Mine's a Pint - Spring 2020

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The Spring 2020 edition of the magazine of the Reading & Mid-Berkshire Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

THE MAGAZINE FOR READING AND

MID BERKSHIRE BRANCH OF THE

CAMPAIGN FOR REAL ALE

IN THIS ISSUE...

PUB & BREWERY NEWS

BEER MAT COLLECTING -

PART 1

SMALL BEER

SIREN CRAFT BREW

& MORE...

FREE

ISSUE FIFTY THREE SPRING 2020



Branch Diary

All meetings and social events are relaxed and friendly. Nonmembers

are welcome to all events except branch meetings.

Please check the website before setting out in case of any lastminute

changes.

March

Thursday 5th: (20:00) First Thursday of the Month Social.

Moderation, 213 Caversham Rd, RG1 8BB. It’s St Piran’s

day (the patron saint of Cornwall) and there should be

Cornish pasties available! Please let Phil know if you plan to

come as he needs to book a table.

Please email phillgill@yahoo.co.uk

Thursday 5th: (19:30) RBF20 volunteering meeting, at

Castle Tap, 120 Castle St, RG1 7RJ

Tuesday 10th: (20:00) Branch Meeting, Foresters Arms, 79-

81 Brunswick St, RG1 6NY, CAMRA members only, please.

Saturday 14th: (13:00) Social, hosted by SWM CAMRA

branch. Meet at Reading Station at 13.00 to walk to the

Fisherman’s Cottage and other pubs.

Friday 20th: (19:00) Southall Curry Night, meet Southall

Conservative Club, Fairlawn, High St, Southall UB1 3HB,

moving on at (20:30) to Al-Sultan.

Contact: pauldabrowski0159@gmail.com

Sunday 29th: (10:35) Ale Trail Walk. Meet outside the

Catherine Wheel, Station Rd, Goring RG8 9HB at 10:35.

Walk to the Bell Inn Aldworth via the Ridgeway, arriving

at about 12:30 (5 miles). We will stop for a drink and filled

rolls, then walk back to Streatley via the Ridgeway Path,

arriving at 16:00 (5 miles) The total distance is 10 miles.

Once back in Streatley / Goring there are plenty of options

for more pubs. Train times from Reading 10:18. Return

trains at 45 mins past the hour.

April

Thursday 2nd: (20:00) First Thursday of the Month Social.

Retreat, 8 St John’s St, RG1 4EH. We will have a post box

for Ale trail booklet between 20:00 to 21:00. Please email

social@readingcamra.org.uk, if you would like to join us at

Lyndhurst, for pint & curry (£9.99) before social, we will

book a table for 7pm.

Tuesday 14th: (19:30) RBF20 volunteering meeting, at

Castle Tap, 120 Castle St, RG1 7RJ

Friday 24th: (19:30) Branch Events Planning Meeting.

Phantom Brewing Co. Unit 3, Meadow Rd, RG1 8LB. We

will be looking for events in June to September. All members

welcome.

Contact Us

Useful contact details for this magazine,

CAMRA and other important things…

Mine’s a Pint Circulation: 3,000.

Outlets: Over 70 across the region.

Editor: Zoë Andrews

editor@readingcamra.org.uk

07985 199101

Magazine published on behalf of

Reading and Mid Berkshire CAMRA

by: Neil Richards MBE at Matelot

Marketing

01536 358670 / 07710 281381

n.richards@btinternet.com

Printed by CKN Print Ltd, 2 North

Portway Close, Round Spinney,

Northampton, NN3 8RQ

01604 645555

Reading & Mid Berkshire CAMRA

www.readingcamra.org.uk

Social Secretary: Chris Hinton

social@readingcamra.org.uk

Contact for all other branch matters:

Katrina Fletcher

contact@readingcamra.org.uk

0779 401 9437

Local Trading Standards

From time to time, drinkers receiving

poor standards of service or poor

quality products may wish to raise the

matter with Trading Standards. You

now need to do this through Citizens

Advice, an organisation which provides

free, confidential and impartial advice

on consumer issues.

To contact Citizens Advice Consumer

Service call 03454 04 05 06 or visit

www.citizensadvice.org.uk and click on

Consumer.

The next issue of Mine’s a Pint will be

published in early June. Please feel free

to submit any copy or ideas by 1 May

and you could see your name in print!

The opinions expressed in Mine’s a Pint

are not necessarily those of the editor or

the Campaign for Real Ale. © Campaign

for Real Ale 2020.

Mine’s A Pint

3


May

Thursday 7th: (20:00) First Thursday of the Month Social. 26th Reading Beer & Cider Festival,

Christchurch Meadow, Cav RG4 8BY. We will be entering a quiz team. (Quiz TBC)

Monday 11th: (10:30-18:00) Social. Join us at the site of Reading Beer & Cider Festival,

Christchurch Meadow, Cav RG4 8BY for a working social where we’ll be helping to take down

some of the beers and equipment.

Wednesday 20th: (20:00) Branch meeting. Royal Oak, Ruscombe Lane, Ruscombe RG10 9JN.

CAMRA members only, please.

Other Upcoming Events

7th-10th May 2020: 26th Reading Beer & Cider Festival, Christchurch Meadow, Cav RG4 8BY.

See website for volunteering. https://readingbeerfestival.org.uk/

This is a guide only and Reading & Mid Berkshire CAMRA cannot be held responsible for any

loss due to the alteration or cancellation of any of these events.

See www.readingcamra.org.uk for more details of events.

Mine’s A Pint

4


From the Editor

I couldn’t possibly start this issue without a

heartfelt thanks to Phil Gill. Phil has steered

Mine’s a Pint for 13 years and for over 50

issues. Consider, for a moment, how many

festivals, ale trails and pubs he has supported

and encouraged us all to visit over those years.

Phil has dedicated much of his free time to

bring Mine’s a Pint to life and built it into an

easily recognisable and enjoyable read.

As a newcomer to the town, or CAMRA, MAP

becomes an invaluable source of information.

It builds a clear picture of the enthusiasm for

great beer in this area and where to find it.

Phil has set a high benchmark for this local

publication. As I take on the task of continuing

this branch magazine, I really want to continue

with Phil’s inclusive spirit. There were several

of us sat in the Allied Arms working out

what happens next, and between us, we have

it covered. That said, we really welcome

contributions from the passionate beer

aficionados among you and we thank Phil for

his continued support.

As spring fast approaches, there’s a preview

of the Beer Festival, which runs this year at

Christchurch Meadows from May 7 th -10 th , and

with Friday 8 th May being a bank holiday in its

own right, we hope to see many of you there.

There’s also a deeper dive into Siren Craft

Brew, and a conversation with their head of

marketing, Chris Nolan. Paul Dabrowski

has written a feature on the task of beer mat

collecting, the history and the insights he has

discovered and you’ll find the first part of

research in this magazine. We also have our

regular features of pub and brewery news.

