A rolling update on what’s happening around our branch and beyond
White Horse Brewery/SOX
The take-over of this local producer was announced just before Christmas by South Oxfordshire Brewery (SOX), having acquired the 50% share owned by Titanic Brewery of Stoke-on-Trent. The Royal Blenheim pub in Oxford, sub-leased by White Horse from Everards, will continue to operate as a Titanic pub and no changes are expected here in the beers available, which are mainly by Titanic, White Horse and a range of guests. SOX only started brewing its own cask ales last year, having been set up in 2020 as a “cuckoo” operation in Wallingford while awaiting a permanent base. Whether its own operations move to White Horse premises in Stanford-in-the-Vale remains to be seen.
The Oxford craft brewer is capturing the Christmas trade by opening what it describes as a “pop-up shop” in the city’s Covered Market, in advance of what it hopes will be a more permanent bar installation in 2023. The Market Tap is stocking a range of canned beers by Tap Social and its collaborators, a few keg beers on draught, plus mulled wine, Christmas hampers and baked goods from Proof Social Bakehouse, which operates in its former brewery in Kennington since the main brewery was moved to an expanded site in Kidlington. Market Tap operates in the central courtyard at Unit 60-62, and is open from Wednesday to Sunday 10am-5pm. Customers are welcome to bring food from elsewhere in the market to eat with their drinks.
The opening is indicative of the new direction being taken by the Covered Market as traditional food retailers – such as the butchers that used to occupy these premises – decline, with food and drink outlets, and other types of retailers, taking their place. Market Tap is in fact the third drinks outlet to open here, following on from Teardrop bar by Church Hanbrewery, dating from 2019, and Gulp Fiction, a bookshop also selling beer.
Tap Social director Tess Taylor says: “For now it’s only a temporary pop-up, but we’re hoping to begin fitting it out properly in the New Year to have a more permanent set-up and are waiting on a permanent licence being approved first.”
The brewery has been very busy with a series of collaborations (most recently with Wild Card Brewery, Cloudwater Brewing, Moonwake Brewing, and Pellicle, and has just won bronze in the SIBA South East competition for both its wheat beer (Start Somewhere, in collaboration with Fauna Brewing) and its stout (Inside Out).
“In terms of other news, we’re just releasing our 2020-22 impact and progress report, available on our website,” says Tess. “We’re also a social enterprise with the same core mission from the very beginning: to provide the support and opportunity prison leavers need, and to influence positive change in the UK’s criminal justice system. This comprehensive report takes a deep dive into what we’ve accomplished over these last two challenging years in all aspects of our business.”
Tap Social hosted a meeting at the White House pub of the CAMRA National Executive and Regional Directors in November, and as a result it has been invited to speak at the CAMRA’s national conference in Sheffield next year.
The XT25 Christmas Ale is back, at 4.7% a rich ruby tipple with a twist of New Zealand hops. Bold and malty, it goes perfectly with your Christmas pudding (and a whole load of other food groups). Animal Dove, a pale winter blonde at 4.6%, is inspired by the Christmassy Christingle (a spiced orange with cloves stuck in it….) This light Winter Blonde is loaded with Nectaron and Mandarina Bavaria hops to give it a juicy citrus lift.
Animal Ermine is a pale milk stout, a blend of Oats, Beech Smoked Malt and Lactose to make for a pale Stout with great mouthfeel, rich and smooth yet balanced by hop bitterness. The XT and Animal festive beers will be available at pubs during December and from its Brewery Taproom on draught, and in mini-casks to take away and enjoy at home. Check the website for Christmas opening times of the Taproom, ordering for home delivery, and times for the Thame shop.
Hook Norton Brewery has brewed a unique beer to celebrate the life and legacy of Commander, its much-loved dray horse who passed away recently. Command and Conquer is a 4% limited edition premium ale available in bottles, and on draught at the brewery bar and selected pubs.
The beer was brewed with the help of Head Coachman, Nick Carter, who says: “Command and Conquer is a fitting tribute to a noble horse and friend who did exactly that. He was a loyal colleague of the brewery for the last four years of his life, a steady hand with a larger-than-life character. We’re thrilled to honour his legacy with this premium ale and keep the traditions of working horses going here at the brewery forever.”
Hook Norton Brewery is one of only three breweries with working delivering Shire Horses which have remained on site since 1849, and last year it gained approved centre status for the Shire Horse Society where Managing Director James Clarke is a trustee. Throughout the summer, Hook Norton’s horses and horsebox tour the country visiting local and national shows for demonstrations and competitions.
Sun Inn, Wheatley
This old stone-built pub has re-opened under the ownership of Oak Taverns, an Oxfordshire-based pub group whose outlets are wet-only and don’t sell food, with the emphasis on real ale. It had operated for several years as a café bar but with original cellar and fittings retained, making re-opening as a pub fairly straightforward. It is a welcome addition to the pub scene in Wheatley, which has seen a few closures in recent years.
An ancient building with a claim to be the oldest pub in Oxford, the Mitre has re-opened as Gusto Italian restaurant and pizza house, with a totally modernised interior and no acknowledgement at all of its centuries-old role as a coaching inn. Although it had operated mainly as a restaurant for many years,, it retained a public bar serving real ales until its closure in 2019, with many historic artifacts which had gradually disappeared over the years. These included a list of landlords dating back to 1230, a possibly original poster advertising stagecoach services, a guest book from when it was a hotel, and many old photographs. Why Lincoln College, which has owned the building since 1488, has decided these have no place today is likely to become a subject for debate.
Prince of Burford
This is the new name for the former Cotswold Gateway hotel, situated on the A40 at the junction of The Hill leading to Buford High Street. A former Wadworth house, it has been sold to Liberation Group which owns Butcombe brewery, and now sells Butcombe beers.