County Stat Attack Week 32 - Oxfordshire

Back down into the Southern part of the country, home to the city of dreaming spires and sandwiched between The River Thames to the South, the Cotswolds to the West, Chilterns to the East and Midlands to the North. Established as a County in the 10th Century but also known as Oxonia in Roman Latin. The county is largely agricultural, it has long been an important food and produce centre for the country, it is also known as a major centre for Education with the oldest Universities in the English speaking world based in Oxford. This has given rise to many high tech industries being based in the county including many of the Motor Sport companies and medical research establishments.
Alfred the Great was born within its current borders, in Wantage.

Oxfordshire contains 3 areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty with The Cotswolds, The North Wessex Downs and The Chilterns. Long distance walks include The Ridgeway National Trail, The Macmillan Way and Oxfordshire Way. The only Football League team within its borders is Oxford United and its 3 sided ground!
The principal cities and towns are Oxford itself followed by Banbury, Abingdon, Bicester, Witney and Didcot.

On Ratebeer we are showing 50 Breweries, 30 currently running and 20 closed. Of these 5 are Client / Commissioner Breweries.

The oldest brewery we have for Oxfordshire is Brakspear of (now) Witney, but more famously of Henley on Thames (Est 1779). Unfortunately the owners of this brewery sold up to Marstons and the brewery closed with production moving to the Wychwood Brewery in Witney. The oldest, largely independent brewery for the county is the atmospheric Hook Norton Brewery based in based in the village of the same name (Est 1849). This is a family owned and run brewery, proud of its traditions, it was initially based in a farm building and remains on the same site, bought by John Harris. From 1859 the brewery began adding to its tied estate with a Beer House in the village, long gone now but in 1869 they added The Pear Tree, next to the Brewery which they still own. They currently have 37 Tied Houses. The largest growth came when a spur to the Railway line linked Hook Norton with Chipping Norton. The Brewery has a steam engine pumping liquor to the top of the 6 storey tower which is still in operation. There are horse drawn drays which still deliver beer occasionally around the village and at shows.

The Ratebeer 2020 awards went to Hook Norton Brewery as Best Brewer. The award for Best Beer went to Wychwood King Goblin (Bottle), controversially! No award was made for new brewery.

The Brewery with the largest range of beers is Hook Norton with 126 beers on Ratebeer.

The Top 10 Beers in Oxfordshire are –

  1. Brakspear Vintage Ale 1999 R
  2. Lovibonds Dark Reserve No.4
  3. Lovibonds Sour Grapes – Barrel Aged
  4. Ushers Tawny Ale R
  5. Lovibonds 69 IPA
  6. Lovibonds Dirty 69
  7. Lovibonds Dark Reserve No.2
  8. Hook Norton Double Stout (Cask)
  9. Compass Berry R
  10. Lovibonds Sour Grapes – Young R

The Top Bars and Pubs for Oxfordshire on Ratebeer are –

  1. Shoulder of Mutton, Wantage – 85
  2. Royal Blenheim (White Horse), Oxford – 83
  3. Cross Keys (Thame), Thame – 81
  4. Hook Norton Brewery, Hook Norton – 81
  5. Tap Social, Oxford Botley – 80
  6. Royal Oak, Wantage – 80
  7. Falkland Arms (Wadworth), Great Tew – 80

There are also a couple of highly rated Bottle Shops in the County –

  1. Westholme Stores, Goring – 86
  2. Kay Gee’s Off Licence, Didcot – 77

The Top 5 Raters of beers from Oxfordshire are –

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

The Rater who resides in Oxfordshire with the most Ratings overall is –
@imdownthepub and yes I’m still going strong!


My knowledge of Oxfordshire, beer or otherwise is pretty uninspiring to be honest. Flown in and out of it from RAF Brize Norton a few times and had a surprise 60th Birthday weekend in Oxford (Dec 2013). Been to one CAMRA Fest in Oxford too, that’s about it.

91 beers rated, no cider, mead or sake from the county has touched my lips although my lowest rating is of that awful Wychwood Snake’s Bite! Those 91 beers put me equal 22nd on the RateBeer Leader Board and the county is 23rd in my own list of English counties (@ a fairly low average score of 3.08).

Hook Norton Double Stout (Cask)
Brakspear Bitter (Bottle)
Wychwood King Goblin (Bottle)

Only nine breweries sampled, all still going; my ratings dominated by two of them.
Wychwood 40
Hook Norton 25
White Horse 9
Brakspear 7

I have also reviewed nine places in Oxfordshire, my top three all being in the county town.
Lamb & Flag (closed)
Royal Blenheim (White Horse)

Fun fact.

