UPDATE: January 2024
This update has been a while coming! We’ve seen a few pubs come and go, or at the very least change hands over the past couple of years, so now felt like a good time to talk pints!
As the title suggests, I am looking at pubs which are central to Oxford, but I’ve thrown in a few outside the centre that are worth a visit.
In my last update, I had a ‘Top 3’ but in this iteration I have a ‘Top 5’ to showcase the great pub scene that has evolved over the last couple of years. These are in no particular order!
My Top 5 Pubs
This one is back on the board after a period of being closed. When it reopened, I think it caused a bit of controversy with a new layout and décor, leaving patrons who used to visit feeling a bit annoyed (from what I gathered from social media anyway). It took a bit of getting used to, but for me this is a great pub with one of the best local beer selections you will find. I often see Little Ox, XT, Oxford Brewery, Church Hanbrewery and BMAN on cask or keg which is great to see for our local producers.
They boast 8 cask and 10 keg lines with a mix of traditional ales, a decent craft selection (with a mix of styles), as well as cider and non-alcoholic. A curated wine and spirit selection is available with the usual brands. They have some great pub snacks on offer, but they don’t serve food if you are looking for a meal.
It gets very busy at peak periods, and I’ve regularly had to do a bit of ‘loitering’ waiting for a table, but that brings with it a good atmosphere. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable if you need some help choosing a beer, which is always good!
The Grapes is another pub that has thankfully reopened! After more than a year closed, the newly renovated bar area has really opened up the pub and has more of a ‘buzz’ about it than before. They have an amazing selection of keg beer on the back wall – we are talking over 40 keg lines, as well as 8 cask pumps. Expect an incredible variety of styles from tried and tested best bitters, hoppy craft beers, premium lagers, sours and stouts. They usually have some local brews on as well.
The feel of the pub is still cosy (how can it not be given its size) but does seem a bit more commercial than before, I think this is down to the TV screens. It gets very busy at peak periods, but can usually squeeze in somewhere.
The music is mainly provided by a record player, which is a nice touch, and they have an extensive food menu too. They also have a sister pub, The Gardeners Arms, on North Parade Avenue.
This brilliant micropub is run by Church Hanbrewery. Located in the Covered Market, this little pub boasts 8 keg lines, and at least 2 cask beers. They feature their own brews from Church Hanbrewery as well as other local producers. You can expect an interesting selection of beers including sours, IPAs and Imperial Porters. Watch the Czar Bomba as it’s dangerous after a few! If you fancy a selection, beers are available in flights if you can’t make up your mind. It’s also a great place to buy some of their bottled beers if you want something to take away
The seating for the pub is outside, but under the cover of the Covered Market, so wrap up warm if you visit in the winter months. If beer isn’t your thing, they have an amazing selection of wine next door at The Market Cellar Door, and if you fancy some amazing pizza, Sartoreli’s Pizza in the next unit.
Still one of my favourite pubs in the City centre, the Blenheim delivers on some great ales and craft beers. Now officially a Titanic pub, it has regular lines from them, as well as plenty of guest ales including local breweries like Tap Social, Little Ox and White Horse, meaning the selection rotates well. If you like the more mainstream lagers and ciders, these are also available. The fact that Plum Porter is on all year round always makes it worth a visit in my opinion!
They have 10 cask lines with 9 craft as well as 3 mainstream kegs, including cider. Wine and spirits are plentiful, but again this venue only offers pub snacks with no dining.
It’s very easy to spend a fair few hours here, especially if you have a booth! They also have screens for sport so can be a good place to grab a table for various sporting events. On occasion, you will find some live music here in the form of a ‘folk/ Irish’ vibe.
This is a pub that’s won me over after a few years. It has a good rotating cask ales selection of 5 pumps, that usually includes some good local producers like Loose Cannon, XT and Oxford Brewery. The keg selection is great with 11 lines, that includes regulars from Siren, Tap Social and many more mainstream producers.
They have an extensive pizza menu with traditional, and more unusual toppings (the Molto Ben is my fave), if you fancy something to eat. They have a great covered garden out back with heated seats, making the space useable all year round, believe me those heated seats get warm.
Both inside and outside the pub get very busy, especially at peak food service times, as lots of punters want that pizza!
If you want to travel a little further…
The Star, Rectory Road
A great pub for a pint with wide variety of keg lines and a couple on cask. Expect some house beers, local brews and the odd stein. This has one of the best pub gardens around, so definitely one to visit in the summer, but still holds it’s own in the winter months with a cosy bar area. They don’t serve food, but they do link up with local street food vendors through the year. You can bring in your own food in at a small £1 fee as well.
The Masons Arms, Headington Quarry
OK, this one is my local, but it has a brilliant selection of cask beers that rotate weekly, some great craft beer as well as an extensive number of the mainstream brand names. The yearly beer festival, that’s usually hosted in September, is a must for your calendar. Also, don’t miss their comedy nights!
I plan to visit a some of these venues to provide you with some more in-depth reviews over the coming months.
I’d love to hear your thoughts too. Where do you think the best pubs are in Central Oxford? Give us your recommendations for perfect pints in other OX postcodes too.