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Who are Double-Barrelled Brewery?

Who are Double-Barrelled Brewery?

Claire Slobodian

Double-Barrelled Brewery is a new microbrewery and taproom opened by husband and wife team Luci and Mike Clayton-Jones in a warehouse space just off Portman Road. It’s the first full brewery in the boundaries of Reading borough, not in one of our neighbouring villages. You can drink the beers they brew on site in their tap room bar, or find their brews at pubs around Reading and in cans at The Grumpy Goat.

I first met Luci and Mike at the opening of BrewDog back in April 2018. They were fresh off the back of a stand at Craft Beer Rising Festival, where they had showcased three of their pours and were excited to have just had an offer accepted on a brewery space.

Eight months later, I went to meet them at that freshly-opened warehouse to get a tour, sample their beers in the taproom and hear about their plans for the future of Double-Barrelled Brewery.

Although Mike has been home brewing in their garage for a long time, the pair finally made the decision to set up a brewery as a business after creating an ale together as the table favour at their wedding where they realised how much they really enjoyed the process.

Deciding to follow their passion, Lucy and Mike knew they’d benefit from brewing and business advice from some experts. But, as I’ve come to realise, the enthusiastic Clayton-Jones pair don’t take small steps if they’re able to take big ones, so as well as talking to local brewers like Elusive Brewing and Siren Craft, they found that advice by travelling for a year visiting and meeting with breweries and even vineyards around the world, from Japan to California.

Their second big step came with the opening of their new warehouse brewery. It’s big – over 6,000 square feet, and an echoey, industrial space. At the back, behind the cold store is the brewery equipment, taking up most of the room with industrial size mash tuns, water tanks and fermenters, meaning they can brew four beers on the go at once.

“It is big, we have a lot of space here.” said Mike, when I asked about the square footage. “We have a ten year lease so it would be harder to grow later on if we’d started with a tiny space. A lot of our brewer friends suggested we get the biggest space we could manage right now and then it’s much easier for the brewery to grow into the space as we get bigger.”

Their much-used, much-loved original garage brewing kit is still in place too, which they still use today to brew pilot beers and new flavours on a smaller scale.

Double-Barrelled Tap Room

Despite the metallic warehouse space, the tap room and bar area, which sits to the left side at the front, feels welcoming, snug and comfortable. Mike and Luci hired 03 Interiors from Pangbourne to give the bar area a cosy vibe. It’s wood clad and spotlight strewn with soft wooden chairs (not wobbly stools – Luci was insistent on supportive seating) and a vintage-look clock feature. They plan to add in some heating and a few sofas soon too.

While it’s still in a warehouse and on the chilly side in winter the bar area has a living room vibe which reminds me of Tap Social in Oxford and is a space where I could comfortably wile away an afternoon and picture day long beer and music and food events.

At the bar there are 12 keg taps, featuring four of their own pours (see below for more on those) as well as from breweries such as Lost & Grounded, Vibrant Forest and locals Elusive Brewing. There’s also three beer fridges packed with well-curated cans. Obviously, the focus here is beer, but there is gin, wine and soft drinks on the menu as well. There’s no kitchen, so no food, but they’re open to the idea of partnering with street food vendors and had a pop up menu from vegan kitchen We Are Friends in for a recent event.

As well as a tap room, Double-Barrelled are also running Saturday brewery tours to learn about their brewing process and beer tastings, see tour dates here. In the future they will be be barrel ageing and even double-barrel ageing (see what they did there?) some of their range, starting with an imperial stout.

They also have merch already – branded hats, jumpers and jewellery of their graphic print logo. I liked them so much I even invested in this pair of earrings (£10).


Three Double-Barrelled beers to try

Currently, Double-Barrelled have four of their own brews on tap, two pale ales, a sour and a stout. All are well balanced, easily drinkable and hover around the 5% ABV mark. While they’ll change the line up semi regularly as they create new pours, (this week they launch their new 7% dry hopped IPA Full of Dinosaurs, for example) they always aim to have a sour and a stout on tap.

Each beer has a creative name inspired by stories, characters and events the pair experienced while on their year-long travel adventure.

Parka

What is it?

Pale Ale, 4.5%, £3/two-thirds.

What’s the story behind the beer?

Double-Barrelled says: “This is the little cousin of Cagoule, a Citra-hopped India Pale Lager we brewed last year. It was stronger and heavier and a lot of our fans like it, but some of brewer friends recommended we create a version with a lower ABV, that would be easier to drink and quicker to brew too. So this is it. Originally, we planned to focus on sours and stouts – which are our own favourite beers, but sales of this has changed our mind a bit.

The Cagoule name came from a man we met on a trek in the Amazon Rainforest. He turned up with no equipment or even a waterproof, so the guides took him to a market to buy a cagoule, which turned out to be not much better than a bin bag and he got soaked. With Parka, we kept the name in the coat family, but went for an easier word than ‘cagoule’. We hadn’t thought about it before but you rarely see it written down and lots of drinkers coming up to us at Craft Beer Rising Festival kept saying: ‘I’ll have a pint of… how do you say that word?’”

What does it taste like?

