Saturday February 9th saw 20 RateBeerians, partners and friends do a tour of Oxford pubs. The event has been long in the planning, but was clearly worth the wait, as a superb day of good beer, good pubs, great company and unseasonally nice weather was enjoyed by all.
To be fair the start of the day was a little inauspicious as the early starters arrived at St Aldates Tavern at around 11:30 to realise that it wasn't opening until noon. A short walk to the nearby art deco delights of Three Goats Heads found that closed too, so we trekked back to our original starting point desparate for sustinence.
Finally the doors opened and in we traipsed and sat ourselves down to await the rest of our party. The pub is fairly unremarkable but the beer condition was good although even well conditioned Brakspear beers are not that special. The White Horse beers were nice though; the Bitter was on particularly good form.
Next pub was The Bear which featured in an episode of Inspector Morse and proudly displays the ties that were an integral part of that episode. Beer range was three Fullers beers, and Hook Norton Bitter. The vast majority of us drank the Hooky which we enjoyed outside on the benches as the inside was pretty packed, including people presumably breaking from a wedding. The bloke in the purple hat was particularly fetching! The beer was nice although I am not as enamoured by Hook Norton as some Oxfordshire based drinkers I know ;-)
Onwards to The Turf Tavern, a sprawling pub with tons of outside drinking area. This pub has won numerous awards over the years and has been the scene of various historical events, such as alleged presidential drug taking. It also had more real ales on than any other pub we visited. But I just don't like it. There are not enough staff and some of those who do work there are pretty surly. Beer quality was unspectacular too, although it wasn't their fault that the Guinness Red some of our party bought was crap! The braziers in the yards are recommended though.
Next stop was Far From The Madding Crowd. This is a converted shop in an alleyway by Borders bookshop. The pub reminded me a little of an estate pub but with a classy beer range. A lot of people ate here but I did that before the pubs opened so I enjoyed a number of different beers, with the best being Hadrian & Border Tall Ships. The beer range and condition here was arguably the best of the pubs I managed to get to on the day.
Next we visited Eagle & Child, a pub famous for being the hangout of Tolkein, Lewis and some of their contemporaries. The pub is bigger than expected, and the beer range poorer. Most of us ordered Cains Dragon Heart, although we didn't all get it, as it ran out after just a few halves being poured.
Our next pub was just over the busy St Giles road. Lamb & Flag is a nice clean pub, appearing more modern inside than you would expect. Rare for this area are beers from Palmers and Skinners. Although unspectacular these beers were in reasonable form and the pub was spacious enough and quiet enough for most of us to sit together.
Sadly though, this was to be my last pub as the last bus home was calling me. Some of the others were lucky enough to do another few pubs and make plans for a further meet up later in the year. Looking forward to that one already!
I thoroughly enjoyed the day. It's always nice to meet up with old friends and make new ones. As I said a couple of times during the day: "beer people are nice people", and even though no beers were great that didn't seem to matter.