When it comes to craft beer everybody loves small batch specials, the seasonals, the collaborations. After all, they represent the ultimate expression of the brewer’s art: a chance to experiment; to innovate; to try new things or to just simply try the wild and whacky…
But these beers do not pay the rent; for that you need a core lineup of beers to supply to pubs day in day out, year after year. Core beers are the bread and butter of the business and it’s upon these beers that most breweries build their reputation. If brewers spent all their productive time chasing flights of fancy, they would soon fail.
Back in the day, Reading was known as the town of the three B’s: Beer (Simonds); Bulbs (Suttons); and Biscuits (Huntley & Palmer). But those days are long gone and today only beer remains in the form of modern craft breweries. You could say that Reading’s three B’s are now “Beers—Build—Breweries”, and they raise this question: which of the core beers you are likely to see in the town’s leading ale pubs represent the best of style in each category.
Mr Fueled by Beer has considered this question in relation to every brewery located within 10 miles of the town centre to come up with a list of candidates. This is, of course, doubly subjective: colored by personal taste and personal opinion, but after talking with other ale enthusiasts, he believes quite a few would agree. For those who may be new to the craft beer scene, and real ale in particular, this list may serve as a pointer for what to look out for…
- Wild Weather Ales, Big Muddy (3.8%)
- Binghams Brewery, Twyford Tipple (3.7%)
- West Berkshire Brewery, Mr Chubb’s Lunchtime Bitter (3.7%)
- Loddon Brewery, Hullabaloo (4.2%)
- West Berkshire Brewery, Good Old Boy (4.0%)
- Binghams Brewery, Brickworks Bitter (4.2%)
Strong Bitter/Old Ale
- Wild Weather Ales, Stormbringer (4.5%)
- Loddon Brewery, Russet (4.7%)
- West Berkshire Brewery, Dr Hexter’s Healer (5.0%)
- Wild Weather Ales, Sundowner (3.4%)
- Loddon Brewery, Ferryman’s Gold (4.4%)
- Binghams Brewery, 333 (5.0%)
- Siren Craft, Undercurrent (4.5%)
- Wild Weather Ales, Little Wind (4.2%)
- Loddon Brewery, Bamboozle (4.8%)
- Siren Craft, Soundwave (5.6%)
- Wild Weather Ales, Shepherd’s Warning (5.6%)
- Binghams Brewery, Space Hoppy (5.0%)
- Wild Weather Ales, Black Night (3.9%)
- West Berkshire Brewery, Magg’s Magnificent (3.8%)
- Siren Craft, Broken Dream (6.0%)
- Binghams Brewery, Macchiato (5.0%)
- Wild Weather Ales, Mudslinger (5.5%)
Other things worth mentioning…
While many craft breweries in other areas include a Porter or Black IPA/Cascadian Dark in their core range, these styles are conspicuously absent from the lineups of Reading area breweries. Since Mr Fueled by Beer is rather partial to them he is somewhat disappointed that he can’t include some examples in his list.
When in Henley, check out the Bell Street Brewery at The Bull; this is where Brakspear Special (4.3%) has been revived and is being brewed in very small batches for distribution to Brakspear pubs within a very small radius (not to be confused with the Brakspear brands now owned by Marston’s PLC and brewed at their Wychwood Brewery, home to Hobgoblin).
When visiting the Baron Cadogan in Caversham (a Wetherspoon pub) be aware that their Cadogan Gold is actually Loddon’s Ferryman’s Gold which is listed above among my favorite golden ales.
Links to local breweries: