A reflection on the rise of investments into the Craft Beer industry.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018
A reflection on the rise of investments into the Craft Beer industry.
Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Beavertown Neck Oil was a gateway beer for me, just like many other craft ale fans
If you follow any craft beer social media accounts you won’t have avoided the reports circulating around the possible ‘big beer’ acquisition of a minority stake into Beavertown, with The Times writing on 26th May that the London based brewery is in talks with industry giant Heineken . So when I sat drinking a pint of Neck Oil in the Wine Vaults a couple of weeks ago I started considering the vociferous reaction amongst fans of the UK craft beer industry.

Was I as mad as everyone else?

Well no, I wasn’t, but the news did bring some sadness. For me, like many others, two core beers from Beavertown (Gamma Ray and Neck Oil) were amongst my first experience of genuine contemporary craft beer. Then, as I explored the wonders of modern brewing, time and again I came back and was impressed by Beavertown beers such as Humuloid and Spresso. So this is where my hop related heavy heart was coming from; Beavertown for me are one of the originals of British craft brewing, blazing a trail for those that followed.

Spresso is one of my favourite coffee stouts
So if they can find themselves succumbing to the pound power of big beer, what hope is there for the rest?

Well I don’t think we need to worry too much; you only need to see the shelves in most supermarkets or the number of new craft beer bars and shops opening to see that it is a booming industry. With that there will be the obvious growth and there has to be a place in the market for breweries creating good beer on a large scale. You won’t find many British brewers that can fulfil the purchasing requirements of Tesco so it stands to reason that those with an established brand and customer base will be attractive prospects for an investment which then allows a substantial increase in production.

If this investment comes from big beer then it will cause issues for committed fans of craft brewing, not least due to the various horror stories about large beer producers attempting to create hop monopolies (mohopolies?) in certain regions. Paste Magazine's report into AB InBev's hop buying practise in South Africa makes for worrying reading and these bullish tactics effectively squeeze the ability of smaller breweries to secure their much needed supplies. This poses a clear risk to the independents.

Of course not every craft beer that you find in a high street store or supermarket is only there because of external cash injection from a global super producer or investment company; for every Meantime (owned by Asahi Group Holdings, the seventh largest beer producer in the world and readily stocked in UK supermarkets) you can find a Wild Beer or Wiper and True (both independent but now stocked in Waitrose).

But even if a brewery has received a financial investment, if it hasn't come via the deep but morally dubious pockets of a "big beer" is that still a problem? Well I don’t know about you but I really feel for anyone drinking rubbish beer, so if these monetary injections mean that cans of quality craft beer start hitting supermarket shelves I’m actually in support. 

Whereas supermarket buying powers means that certain beers will become more readily available, I don’t see this as being the death knell for independent bottle shops and bars. I predict that where your casual beer drinker may start opting for craft offerings, this will be at the expense of macro beer already on the supermarket shelves. For those us that really appreciate the best of UK craft beer, the specialist retailers (both online and shop based) are sure to remain our preferred outlets. The truly independent breweries that are able to supply the stock levels that larger retailer would need will remain the exception. It is in the discovery and support of the smaller breweries that the craft beer lover really reaps their rewards.


Meantime Brewery were sold to SAB Miller in 2015 and then on to Asahi Group Holdings in 2016
Personally I am unlikely to purchase from a brewery that is financially backed by a large super producer but it does not mean that I recoil in horror simply at the thought of small producers achieving the success that the majority of small business owners would bite your hand off for. More importantly for the companies involved, the onward success will be based upon increased market reach and a subsequent growth of customers far exceeding the numbers that may choose to turn away due to the lack of independence and "craft beer-ness." It's simple economics and demonstrates that when we're talking about the likes of Anheuser-Busch InBev, SABMiller and Heineken International, they can clearly afford to lose your custom when they look at the bigger picture.

