My first attempt to visit West Berkshire Brewery was a bit of a disaster. It was meant to be a Father’s Day treat, but when we eventually got there we found that everyone else had had the same idea – the place was overflowing, no spare seats at all, and over an hour wait for food. And apparently kids don’t want to just stand there starving while they watch you downing pint after pint of Good Old Boy on your own, even if it is Father’s Day. But it looked great, and a return visit on a day not dedicated to the wonders of fatherhood was clearly essential.
Fortunately, lovely days suitable for trips into the country seem to have been plentiful this year, so I dragged Mrs. Quaff and the Quafflings along again. It’s closer to Newbury than Reading – at least half an hour drive, so not a casual trek. I don’t think there is any particularly convenient public transport there either, do get a cab or persuade someone to drive. But when you do drive, be prepared for the most unusual parking spaces.
You park in some concrete-walled bays that clearly used to be used for something else. They remind me of the bays where you throw your rubbish in to at the tip, and there’s no way I could bring myself to park right at the end, just in case someone else had the same idea. Anyway, it’s odd, but get over it and get in the taproom.
West Berks have a really good shop as you walk into the taproom. Or as you walk out of the taproom if you prefer – like a theme park, all rides end near the gift shop. Plenty of beers from West Berks and others, as well as cider from Tutts Clump.
We got there nice and early for lunch to make sure we got a table. Good job we did too – it was almost full by 1pm. There’s plenty of outside seating too if inside is full. On a Sunday lunchtime, about half of the tables were full of families with kids. It looked like someone was having a kids birthday party there, and the noise levels were almost like being in one of those giant soft play parks you also find in industrial estate warehouses – something I hoped I’d left behind years ago, because despite my kids being the best in the world, there’s nothing worse than the sound of 200 of other people’s kids all screaming at once. I’m being unfair though – it wasn’t that bad. Probably just a flashback. I might go in the evening in future though.
Part of the reason I think it’s so busy with families is that it does reasonably priced family-friendly food – burgers, hotdogs, tacos and pizzas for about £12 for adults, £6 for kids. I had a pizza – it was OK, but a bit oily and bland. The burgers were better.
But, what about the beer? There are 8 cask beers on tap at any one time, and a big selection of bottles and cans. I asked for the “You Got This”, but despite it being listed on the board, the barmaid said she had never heard of it and that they didn’t have it. I had a Maharaja instead – a lovely pint in great condition. They claimed to have Good Old Boy, Mr. Chubb, Mr. Swift. Maharaja, Maggs’ Mild, Full Circle, Have a Great Day, Stay Strong, Maggs’ Mild Salted Caramel and The Longest Day all on Cask. I say claimed, because they also claimed to have Renegade Lager, West Coast Pale Ale, India Session Ale, Vienna Lager, Tamesis Extra Stout, Snake Oil, No Filter, Belgian Blond Ale, You Got This, Little Weller and more on Keg, but as we know, they didn’t have You Got This so I’m not sure how accurate the board is.
I think I’ve sounded a bit negative so far, and that’s unfair. West Berks is a fantastic destination for an afternoon or evening out. And it really can be an evening out, because unlike most taprooms they are open proper hours – 10am to 11pm most days. The bar has a huge glass wall on to the brewery, so you can see the brewing in action while you drink. The beer is great – lovely and fresh. The food is not bad at all – especially the burgers. If I lived in the same village, I’d be there all the time. Living half an hour’s drive away makes it worth the occasional special trip. The kids loved the food, Mrs. Quaff had a nice time too, and I stopped in the gift shop on the way out to get some cans of You Got This, so what more could I really ask for?
|Beer Quality||Excellent – very fresh|
|Beer Selection||Lots from West Berkshire Brewery, but also guest beers from other people|
|Drink vs Food||It does seem a bit like a restaurant with an attached bar at lunchtime. You are more than welcome to have just beer, but you’d be unusual.|
|Music||If there was any, I couldn’t hear it over the rest of the noise.|
|Snacks||Pork scratchings, monster munch, Biltong. Good marks for the monster munch.|
|Atmosphere||Family friendly and lively|
|Price||I’m not 100% sure. The lack of prices on the menu and the board is annoying, and as I ordered with food it kind of got lost in the bottom line price.|
|Space||There are lots of tables inside and out, but it’s popular so fills up rapidly.|
Going to the West Berkshire Brewery taproom is kind of like going to a National Trust property for the day, but for people who prefer beer to tea and scones. It’s in the countryside, there’s lots of other middle-class people trying desperately to get their kids out of the house, and there’s a large building to look at. The similarity stops there. Ditch Basildon Park and go to West Berkshire Brewery for the afternoon.