County Stat Attack Week 26 - Buckinghamshire

The fickled finger of fate brings us back to Home Counties territory this week with the commuter county of Buckinghamshire. To the north of Greater London, it is a landlocked county bordered by many counties. Allegedly named after an Anglo Saxon Landowner Bucca who’s land was around the now county town of Buckingham. As a county it was formed as a sub division of Mercia but has history stretching to Brythonic and Roman periods. Buckinghamshire has always played an important part in English politics particularly during the English Civil War. Buckingham itself is a relatively small town, the largest in the area are Milton Keynes, High Wycombe, Aylesbury, Amersham and Chesham.

The county is split into 2 geographical areas, to the south is the Chiltern Hills along with the Thames Valley and to the North and East is the Vale of Aylesbury which is the catchment area for the River Great Ouse.

On Ratebeer we have a total of 26 Breweries with 17 currently active and 9 sadly closed. Of these just 3 are Commissioner / Client Brewers.

The oldest Brewery we have on Ratebeer are Chiltern Brewery of Aylesbury (Est 1980), a relative newcomer. The oldest established brewery I could find was a Brewery called Amersham Wellers Brewery Established in 1771 at Mop End in Amersham based on 2 pubs The Saracens Head and The Old Griffin. A Malthouse was built in Broadway in 1783 and further pubs added as the brewery became established. The brewery grew and became an important part of Amersham, establishing the local Fire Service in the process. The last of the Weller family line died in 1929 and the brewery was bought and immediately closed by Benskins of Watford. The buildings were finally demolished in 1976 for redevelopment.

The Brewery with the largest range of beers in Buckinghamshire is XT Brewing of Long Crendon (Est 2011) with 278 beers currently including their Animal Range with seemingly new offerings on a weekly basis.

The only Ratebeer award for 2020 was made for Best Brewer which was to XT Brewing.

The Top 10 beers for Buckinghamshire are –

  1. XT XPA
  2. XT 9 Black Velvet
  3. XT 99 Roast Cacao
  4. Animal / Elephant School Saison Dark
  5. Animal / Moogbrew Bastard Bunny Brew Ha Ha R
  6. XT 5 American Amber
  7. XT 14 Saison
  8. Animal Hop Kitty
  9. Chiltern Bodgers Barley Wine
  10. Aylesbury The Third Switch R

The Top Pubs / Bars in Buckinghamshire are –

  1. Brewery Shop Emporium High Wycombe (Mad Squirrel) – 87
  2. Heidrun, High Wycombe – 84
  3. Royal Standard of England, Forty Green – 81
  4. White Horse, Hedgerley – 81
  5. Royal Standard, Wooburn Common – 77
  6. Brewdog, Milton Keynes – 77

The Top 5 Raters of Beers from Buckinghamshire are –

  1. @imdownthepub
  2. @Theydon_Bois
  3. @Fin
  4. @berkshirejohn
  5. @fonefan

You will require 26 ratings of beers from Buckinghamshire to get into the top 50.

The Top Rater who resides in Buckinghamshire is –
@Theydon_Bois who, happily is still an active user.

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Another neighbouring county, always the bridesmaid! For a county that is next door, so to speak, I have done very little over the border, despite my lofty top position on most beers. I’ve walked across it doing The Ridgeway, surprisingly pleasant countryside and views, nice country pubs on the way. I’ve done a few nearby to home pubs, not many though and I’ve done Wycombe recently(ish). Adams Park seeing Blues win in the FA Cup was a good day out. I always think I could visit a little more but there is always something more pressing to do and getting there on public transport seems excessively steep for some reason. I avoid MK like the plague and Aylesbury is somewhat tricky to get to these days, excuses, excuses.

As mentioned before, I do hold the top position for the county with 394 beers, heavily helped by the constant availability of XT beers in Oxford and locally, in fact XT are my largest holding of beers totally, of any brewery. There are always new beers available from them around here and quite often are the only new game in town, if there is lots of choice then I tend to veer elsewhere. Buckinghamshire is my 17th highest county in terms of numbers averaging 3.24. Three of us are equal top of the number of breweries, all with 18.

