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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