19 March 2014

Hopcraft Brewing Tap Takeover at the Nag's Head, Reading

The Nag's Head, Russell Street, Reading commemorated their seventh birthday under the joint ownership of Meeko, Jody, Lola, Sylvia and Ted on 19 Feb 2014 with a Tap Takeover and Meet The Brewer night featuring Hopcraft Brewing. The Nag's Head was the Central Southern region CAMRA pub of the year in 2013.
CAMRA awards on display inside the Nag's Head, Reading
Hopcraft Brewing was formed in Pontyclun, South Wales, in October 2012 when Tom and Steve from Pixie Spring Brewery, based at the nearby Wheatsheaf, Llantrisant, joined up with Gazza from Steel City Brewing, Sheffield, to take on new (1860 sq ft) premises and install a 12 barrel brewplant, sourced from Norfolk.
L to R: Ted, Jody (Nag's Head), Gazza, Tom (Hopcraft Brewing)
The brewers, Tom Barlow, a Cornishman, and Gazza Prescott were both at the Nag's Head to join the pub's birthday party and talk about the brewery and their beers. Twelve Hopcraft and Pixie Spring beers from the brewery were available with two served straight from the cask (Black Nag (5.5% ABV) - a smoked black IPA testbrew and Pondicherry IPA (6.3% ABV) - a testbrew flavoured with Assam and Earl Grey tea).
Gazza can be spotted in the background with a glass!
A group from West Berkshire CAMRA visited the Nag's Head and enjoyed sampling a variety of beers and chatting to Tom and Gazza who were to be found wearing Hopcraft t-shirts at the end of the bar near the log fire. Tom was asked about the naming of Pondicherry IPA and his answer was that this was due to liking the name of the Indian city featuring in the film 'Life of Pi' rather than any connection with tea growing. We also learned that few of their beers are supplied to local pubs with the exception of Cardiff. The beers go mainly to pubs in London, Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and Reading. Their market is pubs that appreciate real ale and especially the hoppier ones. The Shoulder of Mutton, Wantage, the Central Southern region of CAMRA pub of the year in 2012, regularly takes beers from Hopcraft Brewing.
Sucker Punch pumpclip and a pint of Hop Secret 4
The writer enjoyed a pint of Hop Secret 4, a pale beer brewed with a brand-new English test hop giving the beer some tropical fruit and a citrussy, dry bitterness. Hopcraft Brewing on facebook reveals that the secret hop used was CF127.

Other beers on handpump (above) included Simcoe Plus (5.4% ABV) very pale with clementine marmalade flavours, Cruxshadow (4.9% ABV), a dark and smoky winter brew and The Boss a golden ale featuring multi-layered hops and bitterness. The pumpclip for (Spring -  Steel's) The Boss shows the Pixie Spring logo at the top and 'A collaboration with Steel City Brewing' at the base. The post for 31 October 2013 on the Hopcraft Brewing blog mentions that The Boss was a collab between Tom and Gazza in the Wheatsheaf cellar and started off this whole brewery business!

Gazza's posts in the Hopcraft Brewing blog are well worth reading as they give the full story of the initial set up of the brewery as well as details of the beers that have been brewed. Navigate using the 'Older Posts' at the bottom of each page to find the earliest post 'Welcome to our World' on 27 October 2012, if you are interested in the full story of constructing a brewery from scratch.
The 'Hopcrafty Seventh Birthday' at the Nag's Head also included free food later in the evening. Ted brought large pans of hot food out from the kitchen. A queue quickly formed and Ted dished up bowls of chilli to the pub's hungry staff and customers.
Hopcraft Gazza (front left), Nag's Head Jody (back centre) and staff
Links to the brewery's blog, facebook group and twitter: www.hopcraftbrewing.co.uk
A map and details of the beers and ciders currently available at the pub: www.nagsheadreading.co.uk

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