If you didn’t know the Dairy was there, you’d never find it. Tucked away in an alley way at the edge of the University, it looks more like a machine room from the outside than a bar. And the sign saying “Building L14” on the outside doesn’t exactly change your opinion of that.
There is a reason that The Dairy looks like this, and the clue is in the name – it is in a building that used to be a Dairy. I honestly don’t know if that means they used to milk cows in there. It’s hard to imagine them herding cows along London Road and into this shed, but I guess Reading was quieter and smaller in the olden days. Probably the folks next door to The Dairy at MERL would know more about that sort of thing.
Anyway, I’d got a few hot tips that The Dairy was well worth a visit, so when Mr. Affable suggested I join him and home brew king Mr. Waitrose for a visit, I felt obliged to go along. Not without some nervousness, being almost twice the age of the average student. Would they all look at us like the weird old guys who had gatecrashed a student bar? As it turns out, the answer is No. It was exam season, and most students were evidently revising or had left already (as Mr. Waitrose pointed out, all the students studying things like Philosophy Of Underpants have their exams in the first week of term, then get pissed, then go home, leaving the people doing proper subjects behind to revise).
We weren’t the only non-students in there either. The Dairy is next to the Royal Berks, and they give discount to NHS staff, as well as to university staff. Apparently it can be very popular with the nurses at the end of a shift for example, and there were a few other obviously older folks there. In short, we didn’t feel out of place.
The Dairy has been done up really nicely – lots of high tables with comfy stools (and some not so comfy ones too), and an Edison-bulb hipster vibe . There were a few pool tables, and a load of TVs showing sport. There’s also a quiz machine and a self dispense coke machine which is free serve with university catering packages if you want to ensure you leave university with type 2 diabetes. There’s then a second room with normal height tables where people seemed to read books while eating or drinking – bliss!
Blue Peter favourite Musical Youth was playing in the background. Unfortunately the phone which was being used to play somehow had its microphone turned on, leading to painful amounts of feedback. Mr. Waitrose did diagnose it for them, but the young woman behind the bar didn’t believe him. Because why would anyone over the age of 21 know anything about technology…
The bar had a really great range of keg beer – Melon Quad by Loddon, Damn Dead Goosberry by Wild Weather, Snake IPA by XT Brewing, Clwb Tropicana by Tiny Rebel, Parka by Double-Barrelled, Santo by Sirencraft, and more that I didn’t quite catch. My Clwb Tropicana was spot on, although Mr. Affable’s Melon Quad had a load of bits in it that shouldn’t have been there. The Snake IPA and the Damn Dead Goosberry were spot on though. And the best part was the price – £11.70 for three pints. Most pubs charge at least £5 a pint for these beers, so this was a bargain.
We were also joined (eventually) by lager expert Futcher. The flatly denied theory was that he wanted to pull a student, but honestly, what else would have dragged him across town. The verdict on the lager was simple though – it tasted the same as everywhere else. Go figure.
The Dairy also does food. There’s kind of a snack fridge where you can get sandwiches, salads, fruit and crisps. There’s also a hatch where you can order cooked food – a fish finger baguette and chips for a fiver for example. Not bad prices. Edible Reading absolutely slated the food earlier this year. I didn’t try it, but it looked exactly like the sort of quality you’d expect in a student bar to me, and I’d probably have given it a go if I hadn’t already eaten. My food standards are lower than my beer standards though.
Also worth noting as summer comes along – there are a number of benches outside – ideal for a nice pint on a warm evening. There are a few special evenings that make it worth a trip – snakebite for £2.20 on Wednesdays, and local beer for £2.90 on Fridays.
|Beer Quality||One OK pint, everything else really good|
|Beer Selection||Lots of good cask beer|
|Drink vs Food||It seemed like more food-based in the day, and more drink-based in the evening|
|Music||Whatever the barman wants to put on. Not too loud when we were there, but bet it ramps up|
|Snacks||Pipers crisps. Probably more too, but I love Pipers so didn’t see past that|
|Atmosphere||Depends on the night and time of year.|
|Price||Under £4 a pint.|
|Space||Lots of tables, both inside and out|
This really is a hidden gem for most of the public. Great beer at cheap prices in a nice room. Perhaps the discreet location and bland exterior stop it from being more popular with the public? If it’s the worry that it’s only for students then that really shouldn’t stop you.