“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” – The Micropub Association.
The modern micropub is many things to many people whether that be a focal meeting place or a great destination for beer. For me a micropub is more than the definition quoted above. My beer journey is heavily influenced by micropubs, both locally and further afield, and was one of the first places I was shown really how diverse beer can be. I have been to micropubs that are more cask beer driven, using gravity pours, as well as those that have offered more keg options. Places that have openly offered their WiFi code and others that have encouraged people to be more convivial rather then spend time on their phones. Micropubs that have an amazing food menu, using local producers or pop up kitchens as well as those that just have hand cooked crips or pork scratchings behind the bar. I feel that to define a micropub is quite difficult and is explored more in a new documentary, Micropubs – The New Local, that highlights Kent’s micropub revolution since Martyn Hillier officially opened the first, The Butcher’s Arms, in 2005.
Many of the topics raised in the documentary I found I resonated with, particularly because a micropub opened in my hometown two years ago in a central location. There are a lot of misconceptions and negative connotations of pubs facilitating rowdy behaviour or the lager lout culture reminiscent of the 80’s and 90’s. As an introverted person I have only found the micropub scene to be an inviting one from both the owners and customers. One aspect of a micropub that I like is that feeling of community, a theme that is constant throughout the documentary.
When you watch this film is hard not to be swept up in the passion, enthusiasm and romantic notion of the micropub. The various owners featured are very open about their experiences, both good and bad, from finally being given their licence to opening their doors on their first night. I remember being involved in our local micropub’s licence application and writing a letter of recommendation to the council explaining the positive benefits and influence it would have on the town. To a lot of people the pub is not just an ale house but it is also the central point of the community.
This generation is seeing historic pubs shutting their doors permanently, something that is touched upon in the documentary. With on average 39 establishments closing a week, beautiful historic buildings are also being torn down or redeveloped in to housing. Our high streets are also changing as many shops are closing down due to an increase in internet shopping. Retail units stand empty up and down the country, and particularly in more rural areas. This is true of my hometown which is in a rural county and has many idle retail units along the high street. In the documentary we follow Richard Reeve who had cycled around the UK visiting micropubs whilst raising money for Alzheimer’s Disease charities before deciding he was going to open his own micropub. After seeing one of these historic pubs, The Green Dragon, close down in his local community he puts his mind to opening up The Little Green Dragon micropub in an abandoned shop unit. Watching as Richard and his family prepared to open The Little Green Dragon reminded me of the excitement of the opening of my home town’s first micropub, The Hiding Place.
For me, the benefit of being an independent micropub means that you can also help support local producers, and as Jaega Wise mentions in the film, this is not just restricted to beer, but to the whole of the artisan sector. One of the micropubs featured in the documentary, The Dodo, show how important it is to work with local producers as they regularly stock beers from their local brewery, Weird Beard, and owner Lucy even got stuck into a collaboration brew day. Similarly, The Hiding Place owners Malcolm and Karen also run their own microbrewery within my home town called Stealth Brew Co., just a stone’s throw from the micropub. Their beers as well as other local and guest breweries often feature on rotation in the micropub. They also support our local gin distillery Scout & Sage, based in the neighbouring village, with many of their gins listed on the spirits menu. As a nation I think that we are really proud of the provenance of our produce and feel more connected to the local area or community by buying from small batch producers.
Micropubs – The New Local really highlights the enthusiasm, grit and determination of micropub owners as they follow their dreams from starting up to running a successful business, despite any bumps in the road. Although micropubs mean different things to different people we can all agree that the one thing that they have in common is that sense of community as well as a love and passion for the beer industry. This documentary is very emotive, thought provoking and is so beautifully filmed that by the end you will want to go out and start up your own micropub.
Micropubs – The New Local
A film by Syd Heather, Daniel Eycott and James Coyne
A Pixelform Studios Production
Stream here: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/micropubsthenewlocal
Disclaimer: I was given a free preview of the film before it’s release date. Featured photo credit: Micropubs – The New Local
Top photo credit: Pixelform Studios