Butcher's Hook celebrates 10 special years with 10 special beers

10 years 10 collab brewsThe Butcher's Hook Alehouse at Bitterne Park Triangle has teamed up with eleven craft breweries and a brew club to create 10 bespoke beers to celebrate its tenth birthday next weekend.

Started on a shoestring in 2014 by converting an old Victorian butcher’s shop by the clock tower, today the Butcher’s Hook is many things to many people.

“I think there’s two fundamental things to the Butcher’s Hook,” owner Anthony Nicholls told bitternepark.info.

“One is about good beer. And definitely the other is about community.”

Anthony at Make Make Working on the collabs: Butcher's Hook owner Anthony at MakeMake brewing company

Not only are there the diverse communities of customers, but the Hook is also celebrating its wider community of suppliers – small breweries who share a passion for craft beer and who have collaborated with the pub to create the ten special brews.

butchers hook 5Whisky and Wort at Bang the Elephant Brewing Co with Emperor's Brewery

“It’s been really really lovely to go around all these different breweries … it’s hugely interesting just seeing the range of different equipment, different set-ups, different ways of doing things, different philosophies on running a business.”

The beers on offer for the big weekend will also be very different.

butchers hook7 Sonja and Sylvas from the Hook pouring oats into the mash at Siren

The list includes what’s described as “a huge Imperial Stout – dosed with coffee, cacao and hazelnut – which weighs in at over 14%”. Niche Sour beers are represented, including a barrel-aged Mixed Fermentation blend (with rosehips and plums) and an experimental Peach Milkshake Sour. The latter is described by brewer Marc Renouf of MakeMake as “the thickest beer you’ll ever drink – you’ll need a straw!”

Those looking for something quirky but sessionable will find a Cherry & Tonka Stout and a hoppy Wheat Beer.

butchers hook8 Ant James digs out the mash at the Phantom Brewing Co

General manager Ant James, who’s been instrumental in organising the event, said: “It’s a special lineup, brewed with a mix of friends old and new. Some of these beers are literal one-offs for us, whilst others will be sold across the country – spreading the good word of The Butcher’s Hook!”

It will mark the largest and most distinctive event in the pub’s history.

“It’s pretty incredible what we’ve achieved with this project – and not a feat I’ve seen replicated, locally or otherwise,” said Ant.

Anthony and AntOwner Anthony Nicholls, left, with general manager Ant James

As the pub gears up to celebrate its milestone anniversary, the variety of bespoke beers not only showcases its commitment to craft brewing and its suppliers, but also reflects its journey to becoming a much-loved local community hub.

It started with chats among six friends about the idea of micropubs, which originated in Kent, for a few years before the Triangle premises became available.

By then, former co-owner Dan Richardson was still up for the challenge, and together with Anthony they went for it.

The original expectation was that it would create second jobs.


John Denham opens Butchers Hook John Denham, former Southampton Itchen MP, opened a packed Butcher's Hook on Friday, February 28, 2014. We were there to cover it -  you can hear the opening here

“Before we opened it was, basically this would be a part-time job, and we’d maybe move down to part-time work in the jobs that we were doing, and we’d do both side-by-side,” said Anthony.

But it was only about a month before Anthony left his job to work in the Hook full time, and shortly afterwards Dan handed in his day job notice too.

The Hook opened on more days — but then had to limp through the ever-changing challenges of Covid lockdowns, largely by selling and delivering takeaway, and when able, introducing a table booking system.

“People definitely supported us. We had people ordering from us every week. It was incredible,” remembered Anthony.

Without that support then, the business might not have continued. But the period took its toll, with “all the flip-flopping around from the government, like changing the rules every 10 seconds”, and the pub closed for a while for a much-needed break.

Just before Covid, Anthony had planned to step back to spend more time with his first young child, and then look at opening a second venue.

“Covid massively got in the way of that. But that’s always been the plan and kind of still is,” he said.

butchers hook 1

The business of course bounced back, with better systems for staffing and stock, and a whole team on the roster.

So what has been the Hook's impact?

Not only has it perhaps been an inspiration for other independent businesses — including other craft beer places in the city, some of which it’s lent a hand to — it’s contributed to making the Triangle more of a ‘destination’.

But what still makes Anthony smile is seeing people make friends in the Hook.

butchers hook 2

“It’s a place where you can come on your own, where people are friendly, and they’ll talk to you.

“When we first started off it felt like everyone didn’t really know each other. And there have been big communities that have built up around that and I feel really proud that that’s something that I’ve helped facilitate.”

• The big celebration runs over the weekend starting on Friday, March 1, and all 10 beers from five counties, including Hampshire, Berkshire and Dorset, will be pouring at once.

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