Just popping down the @pintshop for a pint of…beer

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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…

Fresh! Fresh! Exciting! @WildBeerCo – Fresh (from @beerdoxford)

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Conversation is going ’round
People talking ’bout the beer that’s come to town
Lovely pale ale, pretty as can be
No one knows it’s name it’s just a mystery

I have drunk it maybe once or twice
The one thing I can say is, it’s very nice
It’s an ale, one I really want to know
Somehow I’ve got to let my feeling show

It’s fresh, exciting
It’s so exciting to me
It’s fresh, exciting
It’s so inviting to me, yeah…

Guess who’s getting a massive sue-ball in the face, eh?

Sorry Kool and the Gang…I couldn’t resist it. Tell me to take it down and I will…I just crumple in the face of legal action; and besides, I can trot this sort of shit out all day long…

So, a can of Fresh from The Wild Beer Co. then, how did that happen?

Tuesday night was a-looming and I was planning to pop out for a drink with Dave. Normally we go to local pubs in Dedders, Chippy or The Tews…but for this outing I wanted to go somewhere that was, you know, a bit more craft. And for “craft”, read “somewhere with a choice of beer, that wasn’t just brown

As it was, a little googling revealed that The Grapes in George Street, Oxford has been re-jigged into a new craft beer and pizza joint called “Beerd” (http://beerdoxford.com/), I had a quick shufty at their twitter feed and it seemed like they knew what they were talking about beer-wise, so we duly trundled along.

Beerd reminds me very much of the gig that the Craft Beer Company, Brewdog and others of that ilk run:  it’s clean, slightly retro, impossibly “now”, slightly shabby chic and rammed to gunwhales with bottles and taps and stuff.

I had a RedChurch Boreft Saison, which was beautifully dry and fruity and Saisony and everything that I really wanted it to be. I also had a Siren “Dinner For Ten” Vienna Pale Ale, which was nicely toasty and pleasantly hoppy.  Only thirds of each, so I could drive safely later on.

Remaining sober allowed me to admire the nice selection of beers that Beerd had on while the chap behind the bar stressed that his cellar cooling was being sorted out, so there’d be more beer soon as they’d got loads of kegs and barrels of all different sorts downstairs, all ready to go.

It was during this conversation that I spotted the can of Wild Beer Co. “Fresh” (which, for some reason, I feel like capitalising and adding an exclamation mark to?)

Chap behind the bar said it was FIVE QUID a can, I said that it’s no problem as I’m reviewing it for YIMB and I don’t normally mind paying for decent beer (I cried as I handed the money over, in fact it ended up in a bit of struggle…)

Money safely pocketed, chap said: “I’ve got a keg of Fresh downstairs, which I can put on in an hour or so if you like?”.

Typically of course, I couldn’t stay…an early start for work the next day, etc. you know… he then offered to hold it back for a day or so until I was next able to come in (!) a lovely gesture, but of course with Eve having bagged a swimming the next evening and me also being seriously in debt in terms of nights out due to a week in the US, I had to pass…

But I’m going to follow these folks on twitter and visit them often, as they clearly know what they’re at and seem to have an eye for a nice range of beer.

God, yes! The can! I almost forgot…

Opening with a lively “fssssst”, FRESH! (I did it, see?) pours a gorgeous orange amber with a smart white cap that quickly fizzles off to a slick sea-foam covering.

The aromas that came at me were thick and marmaladey, with frills of citrus and pine around the edges. Weirdly, in the background I picked up a faint roasted note, which rounded the whole thing out nicely.

Taste-wise Fresh (I’ve stopped now) is assertively hoppy, with a whirl of floral, pine and citrus – all underscored by a dryish but solid malt body.

The bitterness comes stampeding in at the end to to knock you about a bit before tapering off at the swallow, leaving you standing there like a cheap Morrissey impersonator clutching bouquets of floral hops for the aftertaste…

I liked this beer a lot, but maybe I would have liked it a shade sweeter – as bitter-sweet works a bit better for me than bitter-dry…but hey, it’s The Wild Beer Co. and they know what they’re at…in fact it might be a more attenuative yeast that’s at play here – making for that drier body…

Either way I can’t wait to try more Wild Beer Co. tackle – and I rather think a fair amount of it may well be sampled at Beerd in Oxford…

Fresh, here: http://www.wildbeerco.com/beers/fresh/

Beerd, here: http://beerdoxford.com/