Our beer expert Andrew Nowell finds out how a former launderette may become a new microbar...
Proving that modern beer establishments are far from just an urban thing, a gin and wine business is looking to bring the real ale revolution to Winstanley.
Lindsay Porter, who runs Portland Wines in Billinge with her partner, wants to turn the former Winstanley Cafe in the area’s arcade into a microbar.
She and her team already have a wine and gin bar in the unit opposite, a former launderette, and now wants to diversify into the hopped stuff too.
She has certainly brought some impressive know-how on board, teaming up with none other than the Cricketers Arms in St Helens, recently voted the best beer pub in the country by the experts at the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra).
Planning and licensing applications are now in, and Lindsay is crossing her fingers that she will be able to bring her vision for something very different to a traditional British boozer to Winstanley.
She said: “We already do some bottled beers in the wine and gin bar, and now we’re going into partnership with the Cricketers to bring a whole fresh approach to cask ale.
“At the Cricketers, they have a phenomenal range of beers on offer so we want to do something similar to that and also complement what’s already going on at the Winstanley Centre.
“As soon as we opened the wine and gin bar people were saying it was a shame there isn’t something especially for real ale. That’s set the whole thing in motion.”
The bar, if permission is granted, will have the striking name Real Ale Revolution 1, which Andy Evans who runs the Cricketers with wife Denise came up with.
The two businesses have been working together for a while, with Portland Wines supplying the pub with its range of gins.
The Cricketers amazed Camra judges with its massive selection of 13 ales on cask, ranging from a house beer to local brews from around the North West to ales by some of the country’s hottest beer properties such as Tiny Rebel in South Wales.
It is also known for its cider, with up to 20 apple and pear-based creations on offer in the height of the summer season.
Though Lindsay and the rest of the team haven’t yet got into the details of what will be offered, it can be suggested a similar mix of high-quality drinks could be on its way to Winstanley if the council’s planning department gives the green light.
The plans submitted to the town hall show a bar with steps leading down to a cellar behind it and the majority of the rest of the floorspace given over to a long row of seating along a wall, and then a number of small tables for drinkers to congregate around.
Although not wanting to say too much at this stage, as planners still have to make a decision, Lindsay is desperately hoping that she will get the go-ahead for her new business serving the Winstanley community.
She said: “The customers we get coming into the wine and gin bar are brilliant. The level of support we are getting from locals and the feedback is great, people love it.
“They want something a bit different, something to add a touch of class to the area. That’s what we’ve done with the gin bar and hopefully we will be offering that in the microbar as well.”
The licensing department is considering Real Ale Revolution 1’s bid to alter the licensing hours from those of a cafe to bring it in line with the wine and gin bar opposite.
The number in the microbar’s title is a statement of intent but Lindsay admits they do not at the moment have any concrete expansion plans for more beer offerings.
A decision from planning is expected within a fortnight. Representations on the licensing application can be submitted until June 22.
Full details of both applications are online at www.wigan.gov.uk