Yesterday evening we went to a jazz concert – “Jazz in a Summer Meadow” at Harcourt Arboretum, which is part of the Botanical Department of Oxford University. A the name suggests, it is an open-air event where you can take your own picnic, and eat and drink while listening to the music. The weather was OK – just one brief shower – and we enjoyed our picnic, along with a couple of beers. I’ll come clean and admit that I started out drinking cans of Carling lager, but progressed to bottles of St. Austell Tribute – which tastes good out of a bottle in the open air listening to jazz (as compared with out of a cask, in a marquee listening to jazz – see Real Ale and…rain).
The event finished at about 10pm, and we then set off back home to Reading. In need of a comfort stop, we pulled in at The Pack Saddle in Mapledurham, a couple of miles north of Reading. When I first moved to Reading back in the mid-1970′s I used to go there quite regularly – it was a Gale’s pub then, one of four to the north of Reading. It was what used to be called a “spit and sawdust” pub – run for the locals, but with excellent beer. It’s now a Wadworth’s pub, and has been extended and developed into what appears to be a decent restaurant – but still serving good beers. I’d wanted to try a pint of Horizon, but unfortunately it was off, so I had a pint of Henry’s Original IPA (3.6%). Quite dark and low in alcohol for an IPA – but a decent session bitter – I hadn’t tried it before, but I will look out for it again, as I prefer the lower strength bitters (it means I can drink more of it). It’s one of those beers that you just drink – nothing outstanding about it, no gimmick, just a nice tasting and very satisfying drink.
Back to the pub – we were surprised to see, when we walked into the bar, that it had a bar billiards table. You don’t see those very often these days, and apparently it had only been there for a few days. Sarah and I used to play regularly in the leagues in Reading, but we haven’t played in years – we didn’t have time for a game last night, but it’s a good reason to go back there. I also discovered, when I was looking at the pub’s website, that it also has a helicopter landing pad!