Reading beer & cider festival

Round & About

Food

We’re here for the beer and much, much more at Reading Beer & Cider Festival

It’s summer – well the sun’s out at least or trying its best – and one of the best ways to celebrate is at the ever-popular Reading Beer & Cider Festival.

Located in Christchurch Meadows, its fully accessible and home to one of the largest beer festivals in the country from 2nd to 5th May.

Visitors can enjoy more than 450 real ales as well as a large range of ciders, perries, foreign beers, UK wines and mead, many from local breweries – a full list can be found online and during the festival a live beer list will offer an up-to-the-minute update on what’s available.

In addition to the great range of drinks there are a variety of food vendors – some newcomers and some returning favourites with everything from Cornish pasties, curry and kebabs and a hog roast to German bratwurst and olives and chocolates and truffles for the sweeter toothed.

It’s not all about the beer though – ok, it is mainly all about the beer – but starting on Thursday and throughout the festival there’ll be a range of traditional pub games to enjoy. Long alley skittles, shuttleboard, table skittles and toad in the hole are on offer for £1 a go or enjoy six for £5.

The outdoor games area will be back with great prizes to be won and if you’re feeling lucky have a go at the tombola for the chance to win beer and pub-oriented prizes.

Ticket prices vary depending on day and session required. Sunday is the family day and you can buy a season ticket for access to all festival sessions over the four days.

Posted by Reading Beer and Cider Festival on Saturday, 12 January 2019

For more details, the list of beers and to buy tickets visit the Reading Beer Festival website

Craft beer & music festival

Round & About

Food

Craft beer makers are brewing up a treat at Reading’s South Street Arts Centre

Beer, music and food – exactly what you need to make the perfect festival!

So with all the right ingredients, the Craft Beer & Music Festival at South Street Arts Centre, Reading, is sure to be popular.

Back for its third year after enjoying success previously, it takes place today (19th April) and tomorrow (20th) featuring a fantastic selection of beer from local, national and international breweries.

Among the local breweries whose beers you can enjoy over the two days are Elusive Brewing who produce beer at a small site in Finchampstead; Wild Weather in Silchester who draw inspiration from new world hops; Double-Barrelled, based in Stadium Way, Reading, who brew a variety from dark stouts to tangy sours with ‘cheeky’ pales in between and West Berkshire Brewery in Yattendon who brew with a combination of “passion for beer, a respect for the local community and a disregard for convention”. Finchampstead also lays claim to Siren Craft Brew which aims to introduce exciting, full-flavoured and forward-thinking beers.

Breweries  from further across the country you can sample are Beatnikz Republic, a microbrewery based in Manchester; Magic Rock Brewing from Huddersfield and Little Earth Project in Sudbury, Suffolk.

You’ll also get the chance to meet the brewers as you enjoy fab music from quality DJs while munching on some delicious street food.
And this year, there’s an extra fourth session for you to enjoy too: Friday 12pm-5pm (child friendly) and 6pm-11pm and Saturday 12pm-5pm and 7pm-12am.

Tickets are on sale now for £15 including a branded glass, 50p goes towards Reading Soup charity, a grassroots funding project which supports community projects, charities and ideas in the Reading area.

To buy tickets, go to www.readingarts.com 

A cut above: best Christmas roasts

Round & About

Food

Turkey is a traditional favourite but there are so many choices of meat when it comes to the festive table, and many excellent local producers

What scene depicts Christmas more traditionally than a large cooked bird being brought out to the table and carved by the head of the household?

Turkey is, of course, the popular festive choice. Tom Copas Jnr says: “Turkey is what you’re meant to have! We’ve been rearing the best turkeys in Britain for over 60 years and nothing tastes better on Christmas Day, especially knowing all the care and attention that’s gone into their welfare.” Visit www.copasturkeys.co.uk.

Walters Turkeys is a family business running since 1911 on the Yattendon Estate in the Berkshire Downs. The team are passionate about animal welfare and expert in the best way to cook and store your bird for the perfect feast; call 01635 578 251 or visit www.waltersturkeys.co.uk. Tell your butcher how many guests you have (and how greedy!) to select a bird or joint of the perfect size.

Excellent traditional alternatives to turkey include goose and duck, which are more expensive and do not give as much meat per size as a turkey. Cockerels (male chickens) clock in at about the 10lb in weight and are becoming a popular alternative to turkey. For more adventurous of home cooks there is also the three-bird roast, with a wide variety of bird breasts one inside another (such as turkey, pheasant and partridge). These have plenty of meat but need to be carefully cooked.

