Brewing was a major activity in Portsmouth, 70 miles south west of London on the English Channel coast, as in most centres of population - but the trade grew larger than in many towns because of the substantial naval port and garrison which developed there from the late fifteenth century. In fact Portsmouth became the leading naval port in the British Empire, and at one time the largest naval and military base in the world. For more information about Portsmouth, click here.

Members of the Brickwood family were brewing in Southwark and Whitefriars in London during at least Picture of Brickwoods Ales memorabiliathe late sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth centuries. What has become known as the 'Guildford' Brickwood family became involved in the trade in Portsmouth from the mid nineteenth century, and eventually became the largest brewer and pub owner in the area. Their beers were exported around the world and the name became widely known, until the family eventually gave in to increasing pressures and sold the business to the much larger Whitbread company in 1971.

I never got to drink Brickwoods Ales myself: I was due to go to Portsmouth Polytechnic in 1971, at the age of 18, but ended up going to Manchester University instead. However, not everyone who drank it was greatly in favour: famous industrialist Sir John Harvey Jones said that Brickwoods was "terrible".

Unfortunately John King e-mailed me in July 2003 saying "I lived in the Portsmouth area from the 40's until 1970 and I can confirm Sir John Harvey Jones' opinion of Brickwoods beer. It was terrible. I seem to remember that they also branched out into retailing bottled fruit juices - they certainly sold Brickwoods' orange juice - and that was almost equally terrible."

On the other hand, Dale Bolt wrote in June 2003 "I was touring in Britain in 1971 and stopped by the brewery. I inquired about taking a tour and they were so kind and hospitable. They apologized about not having a tour ongoing and gave me a peek and a chat, explaining there were no tours. Before I left, they gave me a package. Inside it contained a stack of Brickwoods beer trays (the old parchment map-style). It was my first ever beer tray to collect. I still have them today, as well as many others. I found the beer to be most enjoyable, when I sampled some at a local pub. I always have fond memories of Brickwoods, of the hospitality there, not to mention the beginning of my beer tray collecting. I suppose the brewery touched many people in many different ways. "

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