Changing tastes, various financial crises and - of course - a worldwide pandemic have put serious pressure on The Great British Pub.
The traditional large old inn-style buildings full of people sipping pints and playing darts are becoming increasingly rare, a breed that's slowly been dying out for some decades. The pub industry has responded to its customers' developing and divergent preferences, with gastropubs, cocktail bars and more family-friendly establishments not unlike high street coffee shops replacing many 'proper boozers'.
There is one modern invention which keeps the old traditions alive, however. Increasingly, more and more newer pubs are concentrating what the pub means into its purest form. Smaller, more specialist beer-focused and attracting fiercely loyal locals, the micropub could be the saviour of the pub industry. Or, at the very least, a technically small but sizeable part of it.
According to The Micropub Association, a micropub is defined as 'a small freehouse which listens to its customers, mainly serves cask ales, promotes conversation, shuns all forms of electronic entertainment and dabbles in traditional pub snacks.'
There may or may not be a bar, there may or may not be beer served straight from the cask or through hand pumps. What there definitely will be, however, is a shared philosophy: 'KIS, KIS'... Keep it small. Keep it simple.
There's something of a miniature pub revolution happening in Britain right now. Let's see what the South East is serving up, shall we?
Here are six of the very best micropubs in the area:
The Horse & Groom is a small pub for a small place. Chobham is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it pinprick on the map, five miles outside of the affluent Surrey town of Sunningdale.
This husband and wife-run little place only has four tables and seats a maximum of up to 30 beer enthusiasts. Those lucky enough to fit inside can enjoy a range of ales, lagers and ciders, all from nearby breweries and cideries. There's even a suitably tiny, but utterly charming beer garden out back.
A specialist in independent beers brewed in the local area and beyond, Cobbetts' HQ, in Dorking town centre, isn't just a small pub. It doubles as a beer shop too, meaning last orders needn't be your last drinks of the evening.
There are normally a couple of cask ales available, along with a wide range of bottles and cans. There's even some merchandise to treat yourself to for when you find yourself becoming a fan of what Cobbetts does.
The Hourglass is New Milton's first micropub and is literally beer-spitting distance from the town's equally modestly-sized train station. It's somewhere with a near-constantly-changing beer board and a simple ethos: 'No fruit machines, no music, no mobile phones.' So there's none of those, but there is plenty of beer.
Recipients of more than a couple of industry awards, The Brooksteed is a surprisingly light and airy space for one so diminutive. The focus at this Worthing pub is the unusual; the landlords aim to tempt those that pop in to a choice of ales, craft beers, stouts, ciders and perries that they've never tried - or even heard of - before. All in a tastefully and quirkily-decorated environment.
A natty outside space out front adds to the appeal of the place which is, understandably, as popular with the town's locals as it is with daytrippers.
Standing out in Brighton's crowded and lively pub and bar scene isn't easy. So it's testament to The Watchmakers that they do so while, somewhat ironically, being a bit crowded themselves. So it's 'compact'. It's also bright, clean and has a surprising sense of space.
Brighton types that know and appreciate good beer know and appreciate this place - somewhere that prides itself on being 'Brighton's first micropub'.
Our final pick is another Brighton favourite, the aptly-named Hole in the Wall. Unusually for a little pub, this mini gem has two rooms, albeit both - obviously - quite small. The current landlord may have only been in residence since 2021, but the pub dates all the way back to the 1870's. Come for the beer, stay for the legendary local pub game, 'toad in the hole'.
All small, all perfectly formed. Just because they're modest in size, that doesn't mean that micropubs should be overlooked. Why not drop into one of the micropubs in this list the next time you're passing? Just mind your elbows at the bar.