Wishing you all a fantastic spring,

Zoë

Editor, Mine’s a Pint

editor@readingcamra.org.uk

In MAP 53, we cover a range of topics: there’s

the much loved Ale Trail, which launched in

February but will still very much be under way

when you read this edition.

Contents

Branch Diary & Contacts: 3 & 4

From the Editor: 5

Pub News: 6, 7 & 8

Brewery News: 10 & 11

Small Beer: 12 & 13

Beer Mat Collecting - Part 1: 15 - 18

Ale Trail - Now On: 20 & 21

Reading Beer & Cider Festival 2020 -

A Preview: 22 & 23

Siren Craft Brewery: 25 - 28

Join CAMRA: 30

Mine’s A Pint

5


Pub News

Caversham

The Fox & Hounds in Gosbrook Road

helped Tiny Rebel celebrate its 8th birthday in

February with a tap takeover. Eight new kegs of

the brewery’s beer were on offer. Between the

27 th - 29 th March there will be a tap takeover

featuring The Kernel Brewery and The Five

Points Brewing Co. The pub serve Barrel &

Stone pizzas and Sunday roasts. They have a

regular quiz on Wednesdays from 8pm.

As this goes to press a West Berkshire Brewery

showcase week is underway for the public and

trade.

Mortimer

The Horse & Groom in The Street closed on

27 th December and is rumoured to have been

refurbished and reopened by new licensees.

Reading

The Castle Tap

in Castle Street

celebrated their 5th

birthday with five

days of events. This

included live music

from Dolly & The

Clothespegs, gin

tasting with West

Berkshire Brewery

and special brews

from Double

Barrelled and

Inside the Castle Tap Elusive Brewing.

The pub holds regular events throughout the

week including a monthly Sunday Quiz, a

book club, Saturday night live music, Shanty

Sessions and even acts as an eco refill station,

for detergents, shampoo and soap, on the 1st

Wednesday of each month. In February they

hosted a communal garden tidy/social to get the

courtyard ready for the summer months.

The Purple Turtle in Gun Street is celebrating

its thirty year anniversary with a number of

events across the year. Festivals will be held

to celebrate beer, gin, electronic music, chilli,

Pangea and Blues to name a few. Other activities

are garden parties, Foosball tournaments,

vintage days and a BBC Music Introducing

week takeover. The celebrations began on

25 th January with a birthday party featuring

a 1990s twist, including 90s drink prices and

music, moving on one year throughout the

decades every 15 minutes.

Brew Dog are also celebrating; they have been

in Reading two years. On Saturday 14 th March

there will be a special beer list, cake and beers

from Left Handed Giant.

The three pubs that make up ‘The Village’ will

be holding their annual festival over the Easter

Bank Holiday Weekend. The Retreat, The

Lyndhurst and the newly reopened Weather

Station will have music from 10 th - 13 th April

with, reportedly, the Polish Club getting

involved as well.

The Haunt in Meadow Road is Phantom

Brewery’s tap room which opened in November.

The brewery is owned by Dane White and

Dom Gemski and the tap room is managed

by Matt Crook. It sells its own beers along

with a selection of guest brews across 12 taps.

The tap room is cashless. It has visiting street

food vendors on a Saturday and is open 1pm –

10pm. On Fridays it opens from 3pm – 10pm.

Mine’s A Pint

6


Since October last year, political activists

have taken over a derelict Reading pub.

The Red Lion in Southampton Street is now

known as the Kobani House. The group says

it commandeered the building to create a

“political space”. On the door there is a sign

which reads: “We are a squatted social centre

occupied in solidarity with the people and

the revolutions of Kurdistan, a revolutionary

movement based on the principles of people’s

democracy, women’s liberation and ecology.

These are the ideas on which we create this

space. Please knock and come in to hang out,

chat and have a hot drink.” The pub closed in

2015 and has had planning permission granted

to turn it into eleven flats, but work has not

started yet. The group held their first openmic

night on 7 th November, which featured

Kurdish songs accompanied by Turkish guitar.

The group enforce Kobanî House as a drug

and alcohol-free space. One of the occupants,

Maya, told Get Reading; “There’s a big history

of squatting in the UK, and there are a lot of

reasons for it. We want to honour the radical

history of Berkshire too, such as the Swing

riots.”

The Three B’s in Friar Street reopened in

September last year as The Pantry Cafe and

Kitchen. It serves breakfast, brunch and lunch

in a cafe setting from 8am – 5pm Monday to

Saturday.

Matchbox in Friar Street is to undergo a

complete transformation this Spring when

work will start to turn it in to a gin bar.

Owners Greene King are teaming up with Big

Smoke Brew Co to bring to Reading a new

establishment, pitched as a “high end craft beer

and gin bar.” It is rumoured that the new bar

will house a games room with electronic darts

and shuffleboard.

The Back Of Beyond in Kings Road reopened

in early January after a fire forced them to

shut on Christmas Eve. The JD Wetherspoon

pub had to suspend the electricity supply and

shut for the entire Christmas period after the

electrical cupboard overheated and caught

fire. It reopened, running on a generator, only

serving drinks. A week later the kitchen was

also up and running.

Former pub, The Queen’s Head in Great

Knollys Street, has been put to good use since

May 2017, as a homeless shelter called New

Beginnings. Last year it was nominated for a

Pride of Reading Award. As well as helping the

homeless they also provide an after school café

for families on Wednesdays and a community

fridge, which opens twice weekly to provide

food to take away. The All Night Café, which

is a homeless shelter open at the weekends, was

able to open every night in December thanks

to government funding, however it has been

suspended until April, whilst the local churches

provide their Bed For A Night Scheme. The

charity receives help from Costco who donate

surplus food. They also try and salvage sleeping

bags and tents from the Reading Festival site.

Pavlov’s Dog in St Mary’s Butts closed on 19 th

January for refurbishment and reopened on

18 th February as The Boundary.

After a mass brawl on New Year’s Eve, and

another shortly after, Yates’ on Friar Street had

its license suspended until the end of January,

with a full hearing to follow. Urban and drill

music has been blamed for these troubles and

the owner, Stonegate, has said it will ban the

playing of these genres at all its venues.

Mine’s A Pint

7


Tilehurst

The Butchers in Lower Armour Road has

a new landlord, Martin Durkan, who is the

brother of the landlord of The Fox and Hounds

in Caversham. A recent visit found the beer in

good condition and Martin already has plans

for beer and cider in the future.

The Victoria in Norcot Road is now serving

Dirty Rucker by Wadworth to celebrate the

Six Nations. On a recent visit Gem by Bath

Ales and Boxsteam’s Tunnel Vision were also

available. The pub is looking for people to

join their darts team on a Tuesday night. They

serve food 9am – 8pm Tuesday to Saturday

and have roast offers on Sundays and a Fish

Friday. They have music every Friday night,

as well as acoustic open mic night every other

Sunday, which complements The Plough in

School Road who run a full band open mic on

the alternate Sunday.

