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.

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