There is one thing you can say about craft beers is that they are definitely popular at this moment in time. There are a number of craft ale houses all over the U.K. where you can try new flavours of beer. From a sour mango IPA at 3.5% a.b.v. right through to a small batch creation up to 16% a.b.v. Slowly appearing on the scene are more and more microbreweries that also offering food to complement their beers.
Zerodegrees Microbrewery and Restaurant
Zerodegrees opened their first brewery in Blackheath back in 2000. They now operate four venues in the U.K. Blackheath, Bristol, Cardiff and Reading. I was recently invited to their Reading microbrewery to sample their food and beers.
Located in Bridge Street and close to The Oracle, Reading’s popular shopping complex, walking through the door feels a bit like walking into the Tardis as you enter the large open plan dining area. Brick walls are casually decorated with large pictures. Natural light fills the room and there are no random items hanging from the ceiling or stuck to the walls cluttering up the place, so you have a wonderful feeling of space. The tables are also nicely laid out with plenty of space between them, so you do not feel that you are knocking elbows with the table next to you.
Summer’s Brewing Campaign
During the summer months Zerodegrees have been running a campaign where their brewers have worked hard to create a range of small-batch beers, which are suitably refreshing for those long warm summer evenings that we all love to see in the U.K.
The manager, Mohammed, came over to introduce himself asking which beers of the summer range we would like to sample. Very knowledgeable about the beers we left it to Mohammed to choose his favourites. Before starting on their summer selection and to get a real feel for the microbrewery, I also wanted to try a couple of the beers of their everyday range. We decided to go with a Czech style Black Larger and their Hefeweizen style Wheat Ale. The Black Larger not surprisingly wasn’t fizzy, but was very well balanced with notes of coffee and roasted malt which reminded me of a porter. The Wheat Ale was a hazy amber coloured beer, floral on the nose and light fruit on the palate.
While enjoying our craft beers, we decided to choose what to have from the menu that would nicely compliment the what I imagined would be quite light summer beers. The menu was extensive and included a choice of 22 pizzas all freshly baked in their wood-fired oven. I was very tempted by some of the toppings that I have never considered having on a pizza before such as Fennel Sausage and Broccoli, Peking Duck, Salmon & Marscapone and Roasted Garlic Chicken. There was also a great range of pasta, salads, risottos and mussels. It was all reasonably priced too, starters from around £4 – £7. Mains were on average around £12, with the mussels being on average £16.
For a starter I chose Gamberi Piccante and Inke went for the Lobster Bisque Gnocchi. The Gamberi Piccante was a dish of king prawns cooked in a vibrant garlic, tomato and fresh chilli sauce and served with a garlic bread. The prawns were juicy and the sauce surprisingly herbaceous with the chilli at just the right level so you got a kick of heat, but didn’t loose the sweet flavour of the prawns. The garlic bread was perfect for mopping up the delicious sauce, but not garlicky enough for my palate. Inke’s gnocchi had a good texture, soft but still with a bit of bite. The bisque had a creamy coconut flavour which I had never had in a bisque before, but the depth of lobster was still evident.
The first of the summer beers that we tried was a Double Hopped Pilsner and 6% a.b.v. Lemon Grass Saison. The Pilsner was very dry and you definitely get a punch from the hops. To be honest, I would struggle with a pint of it. The Saison wasn’t overly yeasty as some saison’s can be, and you could just about make out the lemon grass which worked very well with the spicy prawns I was enjoying.
For mains, and deciding to keep it light and summery, I opted for the Pea & Shallot Ravioloni. The pea flavour really came through and was complimented with a lemon and chilli cream sauce and topped with Parmesan. It was really good, but they were not small and for me, considering their size, just far too many on the plate. I would have expected three, but there were five! That was a lot of ravioloni. You can’t say they are stingy with their portions.
Inke went for the Teriyaki Chicken Stir-Fry. It came with egg noddles, spring onions, cashew nuts and the usual suspects of vegetables in a stir-fry. Again another very large portion and they kind of reminded me of being in America.
The next summer beers that we tried was a Blackcurrant Berliner and a Cherry Lambic. The Berliner was clean, a gentle fizz but nice and sharp from the blackcurrants. The Lambic was a Belgian fruit beer, nice and sour from the cherries, but rounded to give a smooth finish.
For dessert we decided to opt for the Lemon Sorbet. It was perfect, the lemon helping cleanse our palates and being light on the stomach.
I like the concept that Zerodegrees are following. Great craft beer that you can pair with good quality and plentiful food, what can be wrong with that? I would definitely visit again, especially as I am still intrigued about all those unusual pizza toppings!
Zerodegrees, 9 Bridge Street, Reading RG1 2LR
We were invited by Zerodegrees to dine as their guests. However, all editorial content is my own.