I walked past The Curfew twice before I found where it was. Bridge Street seems to be ‘the’ place for the latest trends in Berwick and The Curfew is down a ginnel between a dog grooming parlour and The Market shop; a weird blend of delicatessen and art supplies? The Curfew’s presence is simply denoted by a board on the wall at the side of the entry, just look out for the trendy sage green paint. If anyone’s confused, a ginnel, entry, alleyway, passage are all the same thing, depending where you come from.
Once the low passageway has been negotiated it opens out into a pleasant, and very private little courtyard, with tables, chairs and assorted potted plants. The pub is in the right hand corner, you have to look carefully because it’s not very big at all. Micro is definitely the operative word for these premises. The little shed at the side of the pub is an insulated and cooled, cold store cum cellar and the beer is plumbed in through the side wall.
The intention was to purchase some beer and enjoy it sat in the sunshine outside. This plan instantly turned to rat shit when I walked inside and got a nudge from Mrs C, directing my attention to four older gents sat in the corner chatting and supping pints. One of them was a very old family friend; both an old friend of the family and a friend who is old, so to speak. I knew he lived up here, I didn’t realise he still came out on the razzle every Thursday lunchtime with his mates. I won’t embarrass anyone by saying how old he is, I just hope I’ll be doing the same at that age. I got some lovely photos of them, but I can’t post any as one of the chaps had absconded from his care home for the afternoon, and they didn’t want him to get rumbled by the staff!
Anyway we spent a very pleasant afternoon in the company of our friend and his mates, getting the low down on pubs, past and present, in Berwick. Amongst other things, they told me The Curfew was currently ‘the only place’ in the town to go to for quality ales in decent surroundings. They knew what they were on about too, because they pointed me in the direction of the Tiny Rebel Cwtch, and told me to fill my boots before it went off, although I was assured the Errant Comanche Porter was also decent, and it was. All told, I tried three of the four cask ales; the Marble ‘Piwakawaka’ was as per usual for the Manchester brewer, a very nice drink. The only reason I didn’t try the Bad Co ‘Comfortably Numb’ was because it’s a local (to me) beer and I’ve supped it many times over. Prices varied from £3.10 to £3.40, and appeared to be based on ABV, pretty reasonable all the same though. In terms of quality, I rated all the beers as exceeding Good to Very Good on the NBSS scale, in fact make all three Very Good (NBSS 4)! The only disappointment was the Verdant Simcoe was on the ‘coming next’ line up!
If you add to that a well stocked bottle fridge, three real ciders, pork pies, game pies, taster flights at £3.30 for three thirds, very friendly and enthusiastic bar staff, and the fact it opens during the day, every day, you were looking at something that would make a very good local, in anyone’s eyes. It was by far the busiest bar in Berwick that afternoon and it was obvious why. They even did take out cartons (+ 50p) and Growlers (not pork pies) in three and one half pint size, but they were beer price +£15, ouch! At least it’s yours for ever though. If I’m honest, I’m still not, never have been, convinced about taking ale home in a container, unless it’s to take home and drink immediately. Delay drinking any longer than that and I think you lose what you went for in the first place?
There’s lots of breweriana, magazines and stuff, and an interesting little album depicting the transformation from ‘The Cowshed’ to Micropub by Gemma and David Cook the owners. Fair play to them, I’m not always bowled over by micropubs, but I was here, they’ve got everything spot on, even down to the quirky buffets made by cutting the backs off an assortment of old dining chairs. The prime reason it hit the spot for me was the choice of excellent beer from quality brewers and not an assortment from average small local breweries that had been made on price alone; the sad downfall of so many micros, yet people still go and buy it. I think this phenomenon says so much about pubs and bars and beer and what people want at the minute.
Once our friends left we sat outside in the sunshine chatting to locals, and tourists like ourselves, including other beer-travellers. Berwick is a smashing place even though, in some areas, it might not be in the vanguard of progress and modernity, as evidenced by the image of a very young Kieron Cunningham in full flight, on the photomontage in Chisholm bookmakers window; he retired as a player in 2010! The presence of The Curfew in the town tells me otherwise though, modern concept, progressive ales in a quality setting with all the friendliness, hospitality and feel of a traditional pub.
As the bus pulled away from Golden Square, the thought crossed my mind that Berwick wouldn’t be bad place to live in at all. So, I waved bye bye to Super Leagues finest Hooker and wondered if he’d still be stood in the bookies window the next time I visited?
Verdict; as per last para. definitely a place to return to (Berwick and The Curfew ).