Finding the Real Ale of Wight… An Ale Lovers Guide to Island Beers

CAMRA Isle of Wight member and Island ale aficionado Brian Jacobs gives a guide to the thriving Island ale scene and some pointers on where to enjoy some of the its finest offerings.

The Isle of Wight is good beer territory – taking into account its small size and geographical isolation, it boasts an impressive range of beers, many excellent pubs, and no less than three breweries! Though these are times of great uncertainty for pubs and hardship for many landlords (the Island has suffered badly from pub closures in the last few years), the quality and diversity of real ale locally is still very good and our local breweries are a major factor in that success.

The excellent quality of Island-brewed beers is reflected in the 120 or so pubs which still remain on the Island. Having surveyed many of them for the national Good Beer Guide and the CAMRA UK pub database, What Pub, I’ve been astonished by the high quality of real ale which is served not just in our flagship hostelries, but in many country inns and back street town locals. Landlords and managers work very hard in ensuring this quality and those who enjoy a pint should applaud their efforts by popping in to their local as often as possible; with so many of these gems closing each year, they need all the support you can give them.

Likewise, those visiting the Island won’t be disappointed by our local ales or the pubs they’re served in. It would be impossible to list all the Island pubs who regularly stock Island beers and I can only give you a brief selection of those I’ve visited on my travels where you can be assured of an excellent pint. I humbly tender my apologies to those I’ve omitted – it is certainly no reflection on the standard of their beers or pub.

The Traveller’s Joy at Northwood, a former Isle of Wight Pub of the Year for many years, regularly serves Island Brewery Wight Gold, as well as many others. In the east of the Island, the Simeon Arms in Ryde regularly serves Goddards beers and for those who want to mull over a fine local pint and enjoy some of the wonderful views the Isle of Wight can offer, try the Culver Haven on top of Culver Down near Sandown or the Sun Inn at Hulverstone. If you’re in Newport you’ll often find local beers at one of the Island’s newest pubs, the Newport Ale House (there’s also one on Cowes), and the Man in the Moon, a Wetherspoons outlet, always has a selection of Goddards beers. Head to the southernmost tip of the Island to enjoy a local beer in one of the Island’s oldest pubs, the Buddle. The Crab and Lobster at Bembridge consistently serves some of the finest Fuggle-dee-Dum you can find. A riverside pint can be enjoyed at the Bargeman’s Rest in Newport, and, if a town local is your preference, try the Tap at Sandown. There are many, many more worthy of mention and if you want a longer list visit our award-winning local CAMRA website.

Who’s who in brewing on the Isle of Wight

A homegrown affair…

In 1987 the stock market crashed and Lloyds looked to their names to cover their losses. "Time to honour your agreement, old boy". One of them was Anthony Goddard. To meet his commitments, the family home had to go as did the vineyard and Goddards Brewery was born in Anthony's new home, Barnsley Farm. Goddards, has continued to grow, expanding its output, and with many new beers introduced since its inception. In the last couple of years, brewer Nigel Eldridge has rolled out the splendidly nutty Squirrel’s Delight and the porter-style Mocha Stout, both of which have been well received by local drinkers.

Former Burts and Hartridges brewer, Dave Yates, launched his own brewery in 2003 and in 2004 won the bronze in the Champion Beer of Britain with his YSD. Yates Brewery boasts an impressive portfolio of beers, including the mighty Christmas ale Yule be Sorry at a thumping 7.2%. Yates’ continue to introduce new beers into their portfolio, including the excellent 5% IPA On the Buses, brewed especially for the Island’s phenomenally successful Beer & Buses Festival in 2015, which attracted over 5,000 people.

Over the last few years, the brewing scene on the Island has seen some major changes. We’ve lost one brewery and gained another. Sadly, Ventnor Brewery folded in 2009 and is greatly missed. To fill the vacuum, Island Brewery was born the year after, created by local beer wholesalers Island Ales using the mighty talents of former Goddards brewer, Chris Coleman, who has since been joined by his son Ashley. There is an impressive range of well-considered beers of high quality, and Chris has recently produced experimental brews on a small plant at the Brewery. Of particular note in its regular portfolio is 2016 local Beer of the Year RDA, a superb, chocolatey porter which made its first informal appearance to a select few many years ago when Chris was just a home brewer.

CAMRA Isle of Wight is committed to excellence in real ale, be it local or otherwise and we have the utmost respect for our three Island breweries. In pursuit of this, we operate our own local scheme called BeerPoint – find out all about it on the Wightwash website, together with all the latest news and information about the Island beer scene. Cheers! 

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20 April 2016

By Alix Robinson in Articles