Not with any great degree of seriousness, but I compiled my favourite pubs of 2019 last year, primarily in a bid to remember where I’d been. One of those pubs was the Hop & Vine in Hull (or the Hop & Vibe as I managed to call them on Twitter) and last week Tony answered some questions about how things are going in the current challenging climate.
And, another one of my favourite pubs was the Old Post Office in Ingleton which, as its name suggests, is a conversion from a former post office into a cosy little arrangement which has a decent choice of beer and welcoming atmosphere, but above all, excellent customer service. Excuse the quality of my photos, I took them on my previous visit although I was intending to visit the pub again in a few weeks to take more. Unfortunately, accommodation is proving difficult to find given the number of staycations being booked, but I’ll get there sometime over the next few weeks.
Adam and Rob from the pub kindly answered questions about how things are going with them and it gives me an idea of a place to go that I haven’t been, which is Preston. And I haven’t heard of Se7en Brothers brewery (Nathan will tut at that, as I probably should have done and I’m sure they’re on his spreadsheet), but their marshmallow stout looks marvellous!
Anyway, onto the questions:
You’re back open again, was it a successful re-opening for you?
We reopened on the 4th July, as soon as we were given the green light by the government. From the word go we have been overwhelmed by people’s support. We find that most days we are open all our tables are full which is fantastic.
How easy has it been to implement social distancing in the space that you have and have customers been prepared to come back?
As a microbar we are naturally limited for space, so the distancing has been challenging. We have tried different layouts in the bar, and we have ensured that the 1m plus rule can be stuck too. Our main concern was that as a customer you would feel safe to come in and have a drink. We sat in each seat and measured the distance and tested the mitigations we had put in place. We have found a large number of our regulars come back which is fantastic to see, there are naturally going to be some who don’t feel safe and that’s fine. I’m sure they will return in time.
When I visited, I didn’t notice your back room of the Armoury. It looks marvellously quirky in the photos, what inspired that theme?
We have always been interested in history, from the Roman era, medieval to Napoleonic and the world wars. We used to own an older property in Cumbria, the style of the property suited that theme. We decided to create ‘the armoury’ to show off our collection and to create something different. (you certainly wouldn’t expect that in a small village).
What do you see the future being for pubs in North Yorkshire, is there cause for optimism?
I think the future is uncertain but I hope the industry makes a full recovery from recent events. With less holidays abroad and people staying in the UK this year we all hope to be busy. We are lucky to be in a touristy area surrounded by beautiful countryside, everyone likes a well earned pint after a day in the hills!
It was clear from my visit that you have a real community feel. Were the community and your regulars supportive during the period of closure?
During lockdown we offered a takeaway and delivery service to the local community and upto 10 miles away. We had repeat customers most weeks and they were fantastic at supporting us. It was great to get out on the deliveries and check in and see how our regulars were and have a chat. It brought a bit of normality in what was a very strange time.
I liked the choice of beer that you had in the fridges. Given your small serving space, you offer a wide selection of options. Do you think some pubs with more size are missing out by not offering craft beer options?
I think at the moment the craft beer industry is booming, you only have to look at the amount of small breweries in the UK. There are some fantastic beers out there. Everyone likes a choice and at times wants to try something different and unique, other venues should give it a go and see if it works for them.
How do you go about choosing the beers? Are you guided by wholesalers, customers or inspired by extensive travel to other pubs?
We like to conduct a lot of research and product testing! In all honesty at the start we stocked what we liked to drink, it just grew from there. We like to try the more quirky beers that you cannot find easily. That’s one positive to come out of our lockdown experience. We looked at other suppliers and stockists and broadened our search for beers. We certainly found some great breweries to work with that’s for sure.
It’s not all about the beer. You’re big on gin, is this still a popular spirit, or is something else becoming more in favour?
Gin has been a big seller for us since we opened but rum is catching up! There are so many different rums out there now, some really fantastic small batch bottles too.
Would you be willing to name your other favourite pubs, whether in Yorkshire or further afield?
Too many to mention but a bar we really want to visit as soon as we can is Applejacks Microbar in Preston, we follow them on social media and have been in contact during lockdown offering each other support. We can not wait to meet them in person and try their selection of cakes and ales.
And, finally, do you have a favourite beer and/or spirit?
This changes weekly! But at the moment our favourite beers are ‘Honeycomb pale ale’ from Se7en Brothers brewery and ‘Pump up the Jam’ from Tiny Rebel. Spirits wise we quite like the Salford spiced rum.