BrewDog Reading, 11 Castle St, Reading, RG1 7SB.
All ‘information’ in this review is ‘accurate’ as of March 2018.
There are plenty of reasons to hate BrewDog. There’s their abject fetishisation and wankification of ‘craft’ beer, the dreadful ‘funny’ names of their drinks, their sixth form politics and their endlessly irritating ‘look at me!’ edgelord PR stunts. Then, of course, there’s the disingenuous ‘punk’ attitude they pretend to embody, while carrying on almost exactly like the corporate tossers they claim to be superior than. And let’s not forget that painfully self-conscious capital ‘D’ in the middle of their bloody name.
But in a town as devoid of really decent bars as Reading, can we really afford to turn our noses up at these beer-y Scotch eggs, just because of the brand’s pretension and smugness? Och, it’s certainly tempting, aye. But let’s take the Reading BrewDog on its merits and judge it fairly, shall we?
Well, we say ‘fairly’. We’re still going to be pricks about it, obviously. Just, y’know, not *total* pricks.
Used to be: Public, Rynd, Dogma, Evissa, The Litten Tree, Applejacks…
Opening hours: Midday opening, 1am close in the week, 2am at weekends.
Staff: We’ll start with a topic where the more cynical and bloodthirsty of you out there in Readerland will be hoping for the review to descend into a kicking. But while, sure, the manager might look like half a Viking, he’s friendly, helpful and politely answered our slurred questions. And everyone else behind the bar was really rather nice, as well. Nice, affable, knowledgeable and quick. The whole ‘hipster’ dismissal is a little glib and unfair (and an insult much better suited to somewhere like Milk…).
Drink Selection: Well, then. Here’s the whole point. BrewDog beer is like Marmite. Disgusting.
We kid. It’s a love it or hate it sort of thing, isn’t it? You either think craft beer is a load of hoppy and faddy ol’ bollocks, designed to give boring people something to talk about (and chronic heartburn). Or you think it’s, y’know, quite nice to drink.
Whatever your stance on the stuff, there’s bloody loads of it here. It’s handily written up for you above the bar on a massive board too, detailing the beer, the type, the price and the measure (oh yes, there 2/3 pints and half pints on the go). There’s a couple of vino choices, a sparse spirit selection and a fridge at the far wall with non-BrewDog beerboozes, including local efforts such as Siren Craft and the like.
Not that you probably care, but we were on the Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier. It was nice. *shrugs*
Price: BrewDog, you might not be shocked to hear, is ruddy bloody expensive. There are one or two sub-£5 beers on the go at any one time, but you’re generally looking at £5.30-£6 per pint. Or half pint (depending on the strength).
Decor: You’ve got two choices when decorating a boozer in 2018. Grey and dark blue or wood-y, brick-y and ‘distressed’. BrewDog have opted for the latter option here. So distressed is the decor here, in fact, that it’s one panic attack away from running down a dual carriageway in its underwear.
It’s worth pointing out that they’ve done lots with ‘the space’, mind. There’s five times the seating than before and yet it doesn’t feel cramped.
Atmosphere: It was busy when we went in, albeit the freezing temperatures and snow may have stopped a few people turning up for the place’s maiden Saturday night. The place was wanker-free, the music was at a good level and folk were happy enough. No complaints.
Food: We didn’t eat, but we saw a couple of things and they looked tasty enough. There’s a limited menu of burgers and hot dogs and the like. The vegetarian options look unusually decent. Mind you, they don’t help themselves, do they? Calling their bloody veggie hot dogs ‘Soy Division’.
Beer Garden/Smoking Area: The tiny little smoking area out back is no more, so you’ll have to smoke your ciggies (or inhale your water vapour) out front. Be careful where you leave your drinks inside, though. We left ours unattended for the six minutes it takes to smoke a Benson Blue and the annoyingly switched-on glass collectors had ’em away.
Toilets: We done our wees on only the second night of its existence, so they were nice and tidy and not all buggered up. The gents has one generous cubicle and a trough and the ladies has three or four toilets. Oh, and complementary hairspray, deodorant and – to use a particularly jarring term – jam rags.
Sports? No. Football isn’t ‘epic’ or ‘awesome’ enough for BrewDog. Or whatever other cringeworthy old hat word that they might clumsily use like a middle-aged dad having a nervous breakdown. Mind you, it’s a bar, innit? So you wouldn’t expect tellies.
Music: When we went in we were treated to the kind of musical dirge that greebo skater kids with tattered flared jeans listened to back in 2001. AFI, Reel Big Fish, Alien Ant Farm… That kind of tosh. Is that representative? No idea. It certainly wasn’t welcome, that’s for sure.
Punterwatch: You know the drill here. There’s beards, there’s big spectacles, there’s skinny jeans and there’s a fuck of a lot of plaid shirts. There’s, basically, a lot of young people in there. But while they may rile you up a bit, it’s worth considering that the punters might not be at fault. You may just be a miserable old fart that’s struggling to come to terms with your increasing irrelevancy and the ever-loosening grip you have on the modern world.
That said, a lot of them do look like twats.
You’re supposed to get angrier as you get older, aren’t you? But we’re finding our annoyance gland unusually hard to inflame of late. A year or two ago the arrival of a BrewDog in Reading would probably have resulted in a review so ranting, swear-filled and libelous it would ended in court action. But now? Live and let live, we say.
We’re not going to become regulars or sign up to their daft bloody ‘Equity for Punks’ shares scheme or ‘owt, but nor are we going to get wound up that a successful company has opened up a seemingly well-run bar that’s probably going to be a big hit with people.
If the kids want to pay £5.90 for a bottle of acid reflux called ‘Uncle Random’s Epic Win-dow Licker’ or whatever, good luck to ’em.