– Liam Toms (Untappd: liamtoms)
Southampton should be top of your list to visit this year. This is one of our most extensive tours to date, and there’s still plenty of places we didn’t have time to see. The city is undoubtedly leading the way for craft beer on the South Coast.
Arriving at Southampton Central Station around 1pm we took a taxi to Overdraft on Shirley high street (about 10 minutes away). This relatively new bar has two locations locally (this being one, the other in nearby Winchester). They’ve made the best of what feels a lot like a shop unit from the street with appropriate exposed decor inside. There’s space in the bar area for up to 10 cask ales and 10 kegs on draft, so worth the trek out, despite no sign of bottles and cans. The food options also looked great but alas it was too early in the afternoon to be thinking about dinner.
To make the fare to Shirley worthwhile we also stopped in a bar a few doors down called Clockwork, having heard they have a few craft beers on tap. The venue felt a lot more like a wine bar, and from the bar selection it’s clear to see they’re trying to appeal to a mixed demographic. It’s not one to make a bee line for but perhaps worth a stop if you’re out this way. I get the sense that if the beer does well here that they’ll move the business more in that direction or vice versa.
From Shirley we took another short taxi ride over to Portswood, home of Unity Brewing Co. I’ve had a few of their beers in recent years so was looking forward to this stop on the tour. If you’re hoping to visit Unity on your Southampton trip, you’ll need to plan around a Friday evening or Saturday afternoon/evening as their taproom opening is limited to these times. If you don’t make it out here, they have good distribution locally (and increasingly further afield) so you’re more than likely to find a beer or two of their’s elsewhere in the city.
From Unity we’d recommend the 15 minute walk across to Bitterne, where you’ll find The Butchers Hook, another much anticipated stop on the tour. In terms of selection it more than delivered, despite its relatively small size. The afternoon was getting on by the time we arrived and already the pub was beginning to border on claustrophobic, which is a shame because it’s a lovely venue. Well worth stopping by regardless. Be sure to take a group photo using the digital screen on the wall, it’s only £1 and money raised is donated to charity.
If you’re following our route, you’ll need to take one more taxi down to Olaf’s Tun in Woolston. We stopped in there for a quick one then walked across the Itchen Bridge, which had amazing views of the sunset over the Solent, to Caskaway, which if you follow the map correctly should take about 20 minutes. Both were good pubs, the Olaf’s Tun lineup was less recognisable and more toward the real ale end of the spectrum, whereas Caskaway had more of the big craft names (Tiny Rebel, Cloudwater, DEYA..).
When planning the Southampton Tour we made a provisional booking for dinner at the Dancing Man Brewery. This was one of the unexpected highlights of the day. The brewery is set in one of Southampton’s oldest buildings and is a far cry from the converted shop and industrial units we’ve come to expect on our craft beer adventures. Our Saturday night visit in February found the downstairs bar packed out and the first floor restaurant booked out (we were right to book in advance). The food was incredible and their beer was equally fantastic.
After dinner the next stop was Belgium and Blues at the other end of Southampton high street (20 minute walk). Set in the basement of the building and occupying a fair space, Belgium and Blues has always had a good selection on tap and this visit was no exception. It started getting busier in the time we were there with a DJ setting up in the corner, so visit midweek if that’s not your thing.
Another short stroll will take you to The Rockstone, the most pub looking pub of the Southampton tour. This is another Southampton venue we’ve been back to a few times before. It’s a popular place and seating (and space in general) is limited but there’s a large beer garden out front. Their notorious burger menu always looks great, another one to try sometime for sure.
We couldn’t get into the London Road Brew House because it was at capacity (we’ve been before, it’s largely the same as the King Street Brew House in Bristol), so we ended the tour at Brewdog. It’s a little off the beaten track for a Brewdog bar and it’s actually one of my favourites, venue wise. Beer wise they never seem to have quite the selection (or exclusives) you’d expect from a flagship bar. Well worth a visit regardless, a great end to a brilliant day of beer.
If you visit any of the places featured in this blog, please let them know that Beer Tours sent you.
Beers of the day:
Sam: Northern Alchemy – Passionfruit and Pineapple Sour
Nathan: DEYA Brewing Company – Steady Rolling Man Pale Ale
Jim: Partizan Brewing – IPA Mosaic
Frank: Wild Weather Ales – Obsidian Stout
Ed: Northern Monk Brew Co – Heathen IPA
Liam: Dancing Man Brewery – Big Casino IPA