One of the brilliant things about Berkshire’s beer scene is how those involved in it have strived continuously to be better, to offer a relaxed, inclusive atmosphere’s and not just stop and settle with what they’ve done.
The pandemic has been and continues to be a threat not just to our way of life but to peoples livelihoods and in particular those who’ve built up their own businesses.
But it’s also offered those same people an opportunity to take stock and really make a mark and the family-owned Loddon Brewery on the Oxfordshire border near Caversham and Sonning.
‘It was do or die’
Started in 2002 by husband and wife team Chris and Vanessa Hearn, the brewery brewed a series of award-winning ales like Forbury Lion, Hullabaloo and Hocus Pocus Old Ale, and delivered them to pubs up and down the country. They were doing alright and had a small space for any visitors who fancied sampling on-site.
Fast forward to 2021 and very much now a family affair with sons Luke and Dan involved, what was a barn and small shop in the Oxfordshire village of Dunsden Green on the Berkshire border is now a sprawling 50-table venue.
Dan, Marketing Director since 2016, said: “Basically it was do or die. We had to go big to help salvage what was the worst financial year in our history.
“For 15 years my parents were selling beer to pubs, and lots of it. But the pub trade was already struggling and any independent brewery is now doing or looking to do what we are doing. We always wanted to expand and grow but the pandemic absolutely accelerated this.”
Ahead of the winter months, developments continued and the sprawling outdoor deck is now fully enclosed with a roof. Gas heaters are liberally spread around the tables, chairs and comfortable looking sofas.
“Everything changed in 2020. The pub trade dropped off a cliff for obvious reasons. Our customers rallied and supported our delivery services during the lockdown but we had to make sure we had a viable business and we knew people would come out to us,” explained Dan.
“In August 2018 we literally had four tables inside and a couple outdoors, now we have 50 tables available.”
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There’s plenty more to come at the brewery site with a new indoor bar opening in December and a farm shop across the other side of the tap yard.
It’s fair to say, while Loddon Brewery beers might be a familiar site across Reading and the rest of Berkshire, if it’s been awhile since you visited the brewery site, you might find yourself rediscovering a little gem in the countryside.
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