The combination of lovely weather, and England playing someone in the world cup prompted Mrs. Quaff to suggest inviting friends round for a BBQ. She likes football more than me, and I suspect she likes us doing things which mean I do the cooking. Fortunately this was just the excuse I needed to visit the Siren Craft Tap Room to get some beer – after all, what is a BBQ without good beer. I have been trying hard for a while to contrive an occasion where it was worth while us making the drive out to Finchampstead. What better excuse than needing beer for a BBQ – after all, you can’t settle for just supermarket beer for a good BBQ.
The Siren Craft brewery is a little drive outside Reading. You can get the number 3 bus there, but I have an old convertible that is ideal for a drive through the countryside on a sunny day. I don’t drive to work, so I need to take whatever opportunities I can to use it. But beer and driving don’t mix, so it’s therefore essential that I persuade Mrs. Quaff to come with me, so that she can drive back. Clever excuse part two – we should also go to Costco to get some stuff for the BBQ, and that’s pretty much on the way. And Mrs. Quaff can’t send me there on my own, because I spend too much. As Hannibal from the A-Team would say, I love it when a plan comes together.
After a nice drive through the countryside, and a less nice drive through an industrial estate where they thought it was a good idea to make their speed bumps as invisible as possible (poor car), we finally found the tap yard. I don’t know what I was expecting, but at first sight it looks like a bunch of tables set up in a screwfix car park.
I can’t stress this enough though – do not let this put you off. Siren Craft have indeed put a bunch of folding tables in a car park, but that’s not all there is to it. Inside the dull looking industrial unit, they have built a really nice bar. “It’s very San Francisco” observed Mrs. Quaff. I’m not sure she’s ever been to a bar in San Francisco, but indeed it was – lots of benches, lots of bare wood, metal, and Edison light bulbs. If it was truly San Francisco, they’d have done something really hipster though. I don’t know – like blending beer and coffee perhaps? The world cup was playing on a small screen, but no-one was watching it – I guess if you really cared you would have gone to Walkabout to sit on the bleachers while glued to the game. There’s also a bunch of merch to spend your money on (t-shirts, hats, glasses, gift boxes) if you feel an overwhelming desire to signal to the world that you are really cool because you are in to an up and coming beer brand (no, I didn’t, but I’ll admit that it was close).
There were 10 beers on tap, many of which I had tried before, so no point wasting my time on those. Part of the point of visiting the manufacturer is to try things that haven’t made it to your local yet. I’d never had Liquid Mistress, so though I should try it. Big mistake. Delicious beer, but completely inappropriate for the weather. Much more of a winter beer. A few more rounds of “Oh, I’m just not sure, can I try that one too”, and I settled on White Tips – a stunningly fresh IPA, absolutely perfect for a warm sunny day. The beer was, as you might expect, in absolutely perfect condition. Very fresh, just the right temperature, and superbly looked after.
Also of note was the Santo – Siren Craft’s first lager (or at least the first one they think is good enough to sell). The friendly staff behind the bar were absolutely raving about it. It’s lager with actual flavour, and also very refreshing. I’d definitely go back for more of that.
The price for 2/3 of a pint of Soundwave was £3.50 (they only sell in 2/3 pints). That’s £5.25 a pint for anyone who can’t/won’t do some maths. That seemed pretty steep to me for buying direct from the manufacturer, after having driven miles to get there. I was expecting that it would be cheaper than a pub, not more expensive. Buying it in a growler to take away is a much more reasonable £3.35 a pint. You can buy a nice stainless steel 2L growler there for £20, and get half price off your first fill.
What I didn’t mention earlier was Part three of my cunning plan. I happen to know that Siren Craft have food events on Saturdays throughout the summer, so I rushed us out the door at lunch time, before we had a chance to eat. And lo and behold there was a BBQ going when we got there. Two burgers to go with our drinks – that’ll do very nicely. There were also Snackling pork scratchings and crisps to buy at the bar.
The atmosphere was really nice – lots of happy people having a good chat. A very serious game of connect 4 was in progress too. A few toddlers wandering around, making friends with each other in the way that only 1 year olds can, before stealing each other’s chew toys. A surprising number of people had made the journey out there – to such an extent that they were having to find more tables to put up. Clearly word is getting round that this is the place to be to drink good beer.
|Beer Quality||Very very good. You won’t find the beer in better condition than this.|
|Beer Selection||It’s mainly Siren Craft, with 10 beers on tap, and many more in bottles. Also bottles from Elusive Brewing.|
|Drink vs Food||Food on Saturdays throughout summer|
|Music||None when I was there.|
|Snacks||Crisps, pork scratchings, scotch eggs and vegan sausage rolls.|
|Atmosphere||Lots of chilled people enjoying themselves|
|Price||Surprisingly high. £5.25 a pint|
|Space||Plenty of space both inside and out. Note, only open Thursday to Saturday, 12 to 8.|
If this was in the centre of Reading, other pubs would have a hard time competing with them. As it is out in the countryside, only open 3 day a week, and shuts at 8 (9 on Saturdays), it’s more of a journey to buy some takeaway and have a few drinks while you are there. My suggestion to Siren Craft is to do a brew dog and open a pub in the centre of town too.
Updated 25/6 to note the extra snacks and guest beer.