Sing Hosanna! Another beer bar has opened up in Oxford!
And what a flippin’ treat it is too…
Me and my old china – The Greggster – went there Wednesday night. We were long overdue a night out for a few ales and tales…and, after loads of people at work had bombarded me with links to an article in the Oxford Times – trumpeting The Pint Shop’s opening, a trip there seemed more than appropriate…
And weirdly, it wasn’t that busy when we arrived on a nondescript Wednesday evening in mid-September, but The Pint Shop has only been open a couple of days, so it’s no surprise (their original Cambridge bar being open a great deal longer).
But before long, I fully expect The Pint Shop to be rammed to gunwhales with discerning Oxford drinkers and attracting some of the frothy-‘tached hipster crowd from Beerd, a couple of doors down.
Having two decent* beer bars in the same street plays well for us drinkers – meaning that both outfits need to stay at the top of their game to retain their custom by stocking the freshest and widest range of quality beer.
(*note the eschewance of the word craft? It’s getting old hat…and even Greene King call some of their beers “craft” now, so it’s now rendered the term pretty redundant)
It’s a nice set-up when you get inside The Pint Shop, their style blows away the seemingly-now-passe craft-beer/rock-bar schtick and instead mines a rich seam of late 70’s/early 80’s “comprehensive school” chic: enamel light shades and flip-top-desk-beech furniture with bare floor-boards lend it that sort of feel. I liked it a lot…mind you I was at school in those years, so I would wouldn’t I?
And guess what else I liked a lot? The beer selection. Holy crikey – check out the picture above. That’s a range and a half, isn’t it?
Gregg wasn’t sure what to order when we arrived and visibly reeled and buckled at the knees under the weight of choice; eventually, after expressing a need for “something with lots of hops in it”, he settled on the Everyday IPA from the Nene Valley brewery. It was perky and sessionable and delivered hops by the shovelful.
As I’m currently on a sours kick I went for the Mangoes Crazy for Peaches Berliner Weiss from Beerbliotek – which was just what I was after: pleasantly seltzery with just enough acidity to pucker, it sat nicely on my (very empty) stomach and sharpened my appetite for dinner later.
Then the lights at our table started dimming and brightening…
It was imperceptible first, but then became weirdly rhythmical: one minute we were starkly lit by bare element bulbs, the next we were in plunged into an other-worldly gloaming…it was all very odd, until a chap appeared next to us and apologized – explaining that they were trying to get the lighting right and they’d be done fiddling about soon.
We said we didn’t mind, as the beer was good and were wondering what to have next…so the lighting man introduced himself as Rich and explained that he was one of the co-owners and, what sort of thing were we looking for next?
I mentioned that I did a bit of reviewing and I’d be doing a small piece on the site and that I was driving but I did so like the look of the Hoog and Droog (a Pint Shop/De Molen collaboration), The Evil Twin Barley Wine Blend, Burning Sky’s Saison a la Provision and the Edge Brewing’s Sangria Sour – but couldn’t have them all, you know, what with the driving and everything…
It was at this point that Rich excused himself only to re-appear moments later bearing all those beers on a tray. We sat and talked further with Rich and tasted all four…
The Hoog and Droog was a solid and beautiful west coast IPA, with a great trailing edge of zesty grapefruit pith. Gregg declared it an excellent beer and one of the best he’d ever had – and believe me he’s had a few in his time, so his opinion is to be respected.
The Sangria Sour was satisfyingly acidic and nicely balanced – I’m guessing it was kettle-soured, as it wasn’t wildly complex in the way that a gueze or flanders red is complex, but it was damn good all the same.
Burning Sky’s Saison a la Provision was an excellent representation of the style and refreshing and tasty in equal measure. I wish I could make my Saison taste that good.
The star of the show was the Evil Twin Barley Wine Blend. My god, it was big (11%) malty, rounded and spicily woodsy; quite bringing to mind bulbous Christmas snifters brimming with Armagnac… I’d never considered brewing a barley wine before, but I might now.
I’m so happy we’ve another decent beer destination in Oxford. The Pint Shop is spacious and well laid-out with a blinding selection of beers. Everyone there is knowledgeable and happy to help.
I haven’t even mentioned the food yet…God, yes, the food. Next time, Jon. Next time.
Get to The Pint Shop as soon as you can, their kegs need emptying as quickly as possible – only so that we can see what other wild and marvelous beers they can get on tap for us…