Brighton Breweries' Past
Ask people about Brighton’s historic past and few, if any, will talk about the city’s rich brewing heritage. We can go way back to 1545 for the city’s first recorded brewery when Flemish Protestant Deryck Carver set up the Black Lion Brewery. Sadly, poor old Carver was martyred for his faith at Lewes on 22 July 1555 burned at the stake in a beer barrel!
Commercial brewing then thrived throughout the 17th and 18th centuries and by the late 19th century the city had more than 10 sizeable breweries and hundreds of pubs. By the time we started brewing in 2012 commercial brewing had ceased in Brighton, following a series of closures through the 1970s and 80s. Brighton Bier was born in the Hand in Hand brew-pub on Upper St James Street, resurrecting their old tower brewery, before moving to our current premises at the Bell Tower in 2014.
Brighton has a fascinating brewing past and a wonderful present. While we’d love to recount all manner of tales and titbits, our historic walking trail focuses on the sights and stories along the short walk from the city centre to the Brighton Bier brewery.
The Brewery Trail
We start our trail at BRIGHTON BIERHAUS a short walk from Brighton Pavilion and the Palace Pier. If you fancy a quick detour, just North of here by the Level is where the Tamplins Brewery once stood, that became the largest in Sussex with an estate of around 600 pubs. Built in the 1820’s after a fire had devastated their original brewery in Southwick, it was named the Phoenix Brewery as it rose from the ashes of its predecessor. The site is now home to the University’s Phoenix Halls of Residence and neighbouring housing, one old flint malting remains in Southover Street. Their elegant brewery office is now the Phoenix Community Centre, behind the Phoenix Art Space, and the surrounding roads also retain their original setts. The old Albion Brewery, acquired by the Phoenix Brewery in 1892 was in the same area. If you love a classic football kit, you can’t get much better than the iconic Brighton & Hove Albion shirts of the 1980s with Phoenix proudly emblazoned across the front.
But let’s get back to the Bierhaus and take a quick walk along Edward Street before turning down Upper Rock Gardens. As you wander along Edward Street on the South Side you can see a number of buildings that were pubs in a bygone age, at one point there were nearly 30 pubs along the road, but now just two remain. Turn right at St Mary’s Church and on the site of Lavender House is where the Rock Brewery once stood. Starting way back in 1809 it continued to brew until 1960. Continuing the gory theme set by Deryck Carver, the son of founder George Griffith (who was also a much-loved Brighton benefactor) was found dead in the road, shot through the heart at point-blank range in 1849 in a still yet unsolved murder!
Here you can either continue along Upper St James Street past the Hand in Hand where Brighton Bier began or head a couple of streets North along Hereford Street where Malthouse Court is the site of what was once the Rock Brewery Maltings. Walk a little further East and on Montague Place you would have found College Brewery which was bought by Rock Brewery in 1900 and demolished only in the late 80s. Head up to the junction of Eastern Road and Sutherland Road and here on the corner of what is now Brighton College is a major Brighton historic brewery site.
The Abbey Brewery was founded in 1850 and in the 1860s the Maltings were built adjoining Brighton College; Abbey Brewery went through a number of iterations before becoming Kemp Town Brewery. The Kemp Town Brewery Maltings site was gutted by fire in 1907, before being rebuilt and then eventually being demolished in 1970, the area is now part of Brighton College.
The Kemp Town Brewery was around Paston Place and the Seymour Square development. Old photos looking south from St George's Church clearly show the brewery buildings, and the stables and Cooper (barrel maker) were found in Chapel Terrace. Throughout the city you can still see signs of Kemp Town Brewery’s vast pub estate with their name still clearly visible above many buildings to this day. While nobody was burnt at the stake or shot through the heart, Kemp Town Brewery had enough catastrophes of its own. In 1900, John Hope, despite being warned not to, climbed into a fermenting vessel to retrieve something he’d dropped and choked to death on carbonic acid gas. And remember the fire we mentioned in 1907? Well that was started when a kiln overheated and destroyed 6-months’ worth of malt.
The last stop on our trail, before reaching the brewery and a well-earned beer, is the old Bristol Steam Brewery. Started in 1839 by coal merchant William Hallett, it was bought by the Abbey family in 1889 eventually becoming part of Kemp Town Brewery. It was famous for its ‘Brighton Lager Ale’, which was claimed to be good for digestion, which seems like a good excuse!
Now you’re almost at the brewery. A quick jaunt past Sussex Square and the beautiful old Bell Tower comes into view. Who knows if it’s true, and to be honest we’ll ignore it if it isn’t coz it’s such a good story, but we love the tale that Lewis Caroll was fascinated by the secret tunnel which goes from the Sussex Square gardens under the coast road towards the beach. So much so that he immortalised it in Alice In Wonderland… “Alice falls down a rabbit hole which quickly becomes a steep, long, narrow tunnel and starts her amazing adventures”.
Our destination, Brighton Bier Brewery
Speaking of adventures, its time for a hoppy one to begin! Turn into the Bell Tower Industrial Estate, once home to St Mark’s School, and in addition to finding Loud Shirt Brewery you have reached your goal…BRIGHTON BIER BREWERY. The city’s international award-winning brewery. Time to sit back, relax and enjoy a bier(s)…oh, and don’t worry we won’t make you walk home. We’ve got great bus links right outside which will have you back in the centre in no time.
Book a table, but keep in mind we make sure about 1/3 of our seating and tables are free for walk-ins on the day.
See you at the brewery. Cheers!