Long-awaited micropub opens in Ashton


Hophurst Brewery, based in Hindley, has welcomed its first customers through the door of its new microbar after a long saga to gain its own watering hole.

The Twisted Vine Ale House, in Ashton-in-Makerfield, is an intriguing blend of old and new, with a modern industrial theme and keg beers alongside no fewer than seven handpumps for real ale including a selection of Hophurst’s own brews.

The Twisted Vine also reflects Hophurst’s work as a social enterprise re-training unemployed over 50s, with John Lennox who came through that programme installed as the bar manager alongside four other members of staff.

[read more]


A sparkling creation …. in Ince


The beer sparkler ….. possibly one of the world’s greatest inventions for beer? Guaranteed to give a ‘good head’ on a pint of beer which it is generally loved by us Northerners and despised by Southerners.

Incredibly the beer sparkler was first patented over 130 years ago – by George Barker in 1886. His patent claimed – ‘Barker’s patent aerator of beer, stout, porter and other liquors is a new invention for improving the flavour and appearance especially of beer. Flat beer drawn through it becomes quite palatable, the apparatus so being arranged that the air of the place where the tap is placed thoroughly permeates the beer. The result is a rich creamy head, and a much lighter and more sparkling appearance than any, even the finest, beers possess when simply drawn through the ordinary tap without the aerator.’

Perhaps even more incredibly, at the time of the invention/patent, George Barker was the licensee of the Crown Hotel on Manchester Road in Higher Ince which would have been the first pub to use a beer sparkler. The pub sadly closed in the 1970’s but it’s legacy lives on.

Another first for the Wigan pub scene!!



Mark Yates … a sad loss


Mark and Gillian Yates

Mark Yates, founder and head brewer at Connoisseur Ales in St Helens, sadly passed away earlier today.

After many years of home brewing, in 2006 Mark became apprentice to Stan Shaw at the Wapping Brewery in Liverpool. It was from here that he began to brew under the name ‘The Connoisseur Brewer’ and his beers became a regular feature in Liverpool around 2007-2008.

A few years on and he secured the Albion pub in Warrington, which was suitable for housing a brewery, and he purchased the equipment of former Fenland Brewery of Ely. After a long and fruitless battle with planning, English Heritage and his landlords it became apparent that an in-house brewery wasn’t going to happen. However, the Albion still gained a reputation for it’s real ales winning CAMRA’s Cheshire Pub of the Year 2012 and Cheshire Cider Pub of the Year 2012.

In 2014, Mark’s focus has switched solely to the brewery and he secured a fantastic town centre location in his home town of St Helens. In September 2014, Connoisseur Ales was launched and brewing became a family affair with wife (Gillian) and son (Kevin).

Mark (and Gillian) were also regular supporters and volunteers at Wigan Beer Festival.

Mark will be sadly missed by many.

Classic movie inspires pub launch


The new owners of a Wigan pub hope they are in the fast lane to success with a venue built around two wheels and an entertainment superstar.

Business partners Darren Cooper and Dave Holt have reinvented the former Hockery Brook pub in Hindley as Formby’s, a celebration of ukulele-wielding musician and actor George Formby and his film No Limit, set in the world of motorcycling. The film was shot on location at the Isle of Man TT races and this is particularly apt as Darren is also a road racer planning to enter the iconic event next year after previously doing the Manx Grand Prix.

However, Darren is keen to stress that although there is some Formby and two-wheeled memorabilia dotted around the Wigan Lane premises it is definitely not a “biker pub” but is a venue for the entire local community.

The pub, which is run on a day-to-day basis by landlady Michelle Ragozzino, has already introduced live acts on a Saturday night. Formby’s will also be run as a freehouse not tied to any brewery, with four cask ales, eight draught beers in total, ciders and an extensive gin list.

For more, see article in Wigan Today

Wigan Central make it to the final !!!


Wigan Central has just been voted into the final four in the National Pub of the Year organised by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). Massive congratulations to manageress, Jo Whalley, and all her hard-working and dedicated staff.

A further round of voting will take place before the eventual winner will be announced in February 2018. It’s only the second time that a pub from the Wigan CAMRA Branch area has received such an accolade, the other being the sadly demised Crown at Worthington in 2009. The are 4500 pubs listed in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide so reaching the final four is a fantastic achievement.

Congratulations are also in order to the Cricketers Arms in St Helens who have also been selected in the final four. A Wigan/Saints final in real ale rather than rugby league. We can all drink to that!!

This is great news, not just for the Wigan pub scene but the North West as a whole, as it will inevitably attract more discerning beer drinkers to the area.

Continue reading