A rolling round-up of what’s happening in Oxford and beyond
Harcourt Arms, Oxford
Fuller’s has undertaken a major refurbishment of this back street pub in Jericho without altering its character, proving that the pub company is not only interested in larger food-led venues. New toilets, with better provision for ladies, are at the heart of the revamp. New furniture and a repaint were also achieved during closure in September, but the two coal-burning fires remain as does the picture over the main fireplace which is something of a talking point.
The Harcourt is a drinks-only pub, and the same approach has now been taken at the Butchers Arms after Ian Stuart, landlord of the Harcourt, took over this Fuller’s pub in Headington when previous tenants Paul and Pippa Hitchcock moved on. Ian said that closing the kitchen had made big savings in staff and energy costs, and so far the move seems to be working. In charge of the Butchers on a day-to-day basis is Emme de la Querra.
Crafty Pint, Witney
This is the new name for the former Drummers Bar micro-pub, which re-opened this month having been closed abruptly on July 23. The micro-pub, in Langdale Court near the Waitrose car park, had been told by West Oxfordshire District Council that it would take enforcement action after a conservatory was put up during the Covid restrictions without permission.
This is its third identity in only five years, having opened as Oxbrew in 2018 but renamed Drummers after Oxbrew brewery was merged into Little Ox. The bar’s owner, Simon Scamp, has now exited the pubs business.
Former manager Melanie Cassidy and Ian Walton have taken over and renamed the bar, with Ian telling the Oxford Mail: “Mel took it into her head that we should take it over. I’ve worked with the previous owner Simon Scamp on and off. Since he shut it overnight we decided that we would take it over. And we got our brains together with a couple of other people and we went ahead and did it.”
An entry in the 2023 Good Beer Guide, the bar drops out for 2024 following the change in ownership. Two hand pumps are being retained plus a strong keg line-up, with local and beers from afar on offer.
Up to 25 real ales, including five from overseas, are available at the annual 12-day real ale festival held at all its pubs, which finishes on Sunday October 12. With all beers priced at between £2.25 and £2.75 a pint, the festival draws in names such as Harviestoun (Scotland), Lancaster Brewery, Robinson’s (Greater Manchester), New Realm (USA) and Zululand (South Africa). One of its pubs, the Swan & Castle, recently featured all three of CAMRA’s Champion Beers of Britain: Elland’s 1872 Porter, Salopian’s Darwin’s Origin, and Greene King Abbot.
Jolly Farmers, Oxford
The new (for 2024) Good Beer Guide entry has started offering a 10% discount on real ales to CAMRA members. Two ales are usually stocked – Otter Bitter from Devon, and a local real choice from breweries such as LoveBeer or Oxford Brewery.
Boundary House, Abingdon
This large Greene King pub on the edge of the town is currently closed for a major revamp, but will re-open shortly when it’s expected to have a greater emphasis on real ale and a wider food offer.