Northern Whisper Brewery Tap
Visited on: Saturday 25th January 2020
Northern Whisper is a brewery that has come a long way in a very short time. The initial story begins in 2012 when Carmelo Pillitteri installed a small brewery at the back of his family’s restaurant, Nino’s at Cliviger, just south of Burnley. It was called the Fighting Cocks Brewery and was well regarded.
The history of Northern Whisper started in a strange way during October 2016 when brothers Josh and Barny Vines asked him if they could use the spent grain to feed their rare breed pigs on their farm in Helmshore.
Not long after, whilst arranging a collection from the brewery they received a text asking them if they were interested in starting up a brewery with him.
From their regular visits Carmelo knew they had an interest in beer as they had ran festivals on their family’s farm. Things began to speed up considerably after that.
A premises was found in Cloughfold, in the Rossendale Valley that was formerly the home of slipper maker Response Footware.
Their brewery is ten barrels (bbls) capacity and started brewing in July 2017. Things really picked up speed after that. The Rawtenstall Tap Room, the subject of my visit today, opened in October 2017 in the former home of AB’s Furniture Store, alongside Rawtenstall’s open and indoor markets. Next up was the bar and bottle shop at the brewery in Cloughfold.
Ingeniously, the Chatterbox Bar at the brewery really is in a box, literally. A “box” is the name given to shipping containers in the logistics and distribution world. So this recycled “box” has become a chatterbox when drinkers gather within it.
There is a small bar at one end and it seats thirty customers comfortably. There are varnished wood tables and cushioned benches and seats. Very large windows let in a lot of light.
On 31st July 2019 the next Tap Room opened in Colne. It’s located in a former NatWest Bank and has all the features of the Rawtenstall operation plus one more, as it serves food. Hot Dogs and Hamburgers are offered using meat from the Vines family farm.
Other Taps are promised in towns around the area. Who’s not betting against the news that they are going to extend their brewing capacity, they’ll have to soon!
Entering the Rawtenstall Tap I found it hard to believe that it had a previous use, it looked as if it had been custom-built. The building is set back from the road and the area up to the front door is used for al fresco drinking. There are four upright wooden barrels on the left and three circular wooden circular tables with fitted benches of the type often found in beer gardens.
Inside I could see that there were four booths on the left side with a shelf with tall stools on the right. After that the room opens out. On the right is a large low table surrounded by fitted seating of upholstered blue leatherette.
Large windows on the left bring a lot of light into the pub. In front of these is a shelf with a lot of low stools. In the middle of the room are two low wooden tables with small benches
The long bar counter is on the right. Interestingly there are no bar stools along and to reinforce the message that for serving drinks only are the double yellow lines painted on the floor. A good idea; many a time I have been frustrated by bar-hugging drinkers blocking the view of the pump clips.
Not that I’d be doing that here as there is a very large sign above the bar listing all the beers and ciders. The walls display bare brick and the bar is made of the same.
There were four regular Northern Whisper beers plus two seasonal / specials. One of these was Fine Fettle (4.6%), a strong mild ale.
The other was a special made in conjunction with the Wily Fox brewery of Wigan in Greater Manchester. This was Corker (4.8%) made with Champagne and French Saison yeast. The hops were Ekuanot and Cascade on a base of golden malt. It is described as a Hazy Champagne Saison.
The beers from the core range were Beltie (4.8%), a stout; Blighty (3.8%), an English bitter; Oppenchops (4.0%), a golden ale and Yammerhouse (4.5%) an American Pale Ale.
There were also three ciders from Talking Horse Cider of Herefordshire: Talking Horse (5.0%), a traditional cider; Raspberry Kick (4.0%) a fruit flavoured cider and Forest Fruits (4.0%), also a fruit flavoured offering. Additionally there were a large number of keg beers.
This was a very rewarding visit and I can’t wait to go to the other two outlets.
Northern Whisper Tap Room, 18 Newchurch Road, Rawtenstall BB4 7QX.
Hours: Monday-Tuesday: Closed; Wednesday-Thursday: 12.00-23.00;
Friday-Saturday: 12.00-24.00; Sunday: 12.00-22.00.
The pub looks out over the market so this is where you should be heading for.
The town has a railway station on the East Lancashire Railway and this is a good way to arrive.
However, it doesn’t run every day. From the railway station entrance walk up Bury Road.
This changes into the dual carriageway St Mary’s Way walk along then turn right into Bank Street.
This is the main street of Rawtenstall. Walk to the end. The market is opposite, the pub is to the right of it.
Probably the best way to get here, at least from Manchester is the X43 Witchway express bus.
It runs every 15 minutes Monday to Friday, half hourly in the evening.
On Saturdays it is every 15 minutes till 16.00, half hourly thereafter.
Sundays is half hourly, finishing at 21:00.
From the Bus Station, walk out the back into North Street, turn left into Kay Street.
At the end turn right into Bank Street and follow the directions given above.