Down The Pub with Richard Bean

Richard Bean
Richard Bean

IT’S a simply magnificently-appointed country pub with fantastic beers selected, and expertly aged, by a man who is positively Messianic about cask.

But your host at The Crown Hotel in Worthington for the past 11 years, outspoken Dan Prince, is the first to admit that it would not now be able to survive on the revenue from the fine pints he continues to pull as a wet-only pub.

Which is why he has just launched a new summer menu for the conservatory restaurant at the rear, home of the famed Butcher’s Block.

This being a pub column, I would prefer to meditate over the fine gills of creamy Stoke-born Titanic Stout, a Crown steadfast, he serves.

And the wonderful sun trap patio that dishevelled canine companion Jeff and me would settle every other weekend to recover from the rigours of work on so many a Sunday.

Well, at least that was what we did before a road accident pre-Christmas called a (hopefully temporary) halt to such jollities by breaking my right leg in three places below the knee.

I know what you are thinking.

At ease soldier.

The dishevelled mutt survived unscathed without a brown curly hair being knocked out of place by, as ever, pulling on his lead two and half feet in front ... and just out of reach of the collision.

On a summer’s afternoon, looking over swaying arable fields towards Coppull and the sounds of the rushing express along the West Coast Main Line, I defy you to find a more dreamy local spot.

And you really could be anywhere, never mind only a handful of miles from the busy Wigan municipality.

General manager Phil Barlow reveals that there are currently no fewer than eight real ales on tap ... a firesome Russian Imperial Stout – his boss’s favourite – settling nicely in the cellar.

I have been guilty recently of celebrating micro pubs because, well, they are just about the only new pubs being opened to celebrate.

Dan, however, takes a more controversial stance in defence of the traditional pubs he owns and others who find themselves under increasing financial pressure in trying to compete with the new hand pulls on the block.

He said: “There would be absolutely no chance these days of The Crown surviving on beer sales alone.

“If not for having to find £3,000 a month in rates for Wigan Council the business would be viable and they will kill us eventually if something isn’t done.

“They are giving licence to all these micro pubs and micro bars and they are being allowed to set up against traditional pubs like the Crown in rent-free shop units while people like me have to stump up eye watering, outrageous amount of rates and it is just not on.

“It is not a level playing field for trad pubs at all.”