Back in 2011 I saw a post on the Strong Island blog about an art exhibition they were hosting at the round tower in old Portsmouth. I went along and enjoyed seeing the work of local artist’s displayed in an ancient building which I had never set foot in before. I went away thinking how cool Portsmouth is with all its history and creativity. Over the years I kept seeing updates about a project nick-named ARTches, which planned to turn that part of old Portsmouth into a cultural hub for the creative industries.
At the same time I was working for a micro-brewery and hatching my plans to start my own brewery in Southsea. I visited the Bermondsey Mile breweries in London a few times and was inspired by the creative urban brewers nesting themselves into railway arches which became a beer tourist destination. I remember wondering if there were any railway arches in Portsmouth and suddenly the ARTches project came to mind. I started making phone calls to anyone who had any information about the project and expressed my idea of setting up an artisan craft brewery there. I was passed around various departments in the council and people in Portsmouth’s cultural partnership who all loved the idea and tried their best to help, but I was going round in circles and not making any progress. It was at this point my small, fragile idea was nearly snubbed out completely.
Determined to get my idea off the ground, I wanted people to see the same vision I had in my head so I made a 3D model of my garage home brew kit set up in one of the arches in old Portsmouth. This helped a lot, once people could see my vision, they understood the whole idea and this got things moving in the right direction. I found my champion in the council who (despite not drinking beer) loved the whole idea and had the influence to make it happen. After a positive meeting, I got an email saying that the hot walls might not be the best place for this but they had another idea in mind which might work. I was very curious as to where this place might be and a few ideas ran through my head, but the next day I was invited to a meeting, the location – Southsea Castle.
I’d only ever seen the castle from the outside but as soon as I stepped inside, I knew this had to be the home of The Southsea Brewing Co.