Saturday 21st January 2012
This was more of a pub visit than a brewery visit, yet I nevertheless was able to take a quick look around the production area. I wasn't expecting this, but this particular Saturday was a brewing day. The brewery is very limited in space and its six barrel plant is on the lower level of the stone-built former Irwell Steam Tin, Copper and Iron Works factory and it began produced its first beer in November 2010. The building itself was erected in 1888 for Richard Mason who owned the Copper and Iron Works at that time. It is a conservation area and one couldn't think of a better reuse of the building than as a brewery.
The entrance to the pub is at a slightly higher level on the side of the building and there is glass panel where you can look down into the brewing area. This is where the toilets are and there is some railway memorabilia decorating the walls.
Up to the higher level and I found a bar room that was decorated in a traditional manner. This opened its doors in August 2011. As it was mid Saturday afternoon the pub wasn't too busy and I found a corner stool and ordered a beer. When I returned my perching place was occupied by a cat. I didn't have the nerve to evict it so I stood up whilst my new best friend made itself comfortable.
I had a look around the room and thought how welcoming it was. Light flooded in the windows on three sides including behind the bar; most unusual. There were lots of black and white photos on the wall and hop bines were festooned over the bar. I was very impressed with the beer selection, all from the floor below.
The choice was Lightweights and Gentlemen Pale Ale (3.2%), Tin Plate Dark Mild (3.6%), Copper Plate Bitter (3.8%), Richard Mason 1888 Bitter (4.0%), Steam Plate Best Bitter (4.3%) Iron Plate Stout (4.4%) and Mad Dogs and Englishmen (5.5%). I had halves of the three bitters along with the mild and thought they were all really good. One day I'd like to try the others. There are also occasional seasonal ales. If this wasn't enough, there was real cider in the form of Ribble Valley Gold (6.2%) from the Dove Syke Cider Company of West Bradford, Lancashire.
The pub is ideal if you are visiting the East Lancs Railway as Ramsbottom station is just a few minutes away. They don't do meals but there are snacks available to soak up the beer. Live bands are a feature every second Thursday.
The Tap is a very significant addition to the Ramsbottom drinking scene and is well worth the journey to get here; you might even arrive on a steam train!
The Irwell Works Brewery Tap, Irwell Street, Ramsbottom, Bury BL0 9YQ. Tel: 01706 825019
Open: Wednesday to Sunday 12.00-23.00
Closed Monday and Tuesday but available for private booking.
As mentioned it is only a few minutes from the Ramsbottom station on the East Lancs Railway. This runs from Heyward via Bury (Bolton Street) and Ramsbottom to Rawtenstall. The railway runs at weekends for most of the year and during the week in summer months and around public holidays. If you can't arrive by that method there are plenty of buses from Bury, which is at the end of a line on the Manchester Metrolink (Tram) network.