beer reviews pubs

Oxford: smoke, hops and ginger


Here are quick reviews of a few beers we enjoyed on a recent trip to Oxford.

1. White Horse Village Idiot, 4.1%

An attempt, we think, to clone Hopback’s venerable Summer Lightning, Village Idiot is actually a somewhat better beer. Pale yellow, crisply bitter and slightly sweet, it was so full of the flavour and aroma of fresh hops, we though it should probably count as one of our portions of fruit and veg for the day. We guessed at a mix of German and British hops — if anyone knows for sure, tell us! The normal bitter (3.7%) is also superb.

The brewery tap at the Royal Blenheim has a ludicrously cheerful singing barman and 10 real ales in total, too, so well worth a visit.

2. Leatherbritches Ginger Spice, 3.8%

The best ginger beer we’ve had yet, where hefty amounts of (candied?) ginger make for a characterful pint. Often, ginger in beer leads to a gritty dryness but this beer is almost sickly sweet. Normally, that would be a real turn-off, but it definitely balances. But, as the expert barman at the excellent Turf Tavern said as he served it, “tasty, but you won’t want more than one”.

3. Thermal Cheer, by Isle of Purbeck brewery, ?%

This brewery seems to favour smoked flavours: all three of their beers that we tried tasted like they’d been lightly barbecued (although their website makes no mention of this). An acquired taste. This, a dark bitter, was the best of the bunch and certainly an interesting experiment. Did we actually like it? We still haven’t made up our minds. We had this one at the Turf but also saw their beers (the bitter and “Solar Power”) in a couple of other pubs.

4. Cotswold Brewing Company Wheat, 4.2%

Also at the Turf Tavern, this unfiltered kegged German-style wheat beer has alerted us to the existence of yet another interesting British lager brewer. Sadly, it wasn’t all that fresh, but the local students were mad for the stuff and its underlying quality shone through. If, like us, you’ve ever thought German wheat beer would be improved with a bit more bitterness, then this will be just the job. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to try the rest of their range sometime soon.

We got some ideas for which pubs to visit from the Good Beer Guide, Maeib’s pub crawl post and whole bunch of other websites. There are a fair few decent places to drink in Oxford!

8 replies on “Oxford: smoke, hops and ginger”

I was at the Royal Blenheim back in October, I think just after the White Horse guys had taken over the pub. They had a couple of White Horse beers and some freom Everards as well – a knowledgable barman and well poured pints – well worth hunting out.

I really rate the White Horse Brewery – a good, solid range of hoppy beers. Cotswold is a breath of fresh air too – their lagers aren’t earth-shattering but they’re decent enough (the dark one in particular is worth a try), and their wheat beer can be very good – as you say, it’s a little more bitter than most German Weissbiers.

Next time you’re thinking of coming to Oxford, give me a shout!

The White Horse beers were certainly the discovery of the trip. We weren’t sure if they were brilliant beers or just super fresh — we concluded that they’d probably be rubbish from a bottle.

Tom — we were on a flying visit for a mate’s party, but next time we’re in town, we’ll drop you a line.

I wouldn’t say they’re rubbish from the bottle, but they’re definitely better from the cask.
The Blenheim is a somewhat unconventional brewery tap – it’s about 20 miles from the actual brewery…

I’m a big White Horse fan too. Mostly had their stuff out of Wetherspoons and still thought it was good – bet the brewery tap is something else!

We see quite a bit of Village Idiot in my neck of the woods. I always thought it was the wheat malt that gave it the texture you describe, but you’ve got me thinking. BTW, at the Trackside, it’s always put on the board as “Craig” with a picture of said person on the pumpclip. It always raises a smile when visitors innocently ask how he got a beer named after him.

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