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County Stat Attack Week 24 - Berkshire

The Royal County of Berkshire historically was the land to the South of the Thames / Isis, so once included what is now swathes of South Oxfordshire including towns like Abingdon and Wantage. These were lost to the county in the boundary changes of 1974 and give us a county much reduced in area.

Originally named by the Saxons as Bearrocsir, the land of Box Trees, much of its early history was dominated by Abingdon Abbey. Many of the great battles against the Danes occurred within the county including the decisive Englefield, where the tide of the invasion was changed, many Civil War battles happened too within the boundaries. Reading became the County Town in the 19th Century and remains so.
The Thames remains the major geographical feature in the county. The land is made up of heavy clay soils mainly but also acidic soils around the Windsor Great Park area. Reading has long been a centre of technology, baking and brewing. Reading is also the largest town in the county, other significant places are Slough, Bracknell, Maidenhead, Wokingham and Newbury.

On Ratebeer we have a total of 33 Breweries for Berkshire with 26 still open and just 7 closed. 6 of the total are Client / Commissioner Brewers.

The oldest surviving Brewery we have on Ratebeer is Butts Brewery of Great Shefford (Est 1994). However the more famous brewery in days of yore would be Simonds Brewery of Reading Est in 1785. The brewery started in Broad Street but found a more suitable premisses in Bridge Street shortly afterwards and remained there until 1978. It was a very successful family brewery until 1960 when it amalgamated with Courage, Barclay, becoming Courage’s in 1970. The old Reading brewery was shut down by Scottish Courage in 1978 and is now apartments.
The brewery with the largest range on Ratebeer for Berkshire is Siren Craft Brew of Finchampstead (Est 2013) with 587 beers.

Siren Craft brew was also announced as Best Brewery for 2020 on Ratebeer with Siren Maiden 2017 as Best Beer. The best newcomer for Berkshire was awarded to Phantom Brewing Co.

The Top 10 Beers for Berkshire are –

  1. Siren / Evil Twin Bourbon Barrel Even More Jesus VIII Coffee R
  2. Siren Maiden 2017
  3. Siren / J. Wakefield Dark & Perilous Nights
  4. Siren Bourbon Turkish (Project Barista – 2019)
  5. Siren / Evil Twin Even More Jesus VIII R
  6. Siren Odyssey 001 R
  7. Siren Death by Caribbean Chocolate Cake R
  8. Siren / Cigar City Caribbean Chocolate Cake Barrel Aged (-2018) R
  9. Siren Bourbon Milkshake
  10. Siren Death by Caribbean Chocolate Cake (2020)
    In fact the whole of the Top 25 are taken up by Siren beers.

The Top Pubs / Bars in Berkshire are –

  1. Nags Head, Reading – 93
  2. Siren Craft Brewery and Tap Yard, Finchampsted – 84
  3. Castle Tap, Reading – 83
  4. Alehouse, Reading – 81
  5. Five Bells, Wickham – 80
  6. Brewdog Reading – 80
    The Top 5 Raters of beers from Berkshire are –
  7. @Theydon_Bois
  8. @berkshirejohn
  9. @mR_fr0g
  10. @BeardedAvenger
  11. @Leighton

The Ratebeerian who resides in Berkshire with the most ratings is –
@berkshirejohn who remains a regular contributor to this meander around England.

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Don’t forget top raters of Berks breweries☺

  1. @BeardedAvenger
  2. @berkshirejohn
  3. @imdownthepub
  4. @wheresthepath
  5. @fonefan
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Don’t like Reading, don’t like Berkshire. Not a huge fan of Siren beers either. I believe the annual Reading CAMRA Beer Festival was well ran and good though.

76 Rates, 4 of which are Waitrose Ciders. You need 99 to break into the leader board for the county and I will not be breaking my neck to reach that total.

