The Hop Leaf

This is a follow-on from an evening that started with the Hope Tap, moved on to the German Doner Kebab restaurant, and then ended up in the Hop Leaf in Katesgrove. A trio of reviews that in my mind is like the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (The Hope Tap = Shaun of the Dead, for the all day drinkers obviously, the German Doner Kebab = Hot Fuzz, because of the butchery and because it’s the most successful of the three, which makes The Hop Leaf = The World’s End, because of the mile long walk to get there). See – it works, and the Hot Fuzz analogy isn’t forced at all.

Continue reading “The Hop Leaf”

The Hope Tap

Generally I plan in advance to do a review – I’ll persuade someone to come with me and make a special visit. However, on this occasion I ended up doing a review simply by accident of bus timetables. I was meeting someone for dinner, and the bus times meant I had a choice between being 20 minutes early or 10 minutes late. 10 minutes late is rude, and 20 minutes early is a long time to wait in the cold. So I did the only thing I could – I picked 20 minutes early and took refuge from the cold in the Hope Tap while I waited. Continue reading “The Hope Tap”

The Greyfriar

This is a post that was destined to never happen. Clearly not very destined to not happen, because it’s happening. But still, slightly destined not to happen. It was actually one of the first pubs I visited on duty as a reviewer, back when the blog started in March 2018. At the time Big Gary offered to help out and write it up for me. That didn’t happen. In October, Mr. Affable and I went along, but they announced that they were closing early as soon as they saw him and we couldn’t get in. I’d all but given up, but when Siren Craft announced that they were doing a tap takeover at the Greyfriar, I knew it was time for attempt number three, this time with Grobber (who being between jobs can generally be relied on for a good night out). Continue reading “The Greyfriar”

The Walkabout

Those of you who know me, will know I am a big geek, and proud of it. Generally I geek out at work and at home, but recently I discovered that Reading has a Geek Night once a month when you can meet fellow geeks and hear talks about a huge variety of things, like Gut Flora and Gamification. You don’t need to be a geek to attend, but if that’s not your cup of tea there are actually a huge number of meetups in Reading, for all sorts of different things. Want to build a hydroelectric power supply? Check. Want to discuss philosophy? Check.  Want to make maps of Reading – there’s one for that too. If you look hard enough there’s probably even a group for people who are on Twitter somewhere too. But all of these groups need a free place to meet. And that’s where some of Reading’s under used pub spaces come in to play.

This particular Geek Night was in fact the Christmas party, and took over the whole upstairs at The Walkabout. The Walkabout is on Friar Street, down a little alley between Yates and a bookies. As I got there, there was a man walking down the street singing a song with the rather simple lyrics of “Oy Oy, Oy Oy” over and over. It was 7pm.

Inside the Outback is massive – one of the largest bars in Reading. It’s spread over 2 floors, with the downstairs having a bunch of booths, and a ton of TV screens for sport. The upstairs at the walkabout has bleacher style seating in front of a cinema sized projector screen, again for watching sport. The bleachers slide back to make space for events, but even then there are still other TVs around the room with sport on. Basically, if you want to go to a bar to watch sport, you are sorted.

There’s a massive long bar downstairs, and a smaller bar upstairs. When I was there, it was easy enough to get served, although I can imagine it’s a bit of a scrum during big matches. But while it might be easy to get served, the choice of what to be served was woeful. Fosters, Carling, Birra Moretti, Guinness, and Strongbow with various fruit flavours. There were a couple of bottles of Coopers Pale Ale in the fridge, and lots more different lagers. It’s very lager based. It’s also, unsurprisingly very stereotypically mock Australian. If you want bitter or IPA, you are out of luck.

Judging the place on its beer is fair in one sense – it’s what most people there are drinking. If lager is too much for you though, there’s also a large selection of cocktails (Australian themed of course). You can buy Billy Cans full of vodka, peach schnapps and fruit. Or a small surf board with a paired selection of shots and edible insects. Or a wide selection of things with Red Bull. They’ve basically brought a summer holiday to a warehouse sized bar in Reading.

The atmosphere is exactly what you’d expect for a sports bar on Friar Street. It’s full of enthusiastic people having a laugh (well, half full – the other half are outside in the massive smoking area). Go there to shout at the TV. Go there to get drunk with friends. Go there to pull. But unless you are upstairs with the Geek Night, don’t go there for a quiet chat.

