Martin Hillier spoke at the 2009 Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) annual meeting and shed light on his revolutionary concept: the micro pub. The idea behind it was simple: he wanted to create a small space dedicated to good beer and good conversations. With The Butcher’s Arms, a micro pub converted from an old butcher’s shop with a bar top made from the butcher’s block, Hillier established the blueprint for the many others that have followed.
The Watchmaker’s Arms (84 Goldstone Villas, Hove) While all micro pubs share common characteristics, there is no uniformity amongst them. Co-owner Ali White says, “Each pub is different. They’re a reflection of the personalities of the people that run them and of the customers who drink there.” Like the beer they serve, the micro pubs are a living brew that grows organically. The Watchmaker’s Arms welcomes regulars and newcomers alike with its eclectic decor, including a boar’s head mounted on the wall.
The Rake (14 Winchester Walk, London) A sign behind the bar reads, “No crap on tap,” and the wisdom proves true. The Rake has seven kegs and three cask beers on offer, all of which are excellent. High rents in London have generally confined micro pubs to the fringes of the capital, but this undoubtedly tiny pub—sometimes said to be the smallest in London—is a converted greasy spoon café at Borough Market.
The Split Chimp (Arch 7, Westgate Road, Newcastle) If you’re a fan of railway arch venues, the Split Chimp is the place for you. Named in honour of the wedge of wood that provides the forward tilt to a hand-tapped cask of ale, Mark Hall’s little pub is devoted to cask ale and wine. The arched ceiling gives the impression that you are in a barrel, and the comfy leather chesterfield sofas let you sink in and drink. Workie Ticket from the local brewery Mordue’s is a sure-fire winner amongst the constantly changing range of hand-tapped ales. Upstairs there’s a traditional pub skittle alley—the only one in the North East.
Hail to the Ale (2 Pendeford Avenue, Claregate, Wolverhampton) Gary and Angela Morton of the family-run Morton Brewery, opened this Black Country beauty in 2013. Their shop front had previously been a bakery and a sub-post office. The pub has the cosy, lived-in feel of your grandmother’s front room, and always has at least one Morton ale on tap. Gary says, “Our pub is a throwback to the old style of English pub where good beer and conversation were the fundamentals.”
The Corner Post (Bridge Road, Liverpool) Geoff Smeaton’s tiny pub, housed in the old Brighton-le-Sands post office, is an excellent place to stop after viewing the world renowned Anthony Gormley sculptures on Crosby beach. They serve four cask ales from Merseyside breweries including Crosby’s own Rock the Boat and also stock bottled ales, lagers, wines, and local craft gin. “We may be small but we aim to have something for everyone,” Smeaton says.
The Liverpool Pigeon (14 Endbutt Lane, Liverpool) Merseyside’s multi-award-winning micro pub is the kind of place they sing about in the theme song of US sitcom “Cheers.” The aim, according to PE teacher-turned-pub owner Pat Moore, is “to serve locally brewed beer in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.” Regulars agree that “the pigeon,” as they lovingly call the establishment, serves up fine ales with the nostalgic yet unpretentious quality of its—now extinct—namesake.