Finally you have to consider what you would do in brewer's beer soaked shoes? With the inherent difficulties in starting a business, the long hours, the mortgaging (and re-mortgaging) of homes, the pressures on family, can you really begrudge the small producer who welcomes the financial security of serious cash injection. I’m not saying that this is the case for every acquisition but unless you really know the ins and outs of the balance sheet, maybe this is something that needs to be considered before a hard working brewery is labelled as a sell-out.

Ultimately you the consumer will vote with your wallets and as long as the true craft beer fans continue to support the independent breweries that we all hold dear, the future should remain bright.

Let me know below how you feel about the reported investment into Beavertown? If it goes through will you stop buying their beer?

Do you think Beavertown Beers will still find a place in your fridge?

Surving and thriving at a beer festival (learn from my mistakes!)

Friday, 8 June 2018
Surving and thriving at a beer festival (learn from my mistakes!)
Friday, 8 June 2018



Beer festivals like Warriorfest can be a great opportunity to try some new and exciting craft ales

It seems like Beer Festival season has truly arrived! Just within Portsmouth and Southsea alone we've got Beerex, Portsmouth Beer Festival (at Guild Hall) and the second Warriorfest.. And all of that is before the end of July! 

Now I am almost ashamed to say that in my excitement at Warriorfest last year I may have over indulged slightly, ending the night more than a little wobbly. Now this doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy it and in fact it was the best beer event I've ever been to. But I've learned some important lessons about how to make the most of your trip to a beer festival as well as ensuring that you don't end up waking up on the morning after feeling as bad as I did!
1) Don’t preload - it can't just be me, but when I go out with friends I don't want it to be just for a few hours. But because I'm getting too old for clubs I'd rather start earlier in the day to ensure that I get maximum social (drinking) time. Now if all you are going to do is sit in a pub and slowly imbibe session strength ales there is nothing wrong with this… if you are heading to a beer festival with the intention of sinking beers in the 7-10% ABV range then drinking before may be foolhardy….

There will be plenty of beer at the festival, you don't need to drink before hand!
2) Don't over buy your tokens - for those that aren't aware, often beer festivals are token based. On arrival you buy a strip of tokens and then you exchange those tokens at the different bars for beer. Now on a normal night out I have never got to the end of the evening and thought, wow I've got money left in my wallet, I need to spend it now on beer and drink it. But, exchange that money for beer tokens it's a different story…. "argh, if I don't spend these tokens it's a complete waste!" Before you know it I'm rapidly scouring the bars to make sure I've drunk every available drop. That's a recipe for disaster! If you run out of tokens, you can always go back and buy more.
You can always buy more beer tokens later!
3) Target session beers, especially at the start - when I first became seriously interested in craft beer I discovered the joys of drinks at the upper end of the ABV scale. Where in the past 'super strength' beers had only been the tipple of choice for street drinkers, the modern brewer had begun to work wonders with double and triple IPAs as well as imperial stouts and porters. Wowed by amazing beers from the likes of Cloudwater, Buxton and many more, I became trapped in a mind set where I believed beers had to be 7% ABV or higher to pack any flavour in. This is not a healthy approach to have when looking to try as many beers as possible within a five hour festival. Luckily, mainly thanks to an effort to lose some weight, I have become reacquainted with how good lower strength beers can taste and I've had some great stuff in the 3.5 to 5% ABV range over the last few months. So make sure that when you go to your beer festival keep an open mind and learn to appreciate the 'session strength' offerings. It may be the difference between you still being able to see and walk straight when you leave.
If you are going to try the triple IPA, maybe stick to just one... and make is a small one!
4) Use the beer list - any beer festival worth it's hops will furnish you with a full list of the beers on offer, usually including ABV and often tasting notes as well. Embrace your inner (and possibly outer) beer nerd, get your pen out and identify which beers you really want to try. This is a tactic I've used before and is useful as I didn't just find myself grabbing any old beer and drinking it quickly just to move onto the next.
You may feel like a train spotter but using the beer list can pay dividends
5) If it's an event that covers more that one session, pick one of the first ones - this is particularly important if you're using the beer list as above, because I've been caught out before when going to the last session of a two day beer festival. I'd gone through the list whilst queuing to get in, highlighted some key beers that I really wanted to try, only to then discover that they'd already sold out of it in the earlier sessions. Now this will often come down to how well the breweries and event orgnaisers have planned, at often they will make efforts to keep some stock back for the later sessions but this is not guaranteed. So if you've got the chance, always opt for an earlier session if you don't want to risk missing out.
If you can get to an earlier session you might find a better choice