And of course when I left, there was a woman walking along Friar Street singing “Wahey, Wahey”.

Beer Quality Nothing too bad.
Beer Selection Lager, lager, lager
Drink vs Food There’s wings and burgers available if you are hungry. Or steak topped with vegemite.
Music A bit of background music
Snacks You could have those edible insects
Atmosphere Lively, but not fighty.
Price Good – £3 for a bottle of beer. Surprisingly good value for inside the IDR
Space Loads – it’s a massive shed of a pub. But it also gets full.

Score: 6.1

If you want to go to a bar and watch sport, Walkabout has a lively atmosphere and reasonably priced drinks. If you want to go out and have some great beer, keep walking. Quite a long way.

The Retreat

In many ways this review began with my good friend Austin brewing some amazing beer which, for reasons that are now lost to me, became named “Dirty Diana”. I can’t remember if it was a tribute to the people’s princess, or to pop princess Michael Jackson. It’s not important – let’s say both. Continue reading “The Retreat”

Great Expectations

Great Expectations is a pub that has lasted so much longer than it should have by any reasonable judgement. As I dragged Mrs. Quaff there after a curry in town, she asked with genuine curiosity “Why would anyone go there?”. We used to go there because it was on the way home, and we were often the only people in there. That was a few years ago, but it can’t be on everyone’s way home. Since it is still going, something must have changed – right? Continue reading “Great Expectations”

The Griffin

I met a bunch of other twitterers (tweeters? twitterati?) at the Blue Collar Meat Fest in the abbey ruins a few weeks ago (hi guys), and amongst other things it was an excellent opportunity to get some feedback on my work so far.  The overwhelming feedback was that I was favouring the good pubs, and perhaps I should review some more of the worse ones. And they’re right – I do tend to go to the better pubs, not least because I hate drinking vinegary beer, or being threatened by some twat who doesn’t want me in “his” pub. However, I had a plan for how I could please the masses with a pub that is rubbish and yet safe at the same time.  So with that in mind, Grobber and I headed to the Griffin in Caversham – a pub I dislike intensely for having turned its back on beer, serving up stale slops as an accompaniment to its chain restaurant food. Or so I thought …  Continue reading “The Griffin”

The Castle Tap

I’ve lived in South Reading and North Reading, and worked in East Reading. I know them pretty well, and like to think I’ve been in the majority of the better pubs in all of them (and of course many of the not so good ones as well). But even after two decades in Reading, west along Bath Road is a bit of a mystery to me. It’s still just the road to get to Sainsbury’s as far as I know. However, the Castle Tap on Castle Street (the steep one heading out of town – you know, on the way to Sainsbury’s) keeps generating enough buzz that I had to check it out, as pub three of the epic pub crawl. Continue reading “The Castle Tap”

The Allied Arms

Epic pub crawl part 2. After not really feeling the love in the Alehouse, Grobber and I moved on to the Allied Arms. I have a particular soft spot for the Allied Arms. The first time I went there was the night before I got married. I worried that mentioning that fact might allow someone to look up the pub’s history and say “ah, he couldn’t have done that before 2001, so he must have been married since then” or something like that. I looked on their web site to see if you could get any hints about my age, thus mildly chipping away at my secret identity. It doesn’t, because under history on their website it simply says  one word – “History”.  Also, the fact that I am calling a three pub tour “epic” tells you far more about my age. In fairness, this is not a quick half at every stop on the circle line sort of pub crawl. It’s one that involves sampling multiple beers in each pub, just to make sure I am doing them justice. So three pubs being epic is OK. Continue reading “The Allied Arms”

The Alehouse

When the secret society that is actually in charge of Reading*  was deciding who should write reviews about the town, I definitely won. Restaurant reviewers can only realistically review one restaurant a night, and event reviewers need to wait for someone to organise an event. I however, as one of the officially appointed pub reviewers, am in the lucky position of being able to sample as many places in one night as my brain and liver will allow – yay! Of course, I won’t drink just one pint in a pub and move on – I need to sample a few to be fair. That means in reality that about three pubs a night is my upper limit, a limit I pushed in the next series of reviews.
*you didn’t think it was the council, did you? Continue reading “The Alehouse”