The launch of a new seasonal beer from Revolutions Brewery at a newly re-opened freehouse – the Robin Hood at Altofts, not far from Normanton, had previously attracted me to the pub. Having enjoyed a great evening, a return visit was made to find out who, what, when, where and why this great pub had surfaced on to the real ale scene.
There are two parts to the business, the Robin Hood pub itself and the Tarn 51 brewery which is taking shape at the rear of the pub. The pub is owned by former WF6 brewer Rob Turton and Chris Cable and run by Andy Page. The brewery is under the auspices of Rob and Hayley Lumb. However at these early stages they are all involved in all aspects of both.
Hayley’s dad, Bernard and Rob were literally neighbours in Altofts and used to drink together and also with Chris locally for many years. They had become disillusioned with the range and quality of beer available in the village. With real ale on the up elsewhere they took to travelling further afield to satisfy their drinking desires. This was fine but not ideal. They wanted great real ale in a local pub.
The light bulb moments came in late 2013. Hayley and Rob had the idea for the brewery and Chris and Rob, the pub. They approached Admiral Taverns pub group to purchase the Horse and Jockey just down the road but were unsuccessful. However, they had identified the potential of the Robin Hood which at that point was a run down non-real ale pub. Despite it not being on the market, they made a successful offer to Admiral Taverns and it was “all systems go”. Rob approached old school friend, drinking partner and business colleague Andy to manage the pub. Andy’s background of growing up and working in pubs together with his retail and management experience meant that he could immediately slot into the team – right at the deep end!
After nine months of sorting out business red tape everything finally fell into place and a whirlwind operation took place. Vacant possession was obtained on Saturday 17th January 2015 and the keys were obtained two days later at 1pm on Monday 19th. In just three and a half days all the lines had been ripped out and re-laid and four beers were made ready - namely Acorn Barnsley Bitter, Revolutions Clash London Porter, Roosters Yankee and Great Heck Simcoe.
The pub reopened on Friday 23rd at 4pm to the delight of the queue of thirsty drinkers who, thanks to the local jungle drums, had gathered outside to slake their real ale thirsts.
Andy and his team listen to the locals. Many come in for a session so the usual policy is to have beer at under 5% ABV of which one is always used for a dark beer. On a busy Saturday when the pub is full, the car park is empty – a true sign of a local. After just three months over 10,000 pints were served. With Acorn Barnsley Bitter as the regular beer, over seventy different beers from more than twenty Yorkshire breweries have been dispensed from the three guest lines. Wowee - some going indeed!
With the pub being a roaring success work continues on the Tarn 51 Brewery to the rear of the pub. “Why that name?” you may ask. Tarn is the West Yorkshire term for “village by the water” and 1851 is the year that the pub was built. The new bespoke brewing kit has been manufactured by local Featherstone firm CNG Engineering Ltd, who have previously made the kit for the highly successful new Atom brewery in Hull.
With getting everything just right, it is expected that the brewery will be up and running later this year. This use of local firms, businesses and craftsmen has been a feature of the development of both the pub and brewery. By employing local tradesmen the owners are giving back to the local community and aiding the local economy. Well done guys.
Work has still to be done to the pub too and now that Hayley has completed her University studies at Durham she is intending to further research the history of the pub. It’s all go.
The key to the success of the pub is that all of the partners are friends from different backgrounds, each contributing with their own skill sets.