As a pub reviewer, I occasionally get invited along to openings and events (which I tend not to go to). However, this week Zerodegrees managed to trick me into going to their grand re-opening by not telling me about it and me coincidentally turning up for a long overdue review. Normally I’d not review somewhere on opening night, but given that they were closed for just 3 days, and that the changes were simply a lick of paint, and a neon sign, I think it’s fair for me to proceed.
I was last in there in December, so my memory of the place is pretty fresh, and I’m not sure I’d have noticed that it had had a makeover if no-one had said. Fortunately, as we walked in, a lady by the door asked if we were here for the re-launch party. We said, “the what?” and she offered us a glass of champagne anyway. I don’t really like champagne, but the gesture was nice. “We” in this case was Gary, Gareth, Greg, and Mr. Affable, who declined to change his name to begin with a G, somewhat spoiling the novelty of the situation.
Zerodegrees is, as far as I am aware, the only active brewpub in Reading – i.e. the only bar that is also a microbrewery (for the pedants, Great Expectations used to be, but hasn’t for years). They brew a reasonable variety of beer – they always do a Czech style Pilsner, an American Pale Ale, and a mango beer, and then brew a few others that rotate. Cost is about £4.95 a pint – not too bad for a town centre location. The general consensus was that the beer is pretty good, but not blow-you-away amazing. The lager was quite pleasantly hoppy. The American pale ale was good too. There was a mix of opinions on the mango beer – Gary was disappointed that it had less of a mango taste than in the past, while Gareth was pleased that it had less of a mango taste than in the past. Greg had a stout that he liked but felt was more Christmassy tasting than it should have been in late January. In short, if you’re after a drink from a brand you recognise, forget it, but they appear to brew something that is a bit similar to your favourite beer, so just ask.
Although, while I say “just ask”, that can be a challenge. There was a DJ on when we were there, and he was doing that trick of playing music far too loud in an attempt to create atmosphere. That did lead to conversations like “What do you want to drink?” “Belgian ale”. “Nelson ale?” “Belgian!” “Nelson?” “BELGIAN!” The place has an industrial look – an exposed metal ceiling, air conditioning pipes everywhere, and of course if you are giving them fair credit, it’s a working brewery so the industrial theme isn’t as faux as many places. They have softened it up now by covering one wall with a neon sign on top of camouflage netting with flowers in it. Very instagrammable.
As well as being a microbrewery, Zerodegrees is a restaurant. The whole place is an L shape, and they made the smart move of putting the restaurant on one side, and then the bar on the other, to stop one spoiling the other. The bar side is two level, with a balcony and tables outside on both floors. It’s a great place to sit out in the summer. The restaurant does pizzas, and you can order them in the bar too. They do pretty whacky pizzas (roast dinner pizza, hummus pizza, Peking duck pizza). There was a guy next to us in the bar who seemed to be having tinned carrot pizza. It must be a special – I can’t see that on the menu. Anyway, despite it being a restaurant, they do a good job of stopping that intruding on the bar.
|Beer Quality||Pretty good beer, just not quite as good as the local taprooms.|
|Beer Selection||A broad range of their own beers, but nothing you’ll have heard of.|
|Drink vs Food||They manage to keep the restaurant part distinct from the bar|
|Music||Way too loud|
|Snacks||I couldn’t see any at all.|
|Atmosphere||Friendly relaxed people|
|Price||From £4.95 a pint|
|Space||Loads of space, although a fair amount of it is taken up by some massive sofas.|
It’s actually a pretty good microbrewery, and if you fancy a pizza with some good beer, it’s the right place to go. Service in the restaurant can be a bit hit and miss, so stick to the bar side in my opinion.