There are so many great breweries in and around Reading, and what better way to spend your Saturday afternoon than visiting one of them, and taste fresh beer from the brewery. On this particular Saturday afternoon I was looking for somewhere to watch the rugby too, and since Loddon Brewery has rugby connections, it seemed like an obvious choice.
Loddon is a bit off the beaten track – quite literally. It’s in Dunsden, just over the border in Oxfordshire. As far as I can tell it is about a mile walk from the nearest bus stop. It’s a lovely bike ride through the countryside, or do as I did – the old “I’ll drive there, you drive back” trick with your partner.
The Loddon taproom is in an old building that looks very much like a fancy farmshop from the outside – nice red brick, plant pots, and picnic tables. I’ll be honest – it looks a lot more Henley than Reading. Mrs. Quaff got very confused about it not being a unit on an industrial estate. It looked so nice she even thought the sign on the wall said Tearoom & Shop, not Taproom & Shop.
Inside looks just as farm shop too – wooden shelves full of bottles of beer, wine, jam, honey, and crisps. Wicker baskets, apple crates and barrels used for display also helped the vibe. All they needed was eggs and bacon sold at extortionate prices to complete the farm shop appearance.
At the other end of the room is the bar. A tiny little one person bar that made me think of the sort of bar that you might build in your garage if you were lucky enough to have a garage going spare. Three pumps, a small fridge for soft drinks and cider, and a good quality coffee machine that made Mrs. Quaff very happy.
One of the reasons I went out to Loddon was not just to watch the rugby (there are closer places with a TV), but also to try their new beer – Citra Quad IPA. They have a new head brewer who has strayed from the traditional Loddon path towards something that is much more hoppy in taste. It was fantastic – full of bright flavour. This has to become one of their regular beers in my opinion, but at the moment they are only doing it as a special. Fortunately I did hear Chris (the owner) say that they have secured enough hops to keep making it for some time, so hopefully we’ll see it in a lot of pubs soon.
The other good news was that the beer was only £3.50 – a complete bargain compared to Reading pubs. And if you join the Loddon beer club it’s only £3 a pint. At £50 membership you’re going to need to drink a lot of beer in the taproom to make that worthwhile, but you do also get a couple of free beer evenings, a glass and a polo shirt. If you live within walking distance, I guess it’s just about worth it.
Atmosphere in the place was nice and friendly. When we got there, there were a couple of people already watching the match. One had a mad dog who kept wanting to sit literally under my feet. Friendly people though – happy to commiserate about Scotland’s poor performance in the game.
The crowd grew throughout the afternoon – some folks walked there, with their dog. Other people drove in their practical countryside cars. With their dog. I’m not saying you need a dog to get in the door, but it certainly seems like it helps. You’ll be pleased to know that you don’t need to have any skills at controlling your dog to be let in either. “Oh, I knew he’d run wild if I let him off his lead” cried one owner. Why did you let him off his lead then?
If you look at the picture above, you’ll spot the rack of postcards on the wall. From a distance, they looked like it might be a picture of David Cameron having a pint of Loddon. It didn’t seem far fetched considering we were in Oxfordshire. I was assured that they aren’t that bad though. Apparently it was the actors from Midsomer Murders. I’ve never watched it (it’s on ITV, and I don’t do adverts), but apparently it is sometimes filmed at the brewery. I checked and there was an episode this week where someone drowns in a boiling vat at the brewery, and they replace the beer with cheap crap from the supermarket. I’m not sure that particular episode is a great advert for the beer, but apparently people like to turn up to see where it was filmed, and to buy a postcard of an actor who from a distance after a few pints looks a little bit like David Cameron.
Anyway, back to the beer. The 6 pack was pretty good too – it’s a lighter session ale. I basically only bought it because I’d never tried it before, and while it wasn’t bad, I wished I’d stuck with the Citra Quad. They also sell a lot of Tutts Clump cider. It’s nice to see a real cider on sale instead of Strongbow Winter Fruits. If you’re a lager fan, you’re out of luck as far as I could tell, which is not surprising for a taproom. You don’t head there for a pint of Fosters.
Food and snacks were pretty good too – sausage rolls with about an inch thick sausages, cheese straws, and cakes. Biltong, scratchings and crisps too. It’s not a restaurant, but there’s plenty to keep you going.
|Beer Quality||Great quality beer – nice and fresh|
|Beer Selection||A bit limited – only 3 beers on tap, and a limited selection in the fridge.|
|Drink vs Food||It’s a taproom with snacks.|
|Music||None – the rugby was on when I went|
|Snacks||Great cheese straws, massive sausage rolls, crisps, scratchings.|
|Atmosphere||Friendly people, happy for a chat or happy to leave you alone.|
|Price||£3.50 a pint – bargain|
|Space||A bit of a squeeze inside. 4 or 5 high tables, but not much room round them. Plenty of benches outside though, which are probably lovely in the summer.|
If you’re after an afternoon out in the countryside, it’s a good destination. Go for a walk and reward yourself with a few nice beers. Perhaps take your dog.