The Real Ale Trail
The 2013 Ale Trail has started!
This year's Ale Trail launched at the Nags Head, Reading on Saturday 9th February 2013. It will finish on Sunday 7th April, and completed booklets had to be sent in by the end of that day to qualify for prizes.
This page contains information that was correct when the Ale Trail started, but for the most up to date information, check our facebook page.
- What is it?
- Which pubs are on the trail?
- How do you select pubs for the AT?
- Why do I have to pay to do the trail this year?
- Where are the booklets?
- Do pubs pay to be on the Trail?
- Why isn't (insert well-known ale pub and GBG regular) on this year's Trail?
- The (Bell in Aldworth/Pot Kiln in Frilsham etc) is amazing, why isn't it in the AT?
- I wouldn't call this a proper pub for (insert reason)
- Why have you made the Trail harder to complete in recent years/why not print more than 700 booklets?
Doing the Trail
- I am the Designated Driver but the publican won't give me a sticker!
- I can't do the Trail on just real cider alone...
- The publican won't give me a sticker for my pint of Magners/Bulmers/Strongbow
- Some of the pubs have run out of stickers!
- Can I get a sticker even if I have forgotten/yet to obtain an AT booklet?
- Can I get a sticker for my absent friend in addition to my own?
- Pub X was terrible and/or rude to Trailers!
After the Trail
Which pubs are on the trail?
This year we have 20 pubs on the trail, across Reading and Mid Berkshire. They are:
- Nags Head, Reading
- Rose & Thistle, Reading
- Fox & Hounds, Caversham
- Black Horse, Emmer Green
- Alehouse, Reading
- Lyndhurst, Reading
- Abbot Cook, Reading
- Maiden Over, Earley
- Good Companions, Woodley
- Inn on the Park, Woodley
- Waggon & Horses, Twyford
- Bird in Hand, Knowl Hill
- Star, Waltham St Lawrence
- Shurlock Inn, Shurlock Row
- Royal Oak, Tilehurst
- Red Lion, Upper Basildon
- Fox & Hounds, Theale/Sheffield Bottom
- Horse & Groom, Mortimer
Bull, RiseleySwan, Three Mile Cross
- Bell & Bottle, Shinfield
The Bull at Risely has dropped out of the Ale Trail this year. Thay have been replaced by The Swan, Three Mile Cross. If you have already collected stickers from the Bull, they are still VALID.
What is it?
The Ale Trail is an annual event run by Reading & Mid Berks CAMRA in spring to encourage people to find some local pubs in the Reading area and publicize the forthcoming beer festival. This year 700 leaflets have been printed featuring 20 pubs. The task is simple: collect a leaflet from a participating pub, then for each half pint of real ale or real cider (or a soft drink for designated drivers) you ask for a sticker. Collect all 20 stickers and submit your leaflet by the deadline for a prize.
Prizes for the 2013 AT will be "20 pubs visited: One VIP free entry ticket*" (admits one person on any one session of the festival), plus entry into the Prize Draw.
* Each ticket admits one person free to the site with a free glass and programme for one session.
How do you select pubs for the AT?
The criteria we use are listed below. These are split into two categories - those that are mandatory, and those that are simply guidelines.
- The selection shall consist of 20 pubs, all from within the Reading and Mid-Berks branch area.
- The current branch Pub of the Year (POTY) and current Branch Cider Pub of the Year (CPOTY) at the time the Trail is composed will always be included.
- Selection of a pub shall be mutually beneficial to CAMRA and the licensee.
- To the best of our ability, we need to be certain that the licensee shall:
- continue to trade throughout the period of the Trail;
- observe his/her stated opening times (i.e. not be closed when the Trail says they are open);
- maintain a decent stock of ale/cider (i.e. not run out!);
- serve such ale/cider to a consistently acceptable standard; and
- be able to administer the issue of stickers etc. in an effective manner (e.g. staff training; not losing the stickers; correctly issuing stickers to drivers purchasing soft drinks, but refusing them to those purchasing 'non-real' products such as keg, wine, spirits etc).
