Of Past & Present

Another special beer has been born out of our Brewpub, this time drawing inspiration from an 1800s archive recipe of the George's & Co brewery. Released in collaboration with our friends at Bristol Beer Factory it can now be found nationwide across cask, keg and can.
Words by Alex Simpson - LHG|BREWPUB Lead Brewer

The Left Handed Giant Brewpub sits in the heart of Bristol city centre, overlooking the inner city canal adjoining the River Avon - the river which holds many tales, one of which is the contributor to Left Handed Giant’s naming. 

The river led to a significant trade route for beer brewed in the 17 and 1800’s, with Bristol Porter being exported to Ireland, Russia and mainland Europe. The main brewery producing such beer was The Bristol Porter Brewery, which later became Phillip George & The Bristol Porter Brewery in 1788. The company developed into the largest brewery in the West Country, occupying a variety of buildings from the Bristol Bridge to St Phillips Bridge - including one of the buildings in which our Brewpub is now housed. 

Compressor Building sign on a brick wall
Building exterior with 'Fermentation Buildings' Sign

In 1795 an additional brewhouse was commissioned for the production of pale ale, to diversify the brewery’s offerings and in subsequent years the brewery started to dominate Bristol, with the new name of Bristol Brewery George’s & Company. 70 freehold and 12 leasehold public houses were taken on, along with many other local businesses, namely:

  •         1889 James & Pierce Ltd, Bedminster Bridge Brewery, Bedminster, Bristol
  •         1911 R Miller & Company, Stoke Croft Brewery, Bristol
  •         1912 Hall & Sons, Lodway Brewery, Bristol
  •         1917 John Arnold, Wickwar
  •         1918 Welton Breweries Ltd, Welton, Somerset
  •         1923 Bath Brewery Ltd, Combe Down Brewery, Bath, Avon
  •         1926 Richard Slade & Sons, The Brewery, Union Road, Chippenham
  •         1931 Ashton Gate Brewery Company Ltd, Ashton Gate, Bedminster
  •         1932 Wyld & Company, Bristol (wine & spirit merchants)
  •         1944 Crocker Bros Ltd, Bristol
  •         1959 Wigmore & Company Ltd, Bristol (mineral water manufacturers)
  •         1960 E J Allen & Sons Ltd, (mineral water manufacturers)

The former Ashton Gate Brewery site is of particular importance in this instance, as what was once the fermentation block now houses our good friends Bristol Beer Factory, established in 2004. It is particularly great to know that Milk Stout has long been brewed on that site, initially produced by Ashton Gate Brewery (which opened in 1865), then continued by George’s & Co from 1931, and now with their own recipe it constitutes one of Bristol Beer Factory’s most successful brands.

In 1961 Bristol Georges & Co, merged into Courage, Barclay & Simmonds via an acquisition of all brewing operations. This encompassed the site at Finzels Reach where our Brewpub now sits. During the time under the Courage banner, one such employee was a man named Tim O’Rourke. Many people in the brewing industry will already know Tim through his extensive time working in breweries, being a fellow of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling, delivering lectures, providing brewing consultancy, and writing for brewing publications. Tim was the Research & Development Manager for the Courage group, running a 40 hectolitre pilot plant and leading R&D. As part of these duties, he was tasked with creating a George’s historic Porter, honouring the heritage of the site. After a visit to the archives, a recipe was formed and the finished beer was released in bottles to much acclaim. Courage, Barclay & Simmonds brewing operations ceased in 1999 and the Finzels Reach site in Bristol lay dormant for many years before being redeveloped into city centre housing - many of the original features of the George’s & Co brewery buildings are still visible today.

The large Compressor Building was left empty, and remained so for twenty years in this state. But in 2018 work commenced to resurrect the space after the dream of a Left Handed Giant Brewpub was realised, and we reopened the doors as a brewery and bar space in 2019.

Shiny silver brew kit with steam
Old Porter St road sign on a white brick wall

It’s a great honour to be collaborating with both Bristol Beer Factory, who we have been friends with for many years, and Tim, who through a chance encounter at Brookhouse Hop Farm, we bonded over the shared love of historic beer and his previous employment in the building in which we now reside.

The resulting beer from the collaboration is an 1816 Porter, jet black and pouring like oil, with a thick tan head. It is rich and indulgent, vinous, with notes of leather, bitter chocolate, and freshly ground coffee. Available in can, cask and keg, this is a beer to be savoured and think of times gone by.

Tim O'Rourke keeping an eye on the brew deckA dimpled pint mug with a dark porter beer and fluffy cream head stood next to an 1816 Porter pumpclip