Jane Stuart – Writer

Writing about real life Up North: football, ale, food and mental health – with a good dash of humour.

Oxford United v Blackpool: Oxford Pubs

I’ve been to Oxford a couple of times in recent years and found its pubbage to be excellent. I did a crawl last season, taking in St Aldates Tavern, The Bear, Chequers and Royal Blenheim – and you can find my review of my actual visits to these pubs here.

An Off Peak Return from Blackpool to Oxford is £101.80 – with three changes on the return journey. I’m not having any of that (even virtually), so I just book one way at £48.40 and I’ll get the supporters coach home. I board the 0654 at Blackpool North and settle back with the new Stephen King novella, Later, about a boy who can see dead people. I’m engrossed immediately and nothing else exists until I arrive at Manchester Piccadilly.

I ought to know better than to read Stephen King when I’m out and about. His imagery is so intense that I find it hard to transition back from his imagined world into my own – er – imagined world. The last time I did this was in my Chase days on a trip to Alvechurch, where I encountered killer wasps, a dead dog, shirts dripping with blood and a fright on the stairs, which you can read about here.

At Piccadilly, I dart across to board the 0827 to Oxford. I’m delighted to see my train already on the platform, so I hunt down my seat and settle back with my Kindle. I’ve got used to wearing my snood on public transport now; I just snuggle down into it. I guess this will be more of a challenge when the weather gets warmer – but at least standing on packed trains is a thing of the past, which is a godsend.

I finish reading the novella as the train pulls into Birmingham New Street. I’ve spent many hours I’ll never get back on this station over the years, but it is delightful since its revamp a few years back. It’s not quite Blackpool East but there are shops and eateries aplenty. There’s even a Kitty Cafe.

For the remainder of my journey today, I look ahead to my next OU assignment – which I can see is due in three weeks (eek!). This will be my first attempt at screenwriting, which I am very much looking forward to. I have reams of notes for my project already, but now I need to knuckle down and crack on with the actual work. I have an idea and some characters – now I need to work on a plotline and learn the technicalities of writing for the screen (without over directing).

I land in Oxford at 1115 and waste no time in heading for the brewery…

Oxford Brewery

I have enjoyed Oxford beers on previous visits – indeed I think they may even serve it in the ground. Today I am interested to learn more about this brewery.

Over a pint of porter in the brewery tap, I enquire about the image of the wild boar on the bottles of Scholar.

I learn that this is ‘in celebration of the ancient scholar who was having a leisurely read of Aristotle’s Philosophy in the Forest of Shotover when he was attacked by a wild boar. He rammed the book into the mouth of the advancing creature and thus choked it to death.’

A dead boar at my first port of call? Dear reader, is this Stephen King at work again or is this really happening?

Beers are available to buy online are.

  • Shotover Scholar (bitter)
  • Shotover Prospect (bitter)
  • Shotover Trinity (pale)
  • Shotover Porter
  • Hoptric (American pale)
  • Matilda’s Tears (IPA)

I particularly love this glass, which they have on sale in the brewery shop.

I cannot resist buying one, despite knowing I won’t be able to smuggle it into the ground. I’ll have to keep in regular contact with the Blackpool Supporters Association bus so I can stow it on there before gaining admission to the ground.

Tap Social

You may recall I found Tap Social beers in Milton Keynes last week, so I simply must pay them a visit today.

Their core range (available from their online store) is:

  • Time Better Spent IPA
  • False Economy Lager
  • Cell Count American Pale Ale
  • Jobsworth Session Pale Ale
  • Inside Out Stout

Over a stout, I learn that Tap Social provide employment and training opportunities for ex-offenders and they are currently recruiting ahead of the reopening of the hospitality industry next month. They are opening The White House, a cafe bar and kitchen. They are also collabbing on The Market Tap project. So that’s two new places on the list for my next visit already.

Teardrop Concept Shop & Nano Pub

What is a nano pub? I have no idea, which is why I’m here. It’s an educational mission for us all, dear reader.

This is the brainchild of Church Hanbrewery, who are based in The Cotswolds. ‘The Cotswolds’ have always held an air of mystery to me, in that I have no idea where they are. It’s just somewhere posh people go on holiday, isn’t it? I do a little digging here and discover that the area looks stunning. I toy with the idea of suggesting to Lee that we book a weekender here next season until I realise that ‘wolds’ means ‘hills’ – and now I understand why The Cotswolds were not on my radar.

Ooh look – they have a mobile bar, too.

Cask and keg beers are available to drink on or off the Teardrop premises. Bottled beer and mini kegs are also available.

Church Hanbrewery beers (brewed in a barn) include:

  • Bluenette (honey and oatmeal porter)
  • Alex (IPA)
  • Witty Bea (wheat)
  • Ze Braun (dark wheat)
  • Rauk (smoked English beer)
  • Mat Black (Indian black ale)
  • Red Beetter (bitter with beetroot)
  • 1 4 Keeps (biere de garde)
  • Rasp Bea (raspberry)
  • Wild Beeries (wild berry)

Ooh, where to start here? I want to try them all! I cannot resist immediately sampling the beetroot bitter and the smoked beer. I also buy a bottle of the raspberry, biere de garde (whatever that is), dark wheat and porter to enjoy at home. Quite frankly, I could stay here all day if I didn’t have a match to go to.

Dear reader, forgive me – I was so excited by the beers, I forgot to ask what a nano pub is. I liked it, though.