Theale

The Fox and Hounds in Station Road has been

named the most dog friendly pub in the country.

It provides dog walk maps, a photo booth and

a menu with a choice of chicken or sausage

with ice cream for dessert. The pub was also

recognised for its dog friendly status in 2017

as well as being named pub of the year 2019

at The Reading Retail Awards. The Wadworth

owned pub serves a rotating selection of their

beers including 6X, Henry’s IPA, Game of

Stones, Horizon, Swordfish and Old Timer.

The Bull in High Street is situated next to

Brewery Court, which used to be the site of

Blatch’s Brewery who brewed in Theale up

until about 1965. The pub is another owned

by Wadworth and prides itself on “home

cooked food” and “excellent wines, lagers and

traditional ales”. On a recent visit they were

serving Swordfish, Sharp’s Coaster, 6X, Henry’s

IPA and also Old Rosie was available. Regular

events include a quiz every other Thursday, live

music on the last Saturday of the month and

fortnightly poker tournaments. The upstairs

Rodeo Bar is equipped with a pool table, dart

board and big screen TV showing BT and Sky

sports. The bar is available for hire and can

cater buffets for functions. Food is served all

day and roasts are available on Sundays until

7:30pm.

The Falcon in High Street is a grade two listed

traditional pub and former coaching inn.

Pool and sports TV is available in the Public

bar whilst the Saloon bar offers a more placid

atmosphere. A selection of Pieminister pies and

Chinese dumplings are available from Midday

to 2pm and 5pm – 7:30pm, Monday to Sunday.

On a recent visit Timothy Taylor Landlord,

Rebellion Top Gun, Marston’s Pedigree and

Robinson’s Trooper were available.

Evelyn Harrison-Bullock

Mine’s A Pint

8


1

CAMPAIGN

for great beer, cider and perry 2

3

Enjoy CAMRA

BEER FESTIVALS

in front of or behind the bar

4

Save

5 YOUR LOCAL 6

7

Get

9

Enjoy

great

VALUE FOR

MONEY

great

HEALTH BENEFITS

What’s yours?

great reasons

to join CAMRA

8

10

(really!)

10

Discover your reason

and join the campaign today:

www.camra.org.uk/10reasons

Become a

BEER EXPERT

GET INVOLVED

and make new friends

Find the

BEST PUBS

IN BRITAIN

DISCOVER

pub heritage and the

great outdoors

HAVE YOUR SAY


Chiltern

2020 marks the 40th anniversary of Chiltern

Brewery’s first brew back in 1980. To start

their 40th year they wanted to brew a beer

that represented their unique heritage and

commitment to innovation and

authenticity. In their brewing

archives they came across one of

the most popular beers they have

ever brewed – a beer they brewed

in collaboration with CAMRA and

Mr Roger Protz to mark the 40th

Anniversary of the Good Beer Guide

back in 2013. It was a dark ruby hue

with a lusciously rich and complex

malt base. They have recreated that

beer in draught form at a quaffable 4.5%

ABV (1045 OG). The five grains and five hops

produce a big and bold beer with notes of cedar

and raisins. Each grain and hop represent one

of their four decades; the fifth is a nod to the

future.

Following their popularity when first released

in 2019, Table Beer and 3 Thread Stout will

return in February.

Celebrating the

traditional style of

table beers, Table

Beer is the result

of over 12 months

tweaking &

improving to create

a perfect lowalcohol

ale (2%

ABV). Packing the

same amount of ingredients and flavour of a

stronger beer, Table Beer offers marmalade

notes with a malty base.

3 Thread Stout is a blend of the Vintage ale

with fresh 300s Old ale and Table Beer to

create a dark & indulgent 5% ABV stout.

Loddon

Head brewer Jake has lined-up a load

of new beers for 2020, carrying on

the theme of brewing totally new

styles while remaining loyal to core

brands. Forthcoming beers are:

Monthly Specials

January – Glaistig 5.5% Scottish

Wee Heavy (Burn’s Night)

February – Six Pack 4.2%

Blonde Ale (Six

Nations rugby)

March – B’Gorrah

5% Oat Stout (St Patrick’s Day)

Session IPA Quad Series

Jan-Feb – Eureka Quad 4.4% (US hop, dark

fruits and herbal flavours)

March-April – Rakau Quad 4.4% (NZ hop,

passionfruit and pine flavours)

Hocus Pocus was awarded Gold in

CAMRA’s Champion Winter Beer

of Britain contest in the Old Ales /

Strong Mild category.

Siren Craft Brew

Hard Rollin’ (7% ABV IPA) is a

smooth and creamy IPA, with

plentiful rolled oats, flaked oats

and milk sugar. It’s hopped with

Ekuanot, Citra, Hallertau Blanc

and Mandarina Bavaria.

Another release that they’re very

excited about is REFRACTIONS,

Mine’s A Pint

10


but for the time being this one is keg only. It’s

a brand new 4.2% ABV Session IPA and we’re

all super excited about it. Expect it to make its

way into cask, and possibly cans at some stage

in the future.

with local honey

from Meadow

Honey Farm. Honey

nuances complement

the bold US hop

additions, achieving

the perfect blend of

flavour, aroma &

refreshment.

West Berkshire

To kick off their 25th anniversary celebrations,

West Berks has released the first of their

quadranscentennial beers, Golden Age. This

is an 4.8% ABV American Pale Ale brewed

Windsor & Eton

To coincide with the Six Nations

Rugby, their rose-red bitter Last

Drop will be back on the taps in

time for the 1 st of February - a 4%

ABV ruby ale.

James Moore

Mine’s A Pint

11


Small Beer

A round up of news and information

CAMRA Podcast

CAMRA will be launching a new podcast called

Pubs, Pints & People on 14 April 2020. A small

group of volunteers have been working closely

with the Communications Team to develop 10

pilot episodes for the launch date.

The primary objectives are to:

1. Encourage non-active CAMRA members

to get involved with their local branches

and festival

2. Recruit non-members with an interest

in beer, cider, pubs or clubs to join the

Campaign

To accomplish this, each episode is organised

around a different topic and split into a few

different segments:

1. A ‘Learn & Discover’ interview with

brewers, sommeliers, beer writers and the

like

2. A ‘Desert Island Beer’ interview with

another prominent person in the industry

3. A ‘Dive into the Archives’ segment where

we pull out relevant news or stories from

past issues of What’s Brewing, BEER,

branch magazines, leaflets etc.

4. A ‘Last Orders’ chat over a closing beer

The format was designed to maximise

opportunities to share CAMRA news and

information, remind people of CAMRA’s rich

history and help listeners learn and discover

more about the industry. The first series is now

in post-production and the intention is to hand

over production of future series to volunteers if

the podcast is deemed a success.

