Micropub Bridge Beers is too small to not be social
It’s sad to think that the thousands who cram onto the ale trail trains every year between Manchester and Huddersfield might miss Bridge Beers. A ten-minute walk from station pub, Stalybridge Buffet Bar sits a micropub so compact that it’s impossible to not be social. Have a few too many and you might forget which side of the bar you’re on.
Even now, the micropub revolution is still a new phenomenon
There’s the sort of beer on tap that’d make the grouchiest CAMRA head swoon. The walls double up as a museum to Stalybridge brewing history and on Thursdays, there’s a fresh soup made by barstool regular Chris. The soup is free but donations are encouraged and go to a local charity.
Welcome to Bridge Beers, Stalybridge’s only surviving brewery and one of the town’s most charming spots. Pull up a stool, let Dave pour you a pint and settle in.
Pale ales and brewing traditions
Although people have largely accepted the craft brewing revolution and the taprooms that come with it, the high street premises of Bridge Beers still baffles some.
“Even now, the micropub revolution is still a new phenomenon. You can see people looking in the window and thinking, a pub in a shop? What’s that about? They’re never quite sure what we’re up to.” says owner Dave Bridge.
Walk inside however and it says what it does on the tin. With barely enough room to swing the door closed, let alone a cat, it’s a place that’s unavoidably social. You can’t not speak to someone with your drink. There are no corners to hide in. All of which makes the place very special indeed.
Bridge Beers was founded in 2016 after owner Dave Bridge fell out of love working in IT in a school. What was originally formed as a micropub with business partner Len, soon morphed into a brewery with a micro kit in the back. Bridge Beers now encompasses the high street micropub and a nearby brewing unit.
It's all about cask beer at Bridge Beers. No gas unless it’s a byproduct of yeast and no sterilisation and pasteurisation. Ask aforementioned regular and soup chef Chris why he prefers cask and he likens lager and its ilk to “drinking long-life milk instead of the real stuff. Tesco value sliced white instead of a freshly baked loaf.”
Cask barrels line up behind the bar ready to be poured. All your favourites. Two single-hopped pales, a bitter, a ruby mild, a stout and a golden ale. The mild is divine. In a different universe to the recent craft beer mild rediscovery. Living cask ale. When we suggest to Dave it’s basically a health food he laughs but doesn’t deny it.
Stalybridge’s last surviving brewery
Despite a rich brewing history going back centuries, Bridge Beers is the last remaining brewery in Stalybridge. Victorian brewers Higginbottom were once nearby as were Matley Spring Brewery. More recently Tickitybrew went the same way. When asked about the decline of the pub Dave notes how Bridge Beers is blessed in a way that a lot of the old Victorian pubs aren’t.
“Your generation don’t go to the pub as often as I did when I was your age. So they [the pubs] can’t sustain it. You look at the big Victorian pubs, they’re huge. That’s a lot of heating. A lot on rent. That’s a lot of lager you’ve got to shift before you turn a profit. The micro-industry is run on keeping your overheads to a minimum.” He says.
Relics to this history of beer hang on the walls of Bridge Beers. Dave is as much of a local beer historian as he is a brewer. The original The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn pub sign snakes around the top of the pub’s internal walls.
When it comes to recommendations, Dave tells us his Mumbai India pale ale is easy drinking and goes well with a curry (Swaadesh in Ashton is his go-to). All the flavour minus the lager bloats. He’s also got a soft spot for the mild, a beer that was first tested at Chris’s 60th birthday party, which also doubled up as his wedding anniversary.
The first barrel went down well and Dave’s been at it ever since.
If you’re looking for a big social media presence from Bridge Beers you’re going to be disappointed. Facebook once a month, nothing on Twitter since 2017. Dave says it does little for business and it’s not worth the added time.
Maybe Stalybridge’s new title of Greater Manchester Town of Culture will help on that front. Most people, however, will simply stumble in like we did and not want to leave.
Bridge Beers, 55 Melbourne St, Stalybridge SK15 2JJ
The Bridge Beers cask lineup
Single hopped pale - Citra 4.0%
"The first of our popular single-hopped pale ales. This is where it all began."
Single hopped pale - El Dorado 4.0%
"Continuing the template set by our Citra ale, the switch to El Dorado hop proved even more popular."
Mumbai - 4.2%
"A complex hopping regime brings a wonderfully refreshing taste to our golden ale."
4Bs - 4.0%
"A delicious malt base and a light English hopping highlight our mahogany bitter."
Dark ruby mild - 5.0%
"Who says milds have to be weak, uninteresting or old-fashioned? Not us. Welcome back to mild."
Dark matter - 4.7%
"It's become something on an institution around here - rich and dark."
Read again: Manchester’s top eating out offers: March 2022
Get the latest news to your inbox
Get the latest food & drink news and exclusive offers by email by signing up to our mailing list. This is one of the ways that Confidentials remains free to our readers and by signing up you help support our high quality, impartial and knowledgable writers. Thank you!