144,172 pints of local beer!

That’s what the Lamb & Flag has sold in the first 12 months since re-opening

October 6 marked 12 months since re-opening of the Lamb & Flag on St Giles, which very quickly re-established itself as one of the top real ale pubs in Oxford. It seems to be busy whenever you go in – weekdays or weekends, afternoon or evening, term time or not. And now it has produced some figures showing how successful it has really been.

In the first 12 months it sold 144,172 pints of local beer, which roughly equates to one pint every 1.7 minutes it has been open – that’s a lot of beer! It has also sold 5,891 gin and tonics, and over 2,000 sausage rolls – which are now one of the main snacks available, the pub having soon given up on the idea of serving a wider range of food from its limited kitchen area.

General manager Dylan Dudbridge-Hay, who runs the pub with his wife Alice, says: “We’ve been lucky enough to host beer launches for Siren Craft Brew and BMAN Brewery, and have lots more upcoming beery events in the calendar. We’ve hosted birthday parties, spirits tastings, live music, debates and book launches for the local community, and are excited for what’s to come over the next year and beyond.  

Dylan Dudbridge-Hay with three of his finest local real ales. Photo: Phil Gammon

“It really has been a privilege to be a part of this fantastic pub’s history, and to re-open such a historic Oxford institution. Of course, it has been challenging at times, but we’ve rolled with both the good and the bad, and have come out on top, with a fantastic and busy pub, serving excellent local products and serving the community.”

The Inklings community venture which leases the pub from St John’s College made clear from the outset that it wanted to serve mainly local beer, whether on hand pumps or keg, and it has been true to its promise.  

“Over the last year, we have traded directly with 22 local breweries, showcasing the finest beers that Oxfordshire has to offer,” says Dylan. “Personal cask stand-outs of mine include Let the Dragon See the Wolf by the Oxford Brewery, Siamese Fighting Fish by Animal Brewing Co, Yabba Dabba Doo by Little Ox Brew Co (Champion Beer of Oxford again last year), and the very divisive Peeler, a Banana Milkshake IPA by Wild Weather. I have also loved the re-brews of Siren Craft’s four original beers: Liquid Mistress, Soundwave IPA, Undercurrent and Broken Dream (Champion Beer of Britain 2018), all re-brewed to celebrate Siren’s 10th anniversary. 

“Looking to the future, I’m excited for Siren’s new ESB Reviver, released this month, as well as the Dead Brewer Society releases brewed by XT, and Oxford Brewery’s cask porter. In general, I am excited for the winter months ahead, and to see some interesting and tasty darker beers. I am also looking forward to exploring new breweries and finding more fantastic local brews. 

The Lamb & Flag has quickly reclaimed its place as a top real ale pub

“Recently we collaborated on three keg beers with BMAN brewery, which all turned out amazing. We used some relatively new hops, experimented with adjuncts such as tea and bergamot oranges, and pushed the ABV higher with a Double IPA. We will be rotating through these three beers over the coming months, and would highly recommend giving them a taste.

“As far as upcoming events go, we have plans with Tap Social and Elusive Brewing, Earth Ale, Siren Craft Brew, and Phantom Brew Co for tap take-overs and beer launches over the coming months.”

The Lamb & Flag now faces more competition in the city centre real ale market with re-openings of the Grapes – while the Grapes’s sister pub the Gardeners Arms is just 10 minutes’ walk away in North Parade Avenue. But like other real ale pubs, he takes the view that the more good real ale pubs there are, the merrier. 

“It is fantastic to see the Grapes open again, as any pub opening or re-opening in the current climate is a win in my eyes,” explains Dylan. “It’s great to have pubs close by that do food to recommend to our customers, and to have somewhere to go for a pint after work as the Grapes is open until 2am! It would be great to see other nearby pubs, such as the Eagle and Child re-open – hopefully we’ll get some good news soon.”

Next to re-open? Work is under way at the Eagle and Child

Work is apparently under way at the Eagle and Child, also owned by St John’s, which is directly across the road from the Lamb & Flag on the western side of St Giles. This pub has been closed since the first Covid lockdown in March 2020, but had been due to close for major refurbishment anyway. St John’s has dropped plans for a boutique hotel on its upper floors, and it is understood there are expressions of interest in running it as a more traditional pub.

With all the success enjoyed by the Lamb & Flag, you might well wonder why it is not included in the 2024 Good Beer Guide, now available. Unfortunately CAMRA’s rules state that a pub re-opening or under new management must have been trading for six months before it can be considered for the guide, and as the deadline for the 2024 edition was last March, it couldn’t be considered. Oxford CAMRA is confident that if the Lamb & Flag and the Grapes keep up the good work, they will be strong contenders for the 2025 guide.