The Bucks Breweries I have had most beers from are –

  1. XT Brewing – 156
  2. Vale Brewery - 91
  3. Aylesbury Brewery (Closed) – 37
  4. Rebellion Beer Co – 36
  5. Oxfordshire Ales (Closed) – 25

Of all the beers I have tried in Bucks I only have 2 beers I have marked 4 or over, my best are –

  1. XT BB12 – 4.2
  2. Oxfordshire Harvest Moon Stout – 4.1
  3. Vale Black Swan – 3.9
  4. XT 9 Black Velvet – 3.9
  5. Aylesbury Channel Surfing – 3.9
  6. Animal Bleet – 3.9

My Buckinghamshire Breweries with the highest averages are –

  1. Chiltern Brewery – 3.35
  2. Aylesbury Brewhouse – 3.316
  3. Fishers Brewing – 3.3
  4. Vale Brewery – 3.276

I have only managed to review a lowly 10 places in Buckinghamshire and the ones worth highlighting are –

  1. Heidrun, High Wycombe – 82
  2. Brewery Shop Emporium High Wycombe (Mad Squirrel) – 80
  3. Bootlegger (Closed), High Wycombe – 80
  4. Hop Pole Inn, Aylesbury – 78

I feel a little awkward about being slightly indifferent about a neighbouring county, however, we haven’t done Northants yet!

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I used to know bits of Buckinghamshire well, in 1970 I joined the RAF and spent two years at RAF Halton learning my trade. The pubs of Wendover and Aylesbury seeing me and my wages each week. Anything left and we would get the train into London.

Not really been back much since. My son lived in Beaconsfield for three years, we visited him a few times and I’ve been to watch Grimsby Town at Wycombe three or four times over the years. Add to that some meetings at RAF Strike Command HQ just outside Wycombe (usually staying overnight) and driving through on the M40, Buckinghamshire is ‘done’.

I’ve had 32 beers from the county on RateBeer (@3.17), no Cider, Mead or Sake; it’s 40th in my English county league table, so well down towards the bottom. My Premium ran out yesterday, so don’t know where 32 beers gets me on the Top Leader Board for the county?

Top Beers
Rebellion Roasted Nuts
Rebellion Black
Rebellion White
XT 8 Dark Roast
Blackened Sun Crossover
All those beers are on 3.6.

Top Brewery Totals
Rebellion 9
Vale 8
XT 6
Marshall Rock & Roll 3
No really decent average scores to talk about.

Only 3 place reviews, all from one game at Wycombe in April 2018 where we met up with Colin (@Theydon_Bois) for a few wets before the match. Heidrun was also visited, but as they were having a power cut and had no keg beers available I thought it unfair to post a review. I’ve also visited the lovely ‘Royal Standard of England’, no idea why I didn’t review it. I see it in loads of television programmes too (Morse/Lewis, etc, etc)!
My 3 Place Reviews
Brewery Shop Emporium High Wycombe (Mad Squirrel)
Falcon (JDW)
Bootlegger (CLOSED)

Almost forgot (easy to do); been to watch Grimsby Town against the Franchised Scum a couple of times but didn’t spend any time in a MK pub.

Buckinghamshire isn’t a beer destination for me and we rarely see any cask beers from there up here in Shropshire, hence the fairly low beer rate totals for me. So I will pass ‘The Buck’ onto the next poster!

<*))))))><

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I’ll take that Buck, and pass it immediately on, as I have zero RB rates from the county (now one of only two in the same state) - rarely see any to be honest, the odd Animal beer maybe over the years. It’s a county I know very little about, and can’t say I recall any visits over the years - just zooming through on the M1 or M40 on the way to some other part of the country.

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Have you noticed the Red Kites when on the M40 @reidyboy ?

They start to appear near the Stokenchurch Junction.

<*))))))><

They have followed the M40 upwards and we are beginning to get them here, much to the resident Buzzard’s discontent, I’m wondering if they get pushed out by the immigrants?