Top 4 Beers:
Siren/Evil Twin Even More Jesus V111
Waitrose Duchy Organic Select Ale/Winter Ale
West Berkshire Mister Chubb’s
Savour British Blonde

Most rated Breweries:
Siren 33
Windsor & Eton 11
Waitrose 9
West Berkshire 8

Reviewed 2 places, Waitrose Supermarkets and Zero Degrees (Reading) from a visit back in 2007.

Watched Grimsby Town win 3-1 at Elm Park (Reading’s old ground) in the early 70’s before my friends and I were ambushed on the way back to the station and I got my lip split in the fighting. No other memories of the county apart from being part of the ‘Route Lining’ for Royal visits a couple of times where we were bused in and out again after standing around for hours somewhere near Windsor Castle.

Good Bye Berkshire and Good Riddance!

<*))))))><

PS. Cockney rhyming slang ‘Berk’; short for Berkshire Hunt (Cunt)!

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39 beers tasted: 19 of them from Siren, although I seem to rate their collabs higher than their own work. Wild Weather is equally well represented with 11, although it’s Choppy Waters was so bad that I renamed it “Boris’s Breath.” By contrast WW’s Perun got one of my rare 4.0 ratings. My time at Royal Holloway College was well before RB was dreamed of, and well before the craft revolution so straying across the border from Surrey had few inducements except the pleasure of walking in Windsor Great Park. That, plus a very faded memory of a Reading Festival, is Berkshire for me.

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This is a neighbouring county for me and I do get to go to Reading on fairly regular occasions and the brilliant Nags Head is always a must for me, but there is so much more to Reading. It’s always well worth a wander round the town and more places are opening up as well. I still have to get to the Phantom Tap for instance. I have been to both the old and new Reading grounds, catching the bus from the Nags, just keeping a little quiet about who I support. I cannot remember us doing badly at either of the grounds, so happy days out. The Ridgeway crosses some of Berkshire so I have done a little walking there too, some beautiful pubs along the way. I will get to do all of the Thames path one day.

I currently have tried 382 beers from Berkshire, my 19th highest county, so top half of the table. This places me in 8th place for the county, it ticks over regularly even though I have never managed to get to Reading Beer Festival yet. The beers averaging a rather healthy 3.34. I have tried beers from 22 different Breweries placing me 3rd in that particular list.

The Breweries I have had most beers from are –

  1. Siren Craft Brew – 115
  2. Wild Weather Ales – 85
  3. West Berkshire Brewery – 50
  4. Binghams Brewery – 25
  5. Elusive Brewing – 19
  6. Windsor & Eton Brewery – 19

I have rated 11 Beers a 4 or above, the best are –

  1. Siren Soundwave IPA – 4.8
  2. Siren 7 Seas – 4.2
  3. Siren Odyssey 003 – 4.1
  4. Siren Batch 200 Liquid Monstrous – 4.1
  5. Siren / Evil Twin Barrel Aged Even More Jesus VIII – Hazelnut – 4.1
  6. Siren Proteus – Vol 4 Version 1 – Bravo, Simcoe, - 4.1

My Berkshire Breweries with the Highest Averages are –

  1. Siren Craft Brew – 3.561
  2. Elusive Brewing – 3.468
  3. Double Barrelled Brewery – 3.467
  4. Two Cocks Brewery – 3.4
  5. Wild Weather Ales – 3.349

I have managed to review 19 places in Berkshire, my favourites are –

  1. Nags Head, Reading – 86
  2. 3 B’s, Reading, Now Closed – 78
  3. Alehouse, Reading – 78
  4. Castle Tap, Reading – 78
  5. Brewdog Reading – 74

Must get back down there soon. I’ve always fancied doing a tour of Windsor as well.

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Berks is my second highest rated County at 445 beers from 24 breweries, and then 8 ciders from 5 cideries. The scene is really kicking off, As soon as I think that I am close to ticking off all the breweries another one or two open.

I have nine breweries where I have reached double figures (with a few more in the cellar):

image

One of my better scoring Counties:

image

Before lockdown I was taking regular drives to tick new releases at Elusive’s and Siren’s taprooms (a couple of thirds and then takeaways, of course). Managed to get to the former last Saturday having met my parents at the Grange Holme Craft Village near Wokingham for lunch. One benefit of meeting there is that there is also now a wine and bottle store that sells a rotating range from various Berks breweries.

