Micropub revolution gathers pace in Herald and Gazette patch

THEY ARE the tiny free houses which focus purely on good ale and shun the modern day gimmicks – they don’t even usually have a bar.

WH 220915 Brooksteed Alehouse. South Farm Road, Worthing. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-140922-173847001

Micropubs are opening at an explosive rate across the country, with the Herald and Gazette patch home to an ever-increasing number.

Sussex’s first micropub was opened in Worthing a year ago, Shoreham’s Old Star Ale and Cider House opened last month, followed closely by a second in Worthing.

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A fourth, in Queensway, in Lancing, opened last week.

WH 220915 Brooksteed Alehouse. South Farm Road, Worthing. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-140922-173847001

Nick Little, who opened the latest offering, Brooksteed Alehouse, in South Farm Road, Worthing, said demand for the concept was ‘crazy’.

He said: “We’ve done really well since opening at the start of the month. We’ve already got some regulars who have been here for three or four times, so I am very pleased.

“I left my job in IT at Christmas and my partner, Paula, still works. We’ve got to do the figures but I am 100 per cent confident we can make it work as a business.”

The first micropub was set up in Herne, Kent, by Martyn Hillier, in 2005.

W37606H13 Worthing First Micro Pub. Nigel Watkins in the pub ENGSUS00120131009172343

The trend took off in 2009, when Mr Hillier gave a presentation about the concept at the Campaign for Real Ale annual meeting.

Now, there are over 70 micropubs in the UK, with many more on the horizon.

The idea is simple – converting a small premises into a low cost venture, forgoing entertainment and costly TV coverage packages and quiz machines – which have become a standard in modern pubs.

Instead, the focus on the product – good real ales, ciders and wines, often locally sourced.

W37603H13 Worthing First Micro Pub. Nigel Watkins in the pub ENGSUS00120131009172309

Mr Little said: “Primarily, I focus on the products I am passionate about. Most pubs do a range of lagers and alcopops that probably aren’t top quality and are more of a mass market product.

“We have a range of beers from Sussex and elsewhere and we also sell cider and perry, which is quite an unknown drink.”

The 35th micropub to open was Anchored, in West Buildings, Worthing, which celebrated its first year of trading last month.

Since then, the number of premises has doubled.

Owner Nigel Watson, who believes micropubs have contributed £6 million to the economy, said it was a struggle at first but since he was granted extended opening hours in February, business has been booming.

“It’s been absolutely fantastic,” he said.

“The change of opening hours, the good summer weather and all the events in the town have definitely helped.

“We have been joined by Brooksteed in Worthing now and more are opening elsewhere all the time. It’s exploding.”

The micropub owners do not see each other as competition but strengthening their appeal to the real ale drinking masses.

They hope the increasing numbers will create a mini tourist attraction, with enthusiasts willing to travel from afar to sample the area’s offerings.

Mr Little, who will create additional business by hiring out the premises for business away days, added: “Our location is superb, just three minutes away from the main station, close to good public transport and there are a lot of chimney pots nearby, so plenty of people to come and have a drink.

“There’s a great camaraderie between us all and I actually see the others as the opposite of competition. Ale enthusiasts will travel and come to Worthing as they can go to both of the Worthing micropubs and hop on a train to Shoreham, too.”