I’m inclined to fall into the camp which believes that the New Wave of British Brewing (Craft Beer, if you prefer), is a tidal thing. I’m all for the notion that a second wave has brought a new batch of innovative artisanal brewers to the shores of this beer scene, afterall the popularity of the initial wave grew to become a force that pushed into the mainstream. As such there is also another new wave of beer drinker out there that have gone from casual to keen as the likes of Punk, Hells and Jaipur have become established in the everyday way of things. I’m also inclined to believe that 2016 will see the popularity of this artisan beer continue to push further into the mainstream, yet with this come thoughts such as ‘Are there enough taps for the new breweries that are emerging’? Things are crowded, sure, but surely there’s also a bigger demand for these beers now with more people being turned onto new brewing. Bottle shares are becoming increasingly popular among drinkers but I think this year will also bring plenty of new venue openings, especially to towns outside of the beer bubbles that surround big cities.
The Anchor Tap in Horsham is one such venue. Renovated and operated by Dark Star the former tap for the Anchor Hotel in Market Square has been stripped back, refurbished, transformed and given life as a pub once more. The announcement from Dark Star last year that a site had been found caused a rumble of excitement among the community, the anticipation for the new pub opening only growing to the point where customers were queueing to get in on the first official day of trading. When Dark Star is the name behind the project though, you know it’s going to be good and the team have done a phenomenal job in bringing the old building back to life.
When you get to the building be sure to look up, the architecture is worthy of appreciation, the date of the building’s completion and an anchor standing out in black on white brick. The team have gone with a traditional feel to the pub façade, bringing with it a sophistication in shades of back and gold. A flick of the catch on the door and you’ll be drawn into a mix of modern and classical stylings.
The bar is a striking feature, as it should be, with six cask ales immediately greeting you and ten keg taps waiting on the wall beyond, all numbered and listed on the equally striking beer menu- board to the right, filling the space with confidence and pride. I don’t believe that this variety of keg options has been seen in Horsham for quite some time, if ever, and it tempts with an assured motive; this is the best and largest selection of draught artisan beers in town.
Elsewhere the décor continues that trad vibe with enough quirk to add personality, make the space feel unique and stand-out among the crowd, whilst simultaneously feeling as though it fits the town. The walls, part lined in wood panelling reminiscent of boats and docks, are painted shades of slate blue-grey, a colour set that’s straight out of the heritage line yet is very on-trend right now, harnessing that modern-yet classic vibe, especially when paired with the mid-century furniture.
During the day the large windows flood the space with light, bouncing from the bespoke mirrors that adorn the walls and highlighting the newly tiled floor; yet more craftsmanship on show besides the beers. As night falls, the space takes on a less airy feel with low lighting taking over from the natural light, yet it never seems dingy in this sociable yet relatively small space.
There’s more to the pub than great beers, with an extensive wine menu and a decent range of single malts and gins. The food menu is mostly light bites with a distinctly fishy vibe; a wise choice that fits in with the anchor stylings whilst tapping into a gap in the local market; The Anchor Tap is surrounded by restaurants and eateries, yet there’s very little on offer from these for the seafood lover. If you’re not a fish fan then the antipasti or cheese board option may be for you.
Beer drinkers will certainly treat this place as a retreat, a hub for great selection (the fridge alone stocks just about every kind of beer you’d want, with takeouts available), with others treating it as a stop-gap. The location on East Street (a.k.a Eat Street / Feast Street) will prove to be advantageous, surrounded by restaurants, this is a perfect venue for pre/post meal drinks whilst also acting as a bridge linking the top of that end of town to the other pubs that are scattered toward West Street and beyond.
I hope that, as the popularity of the market town itself and the trend for good beers rise, the newest addition to Horsham’s food and drink scene doesn’t prove to be too small, especially so as there’s only space for one toilet. Nevertheless, Horsham has needed a pub with this range and quality for a long time now, and despite the previous incarnations of this 1898 building floundering, I know that with the quality and reputation of Dark Star at the helm, The Anchor Tap will hold fast for many years to come.
The Anchor Tap can be found at:
~16 East Street, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 1HL~
Disclosure: I was invited to the press preview event in which I didn’t pay for any of the beer. However, I don’t believe that this has had a bearing on my opinions. Many thanks to The Anchor Tap’s Adam Manning and Dark Star’s Steph Chitty for the invite and to the team for the hospitality on that evening.