Loddon Brewery Taproom, Dunsden Green Farm, Church Lane, Dunsden Green, RG4 9QD.
All ‘information’ in this review is ‘accurate’ as of April 2021.
Opening hours: Monday – Closed, Tuesday to Thursday – 9am-5pm, Friday & Saturday – 9am-9pm, Sunday – 10am-4pm
What better way to celebrate the return of the pubs than by reviewing the beer garden of a brewery taproom, eh?
The joke there was that I should’ve started by reviewing an actual pub. It’s not a strong opening gag for this kicking back off of the blog, but it is representative of the content in it.
At the time of writing, pubs are only sort of open. Apparently there was a bit of a bug going around over the last year or so and so the government closed all the pubs for the best part of a year. Like the generous souls they are, they reopened them in April. Albeit none of us are allowed inside any of them quite yet.
With the prospect of sitting inside a pub with a limited number of people without running the risk of a thousand pound fine tantalisingly close, these preceding weeks have proven to be a bit of a refresher course in public drinking. Turns out that while a lot of people have hit the booze pretty hard over lockdown, most folk’s tolerance to proper big boy drinking has decreased somewhat. And judging by the shivering you see out at 7pm, everyone’s forgotten that it can get a little nippy outside in April.
What’s all this got to do with Loddon Brewery’s taproom? Not a lot. It’s a rambling intro. It’s what us Reading bloggers are best at. That and being arseholes, of course.
You won’t find it written explicitly on their website, but Loddon make old man fart ales. That’s not an insult. They make very fine old man fart ales. What I’m saying is they’re not one of the new breed of craft beer breweries making courgette and Tangfastics-infused IPAs. They make beer. Proper bloody beer. Hullabaloo, Hoppit, Hocus Pocus, all that brown thin stuff your uncle drinks.
In their own words: ‘We have six rotating Loddon beers (three cask and three keg) – plus a rotating cider keg and a huge range of local spirits, ciders and wines to enjoy. Alongside our alcoholic drinks, we also serve fresh coffee, a range of teas and hot chocolate.’
The brewery’s not exactly one for a crawl. Unless your idea of a pub crawl involves a brewery taproom, a village pub and two cab rides. Don’t happen to live in the sleepy village of Dunsden Green, some three miles north of town? In that case it’s a bit of a schlep.
Of course, if you’re Chris Tarrant, you can just drink drive home. The rest of us will either need a couple of taxis or lifts. That said, if you live in Caversham, it’s walkable. Is drink-walking a crime…? It probably is now. Bloody Boris.
Technically this place is in Oxfordshire, but we’ll try not to hold that against it.
The taproom itself is pretty small and decorated unobtrusively, whatever that means. It’s all in keeping with the company’s branding and all that. If I’m honest, I don’t really remember it all that well, it was a while ago I was in there. When we went recently it was table service and seating outside in ‘the tapyard’.
What does the tapyard look like? Half of it is covered decking, the other half is uncovered benches. All on the grounds of the brewery which is plonked in a charming 1,000 hectare plot of farmland understandably called Dunsden Green Farm. If that doesn’t really help explain the ‘decor’ then I’m sorry. Who am I, anyway? William bloody Morris?!
Loddon don’t knock out their own grub but, like a lot of taprooms now, they have a revolving pop-up food effort. We don’t mean that literally. There isn’t a plinth which rises up from the ground and rotates like a giant doner kebab. Although that could work. Maybe that’s one for the future.
We went on the first Saturday in April 2021 where the pubs were (sort of) open and there was a real buzz about the place. How much that’s down to Loddon and how much that’s down to the British public having had to put up with a year of sitting at home every bloody day is hard to say. But when we went, we were a bit giddy, like everyone else. There was a real festival atmosphere.
Speaking of festivals… Let’s touch on the toilets (although hopefully not literally). There’s room for improvement here.
Now, I’m a bloke. So I have no problem depositing pints of beer wazz into the hot plastic chasms offered up by the fine people of Portaloo. But when there are only three of them and the tapyard’s full? On a hot day…? Put it this way, the ladies in the group weren’t overly pleased. My missus, especially. But then she’s never pleased. Why would she be? The poor woman lives with me ferchrissakes. Saying that, you think she’d be used to putting up with a fair bit of shit by now.
For the three people out there that still smoke, so long as you’re outside and not under cover, you can puff away to your lungs’ content.
There’s nowt on for sports fans but there’s no saying they might not make some sort of provision when a big tournament comes round. If not, improvise. My Chelsea rent boy pal streamed the FA Cup semi-final on his TELEPHONE of all things when we were there because WE’RE LIVING IN THE FUTURE NOW.
I wasn’t really paying attention because I was so excited about being out in public drinking with mates, but I’m pretty sure it was cheap. Like £3.50 a pint kinda cheap.
Dogs are allowed. Which is good news FOR YOUR MOTHER.
Now we went on the first Saturday the (outside of) pubs were open. It was busy. Very busy. They’d put on extra staff to cover the demand, but it wasn’t easy for them. So there were a few minor delays getting ordered and served, but once I’d had a couple, my politeness was replaced by the brash cockiness that alcohol taken in the blazing sun tends to give idiots like me. And so I soon adopted an attention-seeking wave/nod/wink combo that would be embarrassing to watch back had it been filmed.
Drinks were paid for after each round nice and easily using a PDQ machine that worked first time and everything. 🙌
What a wonderful picture of diversity it is. Not actual diversity, obviously; it’s a brewery tapyard in a village in South Oxfordshire. But there were a wide range of ages and types of (middle class white) people.
C O N C L U S I O N
Loddon Brewery’s tapyard is a very good offering from a very good brewery. It’s a wee bit of a trek out for most folk, but it’s well worth the effort. They’ve really made the most of their outside space, making this a perfect shout for a relaxed day session. Of course, it’s better if you’re bang into your old man fart ales, but there’s enough on the menu to occupy the livers of drinkers who prefer their booze fizzy.
They’re a decent bunch, Loddon. They donated a load of beer to the winners of some daft competitions I ran during lockdown, so they’re alright by me. You can follow the main brewery on Twitter here and their new tapyard account here.
Also, listen to the bloody STiR podcasts, yeah? They’re not about pubs, but whatever. Cheers. 🍻