Back to Oxford

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…

7 thoughts on “Back to Oxford”

  1. Great to see Vale brewery getting a nice write-up. They’re not far away from us here in Bucks, and their Aylesbury Pub – The Hop Pole – is a wondrous place. Hadda’s Winter Solstice is – as you’d guess – a seasonal. They have two wonderfully hoppy regulars in Gravitas and VPA. Both well worth hunting down.

  2. Elderflower – my guess would be Nelson Sauvin, the New Zealand hop so named because it supposedly has aromas like Sauvignon Blanc, which itself has been described as smelling like cat’s piss, and elderflowers can smell pretty ‘cat’s pissy’ too.

  3. Thanks, Zythophile. We need to find one of those single variety beers to help us get our hands round Nelson Sauvin, I think.

    Ant — we’ll add Aylesbury and the Hop Pole to our list of places to visit. As you might have noticed, we’ve been making an effort to get out and about and see more of the UK in the last year or so.

  4. G’day chaps. Prospect does indeed contain Nelson Sauvin. I’m fairly sure about this as I make the beer and anyway it must be true because it said so in the Independent newspaper. There are are four hop varieties used in Prospect – 50% UK and 50% New Zealand. NS might be too much on its own but in combination with English Goldings I think it delivers a striking flavour and aroma. I have never quite noticed the smell of cat’s piss though. It strikes me more as grapefruit. Better try some more!

  5. Ed – satisfying to see I can recognise the smell of a hop without even smelling it! I didn’t mean Nelson Sauvin smelled of cat’s piss, just that elderflowers have a smell like Sauvignon Blanc, and that smell has components of cat’s piss (and gooseberries, too, to most people). So if Nelson Sauvin smells like Sauvignon Blanc, it’s likely to smell like elderflowers too … though not necessarily with the cat’s piss element!

  6. Ed — I definitely wouldn’t recommend that you rename the beer “Old Cat’s Piss” or anything like that…

  7. Nelson Sav can be overpowering if used without caution. Our local craft brewers are only just now starting to get the hang of it. This years Golden Ale from, Three Boys Brewery is a stunner.

    Nelson Sav gives a fair bit of passionfruit, kiwi fruit and citrus as well.

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