The Winchester

"Not all those who wander are lost" – Tolkien

Courage Brewery

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April 2010

Fresh off the presses at the Reading Evening Post, the Town’s final B was to close. Biscuit production in the town had ceased  in 1974 with the closure of Huntley and Palmers, bulbs in 1976 when Suttons’ Seeds relocated to Devon, and finally on April 2nd 2010 the Courage brewery was closed, with the production absorbed by the rest of the network. The only remnant of Reading’s industrial past was to be the buildings left behind, or a natty bar underneath the town hall bearing the name, “The Three B’s”

We’d talked about Courage for a while. It was announced two years ago that it would close, and locals those that I’ve explored with in that period have all expressed an interest. When the radio reported it, the newspapers printed it, and the news cropped up on the forums, we knew that we had to get down there to stake a claim on this place before the seccas realised there are people like us after this. I think it took three days?

Entrance wasn’t unusual, but we were more cautious about security than on other sites, being aware that there were 360 degree cameras monitoring the site in various areas. Having sat in the surrounding bushes for half an hour to scope out what happens there, we bit the bullet and found entry to the building.

The first area that we stopped in was the Liquor Store, which housed 4 long rows of storage tanks, visible from the motorway which runs past the brewery.

It’s not so often you get something so good and new on your doorstep – Reading hasn’t had any decent derelict industry for years. I imagine Huntley and Palmers and Sutton’s Seeds were the last bigguns to go; massive networks of factories in the centre of town which have long been flattened, replaced and replaced again. The Prudential now occupy’s part of H&P, the majority of the rest has been demolished and the only signs now are an administrative building in red brick. That’s heritage.

We knew Courage was going to be in mint condition, having been closed for just 5 days.  Suspicions were that production had ceased, but storage facilities remained after Chris saw lorries entering the site while on an afternoon recce a few day earlier. Part of the site had recent newspapers left inside, but no more recent than 2 weeks ago.

I spotted a door to the ground floor of the Brew Hall, so we entered, hoping to find something similar to Stella’s former premises in Leuven. We found more of the same really – Courage was built in 1979 and as such, was a no frills building, built purely for function in concrete and metal.

Next to this room was a door for a switch room – a room which to me resembled the controls of a power station or other heavy industry. I was expecting a control room of sorts, but nothing quite like this! We spent a while in here, all pretty pleased with ourselves at this point. This site could have been a bugbear for a while, but strike while the iron is hot, the early bird catches the worms and all that, and within 3 days of closure, we were poking our way around.

We moved on. Being under the brew hall is fun, but being in it is better. We climbed a ladder next to a window, which was something of a risk, inside a lit up building with security somewhere around. We then had to walk across a creaky metal floor which again would involve risking our secrecy.

The brew hall was massive and probably the centrepiece of this building. It contained 6 Tuns, designed to contain the beer while it is brewing. Later on it will be transferred into kegs, cans or bottles, ready for consumption by your fine selves. Climbing up the stairs on the right will give you this view:

As you can see, it’s not as elegant as Stella, but quite probably larger. Stella’s copper pots were smaller in diameter and occupied a smaller space than these. Again, we spent a while in this area of the site, going into the modern control room here as well, just seen to the right of the shot above. It was baking hot in here, and somebody had even left a computer on. Closed? Don’t think so!

Myself and Danny went upstairs, Gary electing to stay downstairs and get close to the Tuns. By now we were confident that we’d been able to evade security, but preferred to remain very quiet and keep down low to avoid being seen or heard. Better safe than sorry. We heard a door opening quickly, and we both turned to look at each other, thinking that Gary hadn’t been up in the section that the door was in. We saw Hi-vis coming through and darted off to hide behind one of the kettles shown below.

We heard the guard shouting, trying to get somebody to come out, but he saw Gary almost as soon as he walked in and decided he’d got his prize. Danny and I waited to see what was happening, but Gary had moved on with the security guard and they were nowhere to be seen. Time to get out, and big respect to Gary for taking the bust on his own. We packed up and took a similar route out as in, before  making contact with Gary and getting to the car. One relieved phone call later and a stop and search form was the only prize. I suspect it won’t be the only one issued in relation to this place. Tick Tick, time will pass and the place will decay, be stripped/scrapped, and the brewery will continue to be an attraction. It won’t be as new and fresh as it was last night for too long, I feel, but the place will change. That will be something for which we’ll have to wait and see.

August 2010

I returned with Neb and Gary, the day after arriving back from Poland. We had a more chilled visit this time, no signs of security but evidence of the commencement of demolition. Although it’s a shame to lose an industrial behemoth of Reading so soon after it becomes disused, it’s the process of change and development that we all look to in our own lives.

We went straight to the roof, and the huge network of tanks below us spread out far. Warnings inside to keep to the walkways were adhered to, but there wasn’t anything to see that would have warranted crossing them.

We descended back into the main brewing space, checking the laboratories, the brew hall, the entrances and offices, leaving with no hassle.

Written by Winch

February 24th, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Posted in Dereliction

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3 Responses to 'Courage Brewery'

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  1. err yes, mad dope!


    25 Feb 11 at 11:49 am

  2. So sad, such a great state of the art brewery.

    Fred Lawton

    21 May 20 at 11:01 pm

  3. I was site manager for Western formwork at the Brewery
    I can only say what a great team of people worked on building it. We then worked on under the name of Western Building services, (for the Project Team.) it was a pleasure working for such Professionals.
    All the Managers at the Brewery in every department
    were 1st class and a pleasure to work for.
    Happy memories shame it’s all gone.
    Terry Nicholls


    8 Jan 21 at 11:45 am

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