Mike Field, who led the resurgence of real ale in Dewsbury, dies aged 70

Tributes have been paid to a man who led the resurgence of real ale and turned the old refreshment rooms at Dewsbury Railway Station into a thriving bar and live music venue.

Monday, 2nd August 2021, 3:30 pm
Mike Field with his stepdaughter Sarah Barnes

Dewsbury-born Mike Field, founder of the Heavy Woollen branch of the Campaign for Real Ale and the inspiration behind the West Riding Licensed Refreshment Rooms, has died at the age of 70.

Mike had a passion for real ale and went on to set up his own brewery and turned a single pub into a chain of six.

He was described by Heavy Woollen CAMRA branch chairman Andy Kassube as “a man who followed his dream and made it come true”.

Mike was born at Moorlands Hall Maternity Home in Dewsbury and attended St John’s School and Wheelwright Grammar before studying politics and modern history at Manchester University where he developed a taste for real ale. He later became involved with CAMRA, a group still in its infancy.

Mike became a member of the Kirklees branch and was a regular at the Stalybridge Buffet Bar at Stalybridge Railway Station. This inspired Mike to take on the shut down refreshment rooms at Dewsbury Station.

Mike, an accountant, saw the opportunity to create the West Riding. He estimated it would cost £75,000 – one third his own money, one third a bank loan and the other third a brewery investment.

The brewery investment proved to be a battle but eventually brewing icon George Bateman saw the potential and agreed a loan.

The West Riding opened in January 1994 and won numerous CAMRA awards. Because the pub was also a live music venue it attracted younger drinkers who were introduced to real ale, often for the first time.

Since opening the West Riding, Mike’s Beerhouses company has grown to include The Old Turk in Dewsbury, The Sportsman in Huddersfield, Idle Beerhouse, the Cricketers in Horbury and Stalybridge Buffet Bar – the place that first inspired him.

Mike teamed up with Paul and Cressida Klos, from Holland, and set up the Anglo-Dutch Brewery in Savile Town.

To celebrate CAMRA’s 50th anniversary this year the group asked for nominations for their "Golden Awards". Mike was chosen to receive one and, as he was ill, the presentation of the award was brought forward.

A spokesman for Beerhouses said: “Mike was responsible for creating a passion for real ale in his hometown and beyond which would in turn put Dewsbury on the real ale map.”

Paul Ellis, a former councillor who worked with the late Denis Ripley on the West Riding project, said Mike was “fearless in his venture”.

He added: “Mike was a gentleman, the West Riding is a testament to him and Dewsbury is a poorer place without him.”

Mike leaves a wife Mary and stepdaughter Sarah Barnes, who now runs Beerhouses.