Hungerford butcher Christian Alba says: “In all the places I’ve worked, Christmas meat is usually turkey. But I grew up on a turkey farm, so I have beef fore rib.” Phil Currie, head chef at The Greyhound in Letcombe Regis says: “I like to use beef shin as the bone provides so much flavour which leaves you with a great sauce. For Christmas we serve it with classic bourguignon garnish and a twist with a blue cheese dumpling. It’s a great alternative to turkey.” Visit www.thegreyhoundletcombe.co.uk or call 01235 771969.

Jesse Smith Butcher & W.J Castle in Cirencester has a unique dry-aging process for its beef featuring a room lined with Himalayan salt bricks. The company, which goes back for several generations, are passionate about animal husbandry and welfare and also offer the very finest poultry, game, pork and lamb for the well-stocked Christmas larder; visit www.jessesmith.co.uk or call 01285 653352.

Recipe queen Lyn Deveson says: “I’ve always cooked turkey and a gammon; cold turkey, ham, turkey curried, stir fried, in sandwiches is a big part of the appeal. But I cooked a cockerel last Christmas and won’t go back to turkey – it has more flavour. I remember my mother cooking the turkey all night on a low heat but the French way is best; higher heat and less time. People complain it can be dry but if cooked properly, it isn’t. Good gravy makes all the difference, too!

“I also remember my mother cooking the turkey all night on a low heat, but the French way is best – higher heat and less time. People complain it can be dry but if cooked properly, it isn’t. Traditionally we cook turkey, stuffing, bread sauce, sausages wrapped in bacon etc. with the head male at the top of the table, carving! That’s the  picture we all have in our heads and everyone wearing paper hats and pulling crackers! Because turkey meat can be quite bland, you can go to town with the other flavours. A good gravy makes the difference and thanks to chefs such as Jamie Oliver, we are learning that Bisto is not the essential ingredient but I am shocked by the number of English who still use it! The trouble is we are so spoilt nowadays and can eat anything any time of the year, so Christmas lunch or dinner isn’t such a treat as it used to be.”

Enter our competition for a Christmas In A Box foodie hamper – including a 6kg turkey!

GINspiration

Round & About

Food

Gin is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, with a wealth of interesting spirits produced right here on our doorstep. We chat to some of the enthusiastic local producers and offer up our favourite tipples!

History of gin

Gin may be one of the most popular liquors in the country, yet the colourless spirit has had to contend with a chequered history since it first landed on these shores more than 300 years ago.

Originally gin was sold as a medicine, distilled and supposedly capable of aiding kidney ailments, gallstones and gout after Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius created genever. Brits were first introduced to it when the English soldiers assisted the Dutch against the Spanish in Antwerp during the late 16th century during the Eighty Years’ War.

The armies were known to drink genever before heading into battle, and it’s thought to be the origin of the phrase “Dutch courage”. William of Orange then arrived here to rule in 1688 and promptly relaxed laws on making spirits. Gin, which starts with a base of juniper berries, gained in popularity – among all classes – with the upper classes drinking genever and the working classes making do with a new, cheaper “imitation” gin, substituting the costly ingredients with such things as turpentine and sulphuric acid.

Subsequently, gin’s reputation took a turn for the worse. In London alone, more than 7,000 “dram shops” sprang up with an estimated 10 million gallons being distilled annually by barbers, grocers and market stall holders. Gin became increasingly cheap to produce, easily accessible, little duty was paid on it and some workers were even given it as part of their wages. The 1736 Gin Act forced anyone wishing to sell distilled spirits to take out a licence costing £50.

Only three such licences were taken, but gin’s popularity did not wane as “mother’s ruin” remained hugely popular, before a second act was passed in 1751, which raised duty, and prohibited distillers, grocers, chandlers, jails and workhouses from selling the liquor.

     

Thankfully this was the low point for gin and the spirit has rebuilt its once-tarnished reputation to become the UK’s most popular alcoholic drink. “We’re spoilt for choice with local gins here in the in Thames Valley” says Catriona Galbraith of The Greyhound in Letcombe Regis. “Our favourite is the TOAD Oxford Dry Gin, a delicious citrus and aromatic combination or the kaffir lime and lemongrass gin from Twisting Spirits, as exotic as it sounds with a hint of Asian spice notes. “We like to serve our gins simply, with either a favourite tonic from the Fevertree range and garnish such as lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, mint or basil or even neat over ice, to allow the real complex botanical flavours to come through.”

