Tap tilts towards cask as Market Tap opens

More cask ale to be brewed by Oxford’s craft brewery

The long delayed opening of Tap Social Movement’s Market Tap bar in Oxford’s Covered Market finally went ahead in early May, bringing to three the number of bars operating at this historic venue. Although it mainly showcases Tap’s range of keg and canned beers, it plans to offer one cask ale at the market as part of an increased focus on cask ale generally.

Market Tap manager Harry Curtis with Tap Social directors Tess (left) and Amy Taylor

Quality keg beers have been the main focus since the Oxford brewery was set up in 2016, brewing cask ales mainly for special events such as the Oxford Beer and Cider Festival. Although two cask ale pumps are provided at Tap’s White House pub on Abingdon Road, these are generally for guest ales. But head brewer Jason Bolger wants to increase the focus on cask, and this will happen at the original brewery in Botley now that most production has moved to Kidlington where it took over an industrial unit last year.

“We are seeing quite a bit of demand for cask and we like making it, but it made sense to start by brewing keg beer,” said director Tess Taylor. “Jason would certainly like to have a go and we are looking at cask versions of existing keg beers. We have enough brewing capacity now, and production is above pre-Covid levels. The White House is going very well too, and we have simplified the menu because of the cost of living.”

The Market Tap, converted from a butcher’s shop and originally planned to open in December 2019 before Covid intervened, is the company’s sixth venue and fourth where people can enjoy beer. The original taproom in Botley was joined by the White House and the Lock29 bar in Banbury, but there isn’t yet a taproom in Kidlington. The industrial unit in Kennington where it brewed before moving to Kidlington is now Proof Social Bakehouse, a bakery with coffee shop open on mornings from Thursday to Sunday.

All six sites offer employment opportunities for prisoners on day release and people recently released from custody, as part of Tap Social’s commitment to social justice. That programme is back up to speed following Covid, working closely with Spring Hill prison.

Tap Social is also managing the entertainment space in the centre of the market, adjacent to the Market Tap. Already renowned for music and comedy at the Botley taproom, it will also offer poetry readings and other “spoken word” events in conjunction with Gulp Fiction, the bookshop and bar which is a close neighbour.

Tap Social also manages the entertainment area in the centre of the market

The Covered Market is now open for a 12-month trial until 11pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, but only a few of its 50-plus independent traders plan to stay open that long and some are very much against evening opening. Market Tap opens daily at 10am, until 11pm on these nights and 5pm on other days (4pm Sundays). The first bar to open in the market, Teardrop, is only staying open until 7pm on these nights, usually closing at 5.30pm.