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Sam Clayton at The Beer Mine, Horsham (©AAH/Alan Wright)

Published on 1st January 2023

Sam Clayton is a familiar face in Horsham, running not one but two pubs in the town centre. He has now opened The Beer Mine, offering beers from some of the best breweries around. Here, Sam talks about the craft beer boom and our changing drinking habits…  

This isn’t your first brush with craft beer then? No. I’ve been landlord at The Malt Shovel in Springfield Road, Horsham, for almost 10 years and in November 2021 also took on The Anchor Tap in East Street. Along with my partner Marie-Clare, we established a business called Ignorant Bliss to run the pubs. The Beer Mine now comes under the same umbrella. 

 Why open a beer shop? I have long felt that Horsham needed a replacement for Beer Essentials on East Street, which was run by the late Gareth Jones. Beer Essentials is partly the inspiration for what we’re doing here, in that Gareth sold craft beer and real ales with a focus on local breweries. But we wanted to adapt the idea for the 21st century.  

In what way? Some elements of the shop are traditional. We sell cask beer in two pint, four pint and five litre containers, much like Beer Essentials used to. We also support local breweries like Hepworth’s, Kissingate and Firebird. However, there’s been a boom in craft beer brewing in the past decade, which has led to new breweries creating exciting beers that are enjoyed by younger people. We champion local brewers from the Horsham District and other parts of Sussex, but also great beers from other parts of the country. Our mantra is, ‘if it's good enough, we’ll stock it’. 

 Are all the beers from the UK? We will soon be introducing a continental range with beers from Germany, Belgium, across Europe and even beyond. We don’t sell wines, as that market is catered for by our friends at The Horsham Cellar, but I have a fondness for tequila and American whiskey and hope to offer a small selection in future. We also sell some interesting prints by a local artist, Viking-style drinking vessels by Skoll Horns, and will soon offer a range of leather tankards by LeatherMark69. 

Was it important to be in the town centre? A lot of micro breweries have tap rooms now and this has created a new kind of drinking experience. They are great places to sample beers by independent brewers and they offer beer at a low price. But not everyone can access them, as brewers are often based in rural locations. I wanted to bring them together, as I’ve formed good relationships with breweries through our pubs. It’s nice to be able to support them, as our pubs can’t sell everything they make, especially if they’re niche or flavoured beers. Hepworth’s ran a successful pop-up shop in East Street not long ago, so we knew there was demand in town. We looked at taking on the same unit, but it was snapped up quickly. Fortunately, this shop in the Carfax became available and we could see its potential. 

Why should people buy cask beer? These are hard times economically, yet the range of beers on the market is better than ever. Buying cask beer from us is cheaper than buying from pubs, as we don’t have the same overheads. It also allows people to enjoy a better quality beer at home than what they can buy at the supermarket. Drinkers have become more discerning too. When even a cheap pint is £5 at most pubs, why not pay an extra 50p and actually enjoy it? Young drinkers are now asking for pale ales and IPAs, so whereas you used to see Fosters and Carlsberg on tap, you’re now more likely to see Beavertown’s Neck Oil or Camden Town’s Pale Ale. 

Will you alter beers in the shop? With the cask beers, as soon as the beer is gone, another comes on and we list those that are coming soon on our chalk board. There are many beer enthusiasts in Horsham and some are members of Untappd, an App that anyone can sign up to and receive updates on what’s on offer at The Beer Mine and Anchor Tap. 

How is The Anchor Tap doing? We’ve been running that for just over a year. It was formerly run by Dark Star and then Pale Moon. It hadn’t re-opened after Covid, so with the Council’s approval, we negotiated a new lease. It was always a good pub, but we wanted to make it warmer and more universally appealing, as it tended to attract men of a certain age. Being amongst Horsham’s restaurant hub, it needed wider appeal, so we created a wine list after consulting Luke at The Horsham Cellar and have introduced spirits too. It’s going well as I have a great team around me, with Glenn ‘Goblin’ Foley managing The Beer Mine and of course, Marie-Clare too!