PRINCE OF WALES – DIDCOT

Prince of Wales
Station Road
Didcot
OX11 7NN

SECOND VISIT: SUNDAY 12 OCTOBER 2014

Thanks to engineering works and rail replacement buses I had no choice but to arrive in Didcot an hour before I needed. Oh, well, nevermind, I could always have a pint in the Prince – it wouldn’t be super-exciting pint but a pint it would be. The cask beer choice was 6X or GKIPA or Everards Tiger. I ordered a pint of Tiger but by the time it was half poured I noticed that the fridge contained cans of Dead Pony Club and Hobo Lager and two or three canned products from Backyard Brewing, which I think is a Carlsberg offshoot. Damn!

The clientele of the pub eem to have split themselves into two camps. Nice family folk head to the left as the enter and the riffraff heads to the right. I sat in the middle. The Tiger was in good condition. I returned to the bar and ordered a plate of Macaroni Cheese and a can of Hobo Lager. The Macaroni Cheese was tasty but not exactly plentiful. The can of Hobo was stuck in my pocket to be consumed at a later date.

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FIRST VISIT: WEDNESDAY 12 MARCH 2014

Prince of Wales

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COMPANY OF WEAVERS – WITNEY

Company of Weavers
Market Square
Witney
OX28 6AD

FIRST VISIT: SUNDAY 24 AUGUST 2014

From the outside it look like a modest little Spoons but as soon once you step inside you realise that it goes back a long way. It goes back even further than I dared venture. And it is very probably the finest looking Spoons that I’ve been in – the planners took their theme and really ran with it. These days if you want to be considered a true ‘craft beer bar’ you have to have cool bespoke lighting. The Company of Weavers has bespoke lighting that out cools every ‘craft beer bar’ I’ve encountered.

Sadly, the draught beer line up wasn’t as cool as the bespoke lighting. I settled on a pint of Prescott Summer Season’s Best, which was actually a lot better than I was expecting. When the pint was gone I returned to the bar to order some food and Sixpoint cans. The order initially went smoothly enough but then my server couldn’t find any decaf coffee. She asked the manager if he knew where it was kept. The manager rummaged around in a cupboard. He then went running off to locate some in the store cupboard. The bar was now getting busy but the manager’s mad decaf dash had let just one person manning the bar. A couple of old geezers beside me began moaning about the wait. The manager returned but he had no decaf. My server apologised and said she’d refund the money to my card. But she isn’t allowed to do refunds so she told the manager to refund the money. The manager finished serving the folk he was dealing with then instead of coming to me he merely asked ‘Who’s next?’ ‘Ummm… I’d like my refund.’ The manager looked a little embarrassed as he processed my forgotten refund. And then he looked even more embarrassed when I had to ask him for the refund receipt. When I got to the bar I was served instantly. It took me ten minutes to get away from it. Bloody decaf drinkers! But I was now armed with a can of Bengali Tiger and a can of The Crisp. And it meant I, theoretically, had less time to wait for the arrival of my Pork Roast, which was plentiful and surprisingly tasty.

Company of Weavers

CATHERINE WHEEL – HENLEY-ON-THAMES

Catherine Wheel
7-15 Hart Street
Henley-on-Thames
RG9 2AR

FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 24 MAY 2014

Hey, it’s a Spoons. And a damned big one too. Big enough to have two bars – one at either end of the building. We went to the left bar first. I bought a pint of The Publican by Societe Brewing Company. I’ve no idea who Societe are but apparently they are from San Diego and they brewed The Publican at, everybody’s favourite collabing with Americans’s brewery, Adnams. The Publican was quite a tasty brew. We left the slightly modern area of the pub and entered the trying to be traditional section. We decided to have something to eat. As is often the case, we settled on a gourmet burger – beef for the lady and a veggie topped with bacon and cheese for me. You can complain about Spoons as much as you want but you can’t really complain about a beer and a burger for a few quid less than a tenner. My girlfriend had almost a whole pint of lemonade left so said instead of getting her another drink I should get two for myself. Double prizes! I was tempted to go for two cans of Bengali Tiger but decided to mix it up a little and go for a can of Sweet Action and can of Bengali. I should’ve got two Tigers.

SHOULDER OF MUTTON – WANTAGE

Shoulder of Mutton
Wallingford Street
Wantage
OX12 8AX

FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 4 JANUARY 2014

I was made aware of the existence of the Shoulder of Mutton by John of Art Brew and Peter of Sherfield Village Brewery when I chatted to them at the Three Brewers Festival in Lyme Regis back in March of 2013… less than 3 weeks later I made my first visit to the Mutton.

From the outside it’s an unassuming boozer. And with no clear sightlines to the interior if it wasn’t for prior knowledge I very much doubt I’d have ventured beyond the outside of the door. But I’m glad I did. Once through the main door you are faced with two choices: left or right. I always head right, which takes you through to the restaurant area, a snug bar and then outside to the beer patio. I’ve never turned left but I assume it takes you into the main bar… perhaps next visit I’ll do as the Village People (almost) suggested and go left. The snug bar is home to a small serving area, two seats and a board that proudly lists that day’s beers. If this was all there was to the Mutton it would be the world’s most perfect micropub. During previous visits I’ve had beer from the likes of Summer Wine, Art Brew, Durham and Siren. And Fuller’s 2012 Vintage. My opening gambit on this visit was a pint of Permanent Revolution from Hopcraft, which packs a decent flavour punch for a 3.5% beer. I followed that up with a pint of Hopcraft’s Monkey Business, which, although certainly not a bad beer, I found it a bit too much of a chewy fruity mouthful for my liking. My final beer of this visit was Durham Brewery’s Benedictus Barley Wine (8.4%). I love Barley Wine. It’s very possibly by favourite beer style. But it also seems to be a style that is too easy to get wrong. Sadly, I had to put Benedictus in the wrong camp as I thought the predominant flavours were plastic and dry grass. Very disappointing.

The Shoulder of Mutton is a great pub and arguably the finest for many miles in any direction. I’m sure I’ll return many times before 2014 is blown. I need to eat there. I need to finish my loyalty card. I need to visit the fantastic second hand books shop that lives a couple of minutes away. And, of course, I need to drink the excellent beers that they sell.