My wife organised my surprise 60th and wouldn’t tell me where we were going. First train takes us to Birmingham New Street, I ask her what platform our next train is departing from? She didn’t know. Her not wanting to tell me the destination I then asked her where the next train terminated, so I could find the correct platform? She didn’t know.

As we sat there pondering her next move one of my ex-RAF colleagues who is now a train driver was walking along the concourse. Nelly (the old colleague) and I had a chat before letting Margie (my wife) wander off with him, so he could tell her where our train was going to leave from. Women are funny things at times!



I’ve been waiting for this one it’s my county this week. Naturally, I know this county pretty well having lived here since I was 9 years old. I have been to any number of pubs, beer shops and beer festivals over the years. If there are Oxfordshire beers available I will tend to go for those first if I can.

I have walked just about every long distance path in the county and there certainly are some lovely areas to walk through. Strangely I haven’t done the Thames / Isis path through the county, must put that right, should be a good excuse to visit some lovely pubs at the same time. I played Football and Cricket for local teams, some villages, some in Banbury. Oxford United are the only team in the Football league and I have seen them many times, a mate is a supporter, when my school team won the Schools Oxon, Northants & Bucks junior cup we all had a trial at the old Manor ground. Didn’t go too well for me but we had 2 sign on junior terms and one had a bit of a career.

I have helped organise Banbury and Oxford Beer Festivals, putting in a fair amount of work. Fin & Loz’s Beer Festivals at Merton were all very special, Wantage Beer Festival is very good as well along with all the pub fests, oh how much I am wishing those to return.

I suppose I better do some numbers. I am the top Rater of Oxfordshire beers, as I mentioned before I do seek them out, with 667 beers from the county. These are across 46 different Breweries, top in that list too. Oxfordshire is my 5th highest county in terms of numbers and averages 3.19 per beer.

The Breweries I have had most beers from are –

  1. Hook Norton Brewery – 116
  2. Wychwood Brewery (Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Co.) – 105
  3. White Horse Brewery – 64
  4. Loose Cannon brewery – 47
  5. Loddon Brewery – 37
  6. Church Hanbrewery – 31

I have rated 25 beers with a 4 or over, the best being –

  1. White Horse Black Beauty – 4.5
  2. White Horse Bitter (Cask) – 4.4
  3. Hook Norton Old Hooky (Cask) – 4.3
  4. Hook Norton Flagship (Cask & Bottle: Unfiltered) – 4.3
  5. Hook Norton Twelve Days (Cask) – 4.2
  6. Hook Norton 303AD (Cask) – 4.2

The Oxfordshire Breweries with the highest average are –

  1. Turpin Brewery – 3.64
  2. Oxford Craft Brewery (prev Shotover) – 3.521
  3. Lovibonds Brewery – 3.486
  4. Compass brewery (Closed) – 3.427
  5. Old Forge Brewery (Closed) – 3.367

I have reviewed 125 places in Oxfordshire, surprisingly not my highest county as that is now North Yorkshire after a recent holiday blitz. However my favourite pub of all is in Oxfordshire, presumably because I am known and always get a great welcome, it is my real ‘local’ if you like. My favourites are –

  1. Rose & Crown, Charlbury – 96
  2. Shoulder of Mutton, Wantage – 84
  3. Pint Shop, Oxford (Closed) – 84
  4. Bailiff’s Tap, Banbury (Possibly Closed) – 84
  5. White Lion, Fewcott – 80
  6. Lamb & Flag, Oxford (Closed) – 80
  7. Brewdog, Oxford St. Clements – 80
  8. Apothecary Tap, Banbury – 80

Oxford pubs have had a disastrous time over recent years, high rents, buildings owned by Universities and run by accountants have decimated the better pubs until it is hardly worth touring now and those that are left are charging exorbitant amounts for the beer just to try and cope. High tourist levels mean the remaining pubs don’t have to try with beer ranges they just sell the lowest cost beer at the highest prices. Craft beer is now to be found out of the centre of Oxford in areas like St. Clemence, although towns like Bicester still haven’t cottoned on.

Despite this, I love living here and hope to keep adding to my Oxfordshire total as much as I can, you never know, one day I could get it to 1,000.


