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Disappointment of the week with Tris39 on the Pub Forum

The Hop Leaf, Reading

163 Southampton Street

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Pub SignMan left this review about The Hop Leaf

although its layout hints at a former two bar set up, now knocked though into a single space. You enter into a shallow but wide room with a very old-fashioned carpet, plain white walls broken by a dado rail, a few dark lintels which show you how the pub might once have been laid out, and some obscured glass in the front windows. Hard backed banquette seating has been formed into a series of long U-shaped booths down the front wall, with tables and low stools to the left and some old pews over to the right. The servery is directly opposite the entrance, running along the rear wall with a brick counter front which includes a newspaper rack set into an integral pillar, plus a modern bar back and a simple but quite pleasing pot shelf. Décor is sadly almost non-existent, leaving the room almost entirely devoid of character, which is a real shame. The space to the right tried to make up for such shortcomings by presenting a decent looking brick fireplace and a bar billiards table, making this arguably the best place to try to bag a seat. Pop tunes chuntered away in the background, but it was the general chit-chat of the bar staff and a decent band of locals that thankfully prevailed. A few picnic benches are available outside the front of the pub, but these face a fairly busy road and didn’t seem like a particularly appealing option.
They had no less than five Hop Back beers on the go when I arrived – Thaiphoon, Summer Lightning, Citra, GFB and Crop Circle – plus a guest in the shape of Downton New Forest Ale. I gave the Thaiphoon a whirl and thought it was in great shape although not my favourite beer from this brewery. Staff seemed to be well acquainted with their locals and were just as friendly when serving strangers.
I had really high hopes for this place, having enjoyed other Hop Back pubs in the past, but whilst the beer side of things was all good and well, I felt the pub itself was a bit plain and soulless, enlivened only by a loyal band of regulars. Not quite the destination pub I’d hoped for, but still worth checking out for those Hop Back beers.

On 11th January 2022 - rating: 7
[User has posted 2697 recommendations about 2697 pubs]

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Ian Mapp left this review about The Hop Leaf

Had the place to myself at 7pm on a Monday Night.

Decent pub - in the Good Beer Guide. Most of the beers were from the Hop Back brewery. Ever going against the grain, I went for a New Forest Ale from Downton Brewery.

Missed the Pinball machine!

Decent visit blogged at

On 16th August 2017 - rating: 7
[User has posted 277 recommendations about 276 pubs]

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Quinno _ left this review about The Hop Leaf

The Hop Leaf continues to be one of Reading's premier boozers and is well-worth the walk up the hill from town. There's now also a pinball machine in addition to an A1 Bar Billiards table and darts. The guest beers have finally been reinstated (blame Mr Gilberts for their loss originally!) with the likes of Titanic Mild, Downton Choc Orange and Black Country Pig on the Wall over recent weeks. Excellent.

May 2013
Many moons have passed since my inaugural visit in 2006 and I am pleased say that Surly Woman was moved on shortly afterwards! The licensees who have been in place since have built things back up and the installation of new lines last year has helped keep the beer cool on hot days (of which there seem to be many here). The inexpensive Hop Back beer (5 plus a couple of guests from Downton/White Horse/Two Bridges) is good. Darts board and Bar Billiards table often in use and a warm community atmosphere inside. Now also serves two real ciders (Westons Scrumpy and Old Rosie) plus a Perry (Westons again). Also check out the heat-based range of bar snacks. Daily papers also available. Music is ROCK from the landlord's ipod. One of my favourites in Reading, worth the short walk from the town centre.

20 September 2006
The start of our Reading pub crawl last Saturday. Got there 5 minutes before opening. A surly-looking woman opens the door bang on 12 and looks rather disappointed to see paying customers, eager for (as I have been hyping it up to my mate) a quality Hop Back brew. Go in, pat resident cat on the head, order two GFB's and sit down. Surly Woman disappears out the back, shouts "get out of the f*ckin way" and boots the poor moggy into the middle of next week, judging by the unholy howl it emits. Surly Woman returns 5 minutes later with sandwiches, sits at the end of the bar scowling at her platter and ignores us (which was a shame as we were debating the ins and outs of mystery shopping, a subject I am sure she could have contributed to) until we finish and leave.

