Sampling real ale at the Cracklerock brewery tap room, Botley, Hampshire [review]

When we were looking to buy a house, one of the things on my wants list was that it had to be within walking distance of a half-decent pub.

In the end, we failed in our search for the perfect home – the house had everything we wanted, minus the pub.

Luckily, the village of Botley, with its three pubs, is only a couple of miles away. This means that we can go for a pint and give Tilly a long walk across the fields in one swoop.

That said, the pubs in Botley aren’t renowned for their real ales. So I was excited to learn that the village’s newest Brewery – Cracklerock – also had a small tap room.

Unfortunately, the tap room had to close after its opening night in May due to some issues with the licensing paperwork. It’s finally reopened, just in time for Christmas. We popped down for a drink yesterday afternoon to check it out.

Intimate

Not much has changed in the tap room since the mini-tour I had of the brewery earlier in the year. The bar is at the back of the room, next to a large window that lets you see into the brewery proper. You can either perch at the bar or sit at one of five tables. It’s all very intimate and rustic.

File 20-12-2015, 13 34 53 There’s sawdust sprinkled on the floor, which gives it a no nonsense vibe.

There’s a small toilet behind the bar and a little area out the back for smokers.

Five real ales

What about the drinks?

Cracklerock’s four main beers – “Crackerjack” (3.8%), “Barleycorn” (4.2%), Gold Rush (4.5%) and Craft Shag (5%) – are always available.

File 20-12-2015, 13 35 41 Today, the brewery’s Christmas ale, “Christmas Cracker” (5.2%), was also on tap. I’d like to have seen a guest ale too. But that’s a bit greedy really, seeing as there are five real ales to choose from.

I ordered the beer taster board (£4) – four third-pint measures of Cracklerock’s main ales – to reacquaint myself with their offering. I also tried a half of the Christmas Cracker. With a malty taste and a hint of grapes, this was my favourite of the lot.

File 20-12-2015, 13 33 54 For non-ale drinkers, there’s wine, various spirits, a lager, a cider and soft drinks. There’s pub snacks like pork scratchings and crisps behind the bar as well. Naturally, you can take away some fresh ale for drinking at home.

The tap room is dog-friendly, unlike Tilly who picked a fight with a friendly Springer Spaniel on arrival. She soon forgot about the other dog when she got some attention from the locals, though.

Worth a visit

We really enjoyed our visit to the Cracklerock tap room.

It’s a great alternative to the pubs in Botley and is probably worth a trip from further afield if you can bag yourself a designated driver. Just make sure you note the opening times (see below) as it closes slightly earlier than you average pub and isn’t open every day.

File 20-12-2015, 13 35 17 Info: The Cracklerock brewery and tap room is at The Old Cooperage, The High Street, Botley, Hampshire, SO30 2EA. Look out for the Cracklerock sign by the picture framers on the same side of the street as the market hall. Opening times are Thursday and Friday 6-9.30pm, Saturday 12-9.30pm and Sunday 12-3pm. Phone 07733 232806.

Tom's rating: