Tuesday 23 November 2021



Southampton was my location for my final day of pub ticking on this epic six day Hampshire crawl.

Six pubs I'd like, and the town had twelve GBG ticks I needed.  Imagine if I drank halves, I could get them all done!  In and out of the pubs in ten minutes, forming no lasting impression of them, no need to write a blog.  I do make life harder for myself, but I can't stop now.  Plus, I love it.  

BRAPA and Southampton goes back to 2005.  Platform Tavern was my debut pub, a beauty and still in the GBG today.  2 years later, fish & chips on my own in something called the Crown.  Not seen it in the GBG since.  Got drenched.  Quick pint in Guide Dog, but far too busy for me to enjoy it.  By 2011, despite an evening kick off, I got Junction and South Western Arms in pre-match.  In 2013, I enjoyed the Rockstone and I'd walk past it today, but no longer in the GBG.  And my most recent trip, Hop Inn, then Butchers Hook where Dad and Tom met Martin Taylor for the first time (it now has a blue plaque I believe), and post match, an epic three pub session with Daddy BRAPA in the Freemantle area.  Still epic, as I'd found out later (see pub six).

Map drawn, train on time, I was raring to go .....

And I'd have got to pub one sooner if a Deliveroo rider hadn't blocked my path and asked where Starbucks was, he can't see it anywhere.  We are right outside it!  He looks ashamed, and so he should. 

11:59am, and on this my final day, I am waiting for a pub to open for the first time.  A silhouette appears and tells me he'll just be five minutes.  Come on mate, the BRAPA clock is ticking .....

Handle Bar, Southampton did what it said on the tin in so much as our host, the previous silhouette, was now visible, and had a handle bar moustache, or at least the beginnings of one.  A nice chap, just like in Flower Pots at Cheriton yesterday, I was so close to getting into conversation with him, but it never quite transpired.  Maybe before my first pint, I'm Too Shy?  Talking of eighties pop groups, there was a decent amount of Brewerianarama in here, plus quirky shit like spiders.  A nicely done place, not my favourite of the day, but my no means your box room serious drinkers micro.  A few old blokes were soon on the scene, chatting freely with the barman.  It had been a long way to come for beer from Malton, I was enjoying it, but the others were all slagging it off for being too 'floral'.  Two men had a conversation (shouted over the top of me) where they must've mentioned about 8 of the 12 pubs on my 'to do' list.  This odd dog kept eyeing up Colin and slobbering, but that was as close as we got to interaction.

None of the pubs were too close together, but this one was a ten minute amble at least.  Southampton is a deceptively large place, I'll never moan about Sheffield again.

Something about the smell of fusty old books that really lends itself to creating a good pub atmosphere, and that was the real clincher during my trip to Bookshop Alehouse, Southampton.  You know I despise nothing more than fake bookcase wallpaper (well, it'd be in the top 10 BRAPA hates) so it was very nice to see so many of the real things!  Not exactly Falmouth, but it is a start.  This time, as the only customer in early, I get chatting to the personable young barman, a twenty year old student, Ben.  Not the same Ben who was singing in Eastleigh Steam Thing last night, but he tells me he was in there, in one of those train seats.  He finds it funny when I ask if he owns the place, but as I've learned the hard way, you cannot assume business owners!  He tries to encourage me to buy the humungous bird book I'm looking at, but being five times the weight of the fricking Good Bloody Beer Guide,  no way I'm lugging that around with me, even if it is a snip at £3.99.  

A decent trek across town took me past the Rockstone of 2013 pre-match fame, and uggghh why didn't I go for a wee before I left?  Absolutely nowhere you could go for a sly tinkle around here either.  Pub three better not have anyone in the loo!

'Craft beer and punk rock!' screamed the blackboard at Beer & Boards, Southampton.   'Well there's a concept no company has ever thought of making money off before!' I thought sarcastically knowing full well it must be deliberate, surely.  I liked this place, bright and sunny, a bit sparse and bare furniture and decor wise, but the guy who served me (Menzingers top, good band, on their day - can't get into new album) was a top lad, I said hi from Ben (cos his girlfriend works here, but not today), and not fancying the cask offering, I wound up with this Kiwi Fruit Gose thing that was a proper grower, like ringworm in a woolly jumper, danker than Fritzl's cellar.  You don't get this content on Untappd.  A bloke behind me mentions he is from Wakefield every five minutes, as all West Yorkshire men over the age of 50 do when they are in the south of England.  He goes to get changed in the loo, it takes forever, painful cos even though I'd relieved my full bladder, it had filled up again with fizzy kiwi by this point!  After they left, I got chatting a bit with rest of the pub and all very pleasant.  I won't use the 'B' word but I never did quite work out whether this was a tribute to them, or a sort of two fingered punk rock salute 'this is how ya do it!'

Col hides from Yorkshireman

Octopus, scrabble and beer keg seats, the scene so very micro

It was a good long stretch down towards the pier, about an 18 minute walk, but there were three pubs I needed down there to take me to the magic 'six for the day' mark.

But you should never get complacent in this game, best laid plans n all that......

SHUT PUB ALERT!  I admit I hadn't checked the hours on social media, but I really hadn't envisaged a Sunday closure.  Oh well, still two pubs close by .....

