2022 Update

I realised that it has been over 4 years since this site was updated. So here is a quick run down of what has changed in that time.

New Pubs / Bars

The Cowshed opened this week in the former Added Ingredients shop on Stert Street. This is a micro pub selling 3 cask beers on draught and a selection of interesting cans and bottles, including many local breweries such as Love Beer, Little Ox and White Horse Brewery. You can drink on the premises or buy to take away. You can see more information on the Abingdon Blog.

The Tipsy Mercer opened on the High Street in March 2019. It is a cocktail bar, but also has 3 keg beers normally including one of my favourite beers… Yabba Dabba Doo from Little Ox. They have live music upstairs most Saturday evenings.

The Old Chemist opened briefly during 2019 in the former Smith’s chemist shop and promised to be an interesting combination of gin house, smokehouse. The back room was decorated as a library (the building used to be Abingdon Library a long time ago). Unfortunately it closed down in December 2019 after a dangerous form of asbestos was found in the basement and has been boarded up ever since. See this Oxford Mail article for more information.

Changes to Existing Pubs

Most other pubs managed somehow to survive the Covid lockdowns between March 2020 and December 2021, which were particularly bad for the hospitality industry with an assortment of rules and regulations such as not being able to drink unless you had a substantial meal, and very little financial support from the government.

The Nags Head was taken over by Brakspear in 2019 and was closed for refurbishment for several months, opening just in time to have to close again for the lockdown. It is up and running now, and apart from a change of beers to include Breakspear beers has not changed that much. It still has the best riverside location around, good food, and live music on Friday evenings.

The Kings Head & Bell was refurbished in 2019 which included extending the conservatory with a retractable roof and a new menu of mainly Pizza and Burgers. Typically has 2 real ales from Loose Cannon.

The Broad Face got a new manageress Kealey in 2020, who redecorated it in a more feminine way. It has Abingdon’s largest selection of real ales with 8 hand pumps that change regularly, good food and occasional live music.

The Punchbowl has been through quite a few changes of management, and was closed for quite a while during lockdown. Being a wet pub not serving food can not have been easy during lockdown. It is open at the moment and is pretty much the same as before with front and back bars, serving two cask beers – Morland Original and a guest (currently Rocking Rudolph).

The Old Anchor has rebranded as a music venue. During the lockdown, landlady Jaci built a custom stage for musicians to play on. It is now only open for music events, offering a range of bottled beers from Greene King. Events include Open Mic every Wednesday Evening, Sunday afternoon music from 4pm, and bands most Friday and some Saturday nights. The venue provides an outlet for new original musicians to perform, unlike many other places which mainly tend to have cover bands or one person + guitar cover acts.

The Brewery Tap got through the lockdown by offering take-away Sunday lunches and is now back to its normal self with busy dining sessions, selection of 5 real ales from local breweries, beer wall with keg beers and ciders and a selection of bottles including some interesting Belgian beers. They have live music of varied styles on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons.

The Spread Eagle on Northcourt used the lockdown to build some outdoor garden “pods”, but got into some trouble with the authorities during lockdown dining rules so was not able to use them immediately. They have a selection of real ales usually including some from Abingdon’s own Loose Cannon Brewery and a great menu. During the summer months they had live music outside on Sunday afternoons.

The Loose Cannon Brewery expanded their tap room, which is now open most afternoons and evenings and hosts events such as Quiz Nights, Comedy Club, Live Music, football, Craft Fairs, etc. You can buy beer to drink on the premises, or to take away.

Other pubs that are still open and are similar to how they were pre-lockdown include White Horse, Grapes, Narrows, Midget, Crown & Thistle, Blue Boar, Black Swan, Boundary House, College Oak.

Brewery Tap wins Oxford CAMRA Town & Country Pub of the Year Award

As reported in the Oxford Mail today, The Brewery Tap in Ock Street has been awarded Town & Country Pub of the Year for the Oxford branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).  The award is voted on by members of the Oxford branch of CAMRA who shortlist pubs from the Good Beer Guide and then visit each pub and vote on them based on various criteria including beer quality and ambience.   The Oxford branch area includes central Oxfordshire with Kidlington in the North, Abingdon in the South and extending East and West to include Witney, Wheatley, Carterton and Bampton, The tap has been listed in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide every year, which rates pubs based on the quality of Real Cask Ale.  Previous winners of the award in recent years have included The Nags Head in Abingdon.

A separate award is given to a city pub within the Oxford ring road, which this year was the White Hart in Headington

Since being taken over by Heineken a few years ago, the beer range has improved, with the range of 5 real ales now including mainly local ales from Loose Cannon, West Berkshire Brewery, Tring, Shotover, XT, Animal and others. They also offer a good range of keg beers behind the bar, bottled Belgium beer and canned craft beer..

Live music is performed every Saturday evening from 9pm and Sunday afternoon between 5-7pm.  A range of home cooked food is available every day from noon-3pm and 6pm-9pm (Sunday noon-3pm). There is a real log fire, it is dog friendly and children friendly with a selection of games and toys in the upper room.


Kings Head & Bell Spring Beer Festival

Kings Head and Bell Beer Festival

The Kings Head & Bell on East Saint Helens Street is now being managed by Noreen and Aidan who took over the pub in December.  The pub usually has a changing selection of 3 real ales, but this weekend (Thursday 16th until Sunday 19th) is the spring beer festival featuring a range of Oxfordshire ales. For every pint that is sold, they will be donating 10p to the Air Ambulance charity.

There is a range of activities taking place during the festival:

  • Thursday there will be a quiz
  • Friday is St. Patricks day and has live music from Louise Green
  • Saturday they will be showing 6 Nations Rugby including the England versus Ireland match
  • Sunday afternoon there will be live folk music with Abingdon Traditional Morris Dancers from 2pm

Next month we can also look forward to beer festivals from the Black Horse at Gozzard’s Ford (14th-17th April), Brewery Tap (21st-23rd April) and the Nags Head (28th-30th April).

Old Anchor Reopens again

The Old Anchor opened its doors again on 31st January 2017 with new management.  It promises to be run more like a local’s pub again with quiz nights, live music, board games, etc.  It is open every day from noon and will be serving Tapas style food next from next week. Pop along on Saturday (4th February) from 8pm for the grand opening including live music and a free glass of fizz.

It has 5 hand pumps of real ale, which include the usual Morland Original, Greene King IPA and Old Speckled Hen as well as 2 changing guests and a hand pump serving Old Rosie.

Also, the Punch Bowl has new management this week.  Hopefully nothing much will change.

Also if you have missed recent events, the Broad Face reopened several months ago with a large range of beers including local breweries.  The Kings Head and Bell has also had a recent change of management and they made the local Abingdon Morris men musicians very welcome last Sunday after they had to cancel their existing appointment at the Old Anchor.

On top of our already good pubs that serve good real ale including the Brewery Tap, Nags Head, White Horse, Narrows and Spread Eagle, things are looking good for Abingdon for beer drinkers.


Nags Head Spring Beer Festival

This weekend (April 22nd-24th) is the Nags Head Spring Beer Festival featuring a selection of London Brews with support from some local Breweries. This is always a good festival with a good selection of beers and live music.

Live music during the weekend features:

  • Friday evening, 10pm: Blue Stormers
  • Saturday Afternoon, 3pm: Thick Cut
  • Saturday Evening, 10pm: Big Boys Blues Band
  • Sunday afternoon, 5pm: Jazz with Claire Jones Ensemble

The Abingdon Traditional Morris Men may show up early Saturday afternoon as part of their Saint George’s Day pub tour.