Published on March 6, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour


Bob and Curly get the Killswitch treatment

When someone says it’s not just a pub he’s running, it’s a community, it makes you stop and think. Quite clearly, Ian Clough is owning, manning and sweating Orb Micropub & Whisky Lounge in Darlington, but by creating something out of nothing, he has appealed to a whole swathe of society.

Orb Micropub Ale & Whisky House was previously a hairdresser’s shop with a front styling area, steps up to a back room and an upstairs which is earmarked for eventual events use. Large mirrors left behind by the previous owners make the place look bigger although the reflections these days are a far cry from the curly lob and straight bob with bangs than they had long been used to.

“My plan was to do something like this before I hit 60,” says Ian, who previously worked in the NHS. “I love the micropub concept of no television and no loud music and eventually decided to bring my ideas forward – with the full support of my wife. I had never worked behind a bar before.

“Most of the beers we stock suit my palate but there are a few exceptions – from customer recommendations and suggestions. I aim to have six handpulls, the majority from North East breweries with the odd exception, providing a good range of styles and changing regularly.”

At the moment these include Mithril Ales Flower Power (3.9% abv), Mordue Killswitch 51 (5.1% abv) and Workie Ticket (4.5% abv), Durham Magus (3.8% abv), Great North Eastern Brew Co Swinging Gibbet (4.1% abv) and Hadrian Border Ouseburn Porter (5.2% abv), while the keg offer includes the mighty Wylam Jakehead IPA (6.3% abv) and a couple of top-notch ciders.

The finishes in the pub, particularly the counter, and the attention to detail are exceptional, displaying the mark of a man who will not cut corners in any respect.

He also intends to build up the whisky offer, being a Scotch lover himself, so the plan was always to create a dedicated Whisky Corner tucked away at the rear (but within mirror view).

Chalk boards list beers coming soon with suggestions from regulars, along with recommendations to visit other similar pubs in the region – from Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton and Newcastle. But isn’t that inviting people to go elsewhere? Apparently not. “These pubs are also doing the same for us,” he says.

Future events –a “tick for like” request for regulars to gauge their viability – include Belgian beer specials and whisky tastings. One with Glenfarclas is already in the diary.

“This is a place to relax, talk and meet new friends with a glass of exceptional quality ale, beer, cider, or whisky,” says Ian. He’s now stopped asking himself what the hell has he done.

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Alastair Gilmour

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