You've got a new job and just got paid, so what's the first thing you do? Go drinking of course. This tasting report comes in two parts. The first is a small crawl in Oxford, the second a visit to the local Wine Merchants.
The first stop of any crawl in Oxford should be the Hobgoblin. I'm not saying it's the best pub there, but if not it's pretty darn close.
First beer is from the Swansea Brewery Deep Dark Slade, whilst sounding like a cheap adult movie if a very dark 4% beer. The head itself though is surprising light, almost white in fact. There was little aroma, but that could well be that I had a cold. It contains a sharp, hoppy flavour mellowing very little in the aftertaste.
Next on the pumps we have West Berkshire March Hare. 4.6% and a light copper colour. A thin tight head and an initially grapefruit citrus taste. A short lasting aftertaste with hops overtaking the citrus flavour.
Oakham Ales Black Hole Porter makes the last of the list tried in the Hobgoblin. Smooth, dark and with a rich roast malt and caramel flavour this 5.5% full bodied porter has a sweet and creamy aftertaste.
Next stop is the Turf, known to locals as 'That crowded little place where you have to elbow the students and tourists to get anywhere near the bar'. A round of brews and sharp elbows later and we got a table.
Titanic Brewery New World at 4.4% is an absolutely gorgeous beer, but don't let me bias you here. Sweet and with an almost sticky taste, this dark gold beer has a very pleasant citrus aftertaste. Definitely one of the best beers of the day.
Hall & Woodhouse (I refuse to call it Badger) Tanglefoot is a classic. 5.1% of pear drop goodness. Slightly toffee and very smooth in flavour drying gently in the aftertaste. This is way too drinkable for its strength.
Archers Golden. Golden by name, golden by nature, but not as cheesy as that saying. Very light golden colour in fact, initially hoppy smoothing out to a delicate balance of malt and hops.
Gales H.S.B. A toffee aroma leading to a gentle toffee taste balanced with a slight hoppiness. Toffee coloured with a gentle caramel aftertaste fading to a subtle maltiness in the aftertaste.
A swift crawl to the other side of the town and a visit to Harveys for sarnies. Located near the coach station they are probably the best sandwiches available in Oxford, although get there earlier in the day than we did as they tend to run out of fillings. I personally recommend the roast beef and horseradish pitta.
Round the corner and into Far From The Madding Crowd where a surprise awaited. It was full. This pub hasn't been open all that long but has built up a very good reputation for itself. A full range of six or seven ales were available compared to the two I was expecting, but then I was also expecting to be able to find a seat somewhere.
Burton Bridge Brewery Festival Ale at 5.5% is a dark golden to light copper colour with a sweetly malty brew. It was also at this point that I started losing my vowels. Sweet toffee caramel aftertaste fading to hoppiness then to a gentle lingering malty taste.
Last stop was the Three Goats Heads. Nestled down a side street this is one of Oxfords' hidden gems. A Samuel Smiths pub, so you have to like Samuel Smiths beers. It's also not the cheapest of pubs. Normally Sam Smiths can be relied on for their policy of not charging stupid prices for their brews, but a bottle of Oatmeal Stout leaves a £3 gap in your pocket.
The beer itself, Samuel Smiths Oatmeal Stout is very, very nice. A slight flavour of cinder toffee and gentle hints of porridge give no impression into how unique the Oatmeal Stout is. Smooth, nutty and malty with a creamy, smooth aftertaste. Lingering notes of toffee and nuts make this a very unique, but well worth seeking beer. Oatmeal stout itself is seeming to be making a comeback at the moment with a few different breweries starting to produce some. If you see it, try it.
Saturday, home made lasagne, stand up comedy on the telly and a visit to S.H. Jones in Banbury for a selection of bottles.
Heather Brewery - Kelpie - 4.4%
Dark in colour, light in substance with a full savoury body, good with curry!
Light slightly sweet and gentle floral aroma. Seaweed and slightly liquorice in flavour.
Gentle, subtle, nice but I've no idea why.
Heather Brewery - Grozet - 5%
Light aroma of gooseberry, slightly sweet floral aroma and taste.
Crispy, fruity, bouncy. I don't get any more articulate than that.
Light, slightly violet flavour with little aftertaste.
Heather Brewery - Fraoch - 5%
Light and floral with an earthy, almost orangey taste.
Makes my tongue tingle (I've been informed that's the bottle/carbon thing) Definitely flowers, I can even understand where the heather taste comes from.
O'Hanlons - Organic Rye Beer - 5%
Very lively and cloudy. A gentle malty flavour mellowing into subtle hop balance leading to a predominant malt aftertaste.
Cloudy amber beer with a sweet slightly caramel taste.
Very different from the others; flowers and fruit giving way to a more overpowering taste arriving later than expected. First beer with a sediment. Cloudy too. How observant.
Otter - Claus - 5%
Smells very citrusy, bland malty taste. A bit blah!
Rich malt and barley flavour. Dark copper/brown colour. Slight bitter male aftertaste.
Umm, don't know what to say really. The taste disappears fairly quickly and slips down quite easily without troubling the palette too much. I also can't let this opportunity go by to not mention lasagne... Mmm... lasagne...
Moorhouse - Pendle Witches Brew - 5.1%
Roast toffee flavour. Sweet leading to a floral hoppy, almost whiskey flavour.
Dark caramel flavour but with a crisp edge that stops it being too sickly. Tastes its strength.
It's definitely growing on me...
Ringwood - Old Thumper - 5.6%
Copper coloured with a tart citrus and hoppy with a balanced hop malt aftertaste.
Light but malty in taste. Doesn't taste its strength. Slightly toffee flavoured with a hint of chocolate, but that could be the Fruit & Nut.
I'm not very good at these description thingies am I? Ah well, practise makes perfect, I'm sure.