Micropubs are popping up everywhere across the UK. The first one – The Butchers Arms near Herne Bay in Kent – opened in 2005, after changes in licensing regulations made it simpler to sell alcohol and allowed shops to become public houses – and 10 years later, there were over 200.
Some industry watchers estimate that there will be over 800 by the end of 2018. Looking at the rate of expansion so far, coupled with the fast-growing number of microbreweries, and you can see why those estimates sound well within reason. And all this happening at the same time as more traditional pubs continue to close at rate of almost 25 a week, according to Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). Clearly, these micropubs have tapped into something …
But what are micropubs and – most importantly, where can you find them in Banbury and the surrounding areas?
What are micropubs? In broad terms, micropubs are small drinking establishments (some so small there is no room for an actual bar), usually houses in a formerly empty shop, railway station, or other type of unused space. Because space is at a premium, micropubs won’t have masses and masses of choices food and drink-wise. They don’t offer spirits or lager but feature cider and ales and those local as a rule (which is why the estimated growth is so tied to that of microbreweries). They rarely have the facilities or even the desire to serve hot food. With no TVs or music and having no room for things like pool tables and gaming machines, the atmosphere is more suited to conversation and conviviality.
The owner of the Butcher’s Arms and the man who started it all, Martyn Hillier, established the Micropub Association in 2012 to provide information on the ‘micropub movement’ and to promote the concept of the micropub in general. The Micropub Association definition of a micropub really sums it up well: ‘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’
Where can you find micropubs in Banbury and the surrounding areas?
Now, impressive though it sounds to say there are over 200 micropubs – it’s a big country. That means there are areas where micropubs are few and far between. Banbury and the surrounding area is just starting to see the rise of the micropub phenomenon so while this list isn’t long now, I have every reason to believe we will be seeing it grow in the near future.
Earlier this year, Banbury got its first micropub – the Bailiff’s Tap Banbury (Franklen House, 4 Southam Rd, Banbury OX16 2ED). Proprietor Ian Shipton popped up on the Jones on Food and Travel show (the first Monday of the month on Puritans Radio, FYI) chatting about his new venture with Peter Evan Jones. You can hear that episode of the show via Dropbox link.
Update November 2017! Our second micropub opens in Church Lane – welcome Old Town Ale & Cider House! Landlord John Bellinger joined Peter Jones in thd studio to talk about his new venture. You can hear it either via Dropbox or via YouTube (at about the 48 minute mark).
In keeping with my rule of ‘surrounding area’ being any place you can get within an hour or less, the other area micropubs are:
- The Old Post Office: 12 West Street, Warwick CV34 6AN
- The Stratford Alehouse: 12B Greenhill Street, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6LF
- Early Doors: 3 Prince William Walk, Sheaf St, Daventry NN11 4AB
Have you tried any of the local(ish) micropubs? What did you think? And if you know of any more – do drop an email and let me know. I’ll add it to the list.