The Weekend is a great opportunity for members

to get together, discover great beer and cider,

take part in discussions and other activities.

Members from York Branch are planning some

exciting trips to breweries and walking tours of

some of the best real ale pubs across the city.

For more details about the organised trips,

fringe activities, food and drink offers and the

AGM and Conference activities, go to: camra.

org.uk/beer-festivals-events/members-weekend

A British Pub on Mars?

The Perseverance is a proper British village pub

in Wraysbury, near Windsor. Licensees Nick

and Sarah recently spotted that Perseverance

was one of the names in NASA’s “Name the

Rover” vote for the 2020 Mars mission. The

winning name is due to be announced in March

so keep an eye on mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/

participate/name-the-rover/ to see whether a

little piece of Berkshire ends up on Mars!

Parliamentary Debate

In February, Westminster Hall hosted a debate

on the taxation of beer and pubs. This was

secured by Dudley MP Mike Wood, who is

chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Beer

Group and current CAMRA Parliamentarian of

the Year. The timing was designed to influence

the budget scheduled for early March.

Beer Festivals

Apart from the big one – the Reading Beer and

Cider Festival from 7-10 May – here are some

other local festivals that are well worth a visit.

CAMRA Members’ Weekend

There’s still time to preregister

for the 2020

Members’ Weekend, AGM

and Conference, this time

being held in the wonderful

and historic city of York

between 3-5 May.

Mine’s A Pint

12

WANTAGE BEER FESTIVAL

13th – 14th March 2020:

Beacon, Portway, Wantage, OX12 9BY.

The 10th Wantage Beer and

Cider Festival will take place

from 11am until 11pm on

Friday the 13 th and 11am

until 10pm (end of France vs

Ireland!) on Saturday the 14 th


of March 2020. 28 real ales from throughout

the country will be available, together with 4

ciders and 2 perrys. Food and soft drinks will

be on sale, and there is parking at the venue.

Admission will be £2 (£3 Friday 5-11) for

the general public, but free to card-carrying

CAMRA members; under 21s will need to

show some ID. Glass hire is £2, and festival

glasses will be available. All Six Nations rugby

games will be show live on Saturday, and local

Musician Neil Dwerryhouse, “The man with

the stereo hands!”, will be performing live at

8PM on Friday.

whitehorsecamra.org.uk/wantage-beer-festival

44TH FARNHAM BEEREX

23rd – 25th April 2020:

Farnham Maltings, Bridge Square,

Farnham, Surrey, GU9 7QR.

Open Thursday 6-11pm, Friday

6-11pm, Saturday 11am-3pm

and 6-11pm. Real ale and cider,

including a special St George’s

Day Ale and St George’s Day

Cider (both available only on

the Thursday), a festival special

ale from Langhams and a bar featuring beers

from Yorkshire. Food available and a live band

playing at each session. Advance tickets only

– include a glass and programme – available

online.

farnhambeerex.org.uk/index.html

35TH EGHAM BEER FESTIVAL

7th – 9th May 2020:

Egham United Services Club, 111 Spring Rise,

Egham, TW20 9PE.

Thursday 7 th : 10am – 11

pm. Friday 8 th : 10am-

12am. Saturday 9 th : 9am

– 12am.

The festival is open to

non-members. Entry to all

sessions costs £4 plus a £2 refundable deposit

for a festival glass. £1 discount to NUS, CIU

& CAMRA card-carrying members and also

guests of EUSC Club members. Entrance is free

to EUSC members throughout the festival, but

you are urged to pay the deposit for a festival

glass.

eghambeerfestival.co.uk

Mine’s A Pint

13

BRACKNELL ALE AND

CIDER FESTIVAL

24th May 2020:

Bracknell Rugby Club, Lily Hill Park, Lily Hill

Drive, Bracknell, RG12 2UG.

10th birthday festival. Details

still to be confirmed at time

of writing but we’re promised

more ale, cider, local banging

music, delicious grub and a

proper good time.

festival.bracknaleevents.co.uk

CRAFT THEORY FESTIVAL

12th – 13th June 2020:

South Street Arts Centre, 21 South Street,

Reading, RG1 4QU.

Craft Theory is back for year

four and promises to bring even

more from local, national and

international breweries. Meet

the brewers and chat about beer.

Also expect musical vibes from

quality DJs and acoustic sets while munching

on some delicious gourmet street food.

crafttheoryfestival.co.uk

11TH TWYFORD BEER FESTIVAL

12th – 13th June 2020:

Stanlake Meadow Recreation Ground,

Waltham Road, Twyford, RG10 0AB. Just 2

minutes walk from the station.

Open 5-11pm on

Friday and 12-10pm

on Saturday. Admission

£5 including a glass.

Come on Friday and get

in free on Saturday. Real ale, cider and perry,

rum and gin available, accompanied by food

stalls and music from a selection of great local

bands. Raising money for Orchid: Fighting

Male Cancer. Previous festivals have managed

to send over £60,000 in total to the Orchid

Charity. Last year they sent £10,000 – let’s help

make this the best year yet!

twyfordbeerfest.co.uk

Phil Gill


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Mine’s A Pint

14


Beer Mat Collecting

So often taken for granted, the familiar beer

mat, drip mat or coaster is more than just a

piece of absorbent material but, nevertheless,

is so easily overlooked. It’s probably just when

they’re not around that their absence is most

keenly felt but, in becoming objects of historical

value and artistic worth, they extend well

beyond their utility as point-of-sale advertising

material. Probably, the nostalgia for lost

breweries that commissioned their manufacture

or past beers now consigned to history realises

their true worth to the casual observer but it’s

also in terms of commemorating past events,

from coronations to beer festivals, from jubilees

to sporting fixtures, that they come into their

own just as readily.

Whether as mementos of changing fashions,

both in apparel and beer styles or with some

humorous intent, beer mats are often exquisitely

designed and have thus become targeted by

‘tegestologists’, the technical name accorded to

collectors of these modest but essential items.

‘Teges’ itself comes from Latin, meaning

a covering or mat, although the term

‘dripsomaniacs’ is often unkindly used to

describe such hobbyists. They would invariably

counter that it would be a rare pub-goer

indeed that has not been tempted at one time

or another to purloin a beer mat or two, such

is the range of topics that have been covered

by a brewery or virtually any other drinks

manufacturer. Not that they’ve been solely

commissioned by companies associated with

the beerage as transport undertakers, road

safety campaigners, charity fundraisers, cigar

and cigarette manufacturers, crisp, nut and

meat pie factories and even banks and sports

clubs have all issued their own promotional

drip mats.

Likewise, the range of topics covered is almost

endless and, sometimes, they have formed part

of a numbered series to actively promote their

Mine’s A Pint

15

Part 1

acquisition, just as cigarette cards did in their

day, thereby decrying the accusation that, as

being disposable, they have no intrinsic value!

