The Allied Arms

Epic pub crawl part 2. After not really feeling the love in the Alehouse, Grobber and I moved on to the Allied Arms. I have a particular soft spot for the Allied Arms. The first time I went there was the night before I got married. I worried that mentioning that fact might allow someone to look up the pub’s history and say “ah, he couldn’t have done that before 2001, so he must have been married since then” or something like that. I looked on their web site to see if you could get any hints about my age, thus mildly chipping away at my secret identity. It doesn’t, because under history on their website it simply says  one word – “History”.  Also, the fact that I am calling a three pub tour “epic” tells you far more about my age. In fairness, this is not a quick half at every stop on the circle line sort of pub crawl. It’s one that involves sampling multiple beers in each pub, just to make sure I am doing them justice. So three pubs being epic is OK.

One interesting fact I did find out about the Allied Arms (courtesy of a getreading advertorial) is that the pub, which first opened in 1828, was the scene of a riot in the 1960s. The barman called last orders 2 minutes too early. To be honest, it sounds like it was a reasonable complaint to me. If you were just about to get one last round in and the barman decides to close early, it’s asking for trouble. And to do that with a bar full of Irish navvies who have spent the day building the M4 seems like foolishness in the extreme.

Fortunately there was no evidence of that sort of unfriendly behaviour at today’s Allied Arms. In fact, the staff couldn’t have been friendlier. At least that was after our initial telling off. We made the mistake of walking in the front door. Apparently that’s not the done thing. In my defence there is no No Entry sign, and the door was unlocked. And at the front of the pub. Yes, there’s a sign at ankle level pointing to a side door, but I was chatting to Grobber, not walking around looking at my feet in case there was a sign to tell me that there is another door that I might prefer. In case you can’t tell, I am unrepentant.

The reason for the two door confusion is that the Allied Arms has two bars. Neither bar is massive, so it has half its beer taps in each bar. Knowing that that’s a pain for the punter, who can’t see what’s on in the other bar, they do a cunning thing. They put a second badge on the pump, so you can see what the options are next door too.

Of course, I was a little puzzled at first, thinking it was perhaps now and next – like the chalkboards in the Nags Head. The barman patiently explained the system to me though – like he must have to thousands of other people too. “What’s the other badge for?”. “That’s the beers that are on next door”. I then take about 30 seconds longer than is respectable to figure out how many beers that is. “So you’ve  got 10 real ales on?”. “Yes”. “Really?”. “Yes”. He was kind enough not to point out that I was standing right next to the massive sign that says “Ten Real Ales”. I like barmen that will forgive your stupidity.

I also like when the staff really know their beer, and both people behind the bar were more than happy to chat about the different beers they had on, what was coming up, what they recommended, and so on. Yes, unless you are a Yates’s or Walkabout, most pub staff are prepared to make a recommendation. But these guys really cared, and actually knew what they were talking about.

I went for a Junga Juice by Downton Brewery. It was pretty good – not the best beer ever. Grobber went for the Gem – a much better choice. Second round was Wadworth Horizon, and Hop Back G.F.B. Again, both good beers. The selection in general was impressive. Ten real ales, all good quality. There aren’t many pubs that can do that.

Inside the pub is a pretty typical older pub – wobbly wooden tables, wooden floor, beams on the roof. The real bonus of the Allied Arms though is its beer garden. Tucked out the back of the pub is a large patio area – probably larger than the pub. It’s ideal for getting some outside beer in the town centre. The beer garden was full of 30 and 40 somethings, all having a good chat, enjoying their drinks, and having a good time. They also (blast from the past) had a jukebox. Perhaps it shows the punters’ ages, but the first song on was Baby Jane by Rod Stewart. Followed by Play That Funky Music White Boy by one hit wonders Wild Cherry. Cheesy, but it worked. A great atmosphere. A massive contrast from the Alehouse, and one that was hard to drag ourselves away from for pub three (next week).

Beer Quality Nice tasting beer – no complaints there
Beer Selection An amazingly good range of beers. Ten real ales, in case you didn’t know.
Drink vs Food No food, just beer and snacks.
Music Old school hits on a jukebox
Snacks Great snacks – quavers, nuts, regular crisps, chocolate bars, and scampi fries. A real old school treat.
Atmosphere Really great staff, friendly punters. A nice place to visit
Price  £12 for two pints and two packs of crisps.  Not super cheap.
Space A great big beer garden, and a fair bit of space inside too.

Score: 7.45

This is the third best score I have given to a pub – behind the Fox & Hounds and The Nags Head. The scores are all based on a formula with different weights for different criteria, but that fits with my gut feel too – it’s worth a special visit to go there.

http://www.allied-arms.co.uk/

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