Not like you to walk past a beer bar Dad! Where? There!
Bridport? A Micropub?
There never used to be one, but there is now, sat bold as brass on East St, which would probably be the High St in most other places.
Al McNab, who’s originally from Huddersfield, told me he’d been searching for premises for a while, and he’d looked all over Dorset, before plumping on Bridport. He thought it felt right. I’d agree with him there, I’ve got a soft spot for Bridport.
The Pursuit of Hoppiness (TPOH) opened up last December. Al’s intention being, as well as to make a living, to bring something different to the area.
‘Different to Palmers!’, one local at the bar exclaimed.
Apart from The Tiger, there really isn’t any respite from Palmers around these parts, the long established local brewers, and as Al said, nowhere you could get anything remotely ‘crafty’.
Although he has no previous experience in the pub business, he’s no stranger to the broader trade having previously worked in the wine game, at one stage spending twelve months living and working in Emilia Romagna promoting their local wines.
The market day trade in town was quite brisk, if you go to Bridport, then you’ll find Market Wednesday and Saturday are the best days for lunch time drinking (Sunday afternoon too, if you like a bit of music). The clientele in TPOH reflected the same mix of Bridporters, tourists and Dorsetonians from other settlements who’d come to do their shopping on market day.
A couple of tourists walked up to the bar clutching a menu asking if they could order some food? No problem said Al, pointing at the sandwich shop across the road, just ring the number, place your order and someone will bring it over. It helps if you have the right money. Low and behold, within a few minutes a young lady delivered their food to their table, money exchanged hands and everyone seemed highly satisfied. Apart from the rude man who asked a few minutes later if he could pay for food by card? Not really mate, but there’s a cash machine almost next door. At that he stormed out, muttering oaths under his breath, and probably wishing that he wasn’t so far overdrawn?
As well as the mutual cooperation with the local deli, TPOH can also rustle up an Italian meat and cheese platter, or a pork pie for you.
The model is a typical sort of micropub one. There’s a window behind the bar where you can see all the beer in it’s insulated cellar room, the temperature is thermostatically controlled and set at 12ºC, which Al said ensured the beer was at the right temperature at point of sale, and it was, bang on perfect. As well as the six cask lines there were two keg lines and a good bottle/can fridge. Al told me the local preference was heavily biased towards the cask ales rather than the keg lines, even amongst his younger customers.
Looking at the range of beers OTB and past pump clips lined up on the glory wall, it was clear that Al was opting for progressive styles and brewers from across the UK. If it’s from the Marston’s or GK stable then you won’t find it here. I couldn’t see any of the cheap and cheerful, downfall of so many micropub, casks in the past line up neither.
Local brewers were well represented when i visited, with a saison and a pale from the progressive Gyle 59 brewery and the more solid Lyme Regis Cobb Bitter (although they’re actually brewed by the same brewer).
Cask ale prices ranged from £3.50 to £4.00 a pint for Tiny Rebel’s Stay Puft. Real Ciders were similarly priced and Alchemy’s Secret Citra, on keg was £4.40 and extremely pleasing.
In describing the interior of what was previously an independent mobile phone shop, until Carphone Warehouse rocked up across the road! I would liken it to The Brunswick in Leeds, which is a complement. Bare, minimal, well crafted rudimentary fittings with a few interesting quirks and attractive decorative features around the single room. The single, shared WC, was exceptionally clean and tidy.
I didn’t really have to ask how things were going because I got chatting to a small group of CAMRA members who had purposefully met up there. One was a Bridporter who called in every day, Paul came from Weymouth and Richard (pictured) from Somerset. I recalled chatting with them a few years ago in The Tiger, one Wednesday afternoon. They travel about a fair bit and really know their stuff, explaining they came for the ever changing line up of quality beers and not for the 10p per pint CAMRA discount, they’d already had their breakfast in the local ‘Spoons without partaking of any ale. They also kindly pointed me in the direction of Dorchester for a day out, for which I thank them.
Overall, TPOH is a quality establishment that provides a bit of much needed variety to the Bridport beer scene. I reckon it will do well, and sustain, in what is more than an emerging hub of all things folksy, artsy, musicy, foody and drinky.
As I walked away, I wondered just for how long we will continue to call places like these Micropubs? I mean, if it was a small coffee shop, it wouldn’t get called a micro café would it? Okay, it’s only got one shared toilet, and it could never be called a pub. But, TPOH has so much more than your basic micro, like decent wines and spirits, pleasant and well thought out decor. If it popped up in Leeds city centre it wouldn’t be called a micropub. So, lets call it what it really is, a bar. A good one too.