Colchester – The Magnet Micropub (Interview)

I’ve worked my way around many pubs in Colchester, but I was delighted to hear (on an LDWA walk where one of the walkers is friends with the owners….) that there’s a new one opening and especially so as it’s a micropub. I drone on about those a lot and I suspect many more will open in the years to come, which is something rather positive for the hospitality industry.

Anyway, although I haven’t had chance to visit yet, the owners kindly agreed to do a little interview. This also means that I am now planning a little road trip with friends to visit Colchester pubs again (any excuse I admit….), including the Magnet.

The pub opened in late May 2021, so this is all new and exciting. I like the “an idea was formed whilst somewhat worse for wear in a micropub”, as I’ve had great (or what I considered to be great) ideas with friends in similar circumstances. I also think that this idea must have been formed in the very lovely Hop Beer Shop, which I visited last year.

The micropub is located in part of the former Norfolk pub on North Station Road, a short walk from Colchester railway station. Which makes it an ideal location to pop to before getting a train (or having just got off one for that matter). The pub takes its name from William Gilbert, a local scientist who did work on magnetism, so relevance to local heritage which I rather like.

The owners are Robert and Ian, who have been spending the last few months getting everything ready for their new venture.

What made you open a micropub and who is involved in the project?

An idea was formed whilst somewhat worse for wear in a micropub in Chelmsford at the tail end of 2019 which was then amazingly followed through. The micropub is co-owned by Rob and I. Prior to this we had both worked in finance.

Have there been any obstacles in your opening, other than the huge challenge of Covid-19?

The biggest challenge has been finding suitable properties and then educating landlords / freeholders etc., on the benefits of a micropub, particularly when changes to planning permission were required. As regards The Magnet itself (aside from Covid-19 related restrictions) the biggest obstacle was getting the utilities isolated and connected.

Projects like this sound fun, has that been how it has worked out so far?

We have been very lucky with the trades persons and suppliers that we partnered up with. Their level of expertise and enthusiasm has been unbelievable. Also the friends and family members who have lent their time and skills to the project,

Your pub has been formed from part of the former Norfolk pub, how many people will it seat?

It will seat approximately 50, including the courtyard area.

What sort of atmosphere are you hoping to achieve?

Relaxed but convivial, with conversation promoted.

Do you have a favourite other micropub in East Anglia? Have they inspired you with this project?

Following on from the last question, Farmers Yard in Maldon, and Mawson’s in Southend, in terms of atmosphere.

Will there be decadent bar snacks available? I have a passion for locally sourced Scotch Eggs! Although I’m also content with scampi fries…..

At the moment we have locally produced crisps and cakes, but are thinking of expanding our savoury bar snack offerings. So if you have any suppliers that you recommend, we would be grateful to hear them.

Will the vibe be more craft beer or real ale? Or a crossover between the two?

We built a small dedicated cold room and are able to serve both cask and keg at a perfect temperature. We have three handles for cask, and five keg lines which currently host two IPAs, a pilsner, a fruity wheat beer and a cider. We also offer cider from the box, locally distilled spirits and a range of bottled drinks

Which breweries are you looking to source from?

As both Rob and I are new to this game we are currently only sourcing from local breweries (predominantly Colchester Brewery) but as we get more experienced we may start to expand the net wider.

Do you have any longer-term plans for the micropub with regards to things that you want to achieve in the future?

It’s still very early days for The Magnet (we only opened on May 21st). So making it a success is priority number one.

The pub has a website at https://www.themagnetpub.co.uk/.