10 rates from me. 4 XT 3 Vale 2 Animal and 1 Brewdog collab with Blackened Sun. But top of my list is Vale’s Red Kite just to keep the thread coherent! I rated it 3.7 but most others took a different view. I suspect I will drink a Shropshire beer before I have another Bucks one.

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I think they were introduced on purpose a few years ago, to see if they’d flourish and they certainly have. We have even stopped off and had a picnic in Stokenchurch (on the green there) to watch them.

<*))))))><

I’ve been way behind on these the past month or so … either busy or counties I’ve had little experience of but felt obliged to chime for my home county of residence.

Bucks ticks aren’t easy to come by for most as it’s probably one of or the biggest cask county in terms of acquiring rates … and not so many breweries to do so at that!

I moved here just under 5 years ago and the beer scene in Wycombe suddenly came good … Hiedrun and Mad Squirrel both opened within weeks of me moving here (I had been drinking in Wycombe for over a year prior to this as my girlfriend lived there for some time).

Before those two opened the Bootlegger opposite the station was very much first choice and was an excellent venue … at it’s prime (2015 time) it had perhaps 10 or 12 cask lines and up to 20 keg taps allied to a wall of beer fridges … perhaps 150 or so different choices to hit at.

They also began to brew their own stuff at this point but this lasted perhaps 6 months or so.

They then got a wake up call when the two new boys arrived … one thing that narked most people about the Bootlegger was the poor service … inattentive and surly from an ever changing host of disinterested under 20’s … I was even once threatened to be barred by one who had short changed me by £2 and it was … not his fault !

So going back to Bucks ticks being very much a cask domain … I was probably on track to have overtaken Glen as top rater of Bucks some time in the 2nd half of last year but a couple of things have completely stunted my progress.

1.) The Bootlegger got taken over around June ’ 19 and my regular outlet for Bucks cask ticks completely dried up … I could probably guarantee half a dozen or more a month popping in after work but they just killed their cask range to a couple of GK tied offerings and rather strangely Goffs (of Gloucestershire) !

2.) Fishers brewery closed … my other main outlet for Bucks ticks. Just when they had started to get better IMHO and produce more beers they decided to quit at the start of lockdown (which kind of made sense) but seems they must have been struggling before then.

3.) Lockdown … as I’ve stated … Bucks is cask county … Lockdown = limited and far less cask rate with much lower output and less specials / one offs being produced.

Going forward I’m looking forward to revisiting the town centre in the coming weeks.

The once mighty Bootlegger has now reopened (it did literally one or two weeks before the pre Xmas lockdown - not had chance to visit yet) … as the Slate Cottage.

It’s a Wells tied house offering their in house craft range … I’m not expecting much but I’ll stick my head in over the coming weeks.

And that’s a summary of my Bucks … not so much fizz !

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They are down here in Surrey now and seem to have got as far as north Hants as well.

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They’re all over Hazlemere / Widmer End where I live.

On a summers afternoon / early evening you can see as many as 15 or more in the sky at any one time.

Recall last summer we were in the back garden having a BBQ when there was a large clunk outside … stuck my head round the gate to investigate and a red kite had dropped a chicken carcass on someones car bonnet … queue a swarm of 7 or 8 kites fighting for said carcass and one grabbed it and flew off towards the tree line.

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No co-incidence I reckon, they heard you were moving in!

There was a time when @Fin and I were battling it out for top spot in both Bucks and Worcs. Fin could get the Aylesbury beers easily and me the XT and Vale. It was a tough old battle at the time.

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It was uncanny … Heidrun opened 10 days after I moved here and MS a week or so later.

I recall at the time that the owner of the Bootlegger had a petition going to STOP the Mad Squirrel bar … realising the competition.

I believe to this day they don’t hold a full licence which is why they close at 2200 … some kind of easier to get licence as initially they couldn’t sell wines or spirits … which they do stock now.

Not sure many signed it tbh … and I can’t even recall the main gripe of it … just to do with the hours and stating it’s not a proper pub !

Funny that one of the bar managers during Bootleggers boom years is now the GM at Heidrun !

