Friday, 28 June 2013

Havant Brewery Open Day

Havant brewery is run by husband and wife team, Mike and Caroline Charlton. The couple opened for business in April 2009 at their home in Cowplain, Waterlooville, Hampshire, producing four firkins per brew on a 1-barrel plant. Initial demand was so high they quickly increased brewing to four times a week.

Two years later, having won a number of awards for their beers at festivals and still unable to keep up with demand, they designed, constructed and installed their own 3-barrel brewery with two fermenting vessels. In another expansion, earlier this year, Mike and Caroline moved their brewery to its new, eponymous home at Havant, on an industrial estate just a few minutes stroll from the town’s railway station.

An Open Day was held on Saturday 16th March. On a morning of scudding clouds, sudden showers, and puddles forming in pavements and walkways, I found my way to the brewery slightly early, several minutes before 11am. Glad to see the doors already ajar, I peered through and was warmly welcomed inside. A few people were already present, more promptly arrived and it wasn’t long before quite a crowd had assembled and Mike was conducting his first tour of the day. A festive atmosphere was soon upon us and, as if to bless the occasion, the sun emerged, bathing the brewery interior in warm, bright shafts of light.

I’m a huge fan of darker beers and was delighted to see on the brewery bar, alongside two regular beers, Havant Started (4.0%) and Havant Finished (5.0%), a sweet stout Havant Herd (4.2%). This was a new beer to me and my first taste found the roasted coffee flavours to be perfectly balanced by Lactose sweetness and notes of light milk chocolate. The stout was also a delicious accompaniment to the cheese on crackers with home-made chutney that were appearing on plates around the place. Also on was their pale ale P09 (3.8%), also known as Havant Decided.

After a couple of very enjoyable hours I had to depart, with Sussex Drinkers to deliver to Portsmouth pubs. As the first lot of visitors exited, having first purchased various takeouts, bottles and boxes for home consumption, more people wandered in to take their place and it was time for Caroline to serve more customers and Mike to commence yet another talk. Some folks like to take Saturday afternoon at leisure but Havant brewery would be bustlingly busy for quite a few hours yet.

We wish Mike and Caroline every success in their new premises.

Havant Brewery, Unit 25, The Tanneries, Brockhampton Lane, Havant, Hampshire PO9 1JB; tel. 02392 476067.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Once a “House” of Repute in Sussex – The Crabtree Inn, Lancing

The Crabtree Inn dates from 1931, newly built to serve the housing estate to the north west of the town that sprawls into Cokeham and Sompting. The construction date, as is often the case with the Kemp Town Brewery, is on a rainwater pipe head - at the left of the building. I have no original plans or confirmation of the architect but it is probably by J. L. Denman and Son. The two flanking brick wings with parapet and the neo-Georgian classical doorways with pediment and pilasters are hallmark KTB. The style is somewhat understated and vernacular but consistent with another Denman-designed suburban estate new-build, the Dolphin, East Worthing, where the concave layout is the converse of that found here at the Crabtree.

The interior retains many striking features. The recently refurbished ‘Spitfire’ saloon bar on the right has an original counter, elegant cupola ceiling, a fine brick and stone Tudor-style fireplace, and half-height panelling. There are teak floorboards and fixed cushioned seating. The pub’s middle snug was long ago combined with a left-side public bar at the point where the off-sales was probably situated. Here is another original counter, field panelling and fixed seating. The back fittings to each bar have been replaced. Admire the craftsmanship in the decorative plasterwork mouldings on the frieze, cornice and capitals in both rooms.

Without the architect’s plans one can only surmise, but the left hand door probably led to both the left side bar and a Jug & Bottle. The defunct counter to what was the left bar is now stranded in the middle of the room, oddly with panelling on both sides. The middle snug may therefore have been entered by a central doorway, now replaced by the projecting window bay.

The Crabtree is Good Beer Guide-listed and always offers Fuller’s London Pride plus a fine selection of three ever-changing guest ales that are served in top condition by the manager, Brian Lamb. The Crabtree also offers its trademark Sunday Carvery. The chef slow-roasts joints of beef, turkey, lamb and pork overnight, resulting in the most succulent and fresh Carvery probably anywhere in the south. The pub has also created a menu designed to fill the demand for good home-cooked pub food at an affordable price. Food is served daily Monday to Saturday from 12noon to 3.00pm and evenings Tuesday to Friday 5.30 to 7.30pm. The Crabtree Inn, 140 Crabtree Lane, Lancing, West Sussex, BN15 9NQ; tel: 01903 755514.