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 review focuses on one of the more quirky drinking establishments in the locality — a watering hole that is most certainly a ‘must visit’ for discerning beer drinkers and the real ale aficionado alike.

The First Chop is situated on Ramsbottom’s main thoroughfare, nestled amongst a terrace of shops. In fact, it is a former shop itself and has retained the shop window, which gives the place a bright, well-lit environment as you walk in.

I encouraged two of my beery amigos, Bob and Arthur, to visit this popular pub/bar— but they don’t take much encouraging, when I recommend a beery drinking den.

It’s a cool, unique and quirky bar, with its brightly-coloured walls, stone flagged floors, scrubbed table tops. And it boasts a most impressive coffee-making machine behind its wood panelled and compact L-shaped bar.

The main bar area is oblong-shaped and quite small, with a seated area to the rear. And as you descend some wooden steps opposite the main entrance, you find a good-sized cellar bar in the basement, with similar decor and wooden furnishings.

But, of course, the main reason for our visit was the beer. They have an amazing range to suit all tastes — more than 40 bottled beers and ciders from around the world, five locally-sourced cask ales, a choice of real draught ciders. There’s even a keg lager — now that’s what I call alcohol choice.

We went for one of the three permanent and rotating First Chop Brewery Arm beers. The Salford-based brewer produces quality ales and they have the wow factor, in my opinion. They are wonderfully hoppy beers and they certainly get the full flavour and aromas out of their hops. FCB was our selection. A refreshing, light and well hopped beer at 3.6 per cent and in exceptional nick. Bob and Arthur were most impressed.

Alex behind the bar was doing a fine job multi-tasking. He has worked on and off at the bar for five years — almost as long as it had been open — which is six years. He’s a friendly, helpful young man, who obviously took great pride in his duties.

I asked Alex what was the best-selling beer.

He said : “There’s not really one that sells better than the others. They are all very popular. We get lots of nice comments and good reviews from our customers.” Good answer.

First Chop also has lots of regular entertainment during the week. On Thursday there’s a live band down in the cellar bar. On Friday and Saturday the music continues down below, with DJs entertaining the customers from 9.30pm till 12.30am. Sunday is a jamming night downstairs, where local musicians and bands play. Customers are also invited to bring along their guitars and join in and enjoy this musical evening.

For those of you who like a bite to eat, with the fine range of beverages, the First Chop has a very interesting menu. It includes a tapas selection (it’s good to share), an amazing burger and a varied selection of sandwiches and pies.

The First Chop is a unique, cool and quirky bar. It offers relaxation during the day and a more up-beat environment at night. A well-run enterprise, to suit all ages, it offers customers quality and choice, whether it be alcoholic beverages, food or entertainment. A most impressive establishment.