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I noticed I was just off the leadership board for Bucks and was planning to order a few beers. However the choice was between twiggy stuff from Chiltern and Old Luxters so I’ve just never bothered. I would be interested to try some Blackened Sun beers but they just don’t seem to have wide distribution.

21 beers from 6 breweries:

XT – 11 (quite often on in pubs around here)
MoogBrew – 4
Fishers/Rebellion – 2
Chiltern/Malt – 1

Four beers scoring 3.5+:

image

I have drunk in Bucks twice in me pre-RB days:

  1. Working in Aylesbury for a couple of days. Drove into the town centre with my colleague and we were both dismayed at how dead and rundown it looked. Booked tickets to watch a later showing of the Alan Partridge film, found a curry house and then had a couple of pints in the King’s Head.

  2. Went to a wedding at Old Luxters Barn. I remember the food being good and they at least had their own beers in bottles and Lovibonds on tap. So for old time’s sake I have been thinking of order some Old Luxters beers but then better beer options then come up.

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@BlackHaddock can’t say as I’ve ever noticed the Red Kites to be honest - have seen parachutists a number of times down that way, but no idea where, somewhere between Banbury and London, so covering a few counties there no doubt, geography fail!

My home county at last! I’ve lived in the Red Kite State for about 20 years, and used to be the highest rater living in the county until the all-conquering Theydon_Bois arrived. It’s my third highest-rated county with 136 rates, putting me 6th in the league table for Bucks rates.

As with several counties, my Bucks ratings slowed up once I hit the darkest blue of 100 rates - focused on other counties after that.

My highest-rated Bucks beers are:
Fisher’s Smoked Porter 4.3
XT 10 Stout 4.2
Rebellion Winter Royal 4.1
Rebellion Swashbuckler 3.9

…followed by a host of beers on 3.8.

I’ve rated beers from 16 breweries and one cidery (of which 7 are sadly closed). At one point I did have every brewery in the county, but have failed to keep up with the new ones opening in recent years (especially the ones at the MK end of the county). I’ve had most beers from Rebellion (41), XT (23) and Chiltern (18). My highest rated brewery (5 rates or more) is XT, with an average score of 3.4.

I’ve rated 21 places, of which my favourites that are still open are The Royal Standard of England in Forty Green, along with Heidrun and Mad Squirrel in Wycombe. The Bootlegger was my highest rated of all in the county at one point, but it went badly downhill in the final years before it closed (it was starting to deteriorate even before Heidrun & Mad Squirrel turned up). I was particularly impressed with the service at the Royal Standard - the first time we booked they said they didn’t officially do kids meals, but promised to sort something out - when we got there, the chef came out and said to my daughter he’d cook her anything she wanted and just asked her to name her favourite meal - and then added lots of fun little touches for her.

Aside from beer, Buckinghamshire is quietly very scenic in the Chilterns part of it (shame about the Aylesbury and MK parts…). I’ve really come to appreciate the hills and valleys around Wycombe due to all the extra walking I’ve been doing in lockdown. Particular highlights to recommend to visitors would be:

  • West Wycombe Park, caves & church (home of the notorious Hellfire Club - there’s some very interesting stories here.
  • Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital (apparently the busiest wildlife hospital in the world - does a roaring trade in fixing broken red kites, and is a really friendly place to visit.
  • The views from the monument at Coombe Hill near Wendover, along with Ivinghoe Beacon near Tring are pretty impressive.
  • Hughenden Park - home to WWII Bomber Command’s secret HQ.

The highest point in the county is Haddington Hill in Wendover Woods at 267m - there’s no views, but there is a big rock marking the highest point in the Chilterns. As well as climbing the hills, I’ve doen quite a lot of the long distance paths in the county. The Milton Keynes Boundary Walk was a bit of a slog, but all the other ones I’ve done have been great - I have fond memories of the Ridgeway, the North & South Bucks Ways, the Beeches Way, the Chess Valley Walk and the Thame Valley Walk. It really is a lovely area for walking.

