Published on March 10, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Bear comes out of hibernation
A historically significant Berwick pub has been transformed by a group of local businessmen. Like so many pubs in recent years The Brown Bear suffered a lack of investment and closed last year, more than likely forever, before its owner, Enterprise Inns, sold it at auction.
Combining huge swathes of vision, courage, concern, local pride and not a little money, the Bring Back The Berwick Bear group headed by local businessman Frank Flannigan bought the Hide Hill property and set about restoring it into something the town would be proud of.
The business has been set up as a social enterprise where all the profits are invested back into the pub and staff which, as it develops, will be felt throughout Berwick via regional suppliers, local musicians, craftspeople and food producers.
The Brown Bear straddles tradition and modernity – and straddles them well. It’s full of character, not too overwhelmed by barroom paraphernalia. The front bar’s large windows ensure the room is light and airy and dappled with stained glass with its contemporary touches softened by red velvet curtains straight out of a Vettriano painting. At the rear is a large, thoughfully laid-out seating and dining area.
Six craft keg beers, four cask ales from Hadrian Border and Cross Border breweries plus a hand-pulled cider are an obvious attraction, and while Berwick is blessed with bakers and butchers who know how to make a good pie, The Brown Bear is no exception with its menu pie-high with various styles. How does wild British venison, bacon, red wine and green lentil sound? Or beef steak and Long Clawson stilton? Then fresh croissants, Tunnocks tea cakes and savoury snacks take it in another direction.
Among the investment group is Mark Dodds, a long-standing licensee and pubs campaigner, who kick-started plans to save the Black Bull in neighbouring Lowick last year.
He says: “It’s going to be a brilliant pub again. The Brown Bear is an elegant building in the centre of a beautiful, completely under-recognised town, steeped in the most fascinating and turbulent history.”
Future plans for the pub include a farmers’ market earmarked for the space beside and behind the pub while ideas are on the to-do list for a microbrewery, distillery and mixed-use arts venue.
Berwick’s town crest features a bear and one appears on the local council’s stationery, so they’re symbolically important. The Brown Bear’s grizzly days are well behind it.