It might sound easy to review pubs. It might even sound like a task that has been chosen because of it’s potential fun. But make no mistake, reviewing pubs is a serious and responsible job. Yes, it has it’s occasional advantages: “Sorry dear, I can’t spend the evening with your mother, I promised Dave that we’d review a new pub”.
But the burden of responsibility weighs heavy. What if your recollection is soured by an argument over planning permission requirements for a third bridge at the kebab van on the way home? What if your view is distorted by your amazing James Bond knowledge securing yet another pub quiz win in an otherwise humdrum boozer? What if, God forbid, you accidentally drink slightly too much and forget? Well, to avoid such problems, we have a rigorous scoring mechanism.
The scoring mechanism
The scoring mechanism is perfect. No disputing that. Unless you aren’t me, in which case you may have different ideas. Otherwise, how can you explain why Yates’s gets punters through the door at all. So you may completely disagree with these criteria, but at least you know what they are.
There’s nothing worse than visiting a nice looking country pub, handing over the best part of a fiver for a promising looking pint, sitting in the beer garden, and discovering it tastes like vinegar. Or perhaps you are in town and hand over the best part of a tenner for a cheeky looking number, only to find that it’s totally cloudy, and won’t clear. You know that’s not going to end up well tomorrow.
Serving a good pint takes good cellar care, and it’s important to try a few different pints in a pub just to make sure of the landlord’s skill.
Ever walked in to a pub, only to find that they one beer on draft, and it’s off at the moment. It’s a bottle of Doombar or a pint of Peroni, or walk out. And you can’t just walk out and go somewhere else – that’s just embarrassing. Beer selection is therefore a key criteria in whether it’s worth crossing the their threshold in the first place.
Drinks vs Food
Does your local now have every table already laid out for dinner? I used to tolerate my local because it was near, but it’s become increasingly clear that they’d much rather I bought a lamb shank with seasonal cabbage mashed potato and buttered green beans than a pint of London Pride. Yes, you should be able to get scampi and chips in a basket if you are on an all-dayer, but if you wanted a sit down next to a family of 4, you’d have gone to Pizza Express, not The Red Lion.
There’s a fine line with music. Too loud and you can’t talk (yes, I’m old). None, and it’s sterile. When there is that “don’t know how to respond to that politely” silence after Dave has just told the group about his new favorite quinoa recipe, a bit of Arctic Monkeys in the background helps to smooth it over. Just not so loud that he has to write the recipe down.
Wine tasters will have a water biscuit between wines to cleanse the palate. A salty fatty snack does the same for beer – preferably between sips. Does the pub have a fine selection of Pork Scratchings, KP Nuts, Crisps and more, all for a reasonable price? Or does it have giant jars of olives that has served as a bacteria incubator for years, where they’ll scoop 11 olives in to a ramekin and charge you £3.50 it. Or worse still “sorry, we don’t do snacks, but would you like to see our Lamb Shank selection?”.
You see a nice looking pub, walk in the door, and it’s The Slaughtered Lamb all over again. No-one wants that. Nor do you want to be the only people in the pub other than the barmaid and a couple of flies, or worse, the you are the only people in the pub that aren’t tooled up and you have a disagreeably different accent / skin colour / fashion sense / relationship with employment to them. Ideally you want a buzzy pub where the barman is friendly, and no-one else talks to you.
Some pubs also try to compensate for their lack of atmosphere with television. Yes, a pub should have a screen or two for watching the Six Nations on. But 27 screens all showing Sky News all day long is distracting, and can ruin a night out.
I saw a sign the other day outside a pub which said “only £4 a pint”, and I nearly had a fit. Only? Only! How can you advertise that as Only. Apparently I’m wrong, but still no-one likes it when a Reading pub charges London prices (Three Guineas, I’m looking at you). If I hand over a tenner for a round for two and you’ve still got your hand out, points will be deducted.
No, not does the pub regularly host Patrick Moore and Dara Ó Briain evenings. But how much room is there. Can you always find a table, or are you standing elbow to elbow, spilling beer on your shoes every time the idiots next to you don’t respect your personal space? If I wanted to pay a fortune to stand up, I’d buy a season ticket to London.
Who is Dr. Quaff
Hi, I’m Martin, a beer enthusiast based in Caversham in Reading. In 2018 I took it upon myself to review pubs in Reading for a bit of fun. All reviews are based on one or more visits to the pub in question, and are done anonymously, secretly, with no payment, free beer or other enticement from the pub.
As of Jan 2021, I own some shares in Siren Craft Brewery, BrewDog and West Berkshire Brewery but I don’t let that influence the reviews.
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