I think that @BlackHaddock perhaps needs to revisit Reading. It’s now a great place for beer and as well as the main beer festival (which I have also never been to), it hosts the lovely little boutique Craft Theory beer festival. As well the Nag’s Head, I really like The Castle Tap and The Alehouse, plus the Greyfriar is close to the station, not forgetting Double-Barrelled’s great tap room. You’ve obviously got a Brewdog as well. And I really want to get there soon because I have yet to visit The Haunt (Phantom’s taproom), Wild Weather’s two bars, a new craft place I forget the name of, plus The Grumpy Goat bottle shop in its new location. I used to go to Reading a lot for gigs and football because I had a 10 minute walk to Farnborough North station and direct line but now I have to change 2 times to get there

My last proper visit to Berkshire was back in October in order to try and get closer to ticking off all Berks breweries. I took a Friday off and drove to Hungerford in order to tick off a half of Innformal Brewery, then drove to Hamstead Marshall for two halves from Savior Brewery. I stopped at Swamp Dog/Two Cocks but despite the front door being wide open there was no-one there. And then dropped in at a pub in Thatcham that has a house beer from Delphic.

So I have two left to go: Swamp Dog who also own Two Cocks. I get the impression that they’re concentrating on the latter established brand because there don’t seem to be many sightings of Swamp Dog beers. And then FutureState, who are describe themselves as homebrewers and have cans that state ‘not commercially produced’ or something like that. However you can join their club or such like and get hold of the beers…. But no idea how you do that. The one time I messaged them to ask about their status I did not receive a response.

Like @imdownthepub Windsor is a place I’ve been meaning to go to. I’ve ordered plenty of beers from A Hoppy Place so it would be nice to actually visit it, plus there’s a Big Smoke* pub.

The other place I have not been to for a few years is Wokingham. Used to have a few decent old fashioned pubs but now also has a craft place and a Big Smoke* pub, plus you can of course get the bus to Elusive and Siren.

  • So should be decent guest beers.
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A massive 7 Berkshire rates for me, 70% of them being Siren Craft, the other 2 breweries that I’ve sampled are Elusive & Wild Weather, both of which I’d like to sample more of. Running down the list of Berkshire breweries there’s not many I’m familiar with to be honest - seem to recall that Bingham’s won the CAMRA lottery, sorry Champion Beer of Britain, for a stout some years ago, and recall having a West Berkshire mild at the Shrewsbury Beer Festival a few years back, but nothing else jumps out at me. As far as places are concerned, am only aware of Reading because of a football team, biscuits and a gaol, and spent time in Wokingham visiting friends years and years ago, seemed both old fashioned and nouveau riche at the same time - quite a feat! On the list of future UK destinations, I’m afraid it doesn’t rank highly

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In pre-ratebeer days I lived in Reading for afew years around 1998-2000, the Hop Leaf was our local a good traditional real ale pub and went to the CAMRA beer festival those years (also the Reading Music Festival). After moving away in 2001 would regularly visit friends there for afew years after that, then there was abit of a gap till 2019 when I managed to get to the CAMRA Festival again, focus on cider rating this time - still a good festival with plenty of choice.

Have 104 Berkshire rates, the highest is Siren / Magic Rock / Beavertown Rule of Thirds with 4.1. Siren is by far my top Berkshire brewery with 47 ratings.

In terms of cider, there are 11 active cideries in Berkshire, with Tutts Clump in Reading having the most entries with 28.

The top 5 lists for Berkshire cidery and cider raters are:

BerkshireCider Ratings

BerkshireCideries

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Ah, I see where the grumpiness came from yesterday. Sorry to see the Mariners drop out the EFL last night. The bright side will be different grounds / towns to visit next season.

