Beer was brewed on the site for hundreds of years, since at least 1252. It was the chosen as the site for a brewery as water was close by coming from a spring at Chapelhay and nearby at Radipole there were barley fields. In 1742 the brewery was owned by the Flew family before the Devenish family took over the entire site at the building in the 1820s and they continued brewing beer here up until 1985. There were three separate breweries in the area for many years; the smallest, Davis Brewery, ceased working in the early 19th century, and Groves continued until 1960 when it was incorporated with Devenish. Once the brewery closed in 1985, the building was transformed. The Warehouse Theatre in nearby Hope Street was formerly used as the main coal storage for the Devenish Brewery. Within Brewer's Quay, at the top of the building, there was an exhibition of brewing, which told the building's seven hundred years of brewing history, and of the Devenish family and their nearby rivals.
During the late 20th century, the building was subject to major adaptation via co-operation between the Local Authority and the owners, as part of a general upgrading of the whole area. A shopping centre was established with a pub and restaurant, along with over 20 specialist shops, from hand-made crafts, jewellery, glassware, books, cards, confectionery, children's toys, art and autographs to various other gifts.
The complex was hailed as "the Covent Garden of Dorset" when it was opened in 1990 as the fulcrum of rejuvenation of the old brewery and harbourside. Soon after opening, the complex won the Come to Britain Trophy, a major commendation from Business and Industry, a Commitment to the Environment Award and a Civic Society award. In 2010 it was reported that an estimated 750,000 people visited the centre every year, compared to 100,000 in 1990.
Some shops included Art Corner, Global Crafts, printers Wowz on Canvas, Ship to Shore who offered models of historic ships to wooden clocks and barometers along with a range of books. Harbour Lights offered candles, scented oils and pot pourri, as well as glassware, whilst card shop Quay Moments offered a range of 3D cards and embroidered cards. The Village Store offered ranges of local preserves, pickles, biscuits, cheeses and country wines, along with freshly baked Cornish pasties and pies, whilst Sweet Sensations offered a wide range of confectionery including candy canes, rock, old-fashioned sweets and hand-made fudge. In the heart of the old brewery was The Courtyard Restaurant, and at the front of the building was The Excise House pub.
In June 2010, Brewers Quay marked its 20th anniversary. Brewers Quay director Roger Dalton was quoted in a Dorset Echo article, stating "The last 20 years have been a really inspiring journey. Remembering back to the original vision of the Covent Garden of Dorset, it’s hard to believe how much Brewers Quay has contributed to the changing face of the resort."
Weymouth Museum is a local museum housing the Borough Collection on the 1st floor of Brewers Quay. The museum reflects the physical, cultural and economic history of the area, as well as the social and maritime history of the area, with major sections covering the patronage of King George III right through to paddle steamers and the Whitehead Torpedo Factory. Currently the museum operates temporary displays in a single gallery, while it awaits the planned refurbishment of Brewers Quay.
The museum reopened in December 2013, having been closed for three years due to uncertainty about the future of Brewers Quay. The museum is operated entirely by volunteers. The museum has been re-designed to be more bright and welcoming, despite current limited space. Before its original closure, entry to Weymouth Museum was free of charge and was funded and managed by Brewers Quay. After Brewer's Quay was closed for undergoing remodeling to accommodate the 2012 Olympics, the Museum was relocated and available to visit during the summer 2011, however plans continued for it to be again relocated within the Brewer's Quay complex afterwards. The remodeling plans for Weymouth Museum to stay in the new facilities included the attraction being given a dedicated museum shop and café, whilst increasing its floor space from 7,000 square ft to 13,500 square ft. The plans for the site included a new layout featuring a 'chronological presentation' on the area's history, whilst the owners also wished to create a 125sq metre display space and a 171sq metre wet-weather attraction managed by the museum that would be "similar to the Discovery Centre", which was also located within the building before closure. These plans never came to fruition.
Timewalk presented visitors with 600 years of local history and the brewing heritage of the building itself.
Weymouth's award-winning Timewalk Exhibition and Brewery Days allowed visitors to travel back in time on a journey through Weymouth's past and maritime connections, as seen through the eyes of Miss Paws the brewery cat and her feline ancestors. The journey went back in time to the 14th century and recreated sights, sounds and smells of 600 years of history, revealing insights into the Black Death, the Spanish Armada, the Civil War, King George III and smuggling along the Dorset coast. The exhibition also gave information about the history of brewing in Hope Square, before those over 18 had an option of being served with a real ale taster in the Drum and Dancer tasting bar.
In August 2010, it was announced that the Timewalk would be axed from Brewers Quay plans to transform the building. It was revealed that the tourist attraction would be replaced by an alternative wet weather attraction.
Discovery was an independent hands-on science centre, which included over 60 exhibits covering a wide variety of experiences as well as a gift shop.
The interactive science centre had exhibits carefully designed to appeal to all ages, including the Shadow Wall, which froze your shadow, and the Infinity Room, which showed endless mirror reflections. A satellite weather station also displayed up-to-date weather movies from all around the world.
