Small wonders

Siobhan Hewison rounds up the UK pubs proving size isn't everything


Ah, micropubs. The safe haven where you can relax in a small intimate setting with a pint of local beer, while ignoring your phone and enjoying your surroundings. More intimate than your average pub, micropubs are the perfect place to spend an evening with close friends, or to unwind by yourself and reset after a long week. 

In the words of the Micropub Association, they must be “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.”

While pubs are closing down at an alarming rate, these pint-sized establishments are popping up everywhere. Often in closed shops or repurposed buildings, with no music, TV, games machines or hot food, micropubs pride themselves in retaining the ethos of days gone by, where all you wanted from your pub was a nice pint and a chat with your friends or a fellow local. Here we look at ten of the best. 

Rutherfords, Scottish Borders 

Scotland’s first (and only?) micropub, which has received many accolades including CAMRA’s Borders Pub of the Year, is a tiny wee pub in a former knitting shop. Its small-batch craft ales, spirits and ‘rotating rarities’, plus the quirky decor, make it a relaxing and unique spot in Kelso to while away the evening. 

Hop and Barley, Lincolnshire 

The owners of Hop and Barley, Lincoln’s first micropub, also run a brewery up the road, so you’re in safe hands when it comes to beer recommendations. They have an ever-changing selection of real ales and craft ciders, and one craft keg. Friendly characters, great drinks, and an unpretentious atmosphere - what more could you want? 

Four Candles, Kent 

The Four Candles is a charming little alehouse, and the smallest brewpub in Britain. This tiny one-roomed establishment is in the same area as Harrington’s hardware store, which is said to have inspired Ronnie Barker to write his famous ‘fork handles’ sketch. They have an excellent ever-changing selection of their own beers, as well as local snacks and a small choice of non-beery drinks for those with differing palates. 

The Wight Bear, Bournemouth 

This quirky little boozer is named after the fact that the cliff on the Isle of Wight is visible from Bournemouth, and looks like a polar bear. There’s no bar here, and the staff offer ‘table service’ - chat to your friends or the person next to you, while the friendly staff look after you and make sure you’re refreshed. You can also check out their website for a live webcam feed (!) of their beer board, to see what’s pouring. 

The Curfew, Berwick Upon Tweed 

Pouring some of the most exciting beers around, this little gem is a local’s secret - tucked down the bottom of an alleyway, you could easily walk straight past it. The Curfew is unique in that it has a beer garden and a well-stocked beer fridge, as well as craft ciders and wines. Open all day every day, and with a great selection of locally-sourced pies, this is the perfect spot to relax in after a long walk on the beach. 

Just Beer, Nottinghamshire 

This multi award-winning micropub in Newark prides itself on serving up the very best cask beers that the country has to offer - there’s no ‘Pint of Ordinary’ served here. The pub has loads of fantastic historical and beer-related memorabilia adorning the walls, and they even have a jar of pickled eggs sitting proudly on the bar. It’s just the kind of cosy local you want to sit in to recoup after a long week. 

The Bookshop Alehouse, Southampton 

Set in a historical listed building which used to be a bookshop (duh), The Bookshop Alehouse still retains some of its former character in the form of a big wall full of reading material for sale. They have four casks and four kegs pouring some of the most quaffable local and national ales, and ‘bag-in-a-box’ ciders in the fridge. 

The Draper’s Arms, Bristol 

Formerly a fabric shop, this quaint establishment opened in 2015. The owners have worked hard to attract the right clientele - it’s unassuming both from the outside, and from the inside - and prides itself on serving good quality beer straight from the casks sitting behind the bar. 

The Owl and the Pussycat, London 

Their beer is brewed on the premises by Marko Paulo brewery, and they have up to ten cask or keg beers pouring at any one time, plus a selection of ciders. You can get a variety of crunchy snacks including Monster Munch, which is arguably the best beer snack ever, and they have books and boardgames available on the shelves which used to serve this former bookshop. There is also the cutest ‘Employee of the Month’ award which goes to either the owl or the pussycat (it’s usually the cat!). 

The Station House, Durham 

Serving real ale and ciders straight from the cask without handpulls, this micropub is slightly larger than the average micropub, but still retains the ethos - good beer, friendly people, and a down to earth atmosphere allow for great conversation. The Station House also hosts several groups and meetings, which further emphasises its community spirit. 

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