6) Eat - This is a multi pronged attack! One, you want to eat before "getting on it." This isn't ground breaking advice. But beer festivals, especially craft beer festivals, often take great care when picking their vendors and you'll often get the chance to try some amazing food. I know one friend in particular who still talks very fondly about "the best pie he ever had" at a Southsea Beerex a few years ago. So see who's selling what, maybe experiment with some beer and food pairings that you wouldn't normally try and whilst you're at it, soak up some of that alcohol. Your tomorrow self will thank you for it.
Eat... before, during and after... just eat!
7) Plan your escape route - if you're lucky enough to live local to some great beer festivals you can just don your beer coat and walk home. But if not, you run the risk of being part of that group of several hundred drunk people all looking for a taxi at the same time. Now if you've paced yourself (see point 3) you my be able to ignore the taxi battle royale by heading for the nearest pub and carrying the night on? Or maybe now is the time to get some sustenance on board and head for a late night dinner. I cannot stress enough though, if you think you'll be ready for bed when the festival finishes, pre book your taxi or lift home… it could make a massive difference to what time that spinning head hits the pillow.
Make sure you leave looking as well as when you arrived!
So these are my tips to survive and thrive at a beer festival? Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments below.

Staggeringly Good Reptile Dysfunction Launch at Croxton's

Thursday, 24 May 2018
Staggeringly Good Reptile Dysfunction Launch at Croxton's
Thursday, 24 May 2018

I can't even deny it; when I saw that Staggeringly Good's new release was a Mango, Passion Fruit, Lactose and Habanero IPA I was both excited but a little apprehensive. I love fruity IPAs but I don't have a great appreciation for chilli infused beer.

However I wasn't going to let that stop me wanting to try it as soon as possible so popped along to Croxton's for the launch event on Wednesday 23rd May. If you haven't been to Croxton's yet, it's the latest addition to the Southsea craft beer scene and you'll find it on Palmerston Road in what used to be the old Co-op and Post Office. The refurbishment has been completed to a brilliant standard and its unrecognisable from it's previous form.

This the third time that I'd been to Croxton's and it continues to impress me. With seven keg lines, two cask lines and fridges full of craft and more traditional offerings, I've already enjoyed top beers from Wylam, Cloudwater, Unity and more in my few visits.


I used this launch night as a chance to finally try their food, opting for the burger which comes with fries for £10.95. The two 3 oz patties were grilled beautifully, the emmental cheese was a nice touch and the fries were really good. All in all, a very good feed. I also got the chance to try some of the Buffalo Cauliflower Tacos and after seeing the buzz for these on social media I can confirm that they are easily as good as people have been saying.


So what about this new beer from Staggeringly Good? Well I had no need to worry! I don't know how much mango they used when brewing it but wow it bursts through like a pint glass of breakfast juice. The passion fruit is there as well and the chilli, whilst used very delicately, just helps to balance out the beer and stop it being too sweet. I had two pints from the kegs (which sold out long before the night was over!) and not only did it taste great but it looked stunning. I can't wait to try it from the cans that I had grabbed as takeaways to see if they differ much.

I can't praise this beer enough and it is another stunning example of the consistently high quality brewing that Staggeringly Good have been turning out in recent times.



The Merchant House including Need Street Food

Tuesday, 10 April 2018
The Merchant House including Need Street Food
Tuesday, 10 April 2018
It may have only been open for two months but The Merchant House has already established itself as a worthy new addition to the Southsea craft beer scene.

