Saluting Dorset pub and seaside brewery
Added: Wednesday, October 18th 2017
When Charlie Newman accepted a framed certificate from CAMRA on 13 October to mark his pub, the Square & Compass, gracing all 45 editions of the Good Beer Guide, the big crowd in the pub had another good reason to cheer.
For the Square & Compass in Worth Matravers, Dorset, serves beer from Hattie Brown’s brewery in neighbouring Swanage. It’s the first new brewery in the seaside resort for more than 100 years and it mirrors the fact that the Newman family has run the pub for more than a century.
The pub takes its name from the tools used by masons who cut Purbeck stone, once widely used in house building in London and other towns and cities.
The Square & Compass is a fine ale house, described for many years in the Good Beer Guide simply as “a bastion of the Purbecks”. Beer is served straight from casks and is drunk in two rooms with blazing fires and old settles. At the end of a corridor there’s a small museum, with remains of dinosaurs from the Jurassic Coast on the Isle of Purbeck.
The spacious front garden, with an abundance of seating, free range chickens and romping Labradors and other dogs, has superb views across rolling fields that lead down to the sea and St Aldhelm’s Head. As well as good beer, drinkers can also sample Charlie Newman’s cider, which he makes from apples collected in Wareham Forest.
Hattie Brown’s is based on a farm just outside Swanage and is run by Jean Young, the brewster, with her partner Kevin Hunt: Kevin is also the manager at the Square & Compass.
They started brewing in 2014, using the plant at the Wessex Brewery before moving with their own kit to Swanage. The brewery – named after their dog – restores brewing to the town, which lost its previous brewery in the late 19th century.
James Panton owned two breweries in Wareham as well as Swanage. It was a sizable operation, supplying a tied estate of 90 pubs and distributing throughout Dorset and the Isle of Wight. His Pale Ale was much admired.
When Panton died, his family sold the breweries and pubs to Strong’s of Romsey in Hampshire, which was bought in 1969 by Whitbread and closed 10 years later.
Panton’s Swanage brewery was on a site that’s now a doctor’s surgery opposite the railway station: the station is the terminus for the heritage steam line that runs to Corfe Castle and Norden, and in summer links up with the main line at Wareham.
Jean Young learnt brewing skills when she was a “cuckoo brewster” at Wessex Brewery. She deepened her knowledge on a Brewlab course in Sunderland. In Swanage, using kit from the former Tom Brown’s brewery in Dorchester, she brews a clutch of full-bodied, hoppy/malty beers including Moonlite and HBA (both 3.8%), Fullmoon (5%), Kirrin Island (4.5%), Mustang Sally (4.3%), Spangle (4.6%) and Crow Black (5.1%).
The beers are on sale in the Square & Compass, the Royal Oak in nearby Langton Matravers and a growing number of pubs in the Purbeck area.
The Square & Compass is a true community pub but today also draws in customers from further afield for regular folk and hillbilly music events.
But the heartbeat of the pub remains its beer and there’s no better way to while away a few hours than sitting inside or outside, drinking in the atmosphere and the fine ale.
*Photos: top, left to right, CAMRA founder Michael Hardman, holding a copy of the first Good Beer Guide, published in 1974, pub owner Charlie Newman, Roger Protz, and pub manager Kevin Hunt. Centre: Charlie Newman and Kevin Hunt with Hattie Brown's brewster Jean Young. Photos by Caroline Gray. Below, front of the Square & Compass