Tucked away under a railway arch just yards from Wigan North Western station is one of Britain’s best real ale and cider bars.
Wigan Central is the town’s only dedicated real ale and cider bar, offering a unique mix of heritage railway décor, a friendly atmosphere and an eclectic range of beverages from across the world. The bar has been impressing visitors since it opened in December 2014 and was recently named one of the top four pubs in the UK by leading consumer organisation CAMRA (the campaign for real ale). It also scooped the Best Independent Craft Beer Bar (City) title from the Society of Independent Brewers in 2018.
Located within a 19th century railway arch decked-out to look like a 1940s railway station and waiting room, Wigan Central is the brain-child of Patsy and John Slevin, who own the multi-award-winning Prospect Brewery. The brewery grew quickly from humble roots, with Patsy originally brewing from her mother-in-law’s garage in Standish before relocating to larger premises and brewing a wider range of ales with the help of a small but dedicated team. It is now one of the North West’s best-known real ale breweries.
When the brewery was forced to move from its original location to make-way for a new residential development, the Prospect team considered moving into a railway arch. Although the space at Queen Street, close to the town’s two major rail stations, was deemed too small to meet their requirements, it captured the team’s imagination and the concept for Wigan Central was born.
It became Prospect’s second bar, bringing life back into a disused railway arch with a fit-out that embraces its history, but adds a modern twist. Bar Manager Jo Ashton explains: “The history of the arch is perfectly suited to our theme, providing a good link to the past whilst offering plenty of other benefits. The location is perfect for attracting commuters, as we’re close to the two main stations, and the fact we could double the size of the space available to us by leasing two arches next to each other was a real bonus.”
Jo joined the Wigan Central team in early 2015 after getting to know Patsy as a volunteer at Wigan beer festival. She said: “I’ve always worked in the pub trade and it’s become my life-blood – I love what I do. I’m passionate about providing a great service and helping our customers to broaden their tastes and discover new beers and ciders from all over the world. We work hard to support local brewers and always have a good regional range, with seven real ales and two craft ciders on our hand-pulls at any one time. We also have a collection of more than 180 bottled beers in our extensive beer library, including selections from the United States, Holland, Estonia and the Ukraine. We have a team of 11 people and each of us has a specialist subject area, such as German beers, which means we can make a great connection with our customers and really engage their passion for their favourite brews.”
As well as its extensive beer and cider range, Wigan Central has become a thriving city venue, hosting regular events and live music throughout the week. The team runs a regular beer club offering tastings of new and unusual brews, they invite home brewers to share their beer with other enthusiasts, and they support the area’s breweries with Meet the Brewer nights. Jo said: “This area has a thriving community of brewers and it’s fantastic to be able to tap into that and support other local businesses, many of whom are also based in railway arches. We’ve worked together with Wander Beyond, Alphabet, ShinDigger, Cloudwater, Pomona Island, and Blackjack, to name just a few.”
As they prepare for their fifth anniversary, the Wigan Central team is focusing on freshening up their offer and making the best use of their arches to offer an enhanced experience to customers. Jo said: “We believe we’ve got a unique identity that really connects with our customers. If you like beer and you like trains, you know what to expect when you visit Wigan Central! The success we’ve enjoyed in our first five years has been incredible, so the next part of the journey for us is about re-investing in the business to build on these strong foundations.”
Find out more about Wigan Central at www.wigancentral.bar or follow Jo and the team @wigancentral.