It looks like we’ll be in Oxford at around this time most years now as a friend of ours who lives there has decided to make his anti-January-blues party a fixture in the calendar.
Between the station and his house last night, we took in a few pubs we missed last time round.
The King’s Arms on Holywell Street is a cosy, crowded boozer decorated with brewery memorabilia. It’s a Young’s pub but with three guest ales. Bailey went for Winter Warmer and thought it was good this year. Boak went for Bath Gem, an old favourite that we haven’t come across for a while, which was just about OK if perhaps a little tired. The pub is so full of character, though, that the beer’s almost irrelevant.
The White Horse on Broad Street is really a long, cluttered corridor, but is also very cosy. We were drawn in by the Brakspear sign but the lack of that beer was more than made up for by two excellent microbrews. Prospect by the Shotover Brewing Co. (who are new on the scene, apparently) was a beautiful hoppy, flowery beer, powerful enough to overpower a bag of particularly lethal, hairy pork scratchings. Can anyone tells us which particular variety of hops give that wonderful elderflower flavour? In contrast, Winter Solstice by Vale Brewing was all about the malt: caramel with a hint of chocolate. It was also excellent, but it was Prospect that really knocked us for six.
Far from the Madding Crowd had six ales on tap including Oakham JHB, another classic we’ve not had for a while. Wow. What a beer — incredibly drinkable. Easy Rider from Kelham Island was another corker with a slightly (and very pleasantly) sulphurous aroma. The pub itself was lacking in atmosphere, somewhat resembling a community centre. Those of you who are sceptical of our ability to taste anything through the pork scratchings in the last pub will be glad to hear we didn’t indulge in the cockles in offer here…