“It’s not just brown beer”: the story of Boyce’s Barrel

7 July 2023

New Market Street in Colne has turned itself into “the world’s smallest bar crawl”, with three micro pubs all nestled next to one another at the top of the hill.

According to Nina, who owns Boyce’s Barrel along with business partners Carl and Andrew, the real ale scene has come a long way over the years.

“I used to own a real ale wholesaling business in Colne, which sadly had to close during Covid, but I took that experience, passion, and knowledge, together with Andrew’s hospitality experience and Carl’s experience of running Boyce’s of Nelson and opened Boyce’s Barrel in 2014. 

“We rode that first wave of popularity of micro pubs. I used to have a depot in Kent and the first micro pub concept was nearby – The Butcher’s Arms, which only holds around a dozen people! When Carl saw it, he loved the concept and suggested we try something similar. The rest is history,” Nina explains.

There was no doubt in Nina’s mind that Colne was the perfect place for a real ale micro pub.

The legacy of the blues

“Colne has a bohemian feel and is of course home to the incredibly popular Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival. It’s a vibrant and friendly town, it’s my hometown and I believe there’s no place like Colne!” Nina states.

Such is her passion for the town, that when the Blues Festival was at risk of ending, Nina got together with other business professionals and friends in the creative arts to ensure its survival. Colne Blues Society was born, and the team are currently deep in the throes of lining up the acts for this year’s festival.

Over the thirty years Nina has worked in the real ale sector, she’s witnessed many changes.

“It’s not just brown beer. If you don’t like beer, you haven’t found the right one for you yet. I’m really proud of the fact that we get groups of young women in here, wanting to try different ales, alongside our other drinks such as gin. But unlike other micro pubs, we also have open mic nights every Thursday and live music twice a month at our Colne premises too. We find in Colne, people like to get comfortable in one place and if it’s a good atmosphere, stay there,” Nina says.

It’s in contrast to Boyce’s Barrel in Padiham, which opened in 2018 and has live music once a month. 

Nina has found that locals there like to move around in a circuit. The most popular beverages at the Padiham bar are traditional, malty ales, whereas the clientele at Colne prefer pale, hoppy beers, with Salopian Lemon Dream being one of the most popular.

One thing is for sure – whether in Colne or Padiham, people want a head on their beer!

“When we did our research in the south, the micro pubs serve from barrels using gravity as the customers there want a flat pint. Of course, we can’t do that in the north as people want a head, so we use hand-pulls instead,” Nina explains.

A buzz about the place

Nina talks positively about all the regeneration that has taken place in Padiham recently and how the town has a fantastic independent high street. Like Colne, Padiham picturesquely meanders up a steep hill and Nina says it’s heart-warming when people who have lived on the same street for years but never spoken, come together in her pubs, and become friends.

“It’s important to support your local high street, it doesn’t matter what the nearby businesses do, you all thrive off one another. Take a look at Colne recently – so many new businesses are springing up, such as Pet Angel’s and Dowdies. There’s an optimism and a buzz about it and it’s great to see.”

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