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I lived in Berkshire for about 8 years (pre-RB), and still work there (well, apart from the fact I’ve been homeworking in Bucks for the last year!), so this is one of my better counties.

It’s my 6th highest rated with 105 rates (might be a lot higher if it wasn’t for the fact I focus less on counties once they’ve hit 100 & gone darkest blue on the map!). This actually gets me into the top 50 for once at no 44 - I’ve dropped down that chart quite a bit since Siren became widely available and ultra-popular!

As with others, I’ve got some high rated beers (by my mean rating standards) from Berkshire - in fact it’s got my sixth highest county score at 3,21. My top 5 Berkshire brews are:

I still remember the Liquid Mistress - on cask in perfect condition at the Alehouse in Reading. So good I drank that all evening despite the plethora of other rates in the pub - it’s not often that happens!

I’ve tried beers from 20 breweries (so I’m 4th in terms of breweries tried) and one cidery. Sadly five of those breweries have since closed. I’ve missed out on lots of the newer brewers due to homeworking over the last year (and the Reading Beerfest being cancelled), but hopefully I’ll be able to rectify that once I’m back in the office (not sure when that’ll be though).

I’ve rated more places here than any other county - 30, with another couple in my places backlog. My top-rated places are:

The Grumpy Goat hasn’t actually closed, it’s just moved to a new location with a new entry on RB. I’ve already visited, and when I get around to adding my review it’ll get a similar score to the old one - it’s still my favourite beer and cheese shop anywhere!

Special mention place-wise should also go to the tiny, olde worlde Alehouse (never sure how it’s survived right opposite Reading’s main shopping arcade!), and also Brewdog Reading. I’m also a big fan of the Fisherman’s Cottage and the Greyfriars, both great friendly places even if the beer selections aren’t quite up to the best in the county.

So, beerwise Berkshire (and particular Reading) is definitely one of the better counties. However, scenery and traffic wise it sadly doesn’t do so well. Wherever you go (especially in Reading and the east of the county) it’s just too busy and too expensive. A few (moderate) highlights are:

  1. Despite being an identikit modern town, Reading does have a couple of points of interest - the abbey ruins and gardens are pretty pleasant, and there’s a full size replica of the Bayeaux Tapestry in the museum (with one slightly amusing difference from the original).
  2. Wokingham’s probably the nicest of the towns (albeit still not that special).
  3. The hills of West Berkshire are actually quite scenic in places (particularly around Walbury Hill in the south-west and the Ridgeway in the north), and they’re relatively quiet compared to the rest of the county.
  4. The Living Rainforest is a mini version of Cornwall’s Eden Project, and is pretty interesting if you catch it on a quiet day.

I’ve obviously done plenty of walking in the county, including the Beeches Way (pleasant), the Three Castles Path (dull, but with a surprise at the Hampshire End), the Ridgeway (lovely path), plus large parts of the Thames Path (busy).

The highest point is at Walbury Hill which at 297m is the highest natural point in south east England. It’s lovely up there; great views, a hangman’s gibbet and just a short walk to the highest point of Hampshire (so you can bag two County “Tops” in one go).

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I took a few days with this one. Not sure why, maybe because the idea of Berkshire fails to inspire, although there are obviously some amazing breweries here. I have 84 rates, nowhere near enough for a top 50 but decent enough in its own right considering I have no connections to the area.

An even better stat is that Berkshire beers have the highest average rate of any county at 3.54. Not surprising when 50 of my rates are from Siren. Siren were one of the first craft breweries I really embraced. Don’t see them quite as much these days but they still produce excellent stuff. Leading the rest of the breweries I’ve tried (10 in total) are Wild Weather with 15 and Windsor & Eton with 8. All others are three or less. Surprised I’ve had so few Elusive beers, I will have to give them more of a go when I see them.

Top beers are:

I only have two place rates which came about by happenstance. We were going to travel to Bristol with a stop-off at Cheltenham but the weather (snow and what not) put paid to that and we had to change trains at Reading. We stopped off for a couple of hours and caught the Nag’s Head (84) and the Castle Tap (76). So at 80 Berkshire has the highest place rate average as well. Maybe I should spend more time in that area.

