Archive for the ‘Oxfordshire’ Tag
One of the problems with sharing strong opinions with the world is that someone who has some affiliation with the object of your passion may take the opinion as an affront. It would probably sting less if the editorial commentary was delivered with a bit less smarmy tone, but the very few people who read this would be disappointed if it wasn’t there (especially in response to something like this). Among the small readership, I usually get publicans and other business proprietors/proprietresses for an entry or two after they find out that their venue has appeared here. Believe me, my opinion holds no more sway here than it does at work (where the fuckers should actually listen to me).
So, if I gave the Tap Social a bad review it might actually be better for them than what I am about to lay down more concisely than that cryptic lead paragraph. Better still are the ones about places that made so little impression on me that I just make shit up. I can’t do that here. The house is flawless. Go there the next time they are open and you’ll probably make regular stops from then on (check the website…they are open tonight, and then again on the 27th and 28th of January 2017 with future dates pending).
Now, it’s not a pub, per se … yet. It doesn’t even have regular opening days, much less regular opening hours. It is so open-plan that the warehouse blends into the 1000 liter brewery (yeah, it is a microbrewery, as well), and those are only distinguishable from the pubby area by a large carpet rolled out in front of the rudimentary bar.
Their product is especially grand, too. I was met at the door by the Head Brewer who enthusiastically described the set-up and the core beers that were on offer. I got a flight of one-third pints (only the single pint, total, as this was roughly the mid-point of a 7½ mile run and I needed to get back to check on something in the lab before heading home) that included the oatmeal stout and the two sour ales — I would recommend all of them but do the Bleeding Heart Numbskull last as it overpowers everything in its path.
A couple of weeks ago, a work colleague sent me this note about the Pint Shop. This is sort of a rare guest review:
“Had a couple of halves in the newly opened Pint Shop
on George St this arvo. Needed testing. Have you been
to its sister location in Cambridge? Good selection of
beer (~20 keg and 3 cask). A bit like Beerd. I suspect
in the evenings will be a hipster wanker fuckwit paradise,
if not also during the day. Recommend sampling mid-
afternoon after the lunch crowd have dissipated.”
I had been watching for this venue to open for months before we moved to London and now that I rarely find myself on George Street I had forgotten the place was due. I had to work late Wednesday to make up for my late arrival after the Passport Interview so gave it a go on my way to the bus station. The music was nice (beardy hipster twats generally get that much right), and I really couldn’t fault the selection. My Anarchy Porter was divine.
This is the kind of place that is ripe for a drinking challenge. Running the taps from left to right in one day would result in 23 half pints down. It could be made more difficult by forcing the participant to go back for any taps that the beer changes on before they get to number 23.
George Street Social was still a coffee shop when I passed by just a couple of months ago and the atmosphere on this visit was that of an independent coffee shop in the 1990s (that is, strangely retro the way everyone in there seemed to have a laptop fired up and not, for the most part, other devices). The house was nearly fully occupied but only one table of three was actually engaging one another in conversation whilst row after row were intent on their screenplays, novels, or day trading deals. Social, eh?
At the bar, I was eventually served by a young woman who reluctantly broke off her conversation with a skinny little fellow with a goatee. Despite that particular indication to the contrary, there is a hefty Hipster Tax imposed within the premises: Lagunitas IPA goes for £5.40 a pint while my choice — the much more gauche Amstel — comes at only £3.80 (and, I only got charged £3, so either there’s a Happy Hour price or my United Auto Workers t-shirt curried me some random favour).
The Muzak was especially good, I’ll grant them that.
From the Nag’s Head, the walk to the Oxford bus takes you near enough to the Brewery Tap as to be churlish not to enter for a quick one. There was a line of pumps and a metal lined trough with even more taps to choose from, but as this isn’t actually the Tap for any eponymous Brewery, I settled on a Lilley’s Sunset Cider which had a vaguely (but not badly) medicinal aftertaste akin to that sort of mineral tartness PEZ candies have.
The Euro 2016 football was on and I watched as Hungary held Portugal to a 3-3 draw from a 3-1 halftime lead. Brilliant: my first soccer coach, Istvan Buczko, had been a Hungarian National Team member in the 60’s so they were my sentimental favourites; and, moreover, the looks on the arrogant Portuguese players’ faces afterwards was worth the time otherwise wasted in front of tele.