- Inclusion in the GBG does not guarantee a place in the Trail because:
- CAMRA policy precludes us from including our entire selection of GBG pubs in any publication, including the Trail. This is a 'blanket' policy to protect the intellectual property contained within the Guide. It also makes sense from our point of view, as the campaigning objectives are different;
- the existing GBG selection will have been made 12 months earlier, and things change over time;
- the forthcoming GBG selection will currently be 'in progress' and is therefore embargoed until publication later in the year;
- the Trail is an ephemeral document designed to promote local pubs to a predominantly local audience over a short (two-month) timescale, while the GBG promotes pubs to a national audience and has a one-year shelf life; and
- if you wanted to do a crawl of all the local GBG pubs, you could simply buy the GBG!
- Pubs should be split more-or-less equally between town centre, suburban and rural.
- The selection should provide for a good geographical spread. Occasional 'clusters' may be provided in rural areas where several good pubs exist in close proximity, to allow participants making a long journey to score more than one 'hit'. This makes the Trail more fun and, in encouraging more people out to the rural pubs, benefits all licensees in the cluster.
- At least 18 of the pubs should be accessible by public transport. We reserve the right to include two that are not thus served; such pubs often desperately need our support and publicity, and don't deserve to be excluded. By being 'forced' to make the effort. Trail participants are presented with a challenge - and in return they get to visit pubs they might otherwise not even have known to exist!
- There should be a 'churn' of at least one third of the pubs each year, so that there are always some new ones (or returning favourites) for people to try. This prevents the Trail from becoming 'stale'.
- Any pub that has been in the Trail for several years in a row should be 'rested', a) as part of the 'churn', b) to give others a chance and c) and to avoid allegations of favouritism. Note, however, that the commitment to include the current PoTY overrides the need to 'rest' that pub for that year.
- There should be confidence that the average visitor will have a consistently good 'experience' when visiting any pub on the Trail (service, cleanliness, ambience etc).
- Attempts shall be made to include 'rising stars', such as pubs with new licensees enthusiastic to promote real ale/cider; pubs whose new owners (or existing owners' purchasing policy) allows an expansion of the real ale/cider provision; pubs seen as possible future GBG contenders etc.
- Where feasible (e.g. where there is a decent provision of real products), the Trail may be used to highlight and support pubs currently under threat of closure. In this there is an obvious conflict with the rule on continuing to trade throughout the duration of the Trail; a degree of compromise may be necessary!
- Food is important to many Trail participants, especially when having an afternoon/evening out at some of the rural pubs (having made the effort, many like to take their time and have a meal). However, food must not be allowed to eclipse the ale/cider, so the Trail must always include a good number of 'wet-led' houses.
- Feedback from previous Trails shall be taken into account when preparing the new Trail.
Why do I have to pay to do the Trail this year?
We are charging a ?1 returnable deposit due to the limited number of booklets available this year (700). This hopefully means that only people committed to finishing the Ale Trail use the stocks and not people taking fistfuls for their friends etc. The ?1 deposit can be reclaimed at the Membership and Information stand at the Beer Festival.
Where are the booklets?
Due to the change in admin processes for AT 2013, booklets are only available at five pubs (Alehouse, Nags Head, Fox & Hounds, Royal Oak, Bird in Hand). Due to changes at the Festival end, we have only printed 700 leaflets (as there are only 700 prizes!) and when they are gone, they're gone. They will cost a pound which can be refunded at the membership and information stand at the Reading Beer Festival.
Do the pubs pay to be on the Trail?
No. The AT is free at the point of delivery to pubs and punters. All pubs are selected on merit, using the criteria listed above.
Why isn't (insert well-known ale pub and GBG regular) on this year's Trail?
There is a 'churn' of at least one third and up to one half of the pubs each year, so that there are always some new ones (or returning favourites) for people to try. Any pub that has been in the Trail for several years in a row will be rested, a) as part of the 'churn', b) to give others a chance and, c) and to avoid allegations of favouritism. The current branch Pub of the Year overrides the need to 'rest' that pub for that year. Of course, there's no reason not to visit old favourites during Trail time - in fact they would positively welcome your custom!
The (Bell in Aldworth/Pot Kiln in Frilsham etc) is amazing, why isn't it in the AT?