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My only real experience with Bucks has been in the north of the county, as I lived in Bedfordshire and worked in Milton Keynes for about 8 years. Actually it’s fair to say that to me, Bucks is MK and the surrounding area (I was always tempted to visit Aylesbury but never got that far south).

Milton Keynes used to be awful – I mean laughably awful – for beer choice. When I worked there (left in 2014) there was a Wetherspoons, a Wetherspoons, a Wetherspoons and another Wetherspoons, and a Slug & Lettuce where you could get London Pride. It’s still behind the times for a town of its size, but at least they’ve got a Brewhouse & Kitchen (one of the former JDWs) and BrewDog (another of the former JDWs) as well as a proper micropub in Wolverton now. I’ve heard of a couple independent pubs on the outskirts doing more interesting stuff but COVID has put paid to my visiting.

I have 34 beers from Buckinghamshire, enough to put me at 40th on the leaderboards. I used to be higher but moving away from the area means that I just don’t see Bucks beers that often (all but 4 of my rates were from 2018 or before). The beer is from 10 breweries (7 active, 3 defunct), the most popular being XT (15), the now defunct Hopping Mad (6) and Vale (5). Top Beers are:

Hopping May Balmy Days 4.2
Brewhouse & Kitchen (Milton Keynes) Boston Pale 3.6
Vale One Ton Morris 3.5
Animal Oink 3.5
XT 17 Single Hop Series Citra 3.5

So not a great list, topped by a very early rate and a B&K beer, but it is what it is.

I’ve found 21 places worth rating in my travels in the area. I think Bucks is the only county where I’ve rated the same site three times (as a JDW, Draft House and BrewDog respectively). The top places that are still open (to my knowledge anyway) are:

Lamb, Stoke Goldington 78
MK Biergarten, Wolverton 78
BrewDog Milton Keynes 78
Wetherspoons, Milton Keynes (JDW) 74

It speaks to Milton Keynes’ lack of history that they have a Wetherspoons just called Wetherspoons. I guess they could have named it the Wibbas Down Inn, after the one in Wimbledon.

I’d like to become more acquainted with other parts of the county such as High Wycombe but it’s an awkward area to get to, and to be honest if I’m after more Bucks rates I’ll take the easy route hit some of the newer places in MK.

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Hey, @BeardedAvenger Chiltern are ok I know that they do their fair share of twiggy stuff as they are a very traditional brewery, however recent years have seen them put out a few Impy Stouts and occasionally other stuff that may interest you. In fact, the Imperial Stout Export is available on the website at the moment and I think that it’s pretty good, it has seven reviews all of them between 3.6 - 3.8 and all pretty big reviewers as well, I gave it the lowest rating but I am a little tight so 3.6 for me is a very decent beer. I used to visit the brewery and shop at Terrick quite often and cannot believe that I am still the highest rater. Almost all of my ratings are between 3.0 - 3.6 and I think that I need to rate a few of them again, particularly the Bodgers Barley Wine, which on subsequent ratings is better than the 3.2 I gave it in my early days. It’s weird that now I have been away from the UK I have a real craving for a bitter or golden, even something on the twiggy side, I love the beers here in Germany and I like the fact that their drinking culture generally favours sessionable beers like the UK, but I am still missing a great pint of best bitter.

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I used to love our battles for Worcs and Bucks, I think that if I were still there I would keep you and Colin on your toes, however I think that you two would have been out in front regardless, I noticed that my Bucks ratings had started dropping off before I moved away. I used to spend a couple of days a week in Aylesbury for work and once or twice a month in High Wycombe, and would have a swift half on my way home, but to my dismay the Hop Pole (where Aylesbury Brewhouse used to brew) had started to drop off in 2018 in terms of the choice of beers brewed on site, I have only just noticed on here that they ceased brewing last year, I am not surprised.

I also used to go to the XT monthly beer nights every so often and liked them, they were nice guys and they would really could knock out some decent stuff from time to time. But Colin is completely right, Bucks is very much a cask county, I think it’s a pretty decent cask county but I can well imagine that the choice of Bucks beers in the last 12 months has been pitiful.

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