Their appeal can be, perhaps, best likened

to stamps, which philatelists devour as new

issues and denominations come into the public

domain.

Similarly, beer mat collecting has its own club,

the British Beermat Collectors’ Society, for

tegestologists to meet, swap and disseminate

information on the subject. Founded in 1960,

the BBCS was suggested by a Mr Chris Walsh

who placed an advertisement in ‘Exchange &

Mart’ (a printed bound newspaper for both

trade and public to advertise and sell items

that predated e-bay) asking for like-minded

individuals to contact him. An enthusiastic

response gave rise to an initial membership

that was 20-strong which had, by the 1980s,

grown to 1,200 worldwide and even had, as

its first joint presidents, that famous comedic

partnership of Morecambe

& Wise for a time. A film

was made promoting

the new Society

outside the Battersea

Park Funfair Beer

Hall by British Pathé

which featured the pair

adopting various ruses

to acquire, from another

customer, a different beermat to one of those

they’d been given!

Local meetings are held all across the UK

monthly with a national annual meeting, very

much like CAMRA itself. Members receive a

special BBCS beer mat when they first enrol and

then whenever their individual collections reach

a particular milestone, be it 1,000, 2,000 or

whatever with one Austrian collector amassing

a world record to date with over 150,000 mats.

If placed in a line, end to end, they would reach

to nearly 10 miles in length!


The Society had undertaken to catalogue all

recorded UK beer mats issued to date, ably

assisted by the various breweries and printers

concerned but, in the cause of this marathon

task, the existence of some fakes has even

been detected, mats that had been deliberately

reprinted specifically to sell to collectors,

sometimes legitimately and, occasionally,

fraudulently.

Large batches of previously-rare examples

that became available or those with subtle

variations in design or colour have had to be

regarded somewhat suspiciously and with good

reason – those that are scarce can command

high prices – but, with their mass production,

there are bound to be variations in definition, in

cutting-to-shape or card quality such that few

mats are ever completely identical.

However, this article will not concern itself

with the minutiae of subtle variations between

individual beer mat issues, be they changes in

size for the same design, or colour variations,

or shaded outlines to motifs as opposed to

unshaded ones, all of which concern only the

most avid tegestologists. Instead it intends to

present a broad overview of their development

over the years and an idea of the varieties

available.

The forerunner to the beer mats or coasters of

today were most likely a porcelain or pottery

stand principally utilised to prevent heated

tankards of mulled ale from damaging table

or bar tops in taverns or inns. In parts of the

former British Empire, the term ‘coasters’ was

adopted instead of ‘drip mats’ used elsewhere

though, in France, these are known as ‘sousbocks’

and, in Germany, as ‘bierdeckels’. As

the costs for producing these porcelain coasters

became prohibitive, the first card or paper

alternatives which began to appear were clumsy

wood pulp creations.

The beermat which we know today made its

debut in 1880 when Friedrich Horn & Co.,

a German printing and board mill concern,

created small cardboard mats. They printed

various advertising messages on them and,

soon, their simple invention was becoming a

firm favourite under beer glasses across the rest

of mainland Europe.

But, it was not until 1892, also in Germany,

that a Robert Sputh was credited with having

patented the first drip mat in Dresden and their

utility, coupled with their advertising potential,

spread them further around the world though

it is not known when, exactly, they were first

introduced to the UK. Around 1920 is the

best current estimate and, strangely, c. 1900

for north America seems most likely! Bar staff

liked them as they protected tables which didn’t

need washing as frequently; neither did they

cost anything since advertisers financed them

while attempting to reach new markets.

And, bar goers liked them (and still do) as they

kept tables from being awash with spilt beer

which kept clothing cleaning costs down after

a visit to the pub! It is particularly regrettable

that virtually every pub refurbishment –

particularly gastrofication by companies such

as Fullers (now Asahi) – in the UK these days

seems to be accompanied by the withdrawal of

drip mats from regular use.

Promoting Reid’s Stout and their Pale Ale, it

was the Watney, Combe, Reid and Company’s

brewery that is believed to have issued the

very first beer mats to these shores in 1920.

Made from a thick, embossed, board that

had regularly-spaced pits or indentations

across the surface, these heralded the more

usual promotion of a brewery’s own products

rather than other concerns’ goods and services.

Typically, small slits could be discerned along

the edges of these and others which followed

indicating that the mats had not been fully

compressed.

Mine’s A Pint

16


Until the 1940s, the printer’s name quite often

appeared but, as quickly as the trend for thinner

and smoother mats became evident, the identity

of the printer became less so. As late as 1960,

Worthington & Company issued a set depicting

six notable personages in both embossed and

smooth board versions. And, therein lies the

appeal of beer mat collecting, encouraged

by the brewers themselves, consciously in

supplying variations on a theme which are

eminently collectable in themselves (the subject

matter) and, unconsciously, by employing

different manufacturers to produce and print

them (the raw material).

Should a printer’s mark, if not a full name, be

apparent, this is an invaluable aid in dating

a particular mat. More often, it is a case of

identifying as accurately as possible when

a particular ale was available or a specific

advertising campaign was underway.

Most beer or drip mats are individual rather

than parts of sets and tend to reflect the mood of

the period and, thus in their own, unique, way

record history, particularly brewery history.

For example, in 1933, when the Watney,

Combe, Reid & Company finally attempted to

rationalise their respective trademarks of a stag,

a malt rake and a griffin respectively (they’d

amalgamated a mere 35 years earlier!), they

organised a national competition with a first

prize of £500 to find a new corporate identity

motif. From 26,000 entries, a Mr Ranklin won

with a simple ‘red barrel’ device and the rest, as

they say, is history.

Conversely, when Ind Coope merged with

Samuel Allsopp in 1934, the fortress-like

building associated with the former was

phased out completely and Allsopp’s ‘red hand’

became adopted by both concerns and even

continued after the name Allsopps was dropped

completely from beer mats c. 1950.

After Courage & Co. Ltd. merged with Barclay,

Perkins & Co. Ltd. in 1955, mats began to

be issued jointly illustrating the cockerel of

Courage alongside the Dr. Johnson device

used by Barclays. But, upon this company

in turn merging with H. & G. Simonds Ltd.

of Reading, mats initially bore the titling of

‘Courage, Barclay & Simonds Ltd.’ before

the ‘Courage’ branding became predominant

and the identities of its other constituent

companies, including Simonds’ hop leaf motif,

became consigned to history. However, since

the emergence of the Campaign for Real Ale,

a renewed interest in traditional ale meant that

many of the remaining breweries were less

ashamed of their previous takeover activities

and began to reissue beer mats that recalled past

beers when these were revived along with their

originating brewer’s names where appropriate

such was the impetus of both nostalgia and the

need for some marketing nous.

