Let’s face it COVID-19 has been a right d*** for the hospitality industry. For breweries, it’s taken a lot to adapt while still earning a living, or even surviving, in some cases. I had a catch up with Tess Taylor, Founder & Director at Tap Social, to see how they’ve coped; and to talk about the brighter, redesigned, future.
Let’s start with some basics.
Tap Social have their taproom in Botley, where they also brew some smaller batch beers; their brewery in Kennington; and the former ‘White House’ on Abingdon Road. I’ll also talk later about a venture in the Covered Market!
The Botley Taproom is where most beer lovers would congregate; it’s a venue you can enjoy their core beer range, interesting seasonal specials and some amazing street food. COVID-19 obviously forced this to close; but before shutting their doors, Tap offered takeaway beers and free delivery within the Oxford ring road, supplying over 400 orders in a short space of time.
Tess explained that, as much as they would have loved to keep things moving, the practicality of having a hand bottling line, continuing to brew, and trying to be a safe as possible for everyone involved, just wasn’t going to work. As this was the case, the sensible, and safest option was to, unfortunately, halt brewing and stop selling.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though.
This gave them some time to move forward with a rebrand and update the website – these were in the pipeline. This has given Tap Social a bit more of a commercial feel. Tess mentioned this was intentional, to appeal to a broader audience and move away from the ‘home beer’ vibe.
The installation of a new canning line – which had to be done over video during lockdown (sounds like a nightmare to me!) – will help with distribution, especially with wholesalers. New can art is vibrant, produced in conjunction with Huntercombe Prison; the project helps inmates with art and design careers, which taps (excuse the pun) into their social justice mission.
The cans themselves feel more grown-up – if that’s actually possible with a can; textured wraps, clear branding, and beer names all linked to the justice system with an explanation on each can, all lovely touches.
You may have noticed they have 3 beers released at the moment – Cell Count, False Economy & Time Better Spent.
To all those who enjoyed ‘Grebes Procession’ (like me!) – do not fear! It will return to the line-up, forming part of their 6 beer core range. If you’re wondering what happened to beers like ‘Goodsize eh’, these newly branded beers are tweaked versions of the old recipes, so I’m confident they’re set to please. They hope to have that core beer line-up good to go around the end of August, so keep a lookout; they’ll also return with some seasonal specials and some wonderful sours.
At the time of writing this, the Botley Taproom is open limited hours. Check the website for full details. Their popