The Micropub is a one-room pub in vicinities less spacious than your traditional local. They have become more prominent in the UK due to an advantageous licensing law. Starting off over 15 years ago with The Butchers Arm, started and operated by Martyn Hillier, they have exploded in popularity in Kent and have started to gain traction in London.
This film looks at the craze by focusing on three Micropub owners: Lucy Do, owner of The Dodo, Trevor Puddifoot, who recently traded in his lingerie shop for The River Ale House, and Richard Reeve, a cycling and micropub enthusiast who opened The Green Dragon, named after a legacy pub that sadly closed down.
Sparsely running over an hour, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from Micropubs – The New Local. It’s certainly a more niche subject matter to explore, with its advent only really clocking in barely under 2 decades. So it surprised and engrossed me just how much is packed in here. From humble origins, to reactions, to backlash, to the culture and fermentation sites working in close relationship of these businesses. It’s a growing trend, and there’s a lot to analyse even within this time period.
The communal aspect is very much hit on. A running theme throughout is the sadly how myopic and corporate-focused mainstream pubbing has become. Both in terms of the sense of the friendly local being abandoned to a lot of beloved pubs being closed down, even in spite of community protest. It’s that culture of friendship within the micropub movement that really stuck out. You get a sense that the stripped down, DIY aesthetic of this business model really makes the owners put a lot of personality and careful thought into their work, as well as needing to lean on more personable relationships for support. It’s certainly a living done for the love of the game.
Our three focal people are very endearing and likeable in their own way. I was particularly struck by Lucy, who has a real sense of creativity and easygoing fun to how she does things. It’s endearing to see her so engrossed and genuinely interested as the fermentation plant.
The only real complaint (outside of some awkward editing in a segment) is that while the documentary tries to give a sense of an arc with some of the players here, it doesn’t really add up to a cohesive whole. This is a minute rumbling, however, as the focus is more on exploring and giving detail on the micropub revolution in the UK, with these people being more anchors. And, again, they’re very endearing and likeable people regardless.
And explore it does. I can’t say I’d know anything about this movement, but Micropubs – The New Local really gives me a sense of understanding and perspective I’d never thought would fascinate me so. That they manage to do this in such a sparse runtime, and cram so much information and context to the proceedings is really impressive documentary making. It gets that charm and communal spirit of the micropub, as well as the gusto and passion for those who follow this path. It’s made with a sense of fun and cheerful good spirits, like any good pub story should.