Mark Briggs has been a real ale connoisseur for over 35 years.  A self-professed ‘beer geek’, Mark visits East Lancashire’s pubs for his weekly column. Read of Mark’s adventures in ale at his blog or follow him on Twitter @realaleupnorth

This week I descend upon the town of Padiham and find a hostelry that, in my opinion, has changed quite dramatically in the last 12 months.

It’s a pub that is proving more than an asset in the local community.

The pub, it's fair to say, was ailing a little under its former tenure and was up for sale. Thankfully, the Hare and Hounds, when sold, was retained as a pub and is now undoubtably one of the finest watering holes in the area.

It's a traditional, friendly and welcoming boozer, with open fires, comfy seated areas, a good sized bar area and a separate games room to play pool and darts.

The pub is run by Stef and Laura Riley and they recently celebrated their first 12 months behind the bar by holding Padiham’s first ever beer festival. Twenty three different ales were served up over the three-day festival — and thirsty customers supped every last drop!

Stef said: “It was a gamble but it paid off handsomely. We were packed all weekend. We sold all the beer, and everyone thought the event was excellent. Plans are in place for another festival over the Christmas period.

Stef added: “When we first took over, the pub had been selling just one barrel of beer a week. Now, demand is so high for locally sourced cask beer, we have had to put five hand pumps on the bar — and we will have a sixth next week — plus a permanent, hand-pulled cider pump.”

There was an excellent selection of local ales on the bar, when I visited, including a couple from Worsthorne Brewery, one from Prospect Brewery (Wigan) and MPA from JW Lees (Oldham). I went for the Worsthorne Old Trout, an exceptionally flavoursome and full bodied brown ale.

Stef said: “We will be having two permanent Worsthorne beers on. Their ale is very popular. So too are the Prospect beers — their Nutty Slack (dark mild) will be a permanent fixture as it just flies out. And the MPA will also be resident on the bar, another winner with our customers.”

There is also entertainment at The Hare and Laura is busy making plans for a Hallowe’en night at the pub. Stef has promised to wear a Zombie costume, although I may have misheard him!

The Hare and Hounds is a prime example of how an ordinary, run-of-the-mill pub, can be changed in to something rather special and set apart n a short period of time. Stef and Laura have soon identified the components required in running a successful and popular establishment. And I have no doubt this Padiham ‘top of the town’ pub, will indeed become, just that.