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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


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