what is there to enjoy?

Beer can only cover-up so many things.

Some of the newer beer festivals also fall into this trapping and where they may be blessed with having lovely surroundings or interesting opportunities to meet brewers or go to lectures they still just come across as a place to be seen at; something that was read about in some trendy publication and needs to be ticked off some frivolous bucket list.

In writing this I open myself up to my own hypocrisy.  I am an anti-social, social drinker.

I go to places on my own and confide in the warm, glowing, warming glow of my phone until inebriated enough to possibly grumble at someone sat near me, or maybe ask a few questions of the bar staff.

I drink less in pubs since I started “my hobby” that I did before – but a pub is like riding a bike, in which that provided the community is still there, you aren’t ever quite forgotten.

There is one pub in my locale which is possibly the worst when it comes to beer selection.  They had casks for a year and then ripped them out to replace them with more generic keg lagers.  But I can go in and even though my palate might not be satisfied, my soul (and my wallet) and more than comforted.

The theme to Cheers would be appropriate now, but no one knows my name.

The problem is people are treating beer and the social experience it brings as a commodity of lifestyle.  The community feeling is ebbing away, save only for Christmas or those tedious weeks when England play football in some corrupt tournament people don’t seem to go out much.

People drink less, pubs keep on closing, old communities fracture and splinter and  the uptopian vision of amalgamation of new cultures grind is replaced by them wearily jarring against each other.

Of course, these is just the witterings of a sober, pessemistic man – tomorrow I could go out have a few beers and feel the world of the pub is safe; that drinking habits are evolving and they will merely take a while before settling down into the old regime and away from this cliquey glad-handing charade.

This isn’t solely the fault of customer, the pubs have to meet half-way, but that is a different discussion.

 

 

 

Anyway, I’ll leave you with this final thought…

 

pubkill