Pub and Brewery News

A rolling update on what’s happening in our branch and just beyond

King’s Arms, Oxford

Members have queried ownership of this famous old university pub after Young’s beers disappeared from the bars in early July, but Young’s retains ownership. Young’s beers have been brewed by Marston’s at Bedford for some years, while the Young’s pub company operates separately. Not for the first time, Marston’s appears to have capacity problems leading to a shortage of Young’s beers, with the Angel and Greyhound in Oxford having none of these beers a few months ago when local brewery Loose Cannon effectively had a tap take-over. The beneficiary at the King’s Arms was Lister’s brewery from West Sussex, with four of its beers being available on hand pump including an unusual Limehouse Porter.

Just the Job (and Lister’s) at Young’s King’s Arms in early July

North Star, Steventon

This historical gem in a village between Abingdon and Didcot is one of 11 pubs around the country given extra protection from change in a collaboration between CAMRA and Historic England. All these pubs have been upgraded or re-listed as either Grade II or Grade II* because of their historic interiors, which in the case of the North Star means its unusual layout (no bar, only a servery) cannot be altered.

CAMRA’s Pub Heritage Group chairman Paul Ainsworth said: “Times are tough for all pubs at the moment, including those with important historic interiors. The more protection they can receive, the better. We have been working with Historic England to identify pubs that deserve to be listed, upgraded or have their list descriptions enhanced so that people can truly appreciate why they are special.”

Vale Brewery

Two of its ales have been awarded Bronze in the SIBA Midlands Independent Beer Awards 2022 — Red Kite at 4.3% and VPA at 4.2%. Both beers are available in firkin as well as bottle and can be purchased from the brewery taproom and shop, which is open every Friday from 12-6pm, and also on the last Saturday of the month from 12-6pm. It is again hosting monthly brewery tours which can be booked at valebrewery.co.uk

Seasonal beers available this summer include Amity, a 3.9% light copper coloured ale with citrus notes and a crisp finish; Good Day Sunshine, a 4.0% summer straw beer with passionfruit, grapefruit and blackberry aromas; and Fork Handles, a 4.2% Blonde coloured ale with fruity aromas.

George Inn, Littlemore

Residents of this Oxford suburb are joining with the parish council to consider mounting a community buy-out bid for the pub after the building’s private owner announced that it would be sold. The council had it listed as an Asset of Community Value in 2020, and if this is renewed it would then have a breathing pace of six months in which to make a bid.

White House, Bladon

The departure of landlord Johnny Roberts, in charge since the pub re-opened as a Community-Owned venture in September 2020, led to the tenancy being advertised on industry portal the Morning Advertiser. It was voted Best Newcomer 2020 in this year’s Ox in a Box awards, and has gained a reputation for good local ales and food. On the edge of the Blenheim Palace estate, it is said to be the pub “where Churchill learned to drink”, and he is buried in the churchyard opposite.

Greyhound, Besselsleigh

This pub, a few miles from Oxford alongside the A420 Swindon road, continues to excel as a real ale and fine food venue, although it is a “destination pub” which the vast majority of customers drive to. On a recent visit it had six real ales available, with another six conditioning in the cellar and all with pump clips. Eight breweries were represented among the 12 ales, including Vale, Loose Cannon and Hook Norton among the local contingent, plus Timothy Taylor (Landlord and Boltmaker), Chiltern and St Austell. Why can’t all country pubs be like this?

White Horse, Stonesfield

The village green banner in Stonesfield, to support the closed pub in the background

Villagers have re-invigorated their plans for a community buy-out of this closed village pub, which has been put back on the market by the building’s private owner. A previous share offer was very successful, but despite meeting the asking price the community group was knocked back when the property was sold, apparently for a lower price, to another private individual. This raised suspicions that developers may be at work, and any effort to change its use from a pub would be resisted. Villagers are being urged to reclaim their shares, and it is understood that many have done so.

Tap Social

The craft keg and can brewer has moved out of its main brewing base in Kennington to open a much larger brewhouse on the Station Field Industrial Estate in Kidlington, as it could not keep pace with demand. The original brewery at Botley, opened in 2016, is still used for small batch, seasonal and experimental beers, and is also the venue for a busy taproom with lots of special events including a new festival in August (see Festivals story). The Kidlington brewery came on-stream in May allowing Tap Social to triple its capacity. It also operates the White House pub on Abingdon Road, Oxford.

Up in Arms, Oxford

The Marston Road pub, owned by the small, loco Dodo pubs chain, has scheduled a series of Beer, Beats and BBQ summer party events which are free to attend. All are on Saturdays including the Up in Arms Street Party on 27 August, 24 September and Oktoberfest on 8 October. It promises a fun and inclusive family day starting at 12 noon with a local DJ spinning decks, the Dodo Smokeshack BBQ and the new Dodo Beer Bus serving craft keg beer. 

Fox Inn, Boars Hill

Up to four rotating real ales that could be from anywhere in Britain can be found at this country pub just outside Oxford, which was taken over last winter by Chris Mulhall, proprietor of the Plough at 38 in Oxford. The Star Inns (Heineken)-owned pub has been refurbished outside and inside and hopes to become a leading dining pub again, with fine views from the garden. Real ales on a recent visit were Tring Brewery’s Side Pocket for a Toad, Castle Rock’s Harvest Pale, Woodforde’s Wherry and Dark Star’s Hophead.

Hook Norton

The brewery is celebrating another year of beer and brewing with the first release of its 173 Anniversary Ales range — 173 Strong Ale. It started brewing anniversary ales in its 167th year and has released a new range each year, with the beers brewed increasing a percentage in strength each time. Established in 1849 and now in the 173rd year of brewing, Hooky has released 173 Strong Ale at 7.3%, a strong and robust dark red beer, fruity, full bodied with a hint of spice. It combines a robust trio of all-English hops, delicate and smooth Goldings, spicy Challenger and floral Fuggles.

Jubilee Ale (on cask and in bottles) has been brewed to 5.2% to reflect 1952, the year of the Queen’s accession to the throne, a dark ruby red beer that combines Goldings and Fuggles with two new hop varieties. James Clarke, Managing Director commented: “The recipe is based on two historic beers: Old Hooky, first brewed to celebrate Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee in 1977; and Celebration Ale, brewed in 1999 to celebrate our 150th Anniversary.”

Hook Norton Brewery has also become involved in the #DrinkersForUkraine campaign to help raise funds for the Red Cross humanitarian relief efforts. Drinkers For Ukraine have asked breweries around the world to brew RESIST, an “Anti-Imperial Stout” at 6%.

Updates are invited: send to editor@oxford.camra.org.uk