A fully independent free house, I was impressed with the beer selection when I first visited during the opening week but now that there's food on offer I figured it was an ideal time to pop along, sample a dish or two and then put my thoughts into a blog post.

The food in question is provided by Need Street Food who have taken up residency in the Merchant House kitchen. Having already built a solid reputation as Feed Hot Dog Co. they have now branched out and provide a full street food menu with the added bonus that for every meal they sell they fund life saving food for children across the globe.

For those that haven't yet found their way to the Merchant House, it is on Highland Road in what used to be the Ice Bar, although you'd struggle to recognise it thanks to the amazing refurbishment. It's now a lovely blend of wood and bare brickwork which whilst far from chintzy, still manages to be very welcoming and cosy especially when busy. There's also a sizeable downstairs area which provides more tables and seating.

When I visited (along with my good lady, Vicky) it was around 4.30pm on a Monday afternoon and there were only a handful of other people in, so we were able to purloin a table near the front with a view of the comings and going of a weekday Southsea.

With the kitchen not opening until 5pm I did what any sensible person would and picked myself a beer to whet my appetite, plumping for a pint of Buxton Brewery's Myrcia. This Oatmeal IPA is a stunning beer to look at, especially when delivered by keg, and at only 4% ABV but with a lovely balanced flavour it's a great session ale.


The Need Street Food menu offers a great selection and narrowing my choice was difficult. I was tempted by the Merchant Burger (when am I ever not tempted by a burger?) as well as the Hanoi Hangover Fries (which seem to have already created their own following on social media). But in the end I went for the Benny Burger (crispy chicken thigh, shredded lettuce, maple bacon, dirty cheese, garlic truffle mayo; £7.00) and Burnt End Fries (£7.00), with a schooner of Wild Weather's Pirate Captain Jester IPA to wash it all down. Vicky went for the combo option of Merchant Burger with Rosemary Fries for £9.50.

When the food arrived the first thing that struck me was the portion size, especially the Burnt End Fries. Some people may baulk at paying £7.00 for a side to go with a burger but having seen the quantity these are clearly designed for either sharing as a side or enjoying as a meal on their own.


Of course any discussion around value for money is a little pointless if the meal isn't worth eating, but with Need Street Food I can happily report that this definitely isn't the case. The chicken thigh in my burger was juicy but with a lovely crisp coating and the Burnt End Fries were a delight, especially the bourbon barbecue sauce that they were topped in. I did sneak a little taste of Vicky's burger and that was delicious although I'd have to sample a whole one myself before deciding where to place it in my hard fought list of favourite Southsea burgers.... watch this space!

So my overall impression of the Merchant House? Well as a craft beer lover it ticks pretty much all of the boxes on my wish list, with a varied and regularly changing beer list (keg, cask, bottle and can), a quality selection of spirits, a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of seating and now a kitchen pumping out tasty food. In a town like Southsea that has really embraced the modern craft beer scene, I can't see the Merchant House, including Need Street Food, being anything but a huge success.












A random beer and burger afternoon

Monday, 26 March 2018
A random beer and burger afternoon
Monday, 26 March 2018

As a Southsea local we are not short of good quality burgers.... 6 oz Burgers, Feed, Meat and Barrel, the recently opened Merchant House featuring Need Street Food and many others all offer their own amazing renditions of one of my favourite ever food stuffs. But that doesn't mean that I wasn't pretty excited when 7 Bone opened a restaurant on the Guildhall Walk right here in Portsmouth. However, due to an on-going quest to lose some excess meat of my own I hadn't yet had the opportunity to check out there latest branch. But when a few colleagues from work suggested we popped in after a hard day's graft I couldn't resist.

Now obviously I'm a fan of beer, so when the walk to 7 Bone was going to take us straight past the front door of the Brewhouse and Kitchen I figured that this would make an ideal spot to wait for the few stragglers who had been late away from the office.

