Bank Top Brewery Tap
Bank Top Brewery was established in 1995 by John Feeney, the original brewery being situated in an old industrial unit off Back Lane close to Bolton town centre. The Brewery name came from a long held dream of John’s to convert an old tennis pavilion in Bank Top, close to his home, into a brewery. John successfully ran the brewery on his own until he was joined in the business by Dave Sweeney in late 1999.
The continued success of the business eventually allowed John to turn his dream into reality when the brewery relocated to the old pavilion in August 2003. In November 2004 Dave became a Director and part owner and subsequently following John’s retirement in 2008 majority owner. Since then Dave has taken the brewery to another level, with a doubling of capacity and awards for Dark Mild, at SIBA 2009/2010; Gold in the Mild category and a Bronze in Supreme Champion of The Year.
Dave, John and Bank Top Brewery are all good friends of All Gates and indeed were instrumental in helping us getting started. We see Dave regularly and know it has been a real desire of his in recent times to start a small estate of pubs. The Brewery Tap is Bank Top’s first.
It opened in May 2010 and despite numerous invites from Dave to go take a look it was only the other day, a Saturday, and with the Missus and kids away in Ireland, that I had a chance to visit.
The Tap by implication is only a short distance from the brewery. In its former life The Carters Arms was a typical back street local, in a sorry state of repair; tired and in need of refurbishment and direction. And Dave and his team have done and given it this, and in spades.
The décor and feel of the pub is modern – no patterns, just classic deep red and pale walls, a large fireplace and dark wood fittings. There is no juke box, no fruit machines, no pool table; just a nice friendly, comfortable pub. However the pub essential remains – a separate tap room with dart board. There is also a good sized beer garden, which at the time of our visit, on a balmy and lugubrious late July evening was, like the pub itself, packed.
We managed to squeeze into the tap room and bag two bar stools. The modern L shaped servery is surmounted by a bank of nine, chrome finished hand pulls with at the time of our visit a range of eight Bank Top ales plus one guest on, a Lymestone beer and a couple of more unusual lagers. The four polo shirted staff; including Jenny, helping out at the last minute from the brewery, were all pleasant and attentive. A nice touch is the taster selection of 3 1/3 pint glasses. There is also a small selection of bottled continental beers.
We had three different beers and all were on excellent form, Bank Top’s principal beer ‘Flat Cap’, which as Dave will tell has never won an award, but accounts for 50% of production, Gold Digger and Old Slapper.
Throughout the evening a tide of customers ebbed and flowed and what was really good to see was the complete mix and all having a good time.
I’m sure Dave and Bank Top have a winning formula here, because if you like your Real Ale in a busy but ‘grown up’ atmosphere then The Brewery Tap is for you. Indeed after only 14 months of trading The Brewery Tap won Bolton CAMRA’s Pub of the Year award for 2011 and I’m sure this will be the first of a good few. And Dave won’t mind me saying that we came away from the Brewery Tap with one or two ideas that we will likely now look at for our own pubs; after all as they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Bank Top Brewery Tap, 68-70 Belmont Road, Bolton BL1 7AN (01204 302837)