Reading’s Ale Pubs: Outside the IDR Part 2

In this, the second in my series of posts exploring real ale pubs beyond Reading’s central core (red markers), we venture to the area immediately west of the concrete moat known as Reading’s IDR (A329). This is where we find three pubs each with individual character including Reading CAMRA’s Pub of the Year 2013, 2014 and maybe 2015 too…


Nag’s Head – Russell Street

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What more is there for me to say about the Nag’s that I haven’t already said before. Well, other than to reitterate that if there’s only time for one real ale pub in Reading, then this is the one. As I said in my previous post, this is a regular Reading CAMRA Pub of the Year award winner. It held this status when I wrote my original post in 2013 and it held it again in 2014. It is again in the final four for 2015. We’ll know if it’s three in a row later this month.

The Nag's famed beer board

The Nag’s famed beer board

One thing I haven’t mentioned before. While the Nag’s is really good about posting what’s in their cellar to their Facebook page this doesn’t tell you what’s on each of the 12 hand pumps at any particular point in time. For this they use BeerCAM which can be viewed on the web *here* or you can download the mobile app for IOS or Android.

Too good to pass up

Too good to pass up

Not to be outdone by the likes of the Greyfriar the Nag’s has started offering craft keg ales and lagers in addition to their 12 constantly rotating cask ales. During our most recent visit they had Siren Craft’s Calypso Berlinerweisse (4.0% ABV) on KeyKeg.

This was a special limited edition dry-hopped version using Mosaic – I couldn’t help myself; I just had to indulge with a half. Standard bottled Calypso just doesn’t come close to the dry-hopped keg version.


Castle Tap – Castle Street

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Reading’s newest craft beer pub recently opened at the former Horse & Jockey. The early 19th century grade II listed building has been gutted and completely refurbished.

The venture is the brainchild of the Grumpy Goat ale and cheese shop and a pair of pub veterans from the Alehouse. The team promises the best of both which means a full spectrum of local, national and international craft beers and ciders in cask, keg and bottle together with the finest local artisanal cheeses and meats.

The Castle Tap is important in another way: it compliments the venerable Nag’s Head, the undisputed king of real ale pubs in Reading, which is only a short walk away. Sometimes the Nag’s can be too crowded for comfort, in which case the Castle Tap offers an alternative to a bus ride home. This is exactly how it served us on this occasion – following a visit to the Nag’s we simply weren’t ready to head home – the Castle Tap was calling. 🙂


The Butler – Chatham Street

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This former Fuller’s house went the way of the Fisherman’s Cottage: closed by the brewery and subsequently rescued; in this case by local investors with connections to the local music scene and to the nearby Nag’s Head. The pub reopened in 2014 as a freehouse with a renewed focus on real ale and live music.

butlerLong regarded as one of Reading’s premier live music pubs the new owners are working hard to re-establish the Butler’s gig calendar. Bands play most weekends and DJ/open mic/jam sessions are held during the week. Food is being served from a menu consisting of the kind of pub fare that is so bad it’s good if you know what I mean. And five ales are typically on including, in a nod to the former owners, London Pride.

We recently stopped in to see the Bear Blues Bands’s gig. Food was good – plentiful and reasonably priced – and the beer selection was excellent: Triple fff; West Berks; Loddon; Vale – all LocAle – and Fuller’s; all very nice. The crowd however lacked diversity comprising mostly our age group – in other words ‘old’ – and very cliquey. Also, despite my gap between visits of more than 25 years, it appears Fuller’s didn’t make much if any investment in the upkeep of the pub leaving it in a shabby, tired state – kinda like me. Seriously though, the pub needs a lot of work to bring it up to snuff – very much a work in progress for the new owners.


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