Probably, the first

collectable set of mats

issued in the UK were

by Bass, Worthington,

Ltd. in 1928 which

featured a character

called ‘Bill Stickers’

and the craze for

issuing complete sets

probably reached its zenith with three series of

large-sized sets of 15 each by Ind Coope Ltd.

in the late-1970s that, between them, told the

‘Story of Beer’. Their issue encapsulates all the

appeal of beer mat collecting. There were two

No. 1s in the first 1976 series since, apart from

the official No. 1, that number was additionally

used as invitations to Burton Ale sampling

sessions which differed by dates and venues.

And, there were two No. 9s since the original

wording on the first version proved contentious

as it had stated, ‘thus keg beer was more

dependable but said to have less ‘character’ than

cask beer’. As Ind Coope produced the most

widely-available keg beer at the time – Double

Diamond – and that this assertion was only an

‘opinion’ – by a CAMRA mole in Allied’s HQ

perhaps? – this mat only appeared well after all

the others with the wording changed to, ‘cask

beer and keg beer co-existed each enjoying its

own popularity’.

Mine’s A Pint

17


Both sets won the BBCS ‘beer mat of the year

award’ for 1976/7 though any suggestion that

the two series, with their No. 15 mats featuring

‘Tegestology’ as the topic, unduly influenced

the Society is pure speculation! And, the No. 15

mat in the third series of c. 1980 again covered

‘Tegestology’ but lauded the fact that the earlier

two series had won a Silver Award from the

Designer and Art Directors’ Association for

the graphic design content involved. Then,

in around 1990, Ind Coope Burton Ale was

promoted with another set of beer mats entitled

‘A Traditional Crafts Series’.

Equally impressive was another large-sized set

issued by the same company, but masquerading

as Taylor Walker (a revived brewery name to

promote a ‘local’ version of their 1037 o (original

gravity) bitter in the London area) that featured

notable events in the capital’s history. A 1961

set of 20 also issued by Ind Coope from as many

years earlier still at the more normal size for

beer mats was of particular interest to brewery

history aficionados as each one was tailored to

every brewery where a trading agreement to

offer Double Diamond had been reached. This

even included Blatches of Theale (later taken

over by Ind Coope Ltd. in 1965 and closed) but

also Simonds of Reading (which had already

merged with Courage & Barclays Ltd. a year

previously!).

Paul Dabrowski

with acknowledgements to Keith Osborne &

Brian Pipe, The International Book of Beer

Labels & Beer Mats, Anthony Springall, Beer

Mats A Fascinating History, Mad Cow Edition

No. 51, & Keith Sunderland, A History of

Brewing in Beer Mats, Full Measure Edition

No. 145.

Mine’s A Pint

18


great beers from

oxfordshire since 2003


Ale Trail - Now On

Every spring sees

hundreds of people

getting out and about

and enjoying the pubs

on the Reading & Mid

Berkshire Ale Trail. It

started in FeBREWary

– the perfect antidote to

Dry January – consists

of 24 pubs and appeals

to anybody who enjoys

a drink, anybody who likes exploring the area

and anybody that just likes to “collect the full

set”.

The idea is simple. Pick up a booklet for a pound

from the Nags Head or Alehouse in Reading,

or the Fox and Hounds in Caversham. Enjoy a

load of great trips out to the participating pubs

and collect a sticker for every pint or half or

real ale or real cider that you have. Then send

in your completed booklet – you have until 8

April – for the chance to win prizes including

vouchers for the Reading Beer and Cider

Festival, exclusive T shirts and entry to a prize

draw.

The 24 pubs are chosen to be a good mix of

urban, suburban and rural destinations and

to provide a good deal of variety from year

to year. It’s not supposed to be our idea of

the 24 best pubs in the area – that’s what the

Good Beer Guide is for – but instead to give

people the chance to experience a wide range of

pubs that they might not have had the chance

to visit before. You’ll always find our current

branch Pub of the Year and Cider Pub of the

Year on the list though. If you’re interested in

the full selection criteria you can read them at

readingcamra.org.uk/aletrail

Pubs taking part in the Ale Trail this year are:

Alehouse, Reading

Allied Arms, Reading

Bell, Aldworth

Bell, Waltham St Lawrence

Castle Tap, Reading

Crispin, Wokingham

Elm Tree, Beech Hill

Fox & Hounds, Caversham

Fox & Hounds, Tilehurst

Golden Cross, Twyford

Mine’s A Pint

20


Greyfriar, Reading

Griffin, Caversham

Last Crumb, Caversham

Lyndhurst, Reading

Magpie & Parrot, Shinfield

Market House, Reading

Nags Head, Reading

Park House (University of Reading), Reading

Retreat, Reading

Royal Oak, Tilehurst

Three Tuns, Reading

Six Bells, Burghfield

Swan, Three Mile Cross

Weather Station, Reading

We’ve included two guest pubs from outside

our branch area this year – the Crispin at

Wokingham and the Bell at Aldworth. At the

time of writing we know that the Bell has

reached the final four in the national Pub of the

Year contest … will it have been announced as

the winner by the time you visit?

Have an excellent time on the trail, and please

take the opportunity to send in your beer scores

by visiting whatpub.com - this helps us gather

more data about pubs and might even mean

that your favourite pub gets into the Good Beer

Guide next time.

Phil Gill

Main images by Brian Jones

Quality food, Real Ales,

Fine Wines

Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and

Ringwood Razorback on Tap

Traditional Country Pub with

3 Open Fires, Beautiful Views,

Decking Area

01189 883505

Email: elmtreebeechhill@hotmail.com

www.theelmtreebeechhill.co.uk

Find us on

The Elm Tree, Beech Hill

RG7 2AZ

Events & Large Parties welcome

Opening Hours

Drinks served:

12 til late

Food served:

Monday – Saturday 12-2.30, 6.30 – 9.30,

Sunday 12 – 5

Mine’s A Pint

21


Reading Beer &

Cider Festival 2020 - A Preview

my teens. Disclaimer: I sometimes still crave a

lager, and I have zero shame about that.

I sincerely hope that the beer festival offers

that same voyage of discovery to others too.

It is, without a doubt, a chance to showcase

wonderful breweries who specialise in cask,

craft or both. An opportunity to try them

out. It’s a chance to talk about beer, grab a

recommendation, meet new people and, maybe

(just maybe) have a jolly good knees up. There

is always an excellent se-lection of perry and

cider, too. Friends from further afield tell me it

is one of the best run beer festivals in the UK.

The beer festival is nothing without its

wonderful volunteers: they keep everybody

safe, they support across the whole site, often

giving up their annual leave to do so. The

volunteers behind the bar want to talk beer

with you and help you make sense of what’s on,

what’s in the guide and what you should try.

It is a joke amongst family and friends that

the Reading Beer and Cider Festival is my

Christmas. It might be a joke to them, but I’m

not sure that it is for me: I really do love it.