Because they are not within our branch area. Our branch area goes as far north as the Oxfordshire border, as far south as the Hampshire border, as far west as Sulhamstead/Upper Basildon and as far east as Knowl Hill. See the Branch boundary map.
I wouldn't call this a proper pub for (insert reason)
The Ale Trail gets most of the trailers into at least one place they would never think of going into but are still good pubs in their own right. Remember that one person's gem is another person's idea of hell!
Why have you made the Trail harder to complete in recent years/why not print more than 700 booklets?
Two reasons; a) cost - last year it cost us just under £1500 to bring you the AT, as well as many hours time spent by volunteers. b) the 'hit' on the beer festival budget - remember that for every AT ticket redeemed at the door, that?s often upwards of £5 the festival is losing through gate receipts; times that by 500-600 and you can see the figures for yourself!
I am the Designated Driver but the publican won't give me a sticker!
You are right and they are wrong. The instructions to give 'Des' a sticker (if requested) for a soft drink is contained in the AT booklet (under Important Notes) and on the A4 instruction sheet we give out to each pub with the Ale Trail pack.
I can't do the Trail on just real cider alone...
We know. Real cider is an option available for Trailers - but not all pubs on the Ale Trail (Ale being the operative word) serve it. Whilst the rise in popularity of real cider and perry continues year-on-year, there are simply not enough pubs in our branch stocking real cider to be able to guarantee a 20 pub AT that can be completed on cider only. If a pub doesn't serve real cider, then you cannot get a sticker for another cider instead.
Why not let the pub know that you would like some real cider? This may encourage them to stock it in future. Within 30 miles of Reading there are seven real cider and perry producers who would love to get more business:
- Upton Cider, Didcot
- Tutt's Clump, Bradfield
- Ciderniks, Kintbury
- Salthill, Slough
- Lambourn Valley, Great Shefford
- Mr Whiteheads, Alton
- Wyatt's, Cold Ash, Thatcham (no website, see http://www.westberkscamra.org.uk/links.htm )
The publican won't give me a sticker for my pint of Magners/Bulmers/Strongbow
That's because they are not 'real' ciders. A list of ciders classed as not 'real' can be found on the CAMRA website. If in doubt, refer to this list. Eg Stowford Press is made by Westons, but as it is sterile, pasteurised and carbonated it doesn't count as real. Old Rosie on the other hand - also made by Westons - does count as real. It's down to the production process, not the producer. More details on CAMRA's definition of real cider.
Some of the pubs have run out of stickers!
Unlike booklets, we replenish pubs with extra stickers to meet demand. Each pub should start with a 850 so no pubs should run out if the publican sticks to our instructions. If there are no stickers, ask the publican to sign or stamp the designated space in the booklet (some have attached business cards or till receipts!) and make sure to let us know about the shortage via the Facebook page.
Can I get a sticker even if I have forgotten/yet to obtain an AT booklet?
Of course, so long as you buy a drink! We advise publicans to cut up a sheet or two of their stickers in advance for this situation. However you cannot just get the stickers stuck on any old bit of paper, the proper leaflet is the only acceptable way to apply for a free festival ticket.
Can I get a sticker for my absent friend in addition to my own?
One qualifying drink, one sticker. So that's at least two halves for you, my friend!
Pub X was terrible and/or rude to Trailers!
We try hard to make sure that pubs are briefed thoroughly about their role and we are disappointed if you have a poor experience. Sometimes it is because it is the first time/a long time since the pub has appeared in the Trail so teething troubles can be excused a bit - but Bad Attitude can't. Let us know via the Ale Trail Facebook page or by utilising the comments form on the leaflet as we do read them and take action where necessary. And of course, if a pub is especially nice to you, let us know too!
I haven't received my VIP ticket!
- Did you include an SAE? Every year we receive a number of Trails back that don't have the SAE or have insufficient stamps on the envelope. We won't pay out to cover this; it's down to you to get it right.
- Did you deliver the form direct through the door of the return address or did you post it in a letterbox? If you posted it, did you check that the postage was correct for the envelope size used? If it was not it will be retained by Royal Mail and we will not collect these.
Can I get my AT booklet back as a memento?
Yes, you can pick it up at the Festival - make your way to the Membership and Information stand. Be aware it may take a while to find, so please be polite to the staff!