The Old Bookbinders Ale House

How could I not visit a place with a name like this? And just look at it:

The menu here is in French (naturellement) and I go for the Chinese crepe:

To go a little more French, I opt for a side of these:

They are dog-friendly, too – and there is nothing I don’t love about this pub. I’m heading straight there when we next play Oxford.

Cujo?

Oh, beer? I almost forgot in my excitement! Recent Untappd checkins include:

  • Timothy Taylor Landlord
  • Greene King Abbot Ale
  • St Austell Tribute
  • Wadworth 6X
  • Five Points XPA
  • Hogs Back TEA (Traditional English Ale)

The Victoria

This ‘anti-gastro pub‘ is close to the Bookbinders in Jericho.

Their menu is pie-focused, which of course I love, despite (as a rule) not liking football ground pies (Oxford being a rare exception). This is my favourite pie on the menu here today:

However my eye is caught by an item on the light bites menu:

Have I ever had sausages with mustard? I suppose I must have in a hot dog type scenario. I don’t like hot dogs either (nor sausages, particularly, unless they are Lincolnshire or those nice Moroccan spiced ones they used to do in Nicholsons pubs). But I do like mustard. I love food that makes me cry. So I’m ordering this.

Their latest real ale list is:

  • The Victoria House Bitter (Shotover Brewery)
  • Millionaire Stout
  • Loddon Brewery Hullabaloo Bitter

My eye is also caught by the Dead Rabbit whiskey (damn you, King) so I head out to enjoy the beautiful beer garden, where I tuck into my food and stout.

Wisteria or triffids…?

The Three Goats Heads

Yay! A Sam Smith’s pub! Always easy on the wallet, which is great.

Recent Untappd checkins include:

  • Samuel Smith Old Brewery Bitter
  • Samuel Smith Imperial Stout
  • Samuel Smith Organic Wheat Beer
  • Samuel Smith Double Four Lager
  • Samuel Smith Extra Stout
  • Samuel Smith Organic Chocolate Stout

As I sup my pint of chocolate stout, I become aware of some strange sets of eyes upon me.

I love goats, but I’m not sure about this – especially so soon after meeting the three brewery goats in Milton Keynes last week, so I sup up quickly and leave.

The Jam Factory

Frank Cooper’s Marmalade used to be manufactured here – hence the name – and the building has been repurposed as an arts centre restaurant and bar. It reminds me very much of the (former Birds) Custard Factory in Birmingham.

I’m delighted that the brunch menu is still being served because I’ve been looking forward to the banana bread all week.

Recent beer checkins on Untappd include:

  • Purity Longhorn IPA
  • Purity Lawless (lager)
  • Cotswold Haus Lager
  • Browerij Bosteels Pauwel Kwak
  • Brauerei Gebr Maisel’s Weisse Original
  • Purity Session IPA

I could write here about the Purity Mad Goose, named after the goose that pecks men’s – er – peckers, but that’s really a story for the pub. Instead, here’s a picture of some marmalade.

Whilst here, I learn that ‘a jar of the marmalade can be seen down the rabbit hole with Alice in the original illustrated Alice in Wonderland‘. Curiouser and curiouser…

It is here that I receive a call from my friend on the BSA coach, alerting me to their imminent arrival at the ground. Eek! I’d forgotten I needed to stash my glassware and beers on the coach. Getting to the Kassam Stadium is always a chore, never a pleasure at the best of times, being situated in the middle of nowhere. The kindly barkeep hears me scream and strides over to find out what the matter is. She calmly orders me a taxi, I down my Kwak (not easy from one of those glasses, let me tell you) and wait impatiently outside. Come on, come on, come on. The taxi finally arrives but I can’t relax all the way there. As I finally roll up at the ground, the fans are disembarking the coach and I sigh audibly. Phew!

Oxford United v Blackpool

I can’t say I’m confident today after a few shaky performances. Whilst we have been improving incrementally, will it be enough to mount a serious assault on the play-offs? Stephen King isn’t helping matters, with his goats heads and dead rabbits. Will it be a horror show at the Kassam Stadium this afternoon? I bloody hope not…

Dear reader, I needn’t have worried. We go all out attack, attack, attack from the off – and by half time we are 2-0 up, with goals from Kenny Dougall and Dan Ballard. Dougall is outstanding for 90 minutes; hell they all are! The 4-2-3-1 formation certainly suits us – not least Sullay Kaikai, who is back to his best – and we make Oxford look shambolic. Their 2 x double subs have no impact against an unplayable Blackpool machine.

The only downside is an injury to Matty Virtue. Players are dropping like flies at the moment and the last thing we need is any more injuries. What with Ballard off on international duty with Northern Ireland, our squad is getting thinner on a weekly basis.

Here are the highlights:

And here’s me and Lee on our livestream. It was wonderful to relax and enjoy the football for once. This was our best performance of the season. We actually talk about the football on this one, without the necessary diversions about sweets and chemical elements. Nutella chocolate brownies and football ground maps are included, though. Oh and it starts with my match day vlog from my actual trip to Oxford from last year so, if you want to see what it’s like, give it a watch:

I skip onboard the BSA coach and settle back in my seat to watch a double bill of Star Trek movies. Into Darkness is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen and I wholeheartedly recommend it if you’ve never seen it:

EXCITING NEWS: We could edge into the play-off places with a win on Tuesday night. I’m not getting (over)excited yet after a spell of ropey form but I can assure you I am smiling a lot this weekend.

UTMP!


NB Pics above are taken from the websites referenced, as this was a virtual trip.


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