My friend Andy, a keen home brewer with big

beery ambitions, was rather excited about it

himself when we chatted away in late December.

“You know, we aren’t that far off now. It’s only

five months away” he said excitedly. He goes

most years, and I’ve known him attend every

day of the festival.

Well, by the time you read this it will be a mere

two months away, and I can’t wait.

From a personal perspective the beer festivals

have been the springboard to my love affair

with beer. Proper beer, not the pints of

Kronenbourg I used to drink as a staple in

The beer festival is a place that I have made

friends, re-connected with old friends and

sometimes it’s the only time in the year I get to

see certain friends.

Over the past two years, CAMRA have had a

‘key keg’ stand, which should suit the craft beer

connoisseurs amongst you. That said, the cask

selection is huge. My favourite beer of last year

was Old Chimneys Brewery with their Good

King Henry, a Russian imperial stout, which is

an incredible beer on cask.

What can you expect from the festival this year?

It is scheduled to run over the (later than

normal) May bank holiday weekend of the

7 th -10 th May 2020. Tickets are now available

to purchase online at readingbeerfestival.org.

uk. The Friday 8 th May is officially the bank

holiday, so it should prove to be a wonderful

day with so many people having the day off

Mine’s A Pint

22


work. For the first time, there will also be an

all weekend ticket available for £70, allowing

access to all sessions.

There will be street food available onsite, and

lots of games over the long weekend; last year

the games team did a fantastic job, so this is

definitely one to watch. The beer festival is

under cover but there is plenty of the lovely

Caversham Meadows grounds to overspill

onto if you’d rather be outside. Be dressed for

all seasons, because sometimes, we get all four

over the weekend!

Expect the Thursday night to showcase as much

beer as is humanly possible. The post-traders

session is always a a slow burner that gradually

fills out into a thoroughly enjoyable evening,

and it’s the chance for volunteers to get to grips

with what is where. It is worth keeping an eye

on the Facebook group where the lovely beer

ordering team will publish a beer list ahead of

time, so that you can plan what you want to try.

I’m obviously a little biased, but do invite your

friends and families along, because the Reading

Beer and Cider Festival is always a thoroughly

enjoyable affair.

Zoë Andrews

Mine’s A Pint

23


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Mine’s A Pint

24


Siren Craft Brewery

Siren refer to themselves as having four

‘sirens’ - four key beers, so to speak. There’s

the afore-mentioned Calypso, a 4% dryhopped

sour. There’s also their best selling beer

Soundwave, and IPA, session pale ale, Yu Lu

and the wonderful - and CAMRA Champion

Beer of Britain award-winning - Broken Dream

(a breakfast stout). Outside of this, there is

their craft lager Santo: it’s not a Siren, but it

is available all year, like the wonderfully sour

Pompelmocello. Siren don’t believe in cutting

corners, or cost. If an ingredient is deemed

the right one, so be it. There has also been

the fantastic Rainbow Project which saw

collaboration with other UK breweries. Siren

have now handed that cap to Left Handed

Giant in Bristol to develop further.

It was a combination of three things that

converted me to craft beer. I’d been visiting

the beer festivals for several years in an almost

constant hunt for a ‘banana’ flavoured beer

(I’ve got over that now). Then I lived in Bristol

where the beer scene was incredible, and I

made great friends with some very keen beer

enthusiasts. Finally, I moved back to Reading

and a colleague of mine put me onto Siren Craft’s

Liquid Mistress. They sold it at Bluegrass, and

they sold Calypso at the Oakford. I liked them

both and I soon became aware that in terms of

21st century craft beer, Siren were the ones to

beat. There was a polish with Siren that I hadn’t

found elsewhere.

Like many breweries, Siren have used

crowdfunding to help propel them forward

to the next stage. They successfully smashed

their £750,000 target in 2019 (raising £1.2m),

allowing them to purchase a new canning line

and re-brand their product.

Siren Craft are based in Finchampstead,

Wokingham. They have had an amazing success

story. They were formed in 2013 with a genuine

obsession over creating brilliant beer and

introducing it ‘to as many people as possible.’

When you look through their website, and

consider the things they have achieved in such

a short space of time, it is quite remarkable.

Within two years Siren won Rate Beer’s ‘Best

Brewery in Britain’ award.

Mine’s A Pint

25

Talking of which, the branding is clever, and

artistically draws the eye in. It is consistent

across packaging, product, Siren apparel and

the website. Siren have a key following of

enthusiasts who have supported them from the

off with a passion that is palpable. Siren have

featured at Craft Theory, for the past few years

at South Street, but also been far and wide

across the country and the globe.

The breakaway projects such as ‘Project

Barista’ (if you ever got the chance to try the


amazing Affogato, you probably still think

about it. I know I do) and ‘Seasonal Brews’

have been vast, with a huge brewing schedule

on the go. For the beer enthusiast it can become

a personal ambition to try all these one-off

brews. I haven’t managed it despite giving it a

good go.

The setup over at the brewery is organised and

compact, but looks are deceiving. What was one

unit is now four. It’s incredible to think that this

once small brewery is now making rather large

waves nationally. The taproom (in the barrel

store) is small but inviting, with regular events

in place. Pizzas are served to your drinking

bench, and everyone is friendly and welcoming.

There is a regular quiz, and the website shows

many other events in the lineup too. Over the

weekends, and in better weather, you can also

sit outside where there is plenty of room, and

there are regularly food traders present.

Finally, there’s plenty of Siren swag and beer

to take home, with fridges full of gift packs,

new brews and more. The taproom is open

Wednesday to Sunday, with the only challenge

being getting there (especially when the buses

are playing up). However, I’m sure the rest of

the time this isn’t a problem, and If you’re in

a group, you could minibus it between you for

about the same money.

I’ve been in touch with Siren’s marketing

Manager, Andy Nowlan, to find out a little

more about what’s coming up.

How long have you worked with Siren, and

what drew you in?

I’ve been at Siren for around 5 years now, which

seems pretty crazy to say out loud. I had fairly

recently moved to Reading at the time, and

with a passion for the burgeoning beer scene

it didn’t take too long to discover a brewery

making some of the best beer in the UK based

just down the road. I was looking for a project

that I really believed in to get stuck into, and it

was the quality of the beer, the ambitious ethos

and the passion of the people there that made it

a great fit at the right time.

The Siren website is quite amazing: there’s

always something new to read. How do you

constantly make things fresh?

Thank you! Right from day one, Siren has

been about telling the stories behind the beer.

Whether it’s the provenance of ingredients,

the history of a certain beer style, equipment,

processes or recipes, tales from our barrelageing

project or exciting collaborations from

in or out of the beer world, we are never short

of things to talk about. Perhaps the more

challenging bit is choosing which stories to

tell, and making sure we do them - and all the

people involved, hard work and end products -

justice with the way we present things. Luckily

I have some help on that front in the form of

Tim, whose main priority is to make sure our

output across the board looks great and is

interesting to read.