If you haven't been to the Brewhouse and Kitchen on Guildhall Walk, its occupies the site that is best known locally as formerly being the Mucky Duck pub. The Brewhouse and Kitchen is a 20 strong chain of brewpubs that sell beer both brewed on site as well as craft and traditional ales from around the world. I love the layout of the Portsmouth pub, with the large brewing area making a striking feature as you walk in through the door but with a lovely airy décor that does a good way of marrying the old and the new.

I've eaten in this venue before and would definitely recommend it however, as we had our eyes on the burger's a few doors up, on this visit I limited myself to liquid refreshment. I was very tempted to plump for one of the house beers but when I saw that they had Beavertown Gamma Ray on tap I couldn't resist. Gamma Ray was one of the first modern craft beers I tried and is still one of my absolute favourites. One of my friends tucked into a few pints of the Mucky Duck Bitter and having tried it myself, I can report that its a great example of this more traditional style.


Rather happily for me, a couple of the group were delayed slightly so it meant that we could get comfortable, enjoy the beer and build an appetite for what was to come.

And it's a good job that we built up that appetite because the burgers in 7 Bone were immense! I had huge trouble picking from the menu; The "Peter Green" (aged beef patty, texan all steak chilli, cheese, american mustard, jalapenos) tempted me, as did the "Prince Charles is Overrated" (aged beef patty, bacon, cheese, shredded iceberg, pickles, dirty spread) but in the end I couldn't look past the "One Big Chicken." If the extent of your chicken burger experience is your local KFC then you need to get yourself to 7 Bone, because this monster of buttermilk fried chicken, hash brown, cheese, chipotle ketchup, hp sauce and mayo is the real deal.


And if you think that sounds good, wait until you see the fries! I went for the Portswood Poutine... a pile of fires with cheese curd on top and a boat of braised beef in deep gravy to dip into or pour over as you see fit (I poured!). If that doesn't take your fancy then other sides on offer include chilli cheese fries, dirty fires and chicken fried halloumi fries (I've had this in the Portswood 7 Bone and they are amazing!).

The drinks choice isn't bad either, with a small but perfectly formed beer and cider menu, amazing shake combinations (including boozy Hardshakes), spirits, wine and soft drinks. I picked a can of Wild Beer Pogo and this pale ale brewed with passion fruit, orange and guava was a lovely fresh tasting option to pair with the rich meaty food.


7 Bone's "Red Basket Deals" mean that you can get a main course and a dirty side for £11.95 and the can of Pogo was £3.95. For the quality on offer I think this represent pretty good value.

The Guildhall Walk still suffers from a reputation built several years ago, of drunken yobs and alcohol related violence. But recently, thanks in no small part to the opening of venues like Brewhouse and Kitchen and & 7 Bone, people have started to recognise it's potential and began to migrate back to the area. This is a great sign and would suggest that despite it's history, this area does have a place in heart of Portsmouth's food and drink scene.

Southsea Ale Club "Spring Break" Tasting Night

Monday, 12 March 2018
Southsea Ale Club "Spring Break" Tasting Night
Monday, 12 March 2018
 
After missing the last few events due to work commitments I was really pleased to be able to attend the most recent Southsea Ale Club tasting night. Held at Hunter Gatherer Coffee on Thursday 8th September "Spring Break", was compeered by Ali Lees, co owner of the Wave Maiden on Osborne Road. Ali, who originally hails from New York, is responsible for the ever changing yet extensive craft beer menu at The Wave Maiden so was the perfect host for this event that focused on beers either brewed stateside or produced with a heavy American influence.
 
This evening really was the perfect night for local beer lovers. On arrival I found myself being handed a sample of Staggeringly Good's Non Renewable Resource, their amazing bourbon oak aged imperial stout. This last batch had been given extra aging and is a fine example of one of my favourite styles of beer.
 
Before the tasting officially started there was still time to buy a drink and meet some new beer friends. I opted for a bottle of Casemate IPA from the very local Southsea Brewing and found myself a seat at a table, forcing my way into a group that had arrived a little earlier. Thankfully they accepted me into their fold and it quickly became evident that we all shared a love for quality craft beer.
 
