The problem comes when you have the die-hard real ale drinker who wants a quality pint, but you don’t want to go to a pub or micro brewery as you want a refreshing gin in more stylish surroundings.
This was one of the reasons behind James Mattingley opening Sit and Sip in North Street, Chichester.
Claire Rowland, general manager, explains: “James didn’t want a cocktail bar as he loves craft beer but his wife hates beer so he created the perfect spot for both of them.”
James quit his job in the corporate world with a mission to provide quality craft and artisan products to the public.
Sit and Sip sells gins and beers in a stylish and comfortable setting.“I pick what we stock,” explains Claire.“We like to feature local gins and breweries. We don’t want something you can get anywhere but we also sell it so after you have had a drink you could buy a bottle to take home.”
There are 130 beers in the fridge to choose from, including Sussex breweries to ones from nearby Southsea and down the road in Southampton. There is also a selection from Belgium and New Zealand.“We have ten on tap and these can change as we sometimes have tap takeovers where a brewery will have the taps and people can find out more about what they do,” she says.“We change the gin menu seasonally.“We have done one where the gins were from the south coast so had them from Devon and Cornwall. “For the summer we will have fruity ones but naturally fruity rather than ones that have just had loads of sugar put in it.”
Local gins include Chichester Harbour, Twisted Nose, Chilgrove, Tom Cat Gin and Jarrolds.
The staff includes eight ‘tapsters’ who have been educated in what they sell, and Claire admits that she has a good record for guessing what gin someone would like.“I have met so many people who say they don’t like gin and in eight months only one person has given the gin back saying they didn’t like it. It is usually the tonic people don’t like.”
The bar can be hired for functions and has a number of different events throughout the week and month.“We host gin or beer tasting events, so we have had Chichester Harbour come in and they talked about the gin.“They brought in a new summer and a winter one to see what people thought and if they like it, it will go into production.“We also do masterclasses, from four people, we run it ourselves and people taste a selection of different beers or gins.“There is also board game Thursdays and on Sundays we do sit and snack. We don’t usually do food but we bring out platters of meat and cheese people can share.”
With a vast range of beers Claire says her favourite brewery is Unity in Southampton.“I don’t know anyone who has tried one of their beers and not liked it,” she adds.“For people just being introduced to gin a great one for people to try is the Chilgrove Bramble gin with a lemon tonic or Sicilian lemonade, it is really refreshing and not too sweet.”Or if you really aren’t sure see if Claire can find your next favourite tipple for you.
Open Monday to Wednesday 3pm until 11pm; Thursday to Saturday noon until 11pm and Sunday noon until 6pm. Sit and Sip, 2a Northgate, Chichester,
To sign up to be part of their Tasting Club, where you can get offers and event info via email visit www.sitandsip.co.uk
Pictures: Ben Carpenter and Tamsin Smith