“Fancy coming down the pub to watch the Champs League Finale?” asked Big Gary. I fancied at least half of that activity, and figured that I could have a nice drink and a chat while the football played in the background. I was even prepared to shout the occasional “come on ref” to fit in if necessary – I’m pretty good at picking an appropriate moment to do that. And it turns out Liverpool were playing. I had a Kevin Keegan pencil case when I was at primary school (one of those long ones that could fit a full length ruler), so to be honest it was all falling in to place for me.
What didn’t all fall in to place was my reading skills. I skimmed over the WhatsApp messages (10 pages of joke Ronaldo pictures) to find the kick off time, and then headed off to the Clifton Arms. Because that’s where Big Gary or Mr. Affable always go when there is football on. But if you have read the title of this review, you will know that I was wrong. After walking round the completely jam packed Clifton Arms twice, I came to the conclusion that perhaps I was in the wrong place, and a review of the Clifton Arms will have to wait for another day.
The Prince of Wales, when I eventually got there, was similarly packed. The benefit of being late though was it was easy to get served – everyone else was glued to the TV. Somehow I managed to get the last seat in the pub, and settled down to my pint. The choice of bitter was OK, but a bit narrow – Brakespear Honey Bee, Brakespear Bitter, Ringwood Boondoggle and Maltsmiths American Style IPA. I’m not against narrow though if it means high quality.
I plumped for the Maltsmiths first. It was darker than I was expecting – not unpleasant, but not amazing. I suspect that is not a reflection on the POW, but just that IPA. However, the dark colour of the IPA was a chink in my football fan disguise – predominantly Camden Hells for everyone else. Probably a good choice considering the soaring temperatures. But as I have said before, you can’t rate a pub on the quality of it’s lager – the bitter is the true challenge.
Fortunately Mr. Affable turned up too, and had the good grace to drink some Brakespear Bitter, which got a thumbs up from him. Cost was about £4 – a great price compared to the average round here. The Brakespear Honey Bee was also delicious – quality over quantity winning here.
The atmosphere in the pub was best described as “a bit lairy”. Definitely some passion flowing round the room that was a few pints away from an argument – but fortunately it didn’t turn in to that. If I’d only been here once, I’d put that down to the football. But to someone who’s not a regular, the POW just seems a little less open to non-locals than some of the other pubs in the area. This is something that the landlord is clearly trying hard to change. The recent Gin and Cheese festival was a great example of how they are doing that. And look at this picture of the outdoor gin bar from their website – it’s not what most people think of when they think of the POW.
The POW also has one of the best beer gardens in the area, with a large grassy area that borders on to the allotments. You’d hardly know you were in the middle of Caversham when you are out there.
Inside, the pub is a classic old style pub – dartboard, Sky Sports, a few board games. Snacks were OK – kettle chips, jerky and the dreaded nuts in a jar. There’s a lot of space, and you can generally find a seat, except when the football is on.
|Beer Quality||Not bad at all – the limited selection keeps it fresh.|
|Beer Selection||A smaller range of beer|
|Drink vs Food||They serve pizza, but it’s all about the drink|
|Music||Sometimes live music. Fairly loud music in the background.|
|Snacks||Kettle chips, jerky. Nuts in a jar.|
|Atmosphere||Not as relaxed as some other pubs in the area.|
|Price||About £4 a pint.|
|Space||Plenty of space both inside and out.|
If you want a pint in a beer garden in Caversham, this is a no brainer. If you want a good selection of gins in a secret garden, ditto. Beyond that, there’s still some work to do.