On first pour the beer came out quite cold, thanks to warehouse-in-winter temperatures, and I mainly tasted the sour citrus notes from the citra hops. But after a couple of minutes warming up (the beer and me) I suddenly got a huge sip of pineapple and passion fruit, which took me by surprise. Once it had settled out it was a gentle, warming flavour. Overall it’s a slightly dry, very easy-drinking pale ale, with a very soft bitter finish. I’d find it supremely easy to knock back a lot of these.

Red Jungle Fowl

What is it?

A Gose sour beer, 5% ABV, £3.30/ two-thirds

What’s the story behind the beer?

Double-Barrelled says: “We launched this beer for the first time at Craft Beer Rising. We’d made a small batch but word went around the festival that we had a beetroot beer and the response was huge. It was really popular, so when we took over here, we brewed a whole big batch of it. Now, we’re finding regular beer drinkers, people who don’t go to craft beer festivals regularly, are tasting different things in the beer. Some people really taste the salt, some people think there’s too much beetroot, some say there’s not enough. Some people cannot miss the coriander.

We use real fruits instead of flavourings and we need 120kg of raspberries and beetroot to make it at scale, so it’s huge quantities of fruit and we’re still not sure if we’ll brew this at full size again. There are other, cheaper ways to do it, but we don’t want to spoil the fresh taste with flavourings.

The name comes from an encounter in the Cook Islands. We were trekking up a mountain, there was no one else around for miles and this bright red chicken appeared out of nowhere. We just couldn’t forget it and Red Jungle Fowl struck us as a good name for a beer.”

What does it taste like?

I often struggle with sour beers. I’ll try one every once in a while, but drinking something that makes my teeth squeak isn’t my preferred choice on a night down the pub. Fortunately, this is a light, pale sour – not overly acidic or biting and there was no teeth squeaking in ear shot. It reminded me a little of a Belgian framboise but with a much deeper base and I found it another easy drinker.

But, almost to prove Double-Barrelled’s point, I tasted the beer as slightly earthy and a touch sweet with a really faint whiff of sea salt, while my pub reviewer James, who visited with me, tasted less beetroot, more raspberry and tartness.

Interestingly, we compared this beer in both draft and canned versions and something about it settling makes canned Red Jungle Fowl fuller and more dense. Poured from a can it came out darker with a lot more of the musty beetroot notes rising to the top. On keg, it’s lighter, sharper and more raspberry-filled, and that’s my preferred way to drink it.

See Also
Park house bar outside

Seven Dollar Saturday

What is it?

Milk Stout, 5.6%, £3.70/two-thirds

What’s the story behind the beer?

Double-Barrelled says: “While we were in Adelaide, we visited a brewery called Big Shed Brewing Concern, they produce a beautiful stout called Golden Stout Time which was one of our favourite beers from our whole travels.

They were really busy when we visited, but we spoke to them about starting our business and they gave us a lot of advice and told us that when they first opened the brewery there was a Saturday where they only sold one pint of stout, worth AUS$7.

Now, when we’re having a bad day we remember that story and think: “it’s not all that bad”. It seemed a perfect fit to name our first stout after that story. We use Hallertau and Columbus hops to create a dark, roasted, rich chocolate malt for this smooth sweet milk stout.”

What does it taste like?

This is beautiful, and I don’t really drink stouts that often either. There’s a roasty-toastiness to Seven Dollar Saturday that covers the tongue, it’s all malty and smooth with a dark chocolate aroma. I found it slightly sweet, but not too thick and there’s none of the syrupiness I find challenging about intense stouts.

So, what’s the verdict?

The rise of the craft beer scene shows no signs of stopping and while we’re nearby to excellent craft breweries such as Siren Craft, Wild Weather and Elusive, there’s been a big, untapped gap for a tap room that we Reading residents can reach in a walk or on the Number 17 bus.

Double-Barrelled fill that gap with an energetic, forward thinking brewery that’s already pulling in the crowds – their post-Christmas reopening ‘Tryanuary’ party saw a packed tap room and queues of up 30 mins to get to the bar.

The pair are clearly ambitious and looking to grow, coming out of the gate with a big space, a slick logo, well thought-out branding and a lot of knowledge and ideas from their chats with brewers around the world. On top of that, their beers are quirky, full of flavour and consistently satisfying.

Limited licencing hours mean the tap room is only open to the public a few hours on Fridays and Saturdays at the moment, and there’s only two of them, so while there’s big demand, things will likely move a little slower at the start. Hopefully that will mean slow and steady, so that Double-Barrelled can continue to expand into their large warehouse space for a long time.

But for now, the Double-Barrelled tap room is a welcome opening in West Reading and I’ll likely be taking the regular walk along the Oxford Road to experience quality craft beers made in Reading and, I hope, to say I was there before their Reading beers went big.

Double-Barrelled Brewery

Find it: Unit 20 Stadium Way, off Portman Road, Reading RG30 6BX, view website.

Visit: The Tap Room is open 3pm-8pm Friday and 2pm-7pm Saturday.

Get there: Reading Buses 16 and 17 stop at Norcot Junction, a two minute walk away. Reading West Station is a 15 minute walk.

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