Biere Here (at last!)

Having been born and raised in York, the UK’s very finest city for beery pubs and general great nights out, my current home town of Southampton has always been a hugely miserable let-down. If you follow my Instagram you’ll be more than familiar with my almost weekly escape armed with a good train beer to somewhere, anywhere that’s not Southampton. If you’ve ever been misfortune enough to witness the drab concrete wasteland of this godforsaken pit you may have been hard-pressed to find a decent drinking establishment. Even if you did, the chances of finding anything more exciting than a ‘well kept pint of Landlord‘ or some other uninspiring real ale are slim. Don’t get me wrong, there are some decent breweries emerging but they are a lot more scarce than in the North and pubs favor the big familiar names over smaller, more interesting brewers. That has been the story until now. But things have started to change…

The opening lineup

The opening lineup

On Friday I was lucky enough to witness the opening of Southampton’s very first micro pub, The Butcher’s Hook, quite possibly the most hotly anticipated new pub I have ever witnessed. Rumors that a small unit in Bitterne Park had been taken on by a pair of aspiring publicans seem to have started way back in autumn 2013 and progress on the re-fit has been slow and steady but my goodness – the wait has been worth it. Local beer enthusiasts Anthony Nicholls and Daniel Richardson have restored the one-time butchers’ shop to a miniature gem and I would say easily the best pub in town.

Following the warning on Twitter that it may get a little cozy, we arrived for the 6pm opening, made ourselves comfortable near to the stillage and watched the pub steadily fill up with real ale aficionados in their favorite vintage CAMRA shirts, hipsters and anyone else from the general area until there was a queue out the door! In the constant rush the proprietors remained charming and attentive as they darted back and forth from the stillage, serving beer to the punters right where they were sat or stood. Seating is communal (think Wagamama) which means you could even make a new friend and all the folk we ended up chatting to were just lovely.

When we say micro-pub here we mean really micro but somehow there were three cask and two keg beers

We drank it dry

Yes Southampton’s thirsty – we drank it dry in less than two days!

available along with a fantastically well-chosen selection of bottles. I was excited to see beer from two of my favorite Northern breweries, Hardknott and Magic Rock on tap for the first time ever in Southampton, It wasn’t all about the imports though and two of the most exciting new local breweries, Vibrant Forest and Dancing Man also had beer available. Spoilt for choice? Anthony and Daniel certainly seemed to know their beers and never seemed to run out of energy helping their customers choose. Oh and did I mention that they also have day-jobs? Initially they will only open all day on weekends then in the evening on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays but if demand continues at this rate I’ve no idea what the plan is. If the opening night was anything to go by, there is a thirst in Southampton for more interesting beer and they’ve certainly got something for everyone. We had such an awesome time on the Friday night that we were eager to return on Sunday until we saw the following tweet on Saturday: ‘We stillaged as much beer as we possibly could and you drank the whole lot.’ I don’t think these guys have anything to worry about except for keeping up with demand. I cannot wait to go back to see what they have on next.

Lucky for me, if we manage to clear the Butcher’s Hook out of beer again, there’s another ray of light on the beery landscape and it’s just round the

I wasn't shy with the pickles

I wasn’t shy with the pickles

corner from me! Among the clubs, takeaways and shops of London Road, a rather special little burger joint has appeared. Chalk Valley is the latest of a string of burger restaurants to open recently around here but what sets this one apart is that all of the meat is traceable and grass-fed and happy cows make happy meat. The pork and lamb are raised at proprietor Will Buckley’s farm near Stockbridge and the suppliers for most of the rest of the menu are proudly displayed on a chalk-board above the door. With so much care and attention put into creating an ethically and, where possible, locally sourced food offering, they clearly did not want to let the side down with the drinks so for their excellent organic beer selection they turned to northern favorites Sam Smiths! Yet another first for Southampton so at last I can go out and enjoy a bottle of Sam Smiths’ delicious cherry beer (an old favorite) with awesome food and (dare I say in case you all go and clean them out) ….unlimited pickles!


  1. Daryl Cowan · March 17, 2014

    Have you chosen to forget the South Western Arms in our ‘miserable’ ‘godforsaken pit’ (or not been there)?

    • bierebelle · March 17, 2014

      Unfortunately they haven’t had much on I’ve been interested in drinking lately! Used to be fairly reliable for an interesting pint but not so much now.

      • Daryl Cowan · March 17, 2014

        The beer changes constantly and there’s usually about 10 on – well kept and include many small brewers. But nothing you like? The Cricketers in central town also reliably has 5 changing (often daily) beers.

      • bierebelle · March 17, 2014

        I’ve been a couple of times recently and ended up with a bottle as there wasn’t anything inspiring on the bar. Maybe I’m spoilt as I get out of town most weekends and have access to an excellent range of bottles from Bitter Virtue and further afield.

  2. Daryl Cowan · March 18, 2014

    Ok, just curious because I know a number of people who make a special journey to get to the SWA from out of town. I’m spoilt too because I get out of town a lot too which is why your comment surprised me. But it sounds to me as if you have a preference for bottled beer. Nice talking to you.

    • bierebelle · March 18, 2014

      I have a preference for beer that I enjoy drinking whether it’s from the cask, keg or bottle. I prefer something nice from the tap because I can drink bottles at home which is why I’m disappointed if I end up drinking bottles in the pub. Especially when the selection barely rivals the selection at the supermarket.

  3. hattenburrow · March 31, 2014

    Hey really like your blog! Random question did you do the Breeze ride leader course last year? Hannah

    • bierebelle · March 31, 2014

      Yeah just noticed your blog on Linked In and thought I’d have a look. How’s it going?

      • hattenburrow · April 6, 2014

        Great thanks, only done oneBreeze ride but aiming to do more this summer. Do you still live in a southampton?

      • bierebelle · April 6, 2014

        Yes. Still in Southampton. Did quite a few breeze rides last year but not popular in Southampton. Had better luck in the new forest around lymington. Gonna start again soon. How’s it going? Still in Surrey?

      • hattenburrow · April 6, 2014

        Cool, ah that’s odd I guess from the city there’s not a lot of places to go where the scenery is good! Yes well moving to Petersfield in a month 🙂 but still work in Surrey. Let me know if you fancy heading to QE park any time?

  4. Adam · October 29, 2014

    What about the Guide Dog, The Rockstone, The Platform Tavern, even the Humble Plumb or the Shooting Star? All good boozers.

    And even though it doesn’t have the beer prowess of the above, The Hobbit is a pretty unique kind of pub so is always worth a visit.

    I haven’t been to any of the pubs in Oxford Street for a long time but I imagine the White Star is probably okay, as are a couple of the others perhaps, like the Grapes. Then there’s the ones in the old town, that I again haven’t visited for absolutely ages, The Juniper Berry, The Red Lion and the Duke Of Wellington? Perhaps those last few pubs don’t have the greatest selection of beer but they’re all lovely buildings to look at in my opinion, with a lot of history attached to them.

    • bierebelle · November 12, 2014

      Hmmmmm…..they don’t normally have anything on the bar I like. Maybe it’s being in the South – the fashion is still very ‘twiggy brown real ale.’ The Platform does a couple of beers in their own brewery I like but generally doesn’t get much good in from other breweries. I love historic pubs with original features and a nice atmosphere but if there’s nothing of interest on the bar I head for the doors.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s