163-165 Southampton Street
Mon-Sat 12 (4 Mon)-11; Sun 12-10.30
This used to be a former Inntrepreneur pub, but was bought up by the Hop Back Brewery and turned into a Brew pub. It became the only brewery in Reading after the Courage one closed in 1978. It actually only started brewing recently, the plant came from the Wyndam Arms in Salisbury.
Situated on a busy main road into the centre of Reading (4 mins walk near bus depot), it is surprisingly quiet inside. For example, this broad fronted and low ceiling brewpub recently celebrated its 50th brew, and under the highly imaginative management of Tony Veal the pub has lots to celebrate. Lots of locals like to confine their more exuberant celebrations to the 'obscene hour', when the pub's strict and strictly enforced 'behaviour charter' is relaxed.
Tables are barrels and ordinary legged ones in pine and the walls are bare magnolia which gives the room a light airy feel. More recently has been the introduced of live music on Tuesdays and Sundays as well as a quiz on Wednesdays.
The bar is situated facing the front door and they have nearly all the Hop back beers brewed on tap including: Hop Leaf Bitter; GFB; Summer Lightening; Entire Stout; Thunderstorm; Powerhouse and Special. If you like Hop Back beers, then this is the place to go.
The clientele are mainly friendly locals once they get used to you. The pub is home to the Reading Lion Brewery, which is the original Hop Back plant used by John Gilbert to create all the beers at the Wyndham Arms, Salisbury. Under the watchful eye of brewer Eddie Robinson the brewery produces a pub special Hop Leaf Bitter as well as the Rye and Extra Stout for the rest of the Hop Back pubs. Brewery tours are available, but please phone in advance. Production has recently increased from one brew per week to two and four brews per week is on the cards.
There is no food so stock up before you go and there is no accommodation either worse luck.
If you are driving be wary as there is no 'real' off road parking available. The pub is relatively easy to find, being on the main A33 into Reading. It is on the right hand side just after the road becomes one way. (S. Weetwood)
You say in your review "It became the only brewery in Reading after the Courage one closed in 1978." Slightly misleading as the Courage one didn't close it actually moved three miles to the outskirts of town. Its still there and is one of the biggest breweries in Europe, I know I work in the brewhouse!! (26/1/04)