 
After Chris from Southsea Ale Club gave a quick introduction it was over to Ali who first gave a brief but very informative talk on the evolution of brewing in the USA. Anyone who’s seriously into craft beer will be well aware of the strong influence that their brewing has had on the scene, but it was fascinating to hear how much of an impact certain factors (especially prohibition and home brewing) had made on the industry.
 
 
Then it was into the tasting. Everyone person was given a score sheet for each of the beers to follow, with ratings to be given for various attributes including appearance, aroma and taste. But interestingly all of the beers were initially tasted blind, with the cans or bottles only being brought out once everyone had been able to consider their thoughts without being swayed by preconceived ideas about certain breweries or styles.
 
The first beer out was Road Jam, a fruit beer brewed with raspberries and lemongrass, from Two Roads Brewing based in Stratford, Connecticut. Being a fan of sour beers I quite enjoyed this although the feedback from the rest of the table was a little mixed.
 
 
Next up was Tank 7 from Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City. This Farmhouse style ale had a lovely complexity to it, helped enormously by the Belgian yeast, but lacked some of the peppery finish that I like and expect in this style of beer.
 
 
The following beer was my highlight of the night and was also a huge surprise. When first brought out in the glasses it had the lovely haze and fruity aroma that you'd look for in a New England Style IPA and it delivered all of this and more on tasting. It was a stunning example of this popular US style of brewing and I wasn't alone in being shocked that this was actually from Arundel Brewery in Sussex! I've tried very little from them in the past but this "Uptown" IPA really is a top bit of brewing.
 
 
The 11th Sour by Fordham Brewing (Delaware, USA) was the fourth beer and was something a little different. This Berliner Weisse is brewed with Concorde Grapes which gave a fruity and refreshing angle to this ale. If I'm honest, I would have welcomed a little more sourness but it was still very enjoyable.
 
 
The final beer of the official tasting was Saugatuck Brewing's Blueberry Maple Stout. When first poured I wasn't too sure about this beer but as it warmed the bluberry and maple really started to come through. It was slightly sweeter than I'd normally want my stouts to be but the flavours worked well together and on a cold winter's night I could easily see myself getting though a bottle of it.
 
 
Whilst the scores were collected and being counted it was time for two special beers.
 
First was an IPA from a group of local home brewers who, under the name of "Make Make", hope to make a go of commercial brewing in the not to distant future. If this beer, which they'd aptly named "Spring Break," is an example of their usual brewing quality then they've got a great chance of success.
 
 
The final beer was something completely unexpected and was something Ali was keen for us all to try. By this point I was feeling a little tipsy so my memory may be a little hazy, but as I remember a Hipster Michelada is a glass that has been rimmed with lime juice and tagine spices before having a cheap american lager (think PBR or Busch) poured in. It may sound unpleasant but I'll be honest, it worked a treat and the mix of fiery spice and ice cold lager really woke up the taste buds…. It’s something I'll probably recreate when summer barbecue season comes around!
 
 
All that was left was for the most popular beer of the tasting to be announced, with Arundel Brewing's "Uptown" NE IPA being named the worthy winner. I can't stress enough how good this beer was and if it's a style you enjoy make sure you seek out some cans.
 
So sadly after that it was time to bid goodbye to my new found beer friends (once we'd all connected on instagram) before slipping away into the cold Southsea night.
 
It was another great evening organised by the Southsea Ale Club, who are doing a sterling job getting like minded beer lovers together. I can’t wait to hear what they've got planned next!
 
 

A mini craft beer adventure to Southampton

Tuesday, 6 March 2018
A mini craft beer adventure to Southampton
Tuesday, 6 March 2018
You don't have to have lived long on the South Coast to know that there's a fair amount of rivalry between Portsmouth and Southampton. I won't go into the various nicknames and stories around this subject but it's fair to say that the two maritime hubs, whilst having a lot in common, aren't afraid of a little competition.
 
