Skip to main content

Small is Beautiful: The Coming of the Micropub

Several months ago I wrote an article for 'Calder Cask', the branch magazine of Halifax and Calderdale CAMRA, in which I described the rise and rise of the Micropub, and concluded with a hope that the first one would open in Calderdale before too much longer. Well, I am glad to say that wait is now over.

For those of you who do not know what a micropub is, let me explain. According to the Micropub Association it is defined as follows: 'A small free house which listens to its customers, mainly serves cask ales, promotes conversation, shuns all forms of electronic entertainment and dabbles in traditional pub snacks.' 

The first was set up by Martyn Hillier at The Butcher’s Arms in Herne, Kent, back in 2005. This was in an old converted butcher's shop, and this tends to be the pattern, old shops and odd buildings lending themselves to being converted into a one-room pub. Possibly because the first one was in the county of Kent, a lot of them have been opened there. However, the model has gradually caught on and spread around the country over the past 10 years, and anything that brings life back to a fading high street with only pound shops, takeaways and boarded-up shopfronts as the alternative has to be applauded.

The first one I visited was Just Beer in Newark. Situated in a yard slightly away from the town centre, I walked in to a single, long room with bar at the far end. Behind it was a slightly fearsome-looking guy with long hair and the odd piercing. However, he turned out to be friendly and happily dispensed suggestions of which beer to try. I sat on one of the bench seats and got chatting to some of the very friendly locals. I've been back a couple of times since and can highly recommend a visit. More recently I visited the Shepherd's House in Chorley and the Beer Engine in Skipton, both well worth a visit.

So, cut to a rainy Bank Holiday afternoon in Hebden Bridge. My mate Harry and I have caught the train up from Brighouse. Our plan is to visit Calan's, the town's newly-opened micropub. We head off from the station and a few minutes later, we find it, tucked away down an alley. Somebody had told me it was once a sweet shop.

We head inside, a few people are sat at what appears to be the only table, with a few stood at the bar. There is a pleasant hum of conversation. We are greeted by a bank of 5 handpumps, with beers from Little Valley, Vocation, Dunham Massey, Great Heck, and Small World. We both opt for a pint of the Vocation and very good it is too. The friendly couple behind the bar make us feel very welcome.

Calan's is small. Very small. However the light decor, large window, and clever use of space, with the beer cellar housed behind the bar behind a glass partition, and with a nice little mini-snug off to the right, with 2 further small tables and wallpaper featuring rows of bookshelves to give a library effect, mean that it doesn't feel claustrophobic, even when a party of a dozen or so land to test the limits.

All in all, a very pleasant place for a pint or three, highly recommended. We got chatting to Alan, the genial host, but I forgot to ask him if he could confirm it had been a sweet shop. Not to worry, at least there's an excuse to go back again. Not that I really need one!

Calan's, 3 The Courtyard, Bridge Gate, Hebden Bridge, HX7 8EX


Popular posts from this blog

A Calder Valley Ale Trail - UPDATE June 2022

T he definitive guide to the pubs and bars that line the railways in the towns and villages of the beautiful Calder Valley in West Yorkshire. After a break in updates with all the disruption of lockdowns over the  last couple of years, here's the latest, updated version.... The original Rail Ale Trail heads through the Pennines from Dewsbury through Huddersfield to Stalybridge, or vice versa, depending on your standpoint. Made famous by Oz Clarke and James May on a TV drinking trip around Britain several years ago, it reached saturation point on weekends to such an extent that lager and shorts were banned by some pubs and plastic glasses introduced to the hordes of stag dos, hen parties, and fancy-dressed revellers that invaded the trans-Pennine towns and villages. There are some great pubs en route but you ventured to them on a summer Saturday at your peril. However, only a few miles away to the north, there is another trail possible which takes in some great pubs and travels thr

There Used To Be A Bar There....

Last weekend a little bar in Wesley Court in Halifax, closed its doors for the last time. But unlike the sad fate that has befallen so many pubs and bars in recent times, The Grayston Unity will be re-opening in a few weeks' time in a brand new home on the other side of town. And so this weekend was a chance for a final drink and catch-up at its original home.... It was emotional, it was fun, it was inevitable. The final weekend at the original home of the Grayston Unity occurred this weekend, the last pints being poured around 9pm on Sunday evening with the price of a pint dropping first to £2 and then they were free. The little bar had attracted large numbers over the previous few days; Grayston stalwarts, regulars on the Halifax drinking scene, a host of old faces from over the years, and plenty of bemused first-timers, many here from out of town to see the likes of Orbital, the Charlatans, and Johnny Marr playing down the road at the Piece Hall.  Michael enjoying a quiet chat w

The Ripon Effect....

I've recently paid a visit to the small but lovely North Yorkshire city of Ripon where, on a cracking sunny afternoon, I had a mini tour of some of the town's best watering holes. Here's what I found.... The trains were off this weekend, so for a change I decided to take a road trip to Ripon, a place I had not visited for at least 20 years, but being somewhere that had lost its railway station during the Beeching cuts in the 1960's, it is a place that needs to be visited by road anyway whether or not the trains are running. Situated about 12 miles to the north of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, Ripon can trace its roots back for centuries, to at least the 7th century when it was part of the Anglian kingdom of Northumbria. Ripon was granted city status in 1865 and is the third smallest city in England, with only the City of London and Wells in Somerset having a smaller population, but it packs a lot into its compact footprint. It is famous for its stunning cathedral whose