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The Billi Tap in Billingshurst

Brook and Martin at The Billi Tap (©AAH/Alan Wright)

Published on 1st December 2021

Who’s this then? Martin Nicel and Brook Saunders, who recently opened The Billi Tap on Billingshurst High Street. 

A pub? It’s a micropub offering a different kind of experience, serving craft beers by two local breweries.

Which ones? The first is Little Monster, a Chichester-based brewery founded by Brenden Quinn. Brenden specialises in gypsy or cuckoo brewing, where brewers rent equipment but use their own malts and hops. The second is Brolly Brewing, run by Brook and Holly Saunders – their names amalgamating for the business name.

Where’s Brolly based? Wisborough Green. Brook started a homebrew club in Horsham with the help of Dark Star, before setting up a brewery in 2017. Brolly released its first beer in August that year and grew steadily for the two and a half years. 

Until lockdown…Actually, like many micro-breweries, Brolly didn’t fare too badly during COVID. While furloughed from his regular job, Brook was able to devote more time to brewing. “I bought a load of growlers and delivered beer around Billingshurst,” he says. “We received business grants too and that meant Holly could join me at the brewery. This success gave us the confidence to launch The Billi Tap.”

Growlers? It’s a traditional glass or drinking vessel for craft beer.

Google? Yes…

So why did they need a pub? Brenden and Brook both wanted somewhere where they can control beer production from brewing to the customer. Brook says, “We take pride in what we do and both work hard to make good beer. We want people to enjoy it in perfect condition and the best way to do that is through a tap room. So we discussed the idea of a micro-pub.”

How’s that different to a normal pub? Brook wanted a place that looks and feels more like a traditional tavern than a modern pub. “Some pubs are not like they used to be,” he says. “They may serve poor quality beer or focus on food or sport, with TV screens everywhere. The pubs I loved were places where you could chat over a good pint, chewing the fat with whoever happened to be there. That's what I like about micro-pubs. They attract a certain person and promote an atmosphere that encourages conversation.”

Why Billingshurst? The first site they looked at was in Horsham, but nothing came of it. Then in October 2019, a building formerly occupied by an estate agents became available in the village. They nearly signed the lease just before the pandemic, but luckily decided to wait. The Billi Tap finally opened on 23 July this year. Brenden and wife Jane spent several months getting it ready, with Martin joining the team from Arundel Brewery. Brook says, “It was initially difficult to visualise what it could be, as it had blue carpet and sofas. But it’s a gorgeous Victorian building and we’ve uncovered hidden features to utilise its character.” 

What beers do they have? The Billi Tap has ten taps, with four beers each from Brolly and Little Monster. They also have one cider, with the final tap devoted to a guest beer from a Sussex brewery. Martin says, “Brolly has an amazing range of cask beers including Chub I.P.A, Burble (made with Goldings hops), Madre and Brolly Old, a green hop dark ale. Brook also makes a lovely milk stout called Little Pearl.” 

What about Little Monster? Its beers include gluten-free lager Feel Good, New England IPA Between the Pages, the German style Let’s Dance and flagship pale ale, Yul. Little Monster’s distinctive labels make for appealing canned beers too, also sold here. Martin says, “ When you go into most pubs – even free houses – you often see a selection of yellow beers like IPAs and pale ales, but not usually brown beers, such as porters and stouts. With the combination of two breweries, we complement each other in terms of styles and there's always a wide range of cask and keg beer.”

Sounds great for experienced casketeers! What about the uninitiated? “It’s fine if you don’t know different styles of beer!” says Martin. “We love talking to customers about what beers they like and suggesting one they might enjoy. Already, we’re seeing people who didn’t know much about craft beer when we first opened coming back and asking what’s new. It’s good to take people on a journey!”

What does the future hold? As well as changing the beers regularly, The Billi Tap hosts quiz nights and is introducing local produce too, including cheese boards. It hopes to invite food trucks soon, coupling beers with the cuisine, be it burritos, pancakes or hot dogs. As Billingshurst grows with new housing, further opportunities may arise, especially if the long-debated pedestrianisation of the high street ever comes to fruition.

No plans for global domination? Not yet, although the idea of one or two more tap rooms is possible. Brook says, “We don’t want to be dominant breweries; we want to be part of the local community. Most people don’t realise that it’s extremely difficult for micro-breweries to get their beer into pubs, as they’re all tied to big breweries for the long-term. There are free houses in Wisborough Green half a mile from my brewery that can’t stock my beer, which is heart-breaking, as I want people in my village to drink my beer. The Billi Tap enables us to do that and I hope people embrace the concept.”


Further information: Visit The Billi Tap at 44 High St, Billingshurst, RH14 9NY. For more on the two breweries involved visit www.brollybrewing.co.uk or www.littlemonsterbrew.com