New Wigan bar Real Crafty has a legion of ales to try

The Swinley watering hole, located in the Upper Dicconson Street building which was formerly Bar Legion, has no fewer than 30 beers available on either keg or cask.
Manager Ben Cusick and his deputy Liam Hook outside Real CraftyManager Ben Cusick and his deputy Liam Hook outside Real Crafty
Manager Ben Cusick and his deputy Liam Hook outside Real Crafty

The team is hoping to equal and in some cases surpass the selection ofbeers available to drinkers in city centre haunts, with an extensive selection of bottles and cans from around the world also in the fridges.

Real Crafty is being run by manager Ben Cusick and his deputy Liam Hook, both of whom worked at award-winning micropub Wigan Central which is located beneath Wigan North Western railway station.

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Ben is excited about giving Wigan beer fans the chance to choose from the long line of 25 keg taps adorning Real Crafty’s wall and the five cask handpulls on the bar.

Staff at Real Crafty raise a beer to the opening of the new venueStaff at Real Crafty raise a beer to the opening of the new venue
Staff at Real Crafty raise a beer to the opening of the new venue

He said: “When we got offered this opportunity the concept was just something we couldn’t turn down or refuse.

“We want Real Crafty to be Wigan’s boldest beer emporium. There’s nowhere like this around. It’s hard to come across this range and variety of beer even in Manchester or London. We’ve got 25 kegs on at any one time.

“It’s really exciting to bring a lot of different beers from all over the world to the people of Wigan.”

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Ale fans leafing through the pages of the Beer Atlas which covers the bottles and cans available or poring over the screens in the main room which outline what is pouring on cask or keg will have a few fixed points to navigate their way through the huge selection.

White Rat, a pale made by the Rat Brewery in West Yorkshire, will be the house cask ale while the likes of Kona’s Big Wave and the Sam Adams Boston Lager will pretty much always be coming out of the keg taps.

The team is also making a poignant nod to the building’s history and the commemoration in the back room of the World War One fighting in Belgium by saying there will always be a pale beer from the country on tap and 10 per cent of the proceeds from its sales will go to the Royal British Legion.

In addition there are plans to ensure there are always a couple of offerings from the acclaimed brewery Magic Rock available.

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Other ideas include ensuring there is always something homegrown brewed in Wigan on the bar either in cask or keg format.

However, the team also intends to range widely through the incredibly diverse brewing scenes of the 21st century and bring as much variety in tastes, flavours and types of ale to Real Crafty as possible.

Ben said: “We’re priding ourselves on selling beers you might not necessarily see on draught around Wigan.

“We’ve got around eight to 10 core beers we will keep on regularly and the rest will be changing as regularly as possible. Once they are gone they’re gone.

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“We will be buying the weird and wonderful, the new and exciting and rare beers.”

The main room of Real Crafty has been given a look which Ben says combines the homely with the more contemporary and industrial, with steel, chrome and metal all incorporated into the design.

The back function room will eventually be given a similar makeover, but when word spread that Real Crafty was opening its doors it had to be hurriedly pressed into service to house more socially-distanced tables due to the demand from Wigan beer fans wanting to check out the new premises.

This room will also be home to live music, open mic nights and other events, with the first act scheduled to perform this weekend a few days after Wigan was to be removed from the Greater Manchester local lockdown restrictions.

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Ben says the opening few days of business went extremely well and suggested that Real Crafty may actually embrace some of the working practices which have been brought into the hospitality sector due to the coronavirus pandemic, such as not having all the customers crowding round the bar to buy their drinks.

He said: “We were originally only going to open the front room but the response to launching was so overwhelming we thought we had to get the back room looking somewhat inviting.

“Everyone has been nothing but complementary, which is absolutely incredible. They were really nice about the beers we were pouring, the environment.We were nice and busy, which is all we could ask for.

“We’ve spoken about the idea of continental and American style table service before so we’re considering keeping that in place when Covid-19 is over. It’s quite nice having that friendly face greeting people.

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“We’ve had so much help from family and friends, who’ve volunteered to work ridiculously long hours to get it ready. We’ve nicknamed them the Real Crafty Avengers and we can’t thank them enough.”

Further plans include creating an upstairs snug, putting an outdoor seating area on the cobbled car parking space and working with other pubs, bars and hospitality businesses to create a “Swinley Quarter”.

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