The Clitheroe couple have turned their passion for craft beer and natural wine into a business – amid a pandemic


Married couple Tom and Katie Mather have been together for 10 years.

For virtually their entire relationship they had discussed and dreamed of starting a business together in Clitheroe, with a strong desire to include their love of craft beer, pub culture and natural wines and ciders at the heart of their plan.

Tom quit his job in aerospace engineering for Rolls Royce and after spending five years developing a business plan the duo were ready to launch craft beer, wine and cider bar Corto, but there was one major hurdle to clear: coronavirus lockdowns.

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“We just had to keep going and walk on water like everyone else,” Tom told LancsLive, with the pair taking inspiration from how other more established businesses, similar to theirs, have adapted to the continued lockdowns. .

They improvised and survived by opening a pop-up shop and when strict government guidelines prevented it, they switched to contactless delivery services and although they adapted as best they could, it was a start difficult and debilitating as new business owners.

Inside Corto on King Street in Clitheroe, Lancashire.

Katie, who is also a beer writer and blogger, added: “I would go to Instagram and Twitter to see what my friends who run pubs or places I admire were doing to get out of this hole.

“It wasn’t the business we wanted, we wanted to open a bar and have people come and chat to them, serve them and have it be a lively and happy place, but instead we were updating a website and provide contacts – free, meaning there was no personal connection.

“It took away the one thing I really liked and it was so scratching, but what helped was people’s comments on our social media and blogs.”

Seizing all the positives they could, Tom and Katie began to embrace the excitement and anticipation that naturally built up for people desperate to visit by the time they finally opened for business in June 2021.

Even when the bar was still a construction site and people only had their imaginations, they started imagining where they were going to sit in the bar and inventing what the music playlist might be.

Corto is a perfect fit for Clitheroe, which has quickly grown from a quaint and relatively sleepy rural town in the Ribble Valley into a bona fide dining and leisure destination, with Corto joining a long list of award-winning gastropubs, independent delis, cafes popular and well-known cocktail bars.

The ever-changing beer menu in Corto
The ever-changing beer menu in Corto

And despite fearing that other bars and pubs in town will see them as “rivals”, Tom and Katie have been heartened by the town’s welcome, with the couple offering something slightly different to the rest, while riding the wave of the craft beer trend.

“We love pubs and we wanted from the start to spruce them up and complement them, but offer something different so people still wanted to go to both,” Tom explained.

“We knew what we wanted to sell and everything else hinged around it.”

On their determination to sell craft beers and more specialized and lesser-known natural wines and ciders, Katie added: “We always want to sell drinks that taste great and we are passionate about natural wines and ciders.

“People ask us what they are and it’s all about how they’re made with more eco-friendly and organic methods with less pesticides compared to commercial – it gives your Sauvignon Blancs different funky flavors, aromas and textures. “

Create a space for people to meet and discuss their shared passion for beer, to try new and unusual wines, where families would always be welcome, and to ensure Corto is an inclusive place for community members LBGTQ, are particular priorities for the couple.

Tom and Katie Mather have set up a gallery space inside their Corto bar
Tom and Katie Mather have set up a gallery space inside their Corto bar

Katie and Tom have also incorporated a space where local artists can display their work, hosted regular beer and wine tasting nights, introduced snacks to complement drinks, pop-up dining events and live music nights, all while launching their own merchandise, which includes designer eyewear and tote bags.

And as a result, their clientele is eclectic and diverse, from youth groups to beer lovers and local regulars, which has helped Corto become the social hub the duo have always wanted it to be.

It’s been a long and rocky road, but Tom is starting to see his huge risk in leaving behind a well-paying career to follow his “do what you love” mantra and try something new pays off.

Katie added: “It makes me so proud, so thrilled because it’s really nice to see beautiful Clitheroe thriving.”

“A pub is at the heart of a community and sadly we lose them all the time.

“But here in Clitheroe you get smaller bars, but the community center is still there.

“We were surprised how supportive everyone in the city has been, we’re on the Pub Watch program.

“They are happy for the new businesses and want to see us well because it brings more people to the town. We are so happy to see people wanting to come to Clitheroe and be a part of it.”

Corto on King Street, Clitheroe is open Thursday 3pm-10.30pm and Friday-Sunday 12pm-10.30pm

Corto, a small beer and <a class=wine bar tucked away in the thriving but quaint town of Clitheroe in the Ribble Valley” content=””/>
Corto, a small beer and wine bar tucked away in the thriving but quaint town of Clitheroe in the Ribble Valley

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