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Pub Visit - England

Monday 19th October 2015

Bob Thompson

Brewhouse and Kitchen 1This pub has been open in its present guise since Monday March 4th 2013. However its origins go back a lot further as the first known pub on this site was named the White Swan and its existence was first recorded in 1823. It occupies a significant location on a street corner next the historic Theatre Royal. This was reflected in the pub’s name as it was the White Swan & Theatre Tavern from 1865 to 1867. By 1881 it was known as just the Theatre Tavern.

The old pub was replaced by a new building in 1906 designed in a sort of mock-Tudor style by architect A.H Bone. I believe it had reverted to its old name at this time. By now it was the property of Brickwood’s, whose brewery was very close by. There’s a bit more information on them below. There was much upheaval in the pub and brewery business in the period from the 1960s to the 1980s. So, by the 1990s the pub was known as Pitcher’s, a US style sports bar.

Brewhouse and Kitchen 2That didn’t last and it became the White Swan again. It closed in 2008 and was purchased by J.D. Wetherspoon’s who reopened it in June 2009 after spending £500,000 on refitting.

I didn’t know that Wetherspoon’s owned the pub for a while and I wonder why they bought it when they had another, much larger pub, just over 100 metres away plus two more in the city.

It closed and they sold it in early 2013, thankfully as a going concern. It reopened as the Brewhouse and Kitchen complete with a micro-brewery on Monday 4th March.

This would have been the second time I’ve drank beer produced on this plant as it was installed in the Lamb at Chiswick Green, London. I had an article on it part-prepared for BeerVisits when the brewery (but not the pub) was abruptly closed. Maybe, one day I might publish it as a historical record of the times.

Brewhouse and Kitchen 3This was the very first pub in the progressive Brewhouse and Kitchen chain. They received financing via crowd-funding from IW Capital of £2.5 million in 2013 and there was another issue the following year for the same amount.

The names behind the company are Simon Bunn (a former M&B executive), James Bathurst (Finance Director) and Kris Gumbrell. All have previous experience in this trade.


Brewhouse and Kitchen 4

At time of writing, just two years later, there are now eleven pubs open or shortly to do so. There will be more!

As mentioned above the pub was once part of the estate of Brickwood’s Brewery. This family had established a brewery in Guildford, Surrey in the early 1700s. After acquiring a pub in Portsmouth in 1851 they purchased an existing brewery nearby that was built in 1823. Then the process of expansion began with many other breweries being absorbed.

Brewhouse and Kitchen 5Following the Second World War they owned over 300 pubs in and around Portsmouth and southern Hampshire including an amount in Gosport, Fareham and the Southampton area. In 1971 they were taken over by Whitbread who closed Brickwood’s brewery in 1983. That company had a virtual monopoly in this area as they also absorbed Strong’s of Romsey and Mew Langton of Newport, Isle of Wight.

I well remember Brickwood’s beers. They brewed a Mild, a Bitter and a Best Bitter along with a Christmas Ale. When Whitbread took over they dropped the mild after a while, the bitter became Trophy Bitter (which had the same name yet was a different beer in each part of the country) and Best Bitter became Pompey Royal. The latter was a 4.7% abv beer and when it was Best Bitter, sold for a few pennies more than Bitter. It goes without saying that this was a fact noted by the city’s drinkers who took full advantage!

Most of their cask beers were dispensed through electric pumps with glass cylinders, quite unusual in the south of the country.

Brewhouse and Kitchen 6Each Brewhouse and Kitchen has its own dedicated range of beers and every brew-pub has its own brewer. A feature of the pubs is the schedule of brewing for the week ahead. Typically the working week is Tuesday to Saturday with three or four brewing days and a day for racking and cleaning in the middle. So it is almost certain that visitors will see some active brewing if they call in during weekdays.

The pub always has at least four of the core range of beers. This time they were: Mucky Duck, a standard bitter (3.4%); George Anson, a Liquorice Porter (4.5%); Guildhall, a Kölsch (5.0%) and Black Swan, a Black IPA (5.7%).

In addition there was special as the Rugby Union World Cup was ongoing at the time: Rugby Rye Ale at 5.2%. The sixth pump was dispensing Hunt’s (Paignton, Devon) Farmhouse Cider (6.0%). The core range actually consists of at least eleven different beers produced on their 2.5 barrel in-house brewery.

As attested to in the name there is a full menu available with traditional roasts on Sundays. On Mondays there is quiz at 20.00. At the time of writing there were the following food offers. Tuesday night gives you a gourmet burger for £5 and on weekday lunchtimes there are many meals for £5. This is a very good pub to visit for some unique beers.

Important Information:

Brewhouse and Kitchen at the White Swan, 26 Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth, Hampshire
Tel: 0239 289 1340

Hours: Monday-Sunday 10.00-23.00

From Portsmouth & Southsea station please leave at the main entrance.
Turn left past the row of taxis, cross the approach road down to Isambard Kingdom Way.
Go under the railway bridge and go to the other side via the crossing on the corner.
Continue underneath the large building into the square with the Guildhall on your right.
Pass the Isambard Kingdom Brunel pub (Wetherspoons) and in just over 100 metres you will find the pub on the right. This takes about five minutes.