Reading – The Retreat

On my little tour of Good Beer Guide listed pubs in Reading (and any others recommended to me en route) I popped into The Retreat after dodging the flying wheelie bins in the area. I had been stopped a few minutes before by a woman who told me that a chunk of a tree had fallen off in the gales, although I’m not sure what she expected me to do about it. She asked me if she could have this lump of wood, but I didn’t feel that it was really my place to decide that either way. I couldn’t work out whether she wanted half a tree for some purpose at her house or whether she was worried that it would fly off and hit a car or pedestrian. Anyway, she walked off looking happy with her tree acquisition, but I’m not sure that I aided much.

As is evident from my never ending posts about pubs, I nearly always decide that the service in them is friendly and welcoming, and that was indeed the case here. But, it’s much more rarely that I decide that a pub goes further and that the customers are also keen to engage with anyone coming in. I’m always heartened when this happens, as it’s apparent to me that if someone had just moved into the area and come in here, then they’d be made to feel comfortable and keen to become a local. As is likely evident from where I’m going here, this is true of this pub. Indeed, it reminded me of the welcome offered by the Hop & Vine in Hull a few years ago, which has seen me divert to the city on numerous occasions to go back.

This pub is not just listed in this year’s Good Beer Guide, it was first listed in the book in 1974, showing some considerable beer heritage. And, as another one of my flights of fancy, I noted the owners have made the effort to write a comprehensive history of the pub, something which I always think is a delight and done far too infrequently. Pubs so often have a long heritage and so often there is nothing mentioned by the owners about their history. Anyway, I digress.

I went for half a pint of Harvest Pale from Castle Rock Brewery, which was well-kept and tasted as it should do. There were several real ales available, all reasonably priced. I didn’t opt for Woodforde’s Wherry, although it reminded me of my visit to their brewery a few months ago. I needed to eat elsewhere, but I was tempted by the bar snacks here, but that’s often the case.

The recommendations of pubs that I asked for from a nearby customer transpired to be excellent suggestions, although I’ve still got a few more to go. Thanks to one of the pub’s customers, I’ve also discovered how to get rid of pigeons, although I won’t go into that too much. I very much liked the inviting atmosphere that they had going on here and if I had more time I would have likely lingered for hours.

Doing some work on mental health for another organisation, I’m reminded by pubs such as this just how much they serve the communities in which they are based. I am convinced that anyone lonely, unsure or in need of company would be made entirely welcome here, and that’s the best praise I think that I can give The Retreat. So very lovely and an outstanding pub that I suspect I’ll be diverting back to come and visit again, perhaps on the day of the Pickled Onion Contest…..