There are times when Mr Fueled by Beer wonders why a business is located in a particular place, how it manages to survive, etc. Such is the case with Reading’s Back of Beyond pub. The fact that it has survived for almost seventeen years probably goes a long way to explaining why Mr Fueled by Beer would make such a lousy businessman…
It’s easy to see the the rationale for JD Wetherspoon’s other pubs. The Monks’ Retreat and The Hope Tap stand sentinel-like, as giant beery bookends at each end of Friar Street. They are on Reading’s main drag for both the lunchtime crowd and the nightlife scene. Seven days a week, from opening to closing, these two pubs are rarely quiet. They are, without question, the two best large pubco watering holes in Reading town center in my book.
It isn’t quite so easy to see what sustains The Back of Beyond however. Certainly during our visit – on a Sunday afternoon – it wasn’t at all busy. But if Reading has such a thing as a commercial core containing large office buildings, then The Back of Beyond is right in the middle of it.
Although no longer operating as plain vanilla pubs, the nearby Wynford Arms and The Warwick both pre-date the Back of Beyond. They both go back and beyond (pun intended) Mr Fueled by Beer’s earlier pub-going time in Reading: the mid-70s to mid-80s. Now, as then, he expects this area’s pubs get very busy with the lunchtime crowd – and there are now many, many times more office workers than there were way back when.
So, what about The Back of Beyond?
Well, first off, the name is apt. The pub is located east of Reading’s downtown core, outside the daytime shopping and nighttime partying district. It’s a little over a quarter mile walk from Jackson’s Corner along Kings Road. This of course is part of its attraction for us because of our fondness for walk and dine opportunities. Although similar in size and as unmistakably a Wetherspoons pub as its stablemates, it’s location gives it a different feel.
The pub actually backs onto the Kennet & Avon Canal, and a small outside beer garden capitalizes on this by overlooking the water, a nice feature. The pub can be approached on foot directly along Kings Road or along Kennetside by way of the pedestrian footbridge and Crane Wharf – a nice walk from The Oracle for example. The menu is standard Wetherspoons: identical to the aforementioned Friar Street pubs. And there are sixteen hand pumps dispensing Real Ale and Real Cider; again essentially the same as the Friar Street pubs.
The Back of Beyond is Cask Marque accredited however it has not earned a CAMRA LocAle designation. This situation was evident during our visit. Of the eight real ales on offer, and even though the couple we sampled (Trade Winds and English Garden) were both excellent, none were from local breweries.
As already mentioned, the pub is typical Wetherspoons: lots of dark wood; the obligatory recessed skylight in the middle; booth seating around the outside; and table seating in the open space. Seating options accommodate twosomes, as well as parties of four and up. The pub is large, spacious, and at the back the views out over the canal are very nice – especially from the outdoor beer garden on a warm summer’s day.
JD Wetherspoon’s Back of Beyond: Recommended 🙂