Hobbs of Henley

“There’s nothing more marvellous than a gin at 11 o’clock on the river to wake the spirits…” Indeed, back in 1870, Mr Harry Hobbs, founder of Hobbs and Sons (now Hobbs of Henley) and publican of The Ship Hotel was renowned for his flamboyant beard and nature, often seen in his punt sipping his home-distilled gin of a morning. Mr Hobbs threw parties along the riverbanks, hiring out his boats for shindigs. Now, 150 years later the family’s gin is made with local botanicals.

 

Cotswold Distillery

Cotswold Distillery uses local raw materials, traditional kit and techniques to create its handmade gin. There’s a 500-litre pot still, (only filled ¾ full to make sure the vapours get contact with the copper during distillation). Distilled with nine carefully considered botanicals, the Cotswolds Dry Gin has an aromatic twist of juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, local lavender, bay leaf, hand-peeled fresh lime and pink grapefruit zest, cardamom and black peppercorn. The distillery building itself is a miniature version of what is usually an enormous plant and the shop and tasting rooms are more like a cosy Cotswolds cottage – you can sit by the wood burner to sip their outstanding natural spirits.

Foxdenton Estate

The use of British fruit combined with traditional recipes is what makes our fruit gin so quaffable,” says Nick Radclyffe of Foxdenton Estate. “There is nothing better as the nights draw in than the warming tipple of a fruit gin cocktail such as the Ping Pong.” Foxdenton Estate creates gin liqueurs with plums, sloes and damsons using recipes that date back several generations with father and son gin producers, Nick and Piers, choosing the traditional tipples they know and love. Sloe Gin, 70cl £24.50.

Shining spa

Round & About

Food

Michelle Miley checks into Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa, near Newbury.

Life can sometimes feel like such an obstacle course of practical demands that “me time” feels like a distant, pre-children dream. So, checking into the Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa (awarded a five-bubble rating by The Good Spa Guide) for an overnight break was a very surreal experience…

Amid a glorious patch of Berkshire countryside (Highclere Castle is a hop away), the four-star, family-owned Donnington Valley is a place that melts your cares away. First of all, the spa itself. I’d heard brilliant things about the Ultimate Vitamin Glow Facial, one of the signature Decléor treatments industry experts hail as a skin saviour. I was in brilliant hands, my face and neck cocooned in warm, fragrant face food. I can’t remember when I’ve felt more relaxed (though normally I’m embarrassed about my skin) and our faces felt miraculously “bouncy” and glowing, days later.

I almost felt as though some kind of “reset” button had been pressed, and the joy of a stay is that you can build on that, indulging all your senses and whims. So, after floating about with my friend in our fluffy white robes, we headed to the 18-metre swimming pool for a swim (well, a plop, being seven months pregnant!), a soak in the jacuzzi and some light steaming in the steam and sauna rooms.

Checking into our hotel room (a cosy dream of neutral tones, comfy bed and pillows fluffy enough to suit a princess), I tucked into the beautifully wrapped velvety truffles and switched on the giant TV, thinking ‘this is the life’! My date for the evening (my husband) arrived in time to join me for a view of the sunset over the golf course (distracting him from the fact I’d devoured all the complimentary orange marmalade and banana & butterscotch biscuits!). As I often wish men would realise, it’s the little things that make you feel really special, and the White Company smellies in the bathroom, and pre-dinner bubbles in our goodie bag, did just that.

Dinner in the 2-AA Rosette restaurant, in a private booth, did not disappoint. The restaurant has an extensive wine list, from a £16 carafe to £200 bottle; hubby had a dry, Aussie pinot that went beautifully with his crispy squid and I loved my smoked duck followed by hearty venison and marrowbone jus. The modern setting is romantic and luxey; high-beamed ceiling and brass chandeliers (special mention to the pink-and-gold koi carp wallpaper in the ladies!) As for dessert: roasted pineapple with coconut ice cream and a chocolate fondant won our hearts; 10 out of 10! The staff in both the spa and restaurant put their heart and soul into serving and it was perfect.

