The Nags Head has a reputation that’s hard to ignore as you set off for a review session. They have won pub of the year in Reading so many times that I’m not sure even they could tell you how many. I took a photo of their awards, thinking that I had done some sterling research, but then when I was at the bar I noticed that they have a bunch more hidden in the cider cupboard – too many to count.
So how do I steel myself against the sort of prejudice that that might bring to a review? Simple – I took Mr. Affable with me, whose down to earth Midlands attitude ensures that no pub passes without proper scrutiny. These soft southern pubs, with their inside toilets and fancy craft beers – they are no match for his critical analysis. In fairness, he’ll complain when he reads this, about how he’s had more craft beer than me, and has had an inside toilet for over half his life, but even so – he’s a good judge.
The pub was heaving on a Friday night. We met after work, and were lucky to get the last table in the pub. The pub has a wide variety of customers – one of the larger tables was being taken up by a man with 2 greyhounds (who I like to think tells his wife that he’s off to give the dogs a good walk, but sneaks down the pub). A dad with his young son – one with a pint, the other with a mars bar and a bottle of coke. We smiled a lot up at that one, thinking of when our dads used to take us to the pub as kids. The world cup was on, and a lot of people had come in straight from work to watch it. Some even wore double denim, but everyone was far too kind to comment. The atmosphere couldn’t have been more different to the football match I watched in the Prince Of Wales in Caversham – everyone was happy, chatty, and welcoming. When I took a photo, a group offered to move out of the way so I could get a better picture. People smiled. Acquaintances nodded. It felt like a local.
On to the beer though. The Nags has the great feature of showing you what beers are on, with a brief description on blackboards above the bar. Not only that, but the blackboards show you what is up next when that runs out – perhaps to encourage you to put the effort in to finish off the current barrel?
One of the reasons we went along to the Nags was to try out beer from the new Reading brewery, Double Barrelled. Unfortunately they reckoned it needed another week to settle, so we weren’t able to try it out. A shame, but you have to respect them for prioritising the beer quality. Instead I went for a Suspended In Mortuega by Siren Craft. Delicious beer, but honestly these names are getting ridiculous. We also tried a Covert by Stealth Brewing Co., So’Hop by Moor Beer Company, Plum Porter by Titanic Brewery and a Citra Plus by Hopcraft Brewing. Marginally more sensible names, and every pint a winner. Mr. Affable raved to anyone who would listen about the Plum Porter – very nice indeed. The Nags clearly put a lot of effort into sourcing and serving good beer. And they update their website with the latest beers that are on, so you know what to expect.
There’s also an outside bar, Gary’s Bar – because that’s the trendy thing to do these days. Ideal for summer, where it saves you a trip to the main bar, and makes more space to serve people. The outside bar is basically a gazebo in the car park , full of benches, with a bar made out of chipboard, and a stage for the TV, also made out of chipboard. The practical side of me is hoping the gazebo will protect it from the rain, or it won’t last very long. Anyway, it makes a nice extra space for the summer.
Back inside, and on to the bar snacks. The bar had some brilliant pork scratchings, “real” brand crisps, Nobbys nuts, and a personal favourite – Scampi fries. No food, but pickled eggs are on offer.
|Beer Quality||Very good. They definitely care about the beer quality|
|Beer Selection||A wide selection of interesting beers, including the coveted Plum Porter|
|Drink vs Food||All drink. No messing about with people eating lamb shanks or monkfish. If you want a meal, there’s a kebab shop on Oxford road.|
|Music||None on this occasion. Unobtrusive at other times.|
|Snacks||Crisps, pork scratchings, pickled eggs|
|Atmosphere||Very lively, but in a happy friendly way.|
|Price||A bargain. I paid £3.80 for a pint|
|Space||There are lots of tables, but the pub can be very busy.|
Yes, it deserves it’s reputation. A fantastic pub that is a destination for beer lovers all over Reading.