Our resident pub reviewer returns after a summer off to manage the World Cup of Reading Pubs. This month, James Moore finally puts his own local boozer in the spotlight with a review of The Foresters Arms, a proper back-street West Reading local and one of the last true two bar pubs in town. It’s been in the Good Beer Guide for the past three years and has featured on the Ale Trail, so why not check out The Foresters Arms?
The Foresters Arms, Brunswick Street
Just off the Tilehurst Road, hidden down the narrow, one-way Brunswick Street, is one of the best kept pub secrets in Reading. You could blink and you’d miss it.
Formerly a Morland’s of Abingdon pub (you can still see the iconic brewery logo on the front wall), The Foresters Arms opened around 1890. It was built at the same time as most of the houses on the street, which were for the railway workers constructing the Reading West train line and it’s one of the last true two-bar pubs left in Reading. In fact, its design is so rare it’s made it to CAMRA’s heritage interiors list.
Approaching the pub you’ll be struck by the gleaming emerald green tiled front wall, dotted with signs proclaiming their Cask Marque and Good Beer Guide status, a indicator of how seriously the licensees take the quality of their cask ale.
Unlike hugely busy pubs such as The Nag’s Head and The Fox & Hounds, most local pubs in Reading can’t realistically stock such a wide span of ale because they simply won’t sell in the timespan when the beer is at its highest quality.
So, at the bar in The Forester’s you’ll find only two cask beers on, both kept in tip-top condition – it’s no coincidence that they get into the Good Beer Guide so regularly. One will usually be either Timothy Taylor Landlord or Boltmaker, which are both former Champion Beer of Britain winners.
The other is a guest ale, generally something golden and hoppy – the last couple of times it was Siren’s Yulu and Sharp’s Coaster. Outside of real ale, there’s always Guinness and regular lagers such as Foster’s and Kronenberg, as well as Stowford Press cider, wine and a whole range of spirits.
Once you’re in the door, the narrow corridor as you enter gives you three options, either head left for the front bar, or straight on for the back bar or the beer garden. All three are great options depending what you’re in the mood for.
I like to call the cosy front bar ‘my other living room’. Yes, this is my local pub and I’m delighted to have it so near my house – you may well find me propping up the bar when you visit. The front room is often full of local residents from the street and has a really friendly, neighbourhood pub feel.
It’s ostensibly a locals pub, mostly due to its location. But unlike some unwelcoming local pubs, it’s warm and friendly. As a new arrival a couple of years ago, I was immediately welcomed by the regulars, who are always delighted to see new people come in to keep their pub open. In the winter there is usually a real fire roaring in the front room and it’s a real all-season boozer.
Fancy a game of something? Then head on out to the back bar, where you’ll find a pool table and a darts board. The pub has a rather successful darts team so you might often find members of it out the back practising. Tuesday night tends to be darts night, every other Monday there’s a quiz night and every other Wednesday you’ll find the Reading Ukulele Group strumming away, if you fancy listening to some live music. Speaking of which, there is usually live music the first Saturday of every month, free of charge. You can keep up with events on the pub’s Facebook page.
Although the summer may be waning, it’s also worth mentioning the lovely suntrap of a beer garden out the back. It’s a long, thin patio and gravel space, but there are plenty of tables to sit while supping a pint and observing the flowers and watching the world go by. At the very back there’s also a play area for kids, complete with slides and swings. There’s even tables out the front of the pub if you like to sit facing the street.
There’s no cooked food anymore, but if you’re peckish, there is an impressive array of snacks behind the bar. Pretty much every flavour of crisp, nuts, pork scratchings and jerky is available, plus you’re even welcome to order takeaway to the pub to eat in, which is a nice touch that a lot of pubs don’t do.
The Foresters Arms may well feature on the Ale Trail again next year but why wait until then? I’m delighted to call it my local and visit regularly – and so should you.
The Foresters Arms
Address: 79-81 Brunswick Street, Reading, RG1 6NY
Open: 4-11pm Mon to Thur, 11am-midnight Fri & Sat, 12-11pm Sun.
Get there: Reading Buses 1,2 & 26 stop at Downshire Square, or the 33 stops at Reading West Station.
James Moore is Explore Reading's resident pub reviewer. He samples the best pubs in Reading to bring you a new review every month. A beer expert and active within Reading & Mid-Berkshire CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale), James also runs '1001 Beers to Try Before You Die' - one of YouTube's most fun beer review channels.