The rise in independent craft and micro breweries over the past few years has been phenomenal. Do you remember the days of heading to your local pub, to be met with a row of taps featuring all the large brand, run of the mill beers and lagers? Not any more. Nowadays, a lot of pubs are likely to feature a great selection of craft beers from local brewers. There are tap takeovers from breweries, as well as collaborations which promote the smaller outfits. My local area of Reading in Berkshire is not short on breweries. The last few years has seen a rise in numbers of smaller brewers opening in Berkshire. The great thing about these breweries, is that they are opening their doors to the public to sample their beers and tour their facilities. Which brings me nicely onto three excellent Berkshire Brewery Tours I have recently visited.
We’ll start off with the big boys. The first of our Berkshire Brewery Tours takes us to West Berkshire Brewery. It was established in 1995 in the village of Frilsham, on the outskirts of Newbury. Over the last 24 years they have expanded and are now settled into a large multi-million pound facility near Yattendon. With plenty of scope for expansion within this large facility, they have canning and bottling lines on site. They produce a large number of beers including a classic English bitter called Good Old Boy, as well as their Renegade range of lagers and pale ales. Their beers have won numerous awards over the years and they have opened a small chain of pubs in London.
West Berkshire Brewery run regular tours, of which you can find dates in the events section of their website. We had booked a 2pm tour and arrived a couple of hours early so that we could grab some food from the Taproom. The Taproom is large, with a traditional bar set up in one corner and a glass wall providing views into brew house. There is a kitchen serving lunches including delicious burgers, pizzas and salad which you can match with your choice of beers.
Onto the tour then. The day we attended, there were several hourly tours running, so our group was swiftly gathered together just before 2pm, and off we went. Our tour was performed by Will – the head brewer. Obviously knowledgeable, with many years of experience, he provided a really informative and relaxed tour of the facility. From the storage areas where we learnt about the ingredients, through to the brew house showing us the process of making the beer, it was a simple process to follow. After this, we got to see the remainder of the large facility which included the bottling and canning lines. They have a streamlined operation, and a large facility that they are planning to expand upon, to keep up with their demand.
Tour tickets cost £15.00 and can be booked on their website. The price includes two drinks vouchers per person. For the drivers, the vouchers can be used to purchase takeaway cans and bottles from their standard range. Being more of a lager than an ale fan, I sampled the Vienna Lager and Saazbrucker Pilsner. Both delicious and I would recommend. I have also tried several drinks from the Renegade range in local pubs. The brewery shop also sells a range of merchandise including clothing.
West Berkshire Brewery is located outside of the village of Yattendon in West Berkshire. It’s roughly half way between Newbury and Reading. The brewery is not easily reached by public transport, so if your group doesn’t have a designated driver you may need to organise taxis from local railways stations (Newbury, Reading, Theale or Thatcham).
The Taproom is open Sunday to Tuesday 11-6pm and Wednesday to Saturday 11-11pm. Food is served Tuesday to Sunday 12–3pm and Wednesday to Saturday 6–9pm.
Next up on our Berkshire Brewery Tours it’s Siren Craft Brewery, located in Finchampstead. The brewery started its life in 2013, from founder Darron Anley’s desire to create some modern and forward flavoured beers. The name Siren stems from the Sirens of Greek mythology. The six flagship beers in the range are focused around the story and branding of these sirens. Flavour and high standards are key to brewery. A lot of time and research is put in to creating the perfect flavours using high quality ingredients. Siren’s first ever brew, a beer called Maiden, is the first batch brewed every year and released as an anniversary edition. With a busy brewing schedule, Siren have over 100 releases planned for 2019. The brewery have also been given numerous awards including the ‘Best Brewer in England’ award by Ratebeer users in 2015.
Having expanded over the years, the brewery is housed in two separate units on the same industrial estate. The original unit houses the brew house and bottling line, where the newer facility is home to the Tap Yard, a large cold store, barrel stores and offices.
Siren Craft Brewery runs tours most Saturdays at 12.30 – 2.30pm and 2.00 – 4.00pm. The Tap Yard opens at 12pm so we made sure to arrive in time to sample a beer or two before our 12.30pm tour began. The Tap Yard has a wide selection of the Siren beers on tap and available by the bottle. Street food is available, and this changes on a weekly basis. A note – this place gets busy! On the day of our visit, as well as two tours of 20+ people, there was a stag party and coach party stopping by on a local ale-trail. Add the regulars into the mix, and you have a thriving atmosphere. Despite the numbers, everything was efficient and we were always served quickly.