I am not really an Oxford man, and so far the beer hasn’t swayed me, even though the county has more scenic parts than its Cambridge rival. My meagre sample of 21 beers has yielded an unimpressive average of 3.08 with nothing persuading me to score above 3.4. Dragging down the scores are 6 Wychwood and 5 Hook Norton although to be fair I was happy enough with the King Goblin from the first and a couple of collabs from the second and I also have memories of drinking a lot of Old Hooky in my time. My time in the county has mainly been spent in the colleges where the cellars are better stocked with claret than craft beers (this needs to change!). They have also yielded two of my favourite academic anecdotes. The first concerns the regulations governing examinations, which were not revised as often as they should have been. As a result one smart-arse arrived at the exam hall and demanded his flagon of ale as per the statutes. Fortunately, college staff had the statutes to hand and their riposte was to tell him that he risked exclusion from the examination since he was not wearing his sword. Nor doublet and hose for that matter. The second is less complicated. Staff at Jesus College are warned that there will be prank callers around the Xmas season. “Hello, is that Jesus?” Yes. “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…” With jokes like these I have driven generations of students to drink.


Nice write-up as ever! really good information.

Google maps have the Bailffs Tap as permanently closed and whilst I am not familiar with Facebook, I did check and there haven’t been any updates for nigh on a year, so looks like it is a loss to the local scene.

Oxfordshire is another one of my poorly performing counties with 39 rates, nowhere near enough to get on the top 50 leaderboard. Not sure why this is. Maybe because it’s never been that close to anywhere I’ve lived (well, sorta close to Bedford I guess), and maybe because I’ve not found many Oxfordshire breweries to get excited about. Really shocked by my Top 5 beers until I realised that three (guess which three) were made within my first 3 months of rating beer:

I’ve also only tried beer from nine breweries, the most being Wychwood (15), Hook Norton (7) and Tap Social (6).

Now here’s a really sad statistic: I’ve rated nine Oxfordshire places, five of which are closed! However I have great memories of an Oxford pub crawl organised by @imdownthepub in 2017, especially the now-defunct University Club Oxford and the Tap Social Brewpub which I’d never have discovered on my own. The non-closed Oxfordshire places are as follows:

Still lots I would like to do in Oxfordshire when I get the chance. I’d like to see Oxford again, as I could certainly pick up a handful of rates (and it’s a nice place to spend an afternoon). Maybe visit the Hook Norton brewery and visit a couple of the surrounding pubs. Hit the little towns & villages with just a one or two good pubs each, but combined could be a could day/weekend/holiday…


Not always a guide Fin … brewers / pubs on FB can be quite lapse and lazy … you often find accounts set up and pretty active for a period then they just drop off in terms of interest/input.

For instance I visited Gadds brewery tap in Broadstairs/Ramsgate on Saturday … the last update on their FB page was July 17th 2020 … it was alive and kicking I’m happy to say !


In keeping with my new tradition, I am sampling a beer from the county whilst summarising my views of it. And what better beer to sample than RateBeer’s Best Oxfordshire Beer 2020 – King Goblin ?

Which takes by grand total of Oxfordshire rates up to a staggering 16 ! From 9 breweries

Hook Norton 5
White Horse 3
Wychwood 3

In terms of beer ratings, there doesn’t seem to be anything outstanding. Which means King Goblin DOES get a look in !

Lovebeer Mild Rover 3.7
Hook Norton Old Hooky 3.7
Wychwood King Goblin 3.6
Hook Norton Double Stout 3.5

Looking back to my own records I see I’ve drunk a total of 65 Oxfordshire beers, from 15 breweries.

Hook Norton 18
White Horse 13
Wychwood 12
Loddon 5

In terms of places, I’ve rated a total of 2 places in the county. Both in Banbury last month. However, I’ve been drinking far more in Oxford than Banbury. Been drinking there since the3 chief breweries were Morrells and Morland. Have led many a friend on pub-crawls of Oxford. Even done a Tolkein pub-crawl and a Morse pub-crawl. However, as already noted a lot of the best drinking venues in Oxford have either closed (Pint, Lamb & Flag) or are a shadow of their former selves (Turf Tavern). There are still several atmospheric places to drink – just don’t expect any decent beer !

In terms of cricket and football, never been to Oxfordshire for those purposes. Nor indeed for horse racing. As far as concerts go, Oxford has the all time no 1 concert that I regret not going to when I had a chance. Poco at Oxford Poly in October 1976. Regretted it for the next 28 years – but have made up for it since !


Fair point Colin, I am not familiar with Facebook but I guess much in the same way as breweries and pubs have lapsed Twitter accounts (which I do use) it’s bound to be the same across other social media platforms.

Amongst my top counties for ratings,and a handful of places having briefly visited my brother in law who was teaching there at the time. I’d love to go back armed with more Tolkienn knowledge than I had at the time.