Duke of Wellington, Southampton seemed to be the perfect tonic, after three consecutive micropubs, offering something very different.  It certainly looked the part, both out and in.  Okay, so it was very foody, and the staff seemed sullen and disinterested, but I took my pint of Wadworth 6X into a gorgeous back room, I couldn't have been more perfectly situated considering it was feeding time at the zoo.  A bloke in a snazzy maroon waistcoat who I take to be the guv'nor comes over to the group of students next to me, amiably chatting with them, seemed a nice touch of customer service.  I hadn't really been enjoying the 6X which is unusual for me, and about a third of the way down, it descends to pure vinegar.  Funny what a bad pint can do!  Suddenly, everything about this pub seems less lovely.  I struggle manfully on for a bit, but it is getting worse, so I pull the old pub ticker trick of pouring it into the nearest plantpot (hypothetically you understand, I didn't want to wilt any flora or fauna).  Felt very much like some of York's ancient city centre mock tudor 'classics' which never come close to troubling the GBG compilers. 

Don't drink it mate, you'll never get out alive

So today was providing an instructive lesson.  Three micropubs, and then a gorgeous looking old timber framed thing.  And look which one I'd ended up disliking most?  And I claim to be less bothered by beer than pubs?  But it seems a bad beer can change everything!

Luckily, there was a glimmer of hope on the horizon ......

Dancing Man, Southampton would prove to be my favourite pub of the day.  A brewery tap really, but the best of its kind.  Housed in a 14th century Grade I listed building, and you could tell they hadn't scrimped, they'd spent the money and done it well, whilst it not only 'retained its character', but it also felt weirdly cosy like the New White Bear in Tingley where I used to go in the eighties with my grandparents, play with my fuzzy felts, burn myself on the lights on the carpetted stairs, eat butterscotch ice cream or black cherry sorbet for pudding, and pretend I was controlling the fruit machines even though I'd not put any coins in and it was just a demo!  I should've felt more grounded than this.  It was so busy, I'd taken my pint of Jesus Hairdo (I was a big Charlatans fan back in '97) to a table beneath the spiral staircase, and asked a baldie if I could perch at the end.  He said 'yes', and moved a few fur coats around to accommodate mw, but I didn't quite realise how many ladies were joining him.  A veritable hareem!  They must've heard about virile baldies.  Great place, much recommended.

Tell that to the Duke of Wellington!

So with the unfortunate Crammed Inn closure, I had to head back north beyond the station, to get my sixth and final pub of the day complete.

The Freemantle area is only a few minutes away, but it has such a different atmosphere from everything else I've witnessed in Southampton, it may as well be a different world.

The Wellington, Waterloo and Freemantle Arms were all absolutely jumping on my previous visit (one can't remember which was having a 'closing down' party), proper old school, and Retired Martin who visited around the same time got told to f**k off just for having the temerity to cross a road.  I'll never forget.  

This pub, well it just picked up where those others had left off in April '17.

If Key & Anchor, Freemantle, Southampton looks a good honest solid street corner boozer, then that is because it is!  A culture shock after my previous five, I don't mind admitting.  Glad I was five pints in on arrival, six on leaving, or it might've been slightly intimidating.  Locals line every square inch of the large circular bar.  I'd call them bar blockers in most pubs, but not here.  Firstly, I'd be too scared.  Secondly, it just seems to be the way they do pubbing in Freemantle. It's all about sociability, loud voices, bawdy jokes.  Wadworth 6X is one of the three ales on, got to give it another go, and it is superbly kept.  Take note Duke of Wellington, insane that cask ale can taste so different between two pubs, but isn't really insane at all when you think about it!  Unlike this place.  Bored kid wants to go out and play on his bike.  I've never seen parents so torn between a desire to sit at the bar peacefully and get smashed, and a need to protect their son from busy traffic.  I think Grandma sorts it out in the end.  Grandma always sorts it out!  Col quite happy to sit this one out.  Soon it is raffle time.  785?  You'll never get out alive!  Same bloke seems to keep winning.  Suspicious.  Cracking boozer this.

Now that's a pub table!

So that was a fine way to end a 36 (6 pubs in 6 days) week - unless you count the one in London I'd do the following morning.  

A bloke told me earlier in the week "if you've enjoyed the Winchester pubs, wait til you get to Southampton, even better!"  Hmmm, not sure about that.

In fact, I'm not sure I've ever enjoyed a pub as much as my 2005 Platform Tavern debut here.  But still six to do in the GBG, which I'll be hoping to do some time before October 2022, so we'll see if the likes of Bitter Virtue, Olaf's Tun and Witches Brew can sparkle. 

Until next time, which might well be Friday now, I will bid you farewell.



  1. 36 pubs. **** me, as the Exploited sang in 1981. I bought that copy of Sounds during my brief and ill-advised Oi phase (pre-woke I fancied Beki Bondage out of Vice Squad), never bought the album. Why am I writing this ?

    1. I was a Sounds man myself, Wendy O Wlliams of the Plasmatics more my thing. Why are we writing this?...

  2. Did one of those previous three Freemantle pubs have the Snowball Tree - Virburnum opulus - in its back garden?

  3. Witches Brew is my favourite Southampton micropub but very awkward opening hours even on a Saturday. The landlady’s lovely though. Wel worth the effort when you finally get there.