As we were a fairly large group, once the tour began, we were separated into two smaller groups. Our group headed off to the original unit to learn about the brewing process and were given a tour of the brew house and bottling area. A brew was taking place while we there, which was great to see. We were also able to sample one of the recent brews – again a nice touch. Following this, the groups swapped over and we headed back to the newer unit where we got to see the barrel and cold stores, as well as being given further information about the process. The whole group came together at the end, where we took part in a tasting of five flagship beers, as well as a small taster of this years Maiden brew, which wasn’t being launched until the following week. Perfect timing.
Tour tickets cost £15.00 + booking fee and can be booked on their website. The price includes the tasting, which is a fairly significant amount of beer. My favourites from the tasting were Yulu and Soundwave. The brewery shop also sells a range of merchandise including clothing as well as beer growlers – reusable containers for your take away drinks which keep the beers fresh and chilled. We saw a number of people calling in during the afternoon with their growlers, for their take out beers.
Siren Craft Brewery is located in Finchampstead, Berkshire which is a short distance from Wokingham. The brewery can be reached by public transport, using the Reading Buses Leopard 3 service which stops a short walk from the brewery. Taxis from Wokingham railway station take about 15 minutes.
The Tap Yard is open Wednesdays to Saturdays 12-8pm and Sundays 12-6pm.
The final installment of our Berkshire Brewery Tours takes us to Reading. Last but by no means least, we come to the new kids on the block – Double-Barrelled Brewery. A venture created by husband and wife team Mike and Luci Clayton-Jones, Double-Barrelled opened up their tap room and brewery facilities towards the end of 2018. Having been home brewing in their garage for a while before taking on the unit, they had previously decided to quit their career jobs to travel. With a passion for beer, the idea was to travel to different areas of the world in search of the best beers, breweries, bars and bottle shops. This would gather inspiration for what would become Double-Barrelled Brewery.
The experiences they had on their travels have formed the basis for many of their brews. The quirky names of some of their beers such as Seven Dollar Saturday, Full of Dinosaurs and Wiffle Ball? (to name a few) all have stories around their creation. Stories which the duo will be happy to tell you about when you visit.
For a fairly small set up, the Tap Room at Double-Barrelled is a beautifully fitted out area. Wood panelling on the walls, a contemporary styled bar and comfortable furniture detracts from the high ceiling of the industrial unit and creates a lovely, cosy space.
They currently run a monthly brewery tour, with more dates to be added over time. The 45 minute tour covers the couple’s journey of becoming brewers, the creation of recipes, and the process of the brewing. This is followed by a generous tasting of some of their signature beers. Given the small size of the brewery in comparison to the other tours, it provides the opportunity to get a really clear understanding of the brewing process from start to finish. The tour was informal and relaxed, while providing really useful and insightful information. While the couple’s passions are stouts and sours, they brew a wide range of beers including pale ales and fruity Gose to please all tastes. During the tasting we sampled two pale ales, two stouts and the Gose, all of which were really tasty.
Tour tickets cost £11.25 and can be booked via the website. The price includes the tour and tasting. A range of merchandise is available including clothing and jewellery. Cans and bottled beer is available for takeaway from the Tap Room shop.
Double-Barrelled Brewery is located in West Reading, Berkshire. The brewery can be reached by public transport, using the Reading Buses numbers 16, 17 and 28. The brewery is a short walk from the Norcot Road roundabout stops. Taxi’s from Reading station take approximately 10 minutes.
The Tap Room is open Fridays 3pm -8pm and Saturdays 2pm-7pm. There is currently no food offering, but customers are welcome to bring in takeaway meals.
The great thing about these micro breweries is the fact there doesn’t seem to be any competition. Everyone is supportive of each other and there are often collaborations between the breweries, to come up with beers for special events. They are all in it together, they call on each other for support, advice and input. It’s creates a great community feel. Large breweries, such as Brewdog who have a bar in Reading, regularly have events to showcase local brewers.
Another event putting Reading on the craft beer map is the annual Craft Theory – a Craft Beer & Music festival held in the South Street Arts Centre. Now in it’s third year (2019) the festival brings a selection of beers from local, national and international breweries (14 in total). This is complemented by a great selection of live bands as well as delicious street food.
In summary, if you are looking for some great Berkshire Brewery Tours, be sure to check out one, or all, of the above. All different experiences, with something bringing them all together – great beer and passion.
What are your thoughts on Craft Beer? Do you have any favourite local brewers that we should check out?
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