Non beer wise highlights included some Harry Potter moments. and punting up the river to the Victoria Arms pub, which is apparently quite a popular way to spend an afternoon in Oxford. An unfortunate miscommunication lead to my first attempt at English “fish and chips” arriving as a well prepared sole topped with olive butter, and a side of chips, which was very much not what I was hoping for.

Mildly amusing (to me at least) - Of my top 10+ highest rated Oxfordshire beers they are all either a) bottles consumed in Canada or b) rated at the Hook Norton brewery.


Yes, this is a tricky one. Ian doesn’t open because of the size of the rooms and it wouldn’t be financially practical under our current restrictions, but he still holds the leasehold and intends to open when Boris gets some balls. However I think Boris will never get round to looking after the hospitality sector so many like Ian will disappear. I think I will close it for now and open if they do manage to get going again.

One of my better-performing counties with a healthy count of 15 rates (from 6 breweries and 1 cidery) - over half of them from a trip to Oxford in August last year, when the restrictions were briefly lifted and going to pubs was allowed, albeit outside only I think (although no places rated as I thought it unfair to rate them when they weren’t in their full glory, and foolishly assumed they would be soon). Had a lovely time in Oxford, it is a beautiful city: took a punt on the river, round an island on which was a delightful cricket ground, would love to play there, and walked all over the place, stopping at various establishments for refreshment - no stand out beers, but was relatively impressed with Tap Social and their pop-up at the White House, which they were in the process of refurbing, and hopefully it is now fully(ish) operational. More historical memories of the county surround a boat trip on the Thames, which started (and finished) near Wallingford, so may or may not have been in Oxfordshire for days as the river I believe is the boundary and no clue who owns the water - depending upon which side of it we got out to go for a beer, would have been Oxfordshire or Berkshire I guess.


31 Oxfordshire rates for me, my top rated is Lovibonds Sour Grapes - Barrel Aged at 4

There are 8 active cideries in Oxfordshire, with Cotswold cider from Swindon having the most entries with 12

The top 5 raters for Oxfordshire ciders and cideries are:

OxfordshireCider Ratings



The Wenlock Arms is a good example. Website says, “see our Twitter feed for the latest beers.” Their last tweet was in 2018. The pub has re-opened but the Twitter bio still states that they are closed.

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Just the 25 ticks for me. Years ago I went to a wedding that had a Lovibonds beer on so recently ordered a few from A Hoppy Place. Plus Loddon are getting a good rep around here so their beers are popping up in places - although the cynic would say their beers are now canned so therefore more marketable. Otherwise it always seemed like a county for OK at best beers from the likes of Hook Norton and Wychwood.

Only one beer scores well – Lovibonds / Brewdog Oxford No Smoke Without Sour @ 3.7

Beers from 7 breweries:


And one cidery – BumbleBee.

I believe I’ve only been to Oxfordshire – and in fact Oxford - twice. A day trip when I was a kid and a few year ago to see Calexico play there. A mate was at uni in Coventry, so we picked him up at the station, as he was heading home for the holidays, and had a few beers and burgers at a nearby pub… possible the Holly Bush? I just remember that they did decent burgers with an array of toppings you could choose from. And that the landlord had some sort of big scary dog that was asleep infront of the door. A few people opened the door, saw the dog and didn’t bother coming in!

Edit - just remembered that I went to a Banbury v Farnborough pre-season match 15+ years ago. My only memory was that Banbury had a sex shop.


Lovely county Oxford. Had many great times there. a couple of RB tours and Merton BFs . Mind you there is one big problem with the county. and I have said it before. and Glen knows what is coming next.

it hasnt got a bloody COASTLINE

How is a self respecting county expect to go around without a coastline.

Honestly it’s like Bolivia all over again


Proud to be in top 5 raters though

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Imagine not having a coastline…

I had to go down my counties list quite a long way to find Oxfordshire. 33rd place in my counties list and at 61 rates from Oxfordshire for me.

Highest rated beers are:

Beer Score
Wychwood King Goblin (Bottle) 3.7
Loose Cannon Porter (aka Robust British Porter) 3.7
Wychwood WychCraft (Bottle) 3.6
White Horse Black Beauty 3.6
Elements Saison 3.6

So no beers are a 4 or over for me.

Only 1 place rate and it’s the White Lion - Fewcott home to the Pirate Brewery. I think I might have been travelling up the M40 to somewhere and stopped in for a couple off their own beers.

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Well it does mean we aren’t being eroded into the sea in the next million years, so when Kent is a fragment Oxfordshire will be just getting their coastline.
I cannot believe the fanboy love for Wychwood King Goblin, I can see why it became the winner of Beer of Oxfordshire now!

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It’s a good beer, and there isn’t that much outstanding competition