In 2004, Brewers Quay was put up for sale for the fifth time in 15 years. Bids were submitted around £3 million, however faltered when prospective buyers found managing the site too complex. Later in February 2007, shops and businesses were given notice to leave by owner Punch Taverns, as an overhaul of the building was planned. Tenants were given notice as a precautionary measure in case plans for development were brought forward however this did not materialise at the time.
In July 2010, it was announced that Brewers Quay was to be transformed into an 85-bed hotel, restaurant and luxury apartments complex. Under management of new owners, the regeneration project was predicted to cost £15 million, including £8 million building costs. The plan was to convert the quay to an upmarket development also meant housing specialist retail outlets. The development was due to be delivered by the time Weymouth hosts the 2012 Games. According to an article in the Dorset Echo, the traders within the building refused to speak about the "shock" announcement. It was stated that the building was to retain the heritage features through a sensitive conversion, although much of the building's fabric was due to be refurbished and upgraded. The plan hoped that the new-look would bring more visitors to the resort, whilst also creating 71 new jobs in comparison to the number of staff beforehand, marking a total of 149 expected jobs. Businesses inside the quay were asked to move out by the end of 2010. A public exhibition invited both residents and traders to view the outline proposals for the transformation, and was on show for two days in early August 2010. A detailed planning application for Brewers Quay was due to be submitted, with the plan that if planning permission was approved, development would begin early in 2011.
Michel Hooper-Immins, secretary of Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce, stated in the Dorset Echo that he believed that the plans could have the reverse effect. He was quoted "I think that Brewers Quay works very well as a visitor attraction and is a big asset to the town. Brewers Quay is a lovely collection of shops and I know many visitors enjoy spending time in there. Whether a hotel would be suitable for it, I don’t know. I would be concerned about where people are going to park their cars. I'm not sure apartments are what we want and I have a feeling Brewers Quay is more valuable to the town as an attraction. I'd be very sad to see it go." Public opinion from local areas was very much against it, however the owners decided not to listen.
In a following report from the Dorset Echo in December 2010, it was announced that leaseholders feared that revised rents at the remodelled attraction would be too high for them and many expected to relocate instead. Brewers Quay partner Chris McDougall also stated "We're in discussions with two hotel operators at the moment but we haven't agreed terms with anyone. If we're lucky enough to get planning permission approved in January then we're going to look to get the work done in 12 to 15 months. We plan to have the work done for the Olympics but we're pushing that deadline and we wouldn't want to have a building full of scaffolding while the Games are on. Every existing tenant will be offered a place and will have the first refusal. The commercial reality is that some of them probably won't be able to afford the rents but some of them will. The rents will not be that much higher than they are now. I've tried to tell the existing tenants that they will all be welcome back." McDougall also denied that discussions were going on to introduce a Tesco Express store at the site. The article revealed that the hotel would be accessible from Newberry Gardens, and would include a restaurant and bar with "interior design utilising the historic features of the brewery". The planned work included space for 17 shops for national and independent retailers, three restaurants or cafes and two other retail units. It was also planned to hold a new pub, a restaurant, eight residential apartments and five holiday apartments.
By January 2011, developers were praised by the chairman of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s planning and traffic committee for banning supermarkets from the new look Brewers Quay, after signing a planning agreement that will only allow specialist food stores in the development. Applicant David Shaw told the committee that Brewers Quay was ready for a revamp, stating "It's been over 20 years since it was transformed. The time is now for the heritage to be safeguarded."
Despite planning permission being received in January 2011, work has yet to begin as of 2013, and the building remains closed. However, in May 2012, it was announced that part of Brewers Quay would be open for the Olympics. The new tenants involved were set to open up in the Excise House, with a bar and restaurant expected to welcome visitors in July under the name Salt Pop Up Bar & Kitchen. In November 2012, a new art gallery was opened in a front space of Brewers Quay, set to stay until January 2013. More than 160 visitors attended the launch event of the new arts and crafts exhibition by local artists under the Weymouth and Portland art group Artwey.
On 17 February 2013, it was announced that Brewers Quay is to reopen by Easter with a restaurant, museums and an antiques emporium. The plans include holding 50 traders, selling antiques, collectibles and vintage items. Negotiations began between owners Brewers Quay Investments LLP and tenants, who announced that the plan to bring an Italian restaurant, a military museum, a cafe and offices to the harbourside site. Alastair Ross, a partner at Brewers Quay Investments LLP, was quoted in a Dorset Echo article, stating "It has always been our aim to do what we can to bring the Hope Square retail frontage back to life, and to maintain support for the museum whilst we consider the building's future and grasp the financial implications and commercial realities of a project of this magnitude."
On 28 March 2013, Brewers Quay reopened in time for Easter, with approximately 50 traders. In a Dorset Echo article based on the reopening, it was announced that a D-Day Museum is due to open shortly and also a new retail outlet adjacent to the main atrium. Alastair Ross, a partner at Brewers Quay Investments LLP, had stated they were very pleased to be re-opening, whilst the complex is also currently competing for the world record jigsaw attempt. The next phases of the development plans for the complex are due over the coming months.