Saturday 7th May 2011
The majority of micropubs are to be found in East Kent where the genre originated, and yet, some are located in other parts of the country and this is one of them. It opened on 25th November 2009 and is the brainchild of Peter Morgan. He is a CAMRA life member and when he received redundancy from his job as an IT Manager, he used some of it on this venture. He had heard the address by Martyn Hillier at the Eastbourne CAMRA AGM when it was explained how he set up the first micropub in Herne, Kent. He followed suit and his creation is to be found on Hartlepool railway station in what was a newsagent's shop.
This pub is very small indeed, being around 20 feet by 14 feet (approx. 6m by 4.5m). I would suggest that with twenty people in the room it would be a bit crowded! There is no bar and Peter fetches the beer to order from a "cellar", which is in fact another small room where the drinks are stored and chilled. Beer forms the majority of this with four being available at any one time. However, there is always a cider and perry. Wines are also offered and a new development is a small range of Belgian bottled beers.
Beers are resourced from small breweries from around the country. When the pub achieves its third birthday over six hundred different beers will have been sold. To give an example of what constitutes a typical selection please see the offerings when I popped in.
The beers were Dancing Duck 22 Bitter (4.3%) from Derby; Yorkshire Gold (4.0%) from Leeds Brewery in Holbeck, Leeds; Mordue Ginger Ale (5.0%) from North Shields, Tyne & Wear and finally O'Hanlon's Dry Stout (4.2%) from Silverton, Devon. The cider was Parson's Choice Medium (6.5%) of West Lyng, Somerset and the perry was Broadoak Premium (7.5%) from Clutton, Somerset.
The Rat Race was awarded CAMRA North-East Cider pub of the year 2012. In keeping with the micropub ethos the only food offered is crisps, scratchings and peanuts.
There are books, magazines and newspapers to read and, like all micropubs, it is the conversation that that is dominant here. The pub has an entrance from the station concourse (below right) and also from the street outside the station (below left).
The windows have the running rat image on them and the walls are covered with posters and pictures including some from Belgian painter Paul Delvaux from the 1950s and 1960s. It is fitting that his rather odd images are displayed here as they are all railway subjects. His style is slightly naive and he depicts trains of the late 1800s with the locomotives executed in some detail yet the perspective is often not quite right. The pictures contain women in late Victorian clothing who are always facing away from the artist and are looking at the train.
Of course this is entirely appropriate as the pub is definitely quirky, for proof see the opening hours below.
It's a must to visit if you are in the area (or even further away).
The Rat Race Alehouse, Hartlepool Railway Station, Hartlepool TS24 7ED
Open: Monday to Friday 12.02-14.15; 16.02-2015; Saturday 12.02-21.00. Sunday: Closed.
Hartlepool station is served by local trains operated by Northern and there are a few express trains to York and London operated by Grand Central.
The main Bus Interchange is outside the station.