Yes, we know: you’ve all been wondering if Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer would ever tear themselves away from Reading’s awesome CAMRA LocAle accredited real ale pubs to actually visit a local brewery. Well, now we have…
When we walked in the door at Binghams Brewery in nearby Twyford on a recent rainy Saturday afternoon it felt strangely familiar – a classic case of deja vu. Had we somehow been teleported to Woodinville, Washington perhaps, maybe Twelve Bar Brews? It certainly felt that way.
The brewery occupies a typical light industrial space within a small business park just like Twelve Bar. There’s no tasting room per se, just a small retail shop in front, but you can sip tasters of whatever’s available, and take home your chosen tipple, just like Twelve Bar.
We had previously enjoyed some tasty Binghams brew on more than one occasion: at pubs around Reading, and at the Reading Beer Festival; so we knew it is good. After our brewery tasting we went home with three bottles: the Brit Hop, the Smiled, and the Bee. In this case the take home container is a 2 liter plastic soda bottle instead of our familiar US 64 oz growler. The beers were all excellent by the way, even after being opened 1-2 days (don’t expect much more than that). Pricing is comparable to the US when adjusted from GBP to USD.
The most significant difference we are finding between craft brewing in the UK to what we enjoyed so much in the US is cask versus keg. Although the American craft brewers don’t pasteurize or filter their beer they usually condition it in a finishing or ‘bright’ tank before transferring to kegs, where added CO2 is used to carbonate and dispense the beer through a draft line and tap.
By contrast UK brewers are producing cask ale – ‘real ale’ – as they like to call it here. After brewing and primary fermentation the beer is transferred into casks where it undergoes secondary fermentation, producing CO2 naturally, and there it remains until ready to serve by hooking the cask up to a ‘beer engine’ or hand pump.
Cask ale in America is a specialty item – in the UK it is the norm. What’s more, this is a complete 180° from the UK beer scene I left behind in the early 80s – then dominated by cheap mass-produced keg beer.
Don’t get me wrong: today’s American keg beer is vastly superior to the UK’s mass-market swill of yesteryear. However today’s UK cask ale is superior to all but the very best in Washington, etc. And we’re pleased to say that Binghams is up there with the best anywhere.
Before visiting we would recommend checking out Binghams website or their Facebook page. There’s a wealth of information about how to get there, opening hours, and availability of tours. The brewery, an easy 15 minute walk from Twyford Station, is served by frequent trains on the Great Western main line from London Paddington to Reading and points west, as well as local buses.