Heading to the Craft Theory festival today? Here’s a quick guide to what you can expect. Not heading there? There are still a few tickets available for this evening.
So, what can you expect from the Craft Theory Festival? In a nutshell it’s 3 rooms with unusual beer from a great selection of breweries, often with the brewers from those breweries there serving the beer, plus some of the best street food in Reading.
There are 14 breweries in total, from local favourites like Double Barrelled, Siren Craft and West Berks, to more distant offerings like De Molen from the Netherlands, and To Øl from Denmark. Most of the breweries had 4 beers on at any one time – primarily because it seems most of them turned up with 2 portable key-keg dispensers ( don’t expect any hand pumps here!). I put a list of them on untappd (https://untappd.com/user/DrQuaff/lists/520097) but no guarantees that I didn’t miss any or that they will all be on at any one time.
Anyway, when Mr. Affable, Big Gary and I turned up at 6:30 there was already a massive line out the door to get in. It’s a wristband event, so everyone had to be banded and given their glass. The street food was sitting temptingly just the other side of the line too, making it even harder to wait, but it only took us about 10 minutes to get in. 10 thirsty, hungry minutes.
Once inside we headed in to the Studio room to try Little Earth Project, at the recommendation of Matt on the door. I made my first mistake of the night – trusting the recommendation of someone who has different tastes to me without asking for a sample. I spent £6 on 2/3 of a pint of Organic Wild Mint Mojito beer. Some people raved about it, but it stripped the enamel off my teeth. Fortunately, that was a one off, and I learned to ask for tasters first to make sure I wasn’t wasting my time on things I didn’t like. Seriously – my top tip is to try before you buy as it’s not like an outside festival where you can just pour it on the grass if you really don’t like it!
£6 for 2/3 of a pint was probably the most expensive price – breweries were charging between £4 and £6 (and mostly payment by card only. no cash). You get a 2/3 pint glass on entry, so they serve 1/3, 1/2 or 2/3 pints only. No full pints here. So that brings us to the elephant in the room. It’s really not a cheap event. It costs £15 to get in, and the beer is expensive when you are in. So, many people ask why the hell they should they bother instead of going to the pub?
In my opinion there are several reasons for going. First of all, you get to drink a whole load of beers that you might never otherwise try. I can guarantee that The Horn will not be stocking Organic Wild Mint Mojito beer any time soon for example.
Secondly, the folks from The Grumpy Goat have done a great job of selecting some premium breweries to attend. These are top quality beers being served. Which is something that many people don’t instantly recognise as a even a thing. We have a rather unique relationship with beer where many people think it’s got to cost the same for just about any pint. But we don’t do that with wine, with spirits, with food. We accept that there are premium products and cheap products there. Well, the same is true with beer, and this is one of the few places where you can get top quality beer.
Thirdly, it’s the ability to talk to the breweries and try their different beers. If you are just walking to the bar, buying something that has a funny name and walking away again, you are missing half the experience. Every single brewery there was absolutely delighted to talk about their beer, to make suggestions and to help you pick beer you will love. All of that combined makes it worth the premium price tag for me.
I do have some suggestions for what to try if you are overwhelmed by the choice. Other great beers were the Limousines by Double Barrelled (and it only occurred to me yesterday that the brewery name is a pun on Mike and Luci Clayton-Jones’s last name – feeling thick that it took me so long). Also, almost all of the Beatnikz Republic beers, and the Suspended In Sabro by Siren Craft. But those are just my personal favourites – you’ll surely have other preferences. Go try them out!
The other reason to go along is for the food. Clays are taking their first venture in to street food, and have nailed it again. They were kind enough to save some chicken pakora for me as they know what a fan I am, and I can strongly suggest getting in fast before it all runs out!
There’s also wood fired pizza from The Pizza Gardener, which looked amazing, and if you want some vegan food, We Are Friends are doing vegan pies. Also, Grumpy Goat will do you a nice cheese platter to go along with your beer.
Lastly, there are a bunch of DJ sets all day. I don’t know if it is coincidence, but every DJ in the theatre yesterday seems to drink in the Fox & Hounds, but they all managed to stay sober enough to put on a storming set, as did the DJs in the studio too. By the end of the night, it felt as much night club as it did beer festival, so put your dancing shoes on too.
I’m not going to do a rating as this is a one off event, not a pub. But definitely get down there if you can.