Living in Southampton, it’s frustrating that good pubs are so few and good beer is mostly only available to drink from bottles at home. Sometimes it’s nice to drink somewhere outside the home where it’s friendly and the beer selection is good. Thankfully, since I only live a short walk from the train station, the South of England is pretty much my oyster at the weekends and one place I love to go is Portsmouth – a girl can’t just survive on beer. She’s gotta shop once in a while and Gunwharf is lovely for a potter around. Just a short walk along the seafront at some point Portsmouth melts into the gentle seaside town of Southsea which is where you will find one of my favorite pubs down here,The Hole in the Wall. It’s such a cozy little pub it almost lives up to its name so it’s a good job the patrons all seem so good-natured every time you have to squeeze through to get to the bar. Since Portsmouth is a Naval town, there’s folk from all over the country and I find it comforting to hear Northern accents whenever I wander into The Hole.The first thing that attracted me to the place was that I heard they were selling a proper real ginger beer, a ginger beer that would make the Famous Five weep with joy.
Wheal Maiden’sGrandma’s Weapons Grade Ginger Beer has become the standard ginger beers must
live up to for me. It’s allegedly 5.5%ABV although I would not be surprised if there’s still a bit of fermentation occuring in that white plastic barrel it’s served from. Although it used to be on the bar at the Hole In the Wall every time we went in, it’s become slightly more random now. Thankfully there’s plenty of awesome ales to choose from so we always end up staying. The landlord must be something of a connoiseur as he keeps his ales perfectly and sources them from the very best breweries up and down the country. The last time we went in, I made a duff choice on my first drink, Quantock Royal Stag (6%ABV) which had a bit of a sicky smell and no real hop flavour, despite being marketed as a ‘traditional IPA.’ However, the OH had a pretty delectably nutty Irving Admiral (4.3%ABV) oatmeal stout which I managed to trade with him halfway though. To my delight, also on the bar was Magic Rock Carnival (4.3%ABV), a gorgeously golden summer ale with a full hop aroma with candy lemons. Magic Rock do a cracking job and The Hole is one of the only places down this way where I have seen it on tap. With the initial hit of lemons the Royal Stag had become a distant memory and then the hoppy bitterness and a trace of bitter orange at the end provided a magnificent full finish. Also on the bar was the slightly dialed-down but still very refreshing Curious (3.9%ABV) which the OH was more than happy with.
Although the Magic Rock had been awesome and a really rare treat, I was still missing my lovely ginger (as were two other people who came in while we were there and asked after it). I hadn’t had any since the day I celebrated completing the Great South Run at The Hole a year before. Thankfully, last weekend my luck had finally turned and I got a pint of what I had been waiting for and it was indeed worth the wait. As is usual when ordering a pint of this stuff, it came with the usual ‘watch out love, it’s a bit strong’ warnings from regulars propping up the bar which is a sure sign of a good drink. The lemon and ginger aroma is so clean and fresh, it’s almost worryingly like something you could clean your sink with it it’s so sharp. Any readers familiar with those lip-tingling plumping lip-glosses will already be familiar with the ginger burn but you get the bonus of the lovely sweetness and a mouth-watering dryness at the end. Looking at the milky white colour, the OH did point out that it had more in common with cider than beer, and he may be right but I love it no matter what it is. The only problem is I can’t normally drink more than a pint without getting giddy!