Siren were the first new local brewery I became

aware of back in 2015, how have things

changed since then?

I think things have changed drastically and to a

point of no return. In many ways this is hugely

positive. As beer drinkers we certainly do have

more choice and more access to great beer than

we did in 2015, with a host of fantastic new

breweries and tap rooms on offer, incredible

ranges in our favourite pubs, and beyond that,

craft beer making its way into more and more

restaurants, mainstream bars, music festivals,

supermarket shelves, football stadiums and so

on. On the flip side, the reaction in recent years

from ‘big beer’ has been forceful and effective,

in particular through aggressive acquisition of

Mine’s A Pint

26


breweries and the knock-on impact this has in

tying up routes to market. Small, independent

brewers like us are under a lot of pressure in

an incredibly competitive space, as indeed

are many pubs. We all have to be at the top

of our games to keep growing in a considered,

sustainable way that keeps the beer the priority.

for customers if we get too ‘loud’ about every

single beer that comes out of tank. So our

approach is to try to prioritise certain projects

throughout the year for a nice ebb and flow,

while making sure consistent, accurate and

engaging information is always available all

year round about everything we’re doing for

people to dive in and out of.

What’s coming up that you’re really excited

about?

So much! To name just a few things... our 7th

Anniversary is just around the corner, which

means the return of Maiden, our celebration

barrel-aged, blended barley wine. That will

be joined by two very special beers this year,

inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins & Heavenly

Virtues. Stay tuned for that. Personally I can’t

wait to bring Project Barista back in May, we

team up once a year with different independent

roasters to push the boundaries of how beer

and coffee can work together in four different

coffee beers. It’s always a treat to be involved

in and always a great event at the brewery.

Locally, we’re all excited for the return of Down

at the Abbey festival later this year, which was a

superb event in 2019.

Siren have a huge brewing schedule, as the

marketing manager, how do you tackle promoting

these?

We’ve always aimed to keep a good balance

between reliable, flavour-forward, go-to

flagship beers available all year round and

a prolific range of one-off, collaborative or

seasonal brews that people love to try. We also

try to keep a range of styles, formats and price

points. In practice this means we’re in a constant

cycle of working on new ideas, new recipes,

new artwork, new events and everything else

that goes along with it (obviously including the

hardest thing of all - new beer names). It would

be impossible, and frankly super annoying

You currently have a range of four ’Sirens’, so

to speak, how does the team decide what makes

the cut, and what might be the next?

In general, I suppose for a beer to join our

flagship Sirens it has to tick a lot of boxes for

us. Do we love the beer? Does it make sense in

the range? Does it represent us as a brewery? Is

it something that we want to dedicate precious

brew slots to on a regular basis? Does it have

a great story that can resonate? Can we do this

just because we like drinking it? Just kidding,

that last question never comes up ;) There will

be a new Siren this year and it’s going to be

a very important beer for us. We’re trialling

recipes now under a different guise and the

early feedback has been very encouraging.

Hopefully we’ll have more news on this in the

spring, as the project has literally just kicked

off this month.

Mine’s A Pint

27


Will Siren be making an appearance at Craft

Theory and the Beer Festival this year?

Absolutely! Anne-Marie has done an incredible

job building Craft Theory (of course, along

with the Grumpy Goat that has been a crucial

pillar in the Reading beer scene for a long time)

and we’ve been proud to support it since day

one. It’s a nailed-on date in the calendar for us.

The CAMRA festival is one of the best of its

kind and we always do our best to sneak in and

get involved where we can.

What beer trends do you see on the horizon?

Right now there is a real surge in low and

no-alcohol. Whether that’s something we

can take on and add value to, with a ‘Siren’

interpretation, is a little bit undecided at the

moment. Gluten free beers have also been very

popular and we’re keen to build on the success

of ‘Futurist’ - our 4.8% Gluten Free Session

IPA. Modern takes on traditional styles is

something I think we’ll continue to see more

of. Aside from that, we’re still seeing lots of

demand for soft crushable session beers, full of

flavour, with just a hint of bitterness to balance

things up. We’re also blessed right now with

some amazing new projects starting up in the

UK concentrated on wild/farmhouse/mixed

ferm. Exciting.

Siren hold regular events and get a host of local

food traders in on site, how far have you had

customers travel in from?

Brewery parties have been great for us over

the years, and opening our on-site Tap Yard

in 2017 has allowed us to build on that on a

regular basis. It always blows my mind how far

people travel from. To be honest, it’s a bit of

a pilgrimage to Finchampstead, even if you’re

local! At the end of 2018 we raised £1.2m in

crowdfunding, and now have around 1,500

investors on board based all over the world.

We’ve already had visitors from the US, Hong

Kong, Australia and all over Europe. It’s

humbling and hugely appreciated.

What has been your biggest learns since

working for Siren?

Far too many to list! Perhaps not to underestimate

what a team of talented, dedicated people can

achieve when they have the freedom and trust

Mine’s A Pint

28

to do their thing. Also - don’t organise an anniversary

party/festival when Beast From The

East II is kicking off. Although the incredible

re-sponse we had from customers that day will

stay with me for a long time!

What other brewery, over the past year, have

you all talked about? And why?

That’s a tough one, we’re always meeting other

great breweries and trying beers from all over

on a regular basis. Burning Sky immediately

springs to mind though, an incredible example

of a brewer and brewery with a vision, doing

things the right way and producing some of the

best beer in the world. Stouts from the likes of

Cycle and Cigar City are always held in high

regard, along with a lot of chat about lambic

at all times.

Aside from the team you work with, who’s the

nicest person in the beer world that you’ve met?

Aside from the people I work with, who are

all terrible, we’re incredibly lucky to work

in this industry which is full of passionate,

collaborative, like-minded people. Mostly

though, the local scene is genuinely exciting

right now. It’s almost a cliche at this point to

namecheck Andy Parker of Elusive fame. He’s

officially the nicest guy in brewing and makes

some exceptional beer from a brewery I can see

from our office. Not bad! Likewise where I live

in West Reading, Mike & Luci are great people

building something really special at Double-

Barrelled that I feel very lucky to have on the

doorstep, along with Jody, Lola and the team

and regulars at The Nags Head which is an

abso-lute gem of a pub.

What has been your favourite Siren and non-

Siren beer of the past 12 months?

This is a killer question! I could give you a

different answer every day. Right now I’m

going to pick something super fresh from

Siren, an IPA called Hard Rollin’ brewed in

collaboration with Denmark’s Dry & Bitter

that’s definitely worth checking out. Non-Siren,

it really could be so many beers. It may be a cop

out but I’ll go for something tried again in the

past week, Hill Farmstead - Arthur. Flawless.

Zoë Andrews



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