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March 2020.  Current position on all branch activities.

In line with guidance from the authorities and CAMRA head office all branch social events and meetings have been cancelled until further notice.  We have also decided to defer production of the next edition of the branch magazine, Oxford Drinker.

Here are a couple of topical articles that would have been in the issue.

Wantage Beer Festival 2020 – got it in just in time.

Tarquin May reflects on another successful festival for White Horse branch at the Beacon centre in Wantage

Despite all that was going on in the world, this year’s festival celebrated its 10th anniversary as it went ahead at the Beacon on 13-14 March. The festival featured 27 ales along with four ciders and two perries, selected by branch members, many from breweries local to the Vale and Oxfordshire. Beer styles included American and India Pale Ales, Best Bitters, Mild and Stouts, with a range of strengths from 3% to 8%.

White Horse Brewery under its Luna brand brewed a Wantage 10th Beer Festival Special, which was a 4.4% American Pale Ale made from Summit, Cluster and Williamette hops which produced flavours of blackberry, blackcurrant and grapefruit. Carrier, a Pale Ale brewed by Wadworth which is only normally sold in bottles, was produced in cask form to mark HMS Queen Elizabeth exercising their Freedom of Entry through Wantage. This was commissioned by the Mayor of Wantage, Councillor Major Jim Sibbald.

The Mayor presented White Horse CAMRA’s awards for 2020 on the Friday evening. Pub of the Year was the Royal Oak, Wantage, with the runner-up being the Shoulder of Mutton, Wantage. Cider Pub of the Year was also the Royal Oak with runner-up being the Swan, Faringdon. Country Pub of the Year was the Greyhound, Letcombe Regis and Club of the Year, Stanford in the Vale Social Club.

Beer of the Festival, as voted for by those attending, was No Bad Days (5.6%) by Hop Kettle of Swindon, a West Coast IPA which was unfined and hazy and tasted like liquid fruit juice. The branch hopes to organise a trip to the brewery to present the Beer of the Festival certificate.

The runner-up, brewed by White Horse Brewery under the Luna brand, was Sputnik 2 Special Aged, a cask-aged Russian Imperial Stout, with a chocolate nose and slightly spicy aftertaste at 7%. The third winning beer was Roosters of Harrogate’s Mind Games, a full-bodied, punchy Pale Ale created to help raise awareness about mental health within the brewing industry at a very deceptive 3%.

Tutts Clump Rhubarb cider, made in West Berkshire from a blend of apples before being infused with real rhubarb juice, was Cider of the Festival for the second year running. Pang Valley Midway cider, a blend of dessert apples from the east of the Pang Valley and cider apples from the west, was runner-up.

Neil Dwerryhouse, “the man with the STEREO hands” and guitarist from Chameleons Vox, gave a rare solo performance on the Friday evening, playing both original material and covers.

The festival was due to screen the Six Nations rugby on the Saturday but unfortunately this was cancelled due to coronavirus. Luckily this did not affect attendance and similar entrance numbers were recorded as in previous years. Ealing (West London) CAMRA was welcomed to the Festival on the Saturday, a coach party of 50 people who had been to White Horse Brewery at Stanford in the Vale prior to their visit to Wantage. They were really impressed with the pubs in Wantage and commented that we were lucky to have such great pubs within the branch area.

During the two days of the Festival approximately 600 members of the public and CAMRA members attended. The first CAMRA member in the queue came all the way from York, the fourth year running he had visited the festival. Twelve new members were signed up to the Campaign, which was exceptional in the circumstances. Many positive comments have been received, especially about the choice of ale on offer.

Ian Winfield, festival organiser, said: “Each year we try to build on the success of previous festivals and this has been achieved on our 10th birthday. I would like to thank all our sponsors and the volunteers who made it so successful in difficult circumstances. Congratulations should also go to all our award winners, highlighting just what exceptional pubs and a club we have in the White Horse CAMRA area.”

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Annual Awards Night – 2020

Oxford CAMRA’s annual Awards Night was held at St Aldates Tavern in February, celebrating the best in local pubs and brewing and generating welcome publicity with a spread in the Oxford Mail.

About 50 people attended as local Good Beer Guide pubs, brewers and other invited guests joined the prize winners at the Oxford Beer and Cider Festival last October and the branch Pubs of the Year 2020. Brief speeches were given on topics including community-owned pubs, and the upcoming Oxford Beer Week in May.

Theme of the evening was the revival, locally at least, of the Great British Pub, with several new openings in and around Oxford in the last year. The renaissance in brewing has been going on for the last few years, with new micro-breweries boosting the total brew sites in Oxfordshire alone to over 20.

In attendance were pubs ranging from the tiny Teardrop bar in the Covered Market, to Wetherspoon’s Four Candles in George Street, Oxford which has a major focus on locally produced beers. Breweries present ranged from larger and long-established concerns such as Hook Norton, to micros such as Little Oxbrew.

The first Awards Night was held in 2018 at the suggestion of Pete Flynn, who was given a presentation by the Oxford CAMRA committee as he stood down from the chair after a four-year stint.

At the branch AGM held a fortnight later, taking over as chair for 2020-21 – and not doing the job for the first time! – was Matt Bullock, whose other roles include the layout and design of the Oxford Drinker.

Other committee members continue in their posts, including Steve Lawrence as secretary; Grahame Allen as treasurer; Chris Bamford as membership secretary; Tony Goulding as pub campaigns co-ordinator; and Dave Richardson as editor of the Oxford Drinker and also press and publicity officer.

Roll on Awards Night 2021!

Pete Flynn hands out awards to:

Jamie O’Sullivan of Hook Norton, whose beer What the Fox was voted Beer of the Festival 2019.

Lisa Neale of the Red Lion, Northmoor, runner-up as Town and Village Pub of the Year.

Matt and Jacqueline Heritage of the Brewery Tap, Abingdon, winner of the Town and Village Pub of the Year.

Chris Meeson of the Masons Arms, Headington Quarry, runner-up as Oxford City Pub of the Year.

Steve Hay of the Royal Blenheim, winner of the Oxford City Pub of the Year (Steve left his job the following month).

Alex Timms of White Horse brewery, runner-up as Beer of the Festival 2019.

Lee Cogan (left) and Johnny Roberts of the Four Candles, Oxford.

Oxford’s longest serving landlord, Andrew Hall of the Rose and Crown.

The Oxford CAMRA committee present an award to Pete Flynn as he prepares to stand down after four years as chair. From left: Tony Goulding, Chris Bamford, Steve Lawrence, Pete Flynn, Matt Bullock, guest Luciana Gyuricza of Church Hanbrewery (who contributed some beer), Grahame Allen, and Dave Richardson.

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