It’s an early start for us this morning as we’re heading off to interview David Bruce who founded the Firkin chain of brewpubs in 1979.
On the one hand, he’s a very influential figure: there were four pubs brewing on the premises in 1973, but, after Firkin and its imitators came along, that number swelled to reach a peak (we think) of almost a hundred by 1996. Many breweries are currently running on old Firkin kit, and/or with Firkin-trained brewers.
And yet… where did all the brewpubs go? Was it really a dead end? And if so, why?
Now, we happen to live in a part of the world where there are several brewpubs, from the Star Inn just outside Crowlas, where brewing commenced in 2008, to the Blue Anchor at Helston — one of the four survivors that was hanging on back in 1973.
But something interesting is happening right now, up and down the country: a blurring of the lines between brewing, wholesale and hospitality. Distributors are opening bars and breweries; breweries are installing ‘tap rooms’; and pubs are setting up microbreweries. For various reasons, ‘Brewed on the premises’ might be on the return.