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Addendum: Got one more Elusive rate with a stunning BIPA down the pub. Gorgeous.

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For me this is a county dominated by one brewery…

Siren, my top 20 odd beers are all from them. The top ones being:

I have tried a total of 224 beers from Berkshire breweries. 131 are from Siren and 33 from Wild Weather, others are lower.

The top places I have rated are:

Place Rate
Grumpy Goat (Harris Arcade) (CLOSED) 80
Tally Ho 70
Alehouse 64

I haven’t been to the new Grumpy Goat.

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I was going to not bother reviewing Berkshire, as I’ve only rated 7 beers from the county (4 from Siren). Then I realised that one of the ratings was for the sublime Siren Broken Dream, which is one of my top 3 rated beers of all time !

As I said 7 ratings from 4 breweries, and even if I go back to my own records it’s only 30 beers from 7 breweries. [Siren still top with 14].

Unlike others, as far as I can recall the ONLY time I’ve drunk in Berkshire has been when I had a “branch lines and Wetherspoons” day in the Thames Valley a few years ago, visiting Windsor. I seem to recall both Spoons branches there being pretty dire and rather pricy – as you might expect from a tourist destination.

I do have another Siren beer in my cellar …

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Berkshire… A neighbouring county to where I used to live and a county that I used to visit reasonably often. Some decent towns, Reading being a little short on architectural splendour from my recollection but the beer choice and decent breweries seem to be multiplying and only adding to it’s appeal, in fact more and more so since I moved away. There are some good pubs and we’ve wild camped in the camper on a workday evening once and had a great night. Also been to Reading festival only once actually maybe twice? I’ve been to Siren brewery many times, even wild camping in the camper outside the brewery. I am a big fan of Siren, I like it that they make great beers but compared to some others who I’ll not mention, Siren are affordable for most folk, and their core range is really solid. I also really like Double Barrelled and have ordered from them quite a few times though mostly for friends and family back in the UK. I am sure that I would have visited Double Barrelled by now if still in the UK. I like Berkshire, it also featured a bit on our Thames Tipple which was the 2,3 or 4 times yearly excursions we took to hit all of the pubs on or very close to the River Thames from source to Thames barrier.

I have rated a total of 228 beers which surprised me a little, I really hadn’t realised that it had been so many. This places me in 18th position.

My top rated beers are absolutely dominated by a Siren monopoly with Windsor & Eton the only other name in my top ten.

Siren Tidal Wave 4.5
Siren Batch 200 Liquid Monstrous 4.4
Siren Soundwave 4.3
Siren Odyssey 4.3
Siren/Evil Twin Black n’ Blue Jesus 4.2
Siren / Omnipollo / Niklas Johansson Life is a Peach 4.2
Siren / Garage Project Blacklight Banana 4.2
Siren Hop Candy 4.2
Siren / Hawkshead Thresher 4.2
Windsor & Eton Conqueror 1075 4.1
Siren Half Mast QIPA (2013-2020) 4.1
Siren Broken Dream 4.1

I’ve rated 13 breweries of which 2 are no longer in operation.

Breweries with most ratings

Siren 143
Wild Weather 20
West Berkshire 13
Windsor & Eton 9
Butts 8

  • Interestingly I’ve also actually visited 4 out of the 5 breweries above as we used to get casks for our beer festival in Merton.

I keep forgetting to add my cider ratings, however I’ve had a few ciders from the county, 12 in fact with 9 from Tutts Clump another place I’ve also visited to pickup supplies for the aforementioned beer festival.

I’ve rated seven places, top is the Castle Tap closely followed by the Nags Head. Siren is in 3rd and would probably be higher but my visit was 20th November 2013, I was given a tour of the brewery by Ryan (former head brewer who has now moved back to the States) but this was just shortly before the Tap Room officially opened I should re-rate as I have been there many times since to events etc.

2 Likes




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