Brewing up history in Hampshire

Plans have been unveiled to breathe new life into a closed-down 18th century village pub, by opening a taproom for a micro-brewery based at the Hampshire home of a man now regarded as the world’s first ecologist.

Many may not have heard the name the Rev. Gilbert White before, but this parson-naturalist and gardener revolutionised the way people observed nature and inspired naturalists from Charles Darwin to David Attenborough.

And as well as the author of a ground-breaking study of living birds and animals in their natural habitats, which has never been out of print since being published in 1789, the keen horticulturist also experimented with brewing.

Gilbert White’s House & Gardens in Selborne, an attractive village in east Hampshire, celebrates this hero amongst naturalists, and is also home to the original manuscript of his book, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, often quoted as being the fourth most-published in the English language.

But White’s interests spread even further than nature and gardening, which earned him a global reputation, with brewing also becoming a passion – and now beer is making a comeback at his Hampshire home.

Gilbert White’s Brewhouse – built by Gilbert in 1765, and in which he experimented with different brews right up until 13 days before his death in 1793 – was reopened officially as a brewery in 2021. It has been brewing beer since early 2020, producing over 15 different beers for sale at the Museum.

Brewing is a big part of East Hampshire’s culture and something that Gilbert White enjoyed doing in his spare time; and the Museum still holds his original brewing records over a 30-year period.

Now, Gilbert White’s House & Gardens has announced plans to open a Tap Room for its locally brewed beer at village pub The Queens, which had been a public house for centuries but closed down in 2016.

The Queens, or Compasses Inn as White would have known it in the 18th Century, lies in the heart of the village opposite Gilbert White’s House, and has always played an important part in village life.

In Gilbert White’s lifetime it was owned and run by White’s friend and neighbour Timothy Turner, and just like White, Turner brewed beer at home using hops and other ingredients from the local area.

The planned development would see a section of the historic building becoming a Tap Room selling beer produced at Gilbert White’s Brewhouse, to help keep the building’s history of local brewing alive and allow more people to try the Gilbert White range of beers.

Initially set to be open for limited hours, serving snacks to accompany beer, wine and cocktails, the hope is that the Tap Room will launch in autumn 2022.

Among the craft beer and lager produced at the micro-brewery, currently run by volunteers from the Selborne area, are Gilbert’s 1765, based on Gilbert White’s original ale recipe; house ale favourite Zig Zag Ale, a strong traditional ale named after a village zig-zag path cut in 1753 by White and his brother; and Six Quarters, light, a golden and heavily hopped ale referencing the ‘six quarters’ within the Gilbert White Garden.

For more about Gilbert White House and Gardens, visit www.gilbertwhiteshouse.org.uk

For tourist information about Hampshire see www.visit-hampshire.co.uk

  • slide