I looked around the spectacular 17th century pub and felt quite at home. Hey…isn’t the guy sitting on the left also on the pub sign?
When I first started visiting Abingdon, the Nag’s Head had been closed down for a while, which is a shame. In the centre of one of the oldest market towns in the country AND on an island in the midst of the River Thames is just the start of the boxes this venue ticks. Too bad the staff are arrogant and rude, as this house and the beer garden are simply gorgeous.
I arrived drenched with sweat after nearly ten miles’ slog from Oxford, much of it along the Thames Path in high humidity and in what passes for high temperatures, here. I carried the Black Prince mild — as rich and full-bodied as the pump clip boasts — to a quiet bit of the beer garden and exchanged as much of my wet clothing for dry as I could without complete nudity. Boats mosied past and the early evening couldn’t have been more grand.
With just a few sips left, I headed in to use the loo as a changing room and one of the staff followed along but she stopped and leaned against a handrail outside. She was still there when I emerged in my clean, dry trousers…I guess she thought I was up to something because she then followed me back as I returned my now empty glass to the bar (without so much as “thank you” or “kiss my ass” or any other acknowledgement from either of the bartenders standing there). What a bunch of assholes.
With the sun setting at 9:30 and twilight lasting until well after 10 pm, the weeks on either side of the Summer Solstice are grand for evening running. I left work after a day of lower back muscle spasms (treated with long overdue glute stretches — my ass is taut enough to stop a bullet after last weekend’s runs — throughout the day) and headed along the Thames Path to Abingdon.
It was gorgeous out albeit humid like the jungle from the week of heavy rains. Some parts of the path required leaps or diversions to clear puddles and the section from Sandford Lock to Lower Radley entailed more than 1 1/2 miles of slick, viscous, and frankly hazardous mud. This variation in the workout seemed to help the back pain immensely.
With the attention of imbibing some orally administered liniment in Abingdon, I managed to hit two of my three targeted pubs: the Broad Face appears to be out of business but the Nag’s Head and the Brewery Tap made up for this loss.
The bus back to Oxford was literally a treat: the ticket machine was broken so the driver didn’t charge fares. Then upstairs, a woman with a foreign accent was giving practical tips to some boys sitting in the back and girls up front (all of which appeared to be on some sort of language course); her heavily accented lecture (peppered with the word “guys”) was yelled out so all within several bus lengths could hear.
“So, guys, if de line is not moving in a section and space opens up you guys should ask dose guys dat don’t move if dey are still in de queue before you jump ahead of dose guys. Dese guys in England have strong opinions about how to act in line.” She had my attention.
“And, guys, anodder ting, guys…dis will be Oxford, not Abingdon no more, and it is more international and people speak many languages dere so you cannot assume dat saying someting in Italian or Portuguese or Russian is just between you guys. Dose guys will know if you say someting naughty and will not be happy wid you guys.” She saw me grinning and added, “see, dis guy knows it’s true.”
“Actually, I’m smiling because they’ll mostly be Brits and they really won’t give a shit. In fact, they’ll be happy to expand their vocabulary.”
“On second tought, guys, don’t listen to dis guy.” Teachers pet to class fuck-up in one go.
Here are some of dose guys.
The run from the George and Dragon to West Hagbourne was briefer than expected and just after emerging from a bough shaded stretch of road I spotted the Horse and Harrow with the Didcot Power Station looming beyond. Excellent.
The landlord fetched my ale and his dog immediately became my drinking buddy. The place was rammed with folk that looked as if they had either just gotten off work (still in overalls and boots) or that had been camped out at the bar since the doors were unlocked. Likewise, excellent.
Sammy Davis, Jr crooned how he was “gonna build a mountain” in the background and the youngish barmaid answered my bar neighbour (one of the all-day residents) that she didn’t know any current pop and that she only listened to the jukebox; looking around, I couldn’t spot it and asked the guy, “Is it a REAL jukebox or electronic?” This led us into a long conversation about the merits of vinyl and the art of copying records to cassettes and the nostalgia of surface static.
Great house, worth the trip off the beaten path.