The North West's First Micropub. CAMRA Pub of the Year 2013. Find us in the 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 CAMRA Good Beer Guides.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The Snug Life Story-Part 1

The Snug at the moment.

Well here we are, just over five weeks into our enforced period of rest and we are now starting to plan for re-opening at the end of February.

The first three weeks we were busy with all kinds of business stuff but things have now settled down and we are starting to relax. We really have missed The Snug and all our friends but before we know it, we'll be back.

Since we opened in August 2012 we have raised over £5,000 for various charities from Help for Heroes to Bells for St George and Guide Dogs. Thank you to all for your continued generosity.

Some of the charities have been really curious about The Snug and the concept of "the micropub" so now seems as good a time as any for us to review the last five years and take stock. This post is part of that process. 

We were the first micropub to open in the North West back in 2012. A very basic definition of a micropub is a small single room establishment, we are 300 sq ft, selling real ale, real cider, wine and soft drinks with only bar snacks available rather than carveries, chicken in the basket and burgers. We have been a bit naughty and now offer a range of around 20 gins.

We read about micropubs in the Sunday Times in March 2012 and immediately wanted one, the perfect opportunity to develop the kind of pub we would want to frequent. No TV, no jukebox, no noisy gaming machines just good drink in a cosy atmosphere with good company and good conversation. We found our premises at the station, went through the licencing and planning processes, built our own pub and opened our doors for the first time on 1st August 2012. 

July 2012-preparing to open.
The key thing to developing a micropub is originality. We were driven by the chance to develop something unique that can't be found anywhere else, otherwise you may as well just buy into a conventional pub. We were the seventh micropub in the country.

Largely due to a lack of space we had to consider where our "cellar" was going to be. We didn't have a cellar so we had the idea of building one behind the bar which has become one of our big features.

Above the casks we have space to stock our wines, ciders, bottled beers and soft drinks. Within a year of opening our "cellar" wasn't big enough and we had to have it extended to hold ten casks.

When it came to selecting beers we listened to our customers, some of whom resemble walking talking beer encyclopaedias and their knowledge was invaluable when sourcing our beers and ciders. Gradually we built our list of contacts and have been able to source many beers that had never been found in our area before. A few weeks before we closed we were the first pub outside Bolton to offer beers from Northern Monkey brewery. Again originality being a constant objective of ours even after five years.

When we first opened we used to visit pubs in the area to see what beers they had on. Our intention was not to copy but to avoid duplicating. Why offer what the other pubs have on? We played an interesting game of cat and mouse with a few local breweries who eventually accepted that we wanted to establish The Snug as an original. We were doing it our way. Once we established ourselves we obviously began stocking local beers, we have many tourists visiting us who want to try local beers, but we had to build our own identity and not just ape others.

By December 2012 we began to run trips from The Snug, the first being to Marble Brewery and the Christmas Markets. Since then we have been on numerous trips to breweries and towns with quality pubs throughout the North West and will be organising more when we re-open in the New Year. We have also had special fundraising events for our various charities including gin tasting, wine tasting, quiz nights and cheese and port evenings amongst others.

Our first beer festivalposter.
In November 2103 we held our first beer festival which was a great success and quickly became an annual event which was recently listed as one of the top six food and drink events in the county by Lancashire Life magazine. Sadly this year's festival has had to be cancelled because of the building work at the station. In the meantime we are giving considerable thought to next year when we plan to come back bigger and even better.

This is an opportune time to once again thanks all our volunteers who made our first four beer festivals not only possible but also so successful. We really do appreciate your generosity and hard work.

Food plays a big part in the life of The Snug. When we lived in London local pubs would put cheese and roast potatoes on the bar for customers on a Sunday lunchtime. Especially appreciated at the end of the month when money was tight! We shamelessly stole this idea when we started opening on Sundays and in no time Sunday lunchtime developed in to a full blown Jacob's Join with people bringing in their favourite nibbles to share with everybody. Mike's bangers and Roly's canapes spring readily to mind but others bring in delicious contributions too.

Our friends Eric and Amporn (Thai Kitchen Lakeland) spent the first Saturday of the Month with us until we closed last month setting up their mobile kitchen in our outdoor area and offering delicious Thai street food from 12 00 until late. Happily they will be back with us in the New Year, especially when we have our grand re-opening.

We must mention Chippy Friday when regulars bring in chips to share and last but not least Wigan Bob's delicious home made pies on a Saturday lunch for which he only asks a donation in our Help for Heroes tin.

One of the wisest things anybody said when we were planning to open was that opening a micropub isn't just a job or a business, it's a way of life. Colin at the Conqueror micropub in Ramsgate was spot on. There have been difficult times inevitably, but they are are massively outweighed by the good times and the wonderful people we have met over the last five years.

So there we are, what we have been intending to write for our charities who have enquired what we are all about for at least two years but only now have found the time. We hope this post is informative and that you are looking forward to our re-opening after the structural repairs are completed in February as much as we are.

Looking on the bright side when we do re-open it will be the first time we will have a micropub that doesn't leak when it rains and is properly ventilated. Thanks to Julie's lobbying of Network Rail the rotten toilet floors are also being replaced so the smell of damp in the loos will be gone too.

Until then we will be updating our Facebook and Twitter accounts with interesting drink related events nearby, as well as updates on the building works, on a regular basis so please keep in touch.