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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