That being said, the craft beer scene is one area that both cities appear to be fighting well above their weight and even more pleasingly, it seems to be an area where the two populaces can appreciate and enjoy what each has to offer.
 
I have frequently posted about my love of the Portsmouth and Southsea drinking establishments but last week I had the opportunity to hop on the train and sample of couple of venues that Southampton has to offer.
 
Train beers were a couple of low ABV offerings from Cloudwater
First up was The Butchers Hook Ale House in Bitterne, a small but beautifully formed craft beer venue. Whilst it is a fair distance outside of the centre of Southampton it is serviced well by both train and bus, so really is not hard to get to. As I was travelling from Portsmouth I got the slow train and the Butchers Hook is only a ten minute walk from Bitterne Station.
 
It has a very casual feel, with no real bar to speak of, rather an alcove at the rear with kegs, casks and fridges. The menu, which changes daily, is written on a huge floor to ceiling chalk board as you walk in, and is also posted on their website.
 
Although we weren't stopping for a long, as I was in a large group I was able to sample a number of beers; my can of Verdant "Gardens of Narrative" was a superb IPA but I was also very impressed with the Dancing Man Brewery "Big Casino." This hazy NE style IPA may come from a small local producer but it is a great example of this kind of modern beer.
 
Gardens of Narrative by Verdant is a stunning IPA
This was my first visit to the Butchers Hook and I was mightily impressed; it’s a lovely place to drink and I can imagine that when busy it's going to have a lovely atmosphere. And if all that isn't enough, whilst they don't have a kitchen they are more than happy for you to bring your own takeaway food into the pub, even supplying you with plates and cutlery!
 
After leaving the Butchers Hook we hopped back onto the train for the short ride into Southampton Centre. From there we took the brief (but chilly) walk into the Bedford Place area to the Brewdog Bar
 
This is the second BD bar I've been to (the other being Brewdog Soho) and the décor, all industrial bare walls and neon signs, seems pretty consistent. But it works and with plenty of seating both upstairs and downstairs it manages to hit the balance of being stylish without being pretentious, even if does feel like you're in the industrial sector of the Crystal Maze.
 
It's not a Brewdog Bar without neon lights and stripped back wall coverings
As you'd expect from a Brewdog Bar, they stock a great selection of their own beers as well as number of guest ales on draft and in the fridge.
 
As it was a cold night I was drawn to the darker side of the menu and opted for a pint of Brewdog's own Nitro Jet Black Heart. This Oatmeal Milk Stout scores great on ratebeer and I was very impressed, especially with the nitro delivery. It's like drinking a pint of Guinness that actually has some flavour to it!
 
Nitro Jet Black Heart is one beautiful looking stout
With the hours ticking on there was sadly own time for one more drink so I went for something a little bit more interesting; a third of Brewdog Abstrakt 25. This Barley Wine weighs in at a hefty 13.3% and there's no hiding that alcohol. Aged for six months in bourbon barrels this has a lot going on; dark mollasses, cacao, dark forrest fruits and on and on but is also incredibly well balanced. It was actually my first time trying a Barley Wine and it definitely won't be my last.
 
Brewdog's Abstakt 25 was a very nice into into the world of Barley Wine 
I didn't eat in Brewdog but a couple of lads that I was with ordered pizzas (that's the only food on offer) and they were reasonable value, came on a lovely thin base and tasted great (okay so maybe I stole a slice or two!).
 
After that it was a quick walk back to the station and a short doze on the train before getting back to Southsea.
 
This was only a very brief snapshot of two very good craft beer venues in Southampton. I've already been to both Belgium & Blues and The Dancing Man and was a little sad that I didn’t get a chance to revist them on this trip. 
 
But there's still a number of craft beer venues that keep getting recommended to me (The Bookshop Ale House, Overdraft, Olaf's Tun, Unity Brewing Tap Room) so it's only a matter of time before I head back across to Southampton.
 
Have you drunk in Southampton? What's your 'must not miss' beer spot in the city? Let me know in the comments below.
 


 

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