Friday at the Ox

Another weekend, another festival at the New Oxford. A Friday session was agreed in order to beat the marauding hordes of Saturday scoopers. And because all the best beers tend to have gone by then. Despite a 30 min wait for my bus, I managed to secure a table and awaited the arrival of my fellow imbibers.

If I had been keeping score (which I wasn’t), I would say that the mean average was definitely higher than the last festival. There weren’t any real shockers and all the beers were drinkable, or better. I’m not sure you can extrapolate too much from this-my theory was that, looking at the bar, there were simply more beers from established breweries. Thankfully, nothing from Tandleman’s nemesis, Wooden Hand. Probably most disappointing was the mysterious Shedded Brewery, with its Right Shed Fred (4%) which was thin and bland.

Much better were Glenworth Ice Magnet (4.5%) which was nice and refreshing, and Tigertops Castlemaine Stout (4.5%) which had a satisfying chewy texture. Acorn Sun Strom (sic), weighing in at 4.8% was pretty good, and Okells also delivered the goods with its 4% Chequered Flag. I also liked Elland Summerbreeze (5%), whilst the Belgium import Alvinne Lex-Ke (6.3%) tasted exactly like a Belgium wheat beer. Which is not surprising, I suppose. Beer of the festival was Dunham Massey Chocolate Cherry Mild, which was a ruby coloured 3.8% little beauty. Lovely cherry textures, with a delicate chocolate undercurrent, leading to a very pleasant almond-bitter finish. Definitely one to watch out for.

By now we were all feeling the munchies. My bus delay had prevented me from stopping off en route and as we had nearly exhausted the offerings-no one was willing to gamble on the Allgates-we decided to move on. The Crescent seemed a good option, being not too far away and there being a chance of some butties available. Alas, the bar was bereft of food and I was surprised to see that the beer choice was somewhat depleted as well. I know the students have finished for the summer, but apart from a small, noisy, birthday bash, the place seemed much quieter than it should be for a Friday night. It could also do with a little TLC. All the handpumps in the backroom were out of action, so I went for Roosters Special off the main bar, This proved adequate, if unexceptional, in terms of quality.

It was time to move again and we jumped on a bus to take us back into the centre. Here I introduced my companions to the delights of Hunters and their rice and three. Although it has now reached the dizzy heights of £3.95, it’s still a great place for a meal fix. Of course, it was too late to physically help with our alcohol intake, but psychologically it’s a real boost. Being right in the heart of the N/4, the world was our cloister, and we decided on the English Lounge for a farewell pint. Sadly, this was something of a disappointment. All the beer was warm. Not something you expect at 10pm on a Friday night. Luckily, the Copper Dragon wasn’t actually bad, and being a London veteran of warm beer, I managed to drink mine. As did Pythagoras. Archimedes struggled gamely on before admitting defeat. Although I must admit, warm Hobgoblin is not the most appealing of beers.

Then it was tram time back to Bury. Here, just time for a nightcap in the Trackside. I plumped for Acorn Palisade IPA (5%) which I’d sampled the day before. I’ve been very impressed with Acorn’s range of single hop IPA’s-Chinook and Cluster have both been very good. Palisade is (yet another) new American hop to me. A good bittering hop, I’d guess, as it’s not the citrus fest we’ve come to expect with a lot of these. It was spicy and bitter on the palate, with a good long finish. A very satisfying end to an enjoyable Friday session


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