Big hint to anyone out there wanting to treat the one you love… For overnight spa packages, or treatments, visit www.donningtonvalley.co.uk

Drink quench marks

Round & About

Food

Our beautiful part of the world is full of fantastic food & drink producers. We uncork some of our favourites to enjoy this summer…

If summer joy could be encapsulated in a sound, surely it would be the “pop” of a perfectly chilled bottle? And when you’re uncorking the fruits of your own labours, success is sweet indeed…

“This land is a b***** to cultivate,” says Henry Laithwaite as he stands on the undulating Chiltern slopes alongside his wife Kaye. “It’s so flinty that the harrow kept breaking when we started working the soil, which inspired our name. But it is a very special spot.”

Indeed, this beautiful Thames Valley terroir is one of the many magical ingredients (along with lots of hard work) which have helped conjure up the lush velvety blushing fizz we uncork and sample in Harrow & Hope’s adjoining state-of-the-art winery. This non-vintage brut rosé, made exclusively from pinot noir grapes, won a gold medal in the Sommelier Wine Awards. Produced using traditional methods and the precious fruit from these relatively young vines, Harrow & Hope’s sparkling wines are flying the flag for the Great British food and drink revolution. Visit www.harrowandhope.com

Here at Round & About Magazine we are passionate (not to mention greedy and thirsty) supporters of local pubs, restaurants and producers. After all, anyone working in the food & drink industry will know all too well that it takes a lot of hard graft to create the perfect recipe for punters to enjoy.

Chalgrove Gin

Gin has seen a surge in popularity and there are some interesting local producers in this spirited part of the world. Chalgrove Artisan Distillery use juniper berries, coriander seed, angelica root, cardamon and black peppercorns, honed in an alembic copper still, to create their OX44 Gin; visit www.chalgroveartisandistillery.com.

Did you know gin started out as a medicine (it was thought to cure gout and indigestion)? In the 18th century, alcohol was safer to drink than water and gin was cheaper than beer; it was untaxed until the government cottoned on, sparking hooch production. Much of the gin was drunk by women (with historians blaming it for child neglect and citing wet nurses giving gin to babies to quieten them), landing many in debtors’ prisons or the gallows, or driving them to madness, suicide and death (hence the term Mother’s Ruin). However, these days it’s a more joyful summer spirit, and can even be considered a beauty tonic…

Young In Spirit is the world’s first company which combines spirits with pure collagen. Oxford “gintrepreneurs” Camilla Brown and Liz Beswick have earned attention from Vogue and The Daily Mail, among others for their Collagin; www.collagin.co.uk.

The artisans at Toad in Oxford craft gin, absinthe, vodka and rye whiskey worth a shot – and there’s a new cocktail bar at Bicester village; www.spiritoftoad.com. And Mr Hobbs Gin, part of the Hobbs of Henley Experience, has launched two new fruit flavoured gin liqueurs; Rhubarb & Ginger and Raspberry & Elderflower www.mrhobbsgin.co.uk 

Is beer your tipple? Hoppy bunnies are spoilt for choice. For tours, tastings and hearty ales, check out Witney’s wondrous Wychwood Brewery (www.wychwood.co.uk). Cirencester’s Corinium Ales (www.coriniumales.co.uk), Chipping Norton’s Hook Norton Brewery www.hooky.co.uk. A passion for good beer and social justice fuel Botley’s Tap Social, where the team offer live music and street food every Friday and Saturday in August as well as the monthly comedy night and reggae night, www.tapsocialmovement.com. Ciderniks near Kintbury has been making natural ciders, pure apple juice and cider vinegar since 2003; www.ciderniks.com

Spice up your life…

Variety is the spice of life and there are so many restaurants to enjoy this summer. Michelin-starred Atul Kochhar (the father of Benares in London and Sindhu in Marlow) hosts Indian nights in August at his divine Hawkyns in Amersham; www.hawkynsrestaurant.co.uk. The Bottle & Glass Inn in Binfield has made a splash, gaining a nod from Harden’s Guide and a Michelin Plate; www.bottleandglassinn.com. For summer dining in style, check out The French Horn in Sonning (www.thefrenchhorn.co.uk), The Crooked Billet in Stoke Row (www.thecrookedbillet.co.uk) and The Nelson in Brightwell Baldwin www.thenelsonbrightwell.co.uk. Feast on fresh Lebanese and Middle Eastern delicacies (many vegan or veggie) including colourful salads and wraps at Comptoir Libanais in Oxford’s Westgate; www.comptoirlibanais.com
We also love the rustic summer vibes of The Highwayman (www.thehighwaymaninn-checkendon.co.uk). Cheers!

So, we’d like to know what’s your favourite pub or restaurant and why? Join in the conversation and comment below.