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's pub review avoids the more traditional watering hole, as I call in at a contemporary-style bar in Darwen town centre.

Number 39 is ideally situated in a pedestrianised location within a minute’s walk of the town's bus station and shopping centre.

As you enter this relatively small, modern, one-room bar, you get a continental feel about the place, with its beige laminated floor, wicker furniture, white painted walls and modern lighting, giving it a clean, bright appearance.

The bar has been open for less than three years and has swiftly carved out a fine reputation as one of the area’s premier drinking dens.

It is also the Hopstar Brewery “tap” and has three of its brews permanently on the bar, along with a rotating guest ale and a local draught cider. For lager drinkers, there is Starapromen and Timmerman’s on tap.

The serving area is quite compact, but is more than adequate with its fine range of ales. I went for the Hopstar Dark Knight, a lightly-hopped mild with a roasted malt flavour — a delicious slurp.

There were some colourful characters at the bar and we exchanged some friendly banter before I moved to a comfy seated, slightly raised area, close to the large window that looked out on to the pedestrianised high street.

The bar was quite busy for a Monday lunchtime. It was a most pleasant, relaxed atmosphere with the customers no doubt taking advantage of the well-kept ales at just £2 a pint.

It wasn’t long before I took advantage of a second Hopstar beverage. This, in my opinion, is one of their finest. Dizzy Danny is a light, refreshing, peachy-flavoured beer, with a mild, fruity hopped finish — it was a delight.

This modern establishment is also close to the town’s railway station and I wondered if it attracted real ale drinkers from afar.

Dee, who serves behind the bar said: “Yes, we get customers coming here from a very wide area, with the railway station being on a main line from Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe."

Dee was a most friendly host and was keen to promote what other delights the bar had to offer.

“We have varied entertainment on Thursday evenings. It may be jazz one week or a selection of various artists on other weeks. On Friday evenings we have tapas available — and a pianist is here to entertain you.”

The Number 39 Bar is certainly a different style of drinking establishment in our high street. It offers a modern, relaxed environment, serving up a selection of quality foreign lagers and locally-sourced ales — and I enjoyed my visit immensely.

Are they the future? As the more traditional pubs become more of a rare species in most of our town centres, maybe establishments such as Number 39 are the future, as these type of bars appear to be growing in popularity.