Norwich – The Malt and Mardle Micropub (Interview)

Above are Emily, Johnny and Elliot who on 22 July 2021 are opening the Malt and Mardle micropub in Norwich.

Along with other random ramblings about a myriad subjects that I think I know about (but usually don’t) I really like visiting and writing about micropubs. There’s something particularly authentic about micropubs where there’s conversation, decent beer, a quiet environment and community values. It’s also a hark back almost to when licensed premises were sometimes parlour pubs or little more than a front room. We have a few in this area, the Nip and Growler in King’s Lynn, the Hop Beer Shop in Chelmsford, the Drayman’s Son in Ely and the newly opened Magnet in Colchester.

That all meant I was very excited to hear about the planned opening of the Malt and Mardle micropub in Norwich, located near to the Artichoke, Leopard, King’s Head and Plasterers, which are all fantastically good pubs. I’d claim there’s always room for another brilliantly run pub, and there is definitely a space in the market for a micropub in this part of Norwich. It’s a group of friends who are opening the venue, which just sounds fun, exciting and an adventure, so I’m moderately jealous of this journey. I like adventure  🙂

Emily kindly agreed to answer some questions that I had, so with many thanks to her, as well as Johnny and Elliot, there’s a little interview below. And I’m very pleased to hear about the no music, beer fridges and no large screens. The answer of perhaps strike up a chat if they feel like it” is perfect for me to hear. Being British, I veer between not wanting any social engagement and also finding that if a publican operates their pub well then the community spirit shines through. Regular readers (I think there are a couple) will know that I have yet to find a pub better able to achieve this than the brilliant Hop & Vine pub. I am very excited to go there with a couple of friends in a few weeks, because when people are made welcome, it adds richness to their lives. I won’t go on about mental health, but pubs can absolutely help people connect and during times such as these, that’s a huge benefit to the community.

Anyway, I digress (again). Absolutely definitely very excited about my visit to this micropub in a few weeks and I wish them all the very best.

What made you want to open a micropub and why in Norwich?

It was my partner, Elliot, who first came up with the idea of opening a micropub. He’s always been a huge fan of real ale pubs but opening one himself was more of a dream than a likely reality. However, in the summer of 2020, he, myself, and our friend Johnny decided to take the plunge and open a micropub. The appeal was that we could realise our dream of creating a space where real ale could be enjoyed while still keeping our jobs part-time and having some financial security while we got up and running.

We decided to open our micropub, The Malt and Mardle, in Norwich as it is where all three of us live. We absolutely love Norwich – it has such a rich history, especially when it comes to pubs, and a brilliant, thriving community of independent businesses too.

Have you been inspired by any other micropubs?

Yes, we have definitely been inspired by other micropubs. A big local source of inspiration is Nigel who runs the Hop Inn in North Walsham, North Norfolk. Further afield, we’ve been inspired by Lucy from The Dodo in Hanwell, London. A lot of how we wanted our pub to look and feel is inspired by the pubs we visited in Yorkshire when we were students. Whitelock’s in Leeds and Haworth Old Hall, for example, have been big influences on us.

You’re opening in an area near to great pubs like the Artichoke, the Leopard, the Plasters and the King’s Head. Was that part of the reason you went for your location?

Partly! I guess you could argue ‘yes’ as we chose a location that we were familiar with and, as a result, that happened to be near to where we live. But part of the reason why we live here is that we’re surrounded by such great pubs like the ones you listed!

What is your opening date? Will you be open every evening?

Our opening date is the 22nd of July. We’ll be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and hope to extend this in the future.

How easy or hard was the licensing part of your pub, getting permission to convert a shop unit into a micropub?

It certainly wasn’t easy but nor was it quite as difficult as people were warning us it could be. It did take a long, long time though which really tested our patience – we were so relieved when it all went through ok!

Nothing goes entirely to plan, have you had any difficulties so far with the conversion?

At times, it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride but what else could we expect?! It’s almost inevitable when starting a new business! Thankfully, there’s not been a problem too large that we couldn’t find a solution for.

One of the biggest challenges has been having the time and energy to get everything ready for our opening. While Elliot and Johnny have been spending as much time as they can on the micropub in addition to juggling part-time and full-time jobs, I’ve been struggling with my chronic health conditions. Our friends and family have been a huge support, though, and we’re definitely so grateful to them for helping us almost reach the finish line!

Micropubs have the benefit of allowing conversation to flow between not just regulars, but those coming in for the first time. Is that a core part of your thinking?

Yes, in the true spirit of micropubs, we’ve actively decided not to have loud music playing and distracting screens etc. We’ve also got a couple of larger tables that, when safe from Covid to do so, smaller groups can share and perhaps strike up a chat if they feel like it.

What will your seating capacity be?

Our seating capacity will be 25, plus we’ve got space for standing room too.

Will you have an involvement with the local CAMRA group?

Definitely! We’ve already signed up for a Pub Festival this July with the Norwich CAMRA branch.

What breweries will you be hoping to stock beers from? Will there be some that might be otherwise hard to get elsewhere in Norwich?

Our offering will mainly be from breweries in Norfolk and Suffolk as supporting local businesses is really important to us, but no doubt we’ll also have some beer from breweries up north in stock at times too!

Will you have beer fridges to increase the options available? And, for selfish reasons, will there usually be a decadent stout on tap?

Yes, we’ve got a big fridge that we’ll stock with lots of beer, as well as some gin, wine and soft drinks for non-beer drinkers. Our aim is to have at least one stout, vegan, gluten free and low alcohol beer on either tap or canned/bottled the majority of the time.

What one thing worries you for the future?

I guess another lockdown is a worry that all businesses in the hospitality sector face right now. Otherwise, we’re not naïve in thinking that other challenges and hurdles won’t present themselves but know that all we can do is take one thing at a time and enjoy the ride the best we can. Not everyone gets the opportunity to do something they love and have a real passion for so hopefully that will continue to give us some perspective far into the future even when worries and stresses do occur!

All very lovely, where can people find out more?