Members' bottle share: The Bookshop Alehouse, Southampton

21 Portswood Rd, Southampton SO17 2ES


The Bookshop Alehouse, in the St Denys area of Southampton, is a cosy spot for - you guessed it - books and great ales. Its tagline is “for drinkers with a book problem” which perfectly sums this place up. Cosy sofas, tables and chairs are dotted around walls lined with copious amounts of fully stocked bookshelves, making it way too easy to succumb to the comforts of a good book while enjoying a good pint of beer, especially since the pub is over two floors. 

We start off the evening with a half of Dark Revolution’s So.LA, a 4.5% West Coast Pale Ale which was on cask at Bookshop Alehouse. This one goes down well with the crowd, who know the brewery but not necessarily the beer, and it is a great social lubricant upon which to start conversations. We chat about the evolution of craft beer over the last decade or so, our personal beer preferences, Beer52 (Simon commented: “it has broadened the horizons of craft beer for me - I travel a lot, but not within the UK, so it’s great when I get the themed boxes, for example of Scottish beers”), and the local beer scene in general. Stewart has run a pub in Southampton, the Platform Tavern, for the last couple of decades, and two others in the group work in beer bars around the city. 

Second up is a stunning Earl Grey IPA from Wild Weather Ales called Storm In A Teacup, which was recommended to me by Chris, who runs Bitter Virtue alongside his partner Ann (Bitter Virtue is a fantastic hidden gem of a bottleshop which has been providing Southampton drinkers with tasty beer for over 20 years). This beer is popular with the whole group, most of whom say they’ve tried beers with Earl Grey tea before, but that nothing compared to this. Hag thought it would be perfect for quaffing in the summer - except for the fact that at 6% it’s not exactly sessionable!

Next up is my favourite beer of the night. A collaboration between local brewery Vibrant Forest and the phenomenal Black Iris Brewery from Nottingham, Shattered Paradigm is a 6.5% black IPA brewed with Ethiopian coffee beans for their slightly fruity flavour, and lots of fresh, punchy hops. I enjoyed this hugely, because it’s bitter, juicy, refreshing, intense and rich all at the same time. Although the beer sparks debate around “is it really an IPA if it’s black?” the chat is generally punctuated with exclamations of “wow!” and “this is so roasty!”, leading to discussions about the style. Tommy comments that he really enjoys black IPAs because they’re lighter and much easier to drink than stouts and porters. 

The beer sparks debate around "is it really an IPA if it's black?"

The last beer of the evening is from local brewery Unity, which in my humble opinion is one of the most exciting breweries out there right now. I choose a vanilla and coffee imperial double porter called Nocturnal Supremacy, which is dreamy. It’s Unity’s house oatmeal porter, Nocturne, but with double the malt, and conditioned on Bourbon vanilla and single origin Brazilian coffee. We all agree that, at 8% with such a full body, it is a sipper, but it’s safe to say the whole group loves it. Hag says it’s right up his street, and Tom says that he’s already a fan of the original Nocturne porter, so he thinks this version is great, observing that “it’s so full-bodied, but without the alcoholic weight” that other similar beers have. 

By the end of the official part of the evening, everyone is nattering away happily, and I decide to stay for more beers and general blether with the group and with owners Jon and Charlie (who have been excellent hosts). All in all, a very successful evening. 

Oh, and it would be remiss of me not to mention this month our guest of honour: Bo, the most beautiful golden retriever, who at 22 months old was bigger than some of the tables, and spent the evening running around and adorably playing with everyone in the pub. Just look at his happy little face. Look at it 

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