Love Your Local: The Leopold Tavern, Southsea

Stuart Ainsworth, landlord of The Leopold in Southsea
Stuart Ainsworth, landlord of The Leopold in Southsea
Junction between Quay Street and West Street. Picture: Google Maps

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It’s a pub that prides itself on being like a permanent beer festival.

The Leopold Tavern, in Albert Road, Southsea, is a haven for drinkers seeking to find ales and ciders they wouldn’t normally get anywhere else.

And this week there’s been more range than ever at the charming boozer as it holds its third annual beer bash.

Since last Friday, 65 different beers have been through the pumps and barrels and punters have been treated to 150 bottled varieties as well as 12 ciders.

Punters guzzled a staggering 3,000 pints over the weekend as they tucked into pulled pork sandwiches and American-style hot dogs cooked on a barbecue at the back of the pub.

The event, which finishes on Sunday, has gone down a storm and takings have soared by 30 per cent.

And so far 60 of the 80 barrels of beer the pub has aimed to sell have been cleaned out.

One barrel normally holds around 72 pints.

Stuart Ainsworth, landlord of The Leopold Tavern, said the event was an extension of what is already one long beer festival at his pub.

‘I have a permanent beer festival in a way because no-one has as much beer in their pub in the area as mine,’ he said.

‘Every day is the same for me.

‘It’s been our busiest beer festival.

‘People are starting to get into the bottled beers as well.

‘The days are gone when ale-lovers were people with beards and sandals.

‘There’s a huge demographic now and there’s especially a lot of younger people.’

Stuart’s pub has grown from strength to strength as others struggle to keep up and offer customers what they want.

‘We had had year-on-year growth for the past nine years,’ he said.

‘There is money out there, you just have to offer the customer the right thing.

‘If people don’t have much money in their pockets, then they want value for money when they do go out and have a quality time.’

A quiz is held on Mondays and proceeds from a meat raffle held every Saturday go into a pot which is used to support local causes.

No food is served – but that’s because Stuart prides himself on being in charge of a pub dedicated to good drink.

‘I don’t like food in pubs; if you want food then go to a restaurant,’ he said.

‘I am all about beer, and that’s what it is all about.

‘That’s what a pub should be like. It was like that in the old days.

‘You don’t want to have to worry about trying to find a table because everyone is eating.’

Stuart is more than just The Leopold Tavern’s landlord.

He bills himself as the pub’s ‘head of research’ because he’s often out and about searching for the best beers to sell.

Though he has a vast selection, he’s still somewhat limited because the pub is tied to Enterprise Inns.

But Stuart, 43, hopes that in the future, pub companies will open up their portfolios and allow locals to stock an even greater variety.

He also welcomed beer duty being cut by 1p per pint, saying it was ‘the start of good news’ for the pub industry.

But he said big changes still needed to be made to ensure pubs were getting a fair deal.

‘It’s all very well taking a penny off, but then things like electricity are going up all the time,’ said Stuart.

‘My overheads will still go up this year regardless of a penny being taken off a pint.

‘We still have an awful lot to do in the pub trade.’

Stuart has run the pub for 12-and-a-half years and his wife Mandy helps out with the paperwork in between doing another job.

Her brother Ron Smith is the pub’s general manager and there are nine bar staff in total.

Talking about why he loves his job, Stuart said: ‘It’s the social life. I can be in a pub seven days a week and my wife won’t tell me off!’

The couple have known each other since they were 10 and have been together for 26 years.

Mandy, 41, said: ‘Stuart has done a great job.

‘The pub has completely changed. When we took over it had a pool table and had beers you see in most pubs.’