Pub and Brewery News

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

White Horse, Stonesfield

The campaign to re-open this closed pub as a Community-Owned venture continues with a beer festival in the village hall on Saturday 1 October, featuring 11 real ales and three traditional ciders plus a BBQ, pizzas and entertainment. The village, near Woodstock, can be reached by the hourly S3 bus service from Oxford, and the event will raise funds for the bid to buy the closed pub from its 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 a 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 put back in their shares, and it is understood that many have done so. They have the support of the district council and also their MP.

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

White Horse, Oxford

This famous old pub in the centre of Oxford has had an increasing range of real ale since new tenants took over last October. The choice at the beginning of September included Loose Cannon Abingdon Bridge, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Dark Star Hophead, Adnams Ghost Ship and Black Sheep Bitter, all from the M&B guest list, plus real cider Rosie’s Pig. The pub is now run by Tom Reynolds and Henry Cullen who also operate the Library on Cowley Road, and experienced manageress at the White Horse is Cat Duerr. The pub — one of the smallest in Oxford — has expanded capacity with the addition of pavement seating in Broad Street, and its Inspector Morse links help it attract tourists as well as students and locals.

Landlady Cat Duerr at the White Horse in Oxford

Lamb & Flag

The latest target date for reopening is now the end of September or early October, in time for the next university term. This was revealed in an interview with BBC Radio Oxford by Dave Norwood, a member of the Inklings Community Interest Company that will run the pub on behalf of St John’s College. He also said that among the present day Inklings are famous contemporary writers, following in the footsteps of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and others who frequented the pub in the 1950s and 1960s.

Plough at 38

Bar manager Kriss Sprules — formerly at the Crown, Eagle and Child, Chequers and Grapes — has been busy expanding the drinks range since he took over in June. Cask ale continues to be supplied by XT, and he is hoping to have a mini beer festival later this year in addition to a greater choice of keg ales, cocktails and low and no alcohol drinks.

West Berkshire Brewery/Renegade

The brewery is being relaunched as Renegade after admitting it is “more than ready for a shake up” following the appointment of new MD Ian Rogers, founder of Wychwood Brewery and Hobgoblin. But it will not be changing the recipes for well established beers such as Good Old Boy, Maggs’ Mild, Maharaja and Mister Chubb’s, and in the immediate future the branding will also remain unchanged. But “the characters and their stories are on the way”, it promises — along the renegade theme, we presume?

“The positive changes we’re experiencing are deeply rooted in our values and we hope you’ll join us for the ride. We’re looking forward to what the future holds for Renegade Brewery and we hope you are too,” says the company, which continues at its previous base on a farm in Yattendon, near Newbury. “We can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on as Renegade Brewery at the Newbury Real Ale Festival, being held this year on Saturday September 10 at Northcroft Fields, Newbury. As well as our favourites being available throughout the festival, we’ll also have our tasting stall where you can be one of the first to try new brews like Queensbury Jack IPA, Hopfenwit with coriander, and “My Other Car Is A NEIPA”. Brewery tours now run throughout the week, and it is preparing for a sold-out Oktoberfest celebration.

West Berkshire Brewery was set up in 1995, and in the following 20 years it expanded twice before locating where it is today in a converted dairy building. The Yattendon Estate supported the brewery expansion and invested large sums in the buildings to allow the business to develop but at no stage was Yattendon ever a shareholder and deliberately turned down approaches to become one, believing the management should be free to run and develop the business.

“It was with sadness that we learnt that the business went into administration in December 2021 affecting a great number of people, many of whom were and are local, and proud of what they were producing,” said the estate. “At this point Yattendon decided that it was better to take on the running of the brewery to maintain the legacy and vision, and to establish a long-term local brewery business in West Berkshire. Yattendon is not responsible for the previous business and will provide no comment as to what may or may not have gone wrong.”

West Berkshire Brewery operated three pubs including the Grapes in Oxford, which were not part of the take-over. The Grapes is being re-let by the building’s owner, Oxford City Council.

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. Meanwhile the Kennington site (68 Sandford Lane Industrial Estate) has become a major new artisan bakery, Proof Social Bakehouse, in a joint venture with another local indie firm, Missing Bean Coffee Roasters, which opened on August 20. Including a cafe where Tap Social beers are available, it is open from 8am-3pm, Thursdays to Sundays. Tap Social also operates the White House pub on Abingdon Road, Oxford, and a bar at the Lock29 development in Banbury. Now it has applied for planning permission to open the Market Tap bar in Oxford’s Covered Market, towards the end of a hectic year for the company.

The Tap Social taproom in Botley

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?

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 put back in their shares, and it is understood that many have done so.

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