WITH 18 pubs a week currently closing nationally, it’s heartening to witness an East Lancashire town that certainly appears to be bucking that worrying statistic. Darwen is the town in the spotlight, where yet another micropub has opened - the fourth in the town centre in the last couple of years.

Caskbar, on Duckworth Street, is the latest addition to the vibrant bar scene. It was opened in November 2018 by Anthony and Rachel Rothwell, the couple having previously had a pop-up bar in Darwen Market.

The new permanent establishment is a small, cosy one room bar. It boasts soft upholstered seating, wooden flooring and walls fitted out with reclaimed timber. The L-shaped bar was also constructed in the same wooden material giving the bar an unconventional and attractive image.

On my visit I was met by staff member, Janet, who offered a choice of four cask beers. Janet had worked at the previous bar in the market hall. She said: “There are always a couple of light beers, plus a bitter and a dark style ale. We also have two craft keg lagers, that are popular with our younger customers. Beer Brothers (Preston) PR1 and Black Edge (Horwich), Helles Lager are currently on offer. A real cider and a selection of gin, rum and whisky are available too.”

So, to my first cask ale sampl: an English style IPA, Malty Python (4,8%) from Sheffield brewer, Little Critters. It’s a refreshing and robust beverage with caramel malt sweetness and tangy fruit flavours blended well and was in exceptional condition. Excellent value too. Crikey, only £2 a pint all day Tuesday! It’s £2.60 at all other times.

Another beer from Little Critters was also on offer. A hazelnut milk stout at a boozy 6%. Err...only a half mind. Expresso coffee, dark chocolate and nutty flavours were prominent. They were a perfect marriage. Again in first-class condition.

The bar is supportive of local microbreweries. This was in evidence by glancing at the pump clips adorning the wall featuring beers from Brewsmith, Black Edge, Northern Whisper and Rammy Craft were well represented. Obviously proving popular with the customers.

Janet said: “We still have all our loyal customers from the previous bar who enjoy the beers we have on offer. They are a varying age range. Most of the younger ones are witnessed at the weekends. They are all friendly and enjoy the relaxed environment.”

It certainly was a relaxing and friendly atmosphere at Caskbar. It possessed all the hallmarks of the microbar ethos. A pint-sized pub where social interaction and a rotating selection of fine, cask conditioned ales is paramount.

Yes, the march of the micros appears to be continuing at a pace. Darwen being a prime example of this alternative social and drinking experience. Good news indeed for the pub industry. And in stark contrast to all the negative news we hear, in relation to pub closures.

Long live the small, freehouse establishment.