On 3rd August 2015 - no rating submitted
[User has posted 4219 recommendations about 4206 pubs]

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Steve C left this review about Hop Leaf

The Hop leaf is an L shaped Hop Back Brewery run pub with a bar that supports seven hand pumps. During my Saturday afternoon visit a couple of weeks ago one of the hand pumps was unused leaving Downton Brewery’s Ed’s American Red and four hop back beers as the ale options alongside Old Rosie as the cask cider option. I’m not a massive fan of Hop back beers so I went for the Downton which was very nice.
There is a dartboard, a pinball machine and a bar billiards table where I was left ‘dormant’ by the captain’s ‘masterclass’. I should have stuck to topping up my tan on one of the three picnic tables out the front.

This is a decent pub that is worthy of a revisit.

On 22nd July 2013 - rating: 8
[User has posted 3633 recommendations about 3612 pubs]

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Soup Dragon left this review about Hop Leaf

This is a terraced Hop Back pub, with patio area. It is an elongate cottage, with a cream rendered upper and a graan painted lower frontage. Interesting features are the string course with painted hops on and the dog tooth cornice which shows a little of the age of the building on a road that has grown-up organically. The interior has an L-shaped room, around a brick bar, which is mainly in white, with a red carpet. There is a dart board and a pinball machine, which lay as dormant as the Captain's opponent, as he majestically gave a masterclass of bar billiards. There is a TV (not on). A few books are available to read and a barrel is positioned for effect. An England flag decorates the ceiling. The service was friendly as were the locals. Beer; usual tap stuff with Crop Circle, GFB, Summer Lightning, Redsell's EKG were on handpull, with Downton's Ed American Red - the Crop Circle being as decent as ever. A great little pub, i could stay here for hours.

On 18th July 2013 - no rating submitted
[User has posted 3067 recommendations about 3062 pubs]

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Real Ale Ray left this review about Hop Leaf

I used to always turn my nose up when I saw any Hopback beers on the bar elsewhere. My opinion now has completely changed after visiting this decent pub. I thought their were fresh in flavour and full of taste. This pub had a good laidback atmosphere to it. The benches out front on our PG crawl gave a good opportunity to chat to a few of the locals. I went for Hopback Summer Lightning and Crop Circle.

On 17th July 2013 - rating: 8
[User has posted 3036 recommendations about 3036 pubs]

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Bucking Fastard left this review about Hop Leaf

Another proper boozer,tied to the Hopback Brewery.The interior is modest in size but there was a friendly welcome and it's always good to see a pinball machine and bar billiards,together with a darts board.There were seven handpumps,one selling Old Rosie cider,the other Hopback GFB,Redsell's EKG,Summer Lightening,Crop Circle (in good nick,good value at £2.80) and a guest badged as Ed's American Rye.
Definitely one of the better real ale pubs in Reading,probably one not to be missed if you enjoy the simple pleasures are drinking beer and beating your fellow crawlers at bar billiards.

On 14th July 2013 - rating: 8
[User has posted 2230 recommendations about 2230 pubs]

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Moby Duck left this review about Hop Leaf

A decent pub with decent beer ,A few Hopback beers on plus Whitehorse Warhorse as a guest, worth the walk up the hill(or down) for a couple of pints.

On 9th December 2012 - rating: 7
[User has posted 1468 recommendations about 1451 pubs]

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Old Boots left this review about Hop Leaf

Wiltshire's Hopback Brewery's pub in Reading with a range of their beers plus a guest and 9 ciders. A few kegs but I didn't take a lot of notice what with Summer Lightning et al being on offer. Basic non-descript décor with a mix of scrubbed pine and dark traditional furniture, with some pewlike benches arranged booth fashion. The brick built bar looks a bit naff but the beer going across it, served by on the ball staff, is nothing less than excellent. There is a bar billiards table at the back and a small narrow room to the side. A big screen lurks in one corner but looks like it's only wheeled out for the bigger sporting occasions. Mixed, friendly, clientele including a few oddballs.

On 9th November 2009 - no rating submitted
[User has posted 2462 recommendations about 2253 pubs]

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train man left this review about The Hop Leaf

Busy, welcoming pub serving the full range of Hop Back beers including Odyssey, which I hadn't heard of and regret not trying, esp now I read HB's interesting tasting notes (coffee & marmalade?). Reading is something of a concrete mess but cherry-picking the handful of pubs that are so rightly praised on this site makes a visit very worthwhile, although getting around the 4/5 best ones will certainly result in a hangover as you'd have to be very disciplined not to want several pints in each.

On 2nd December 2007 - no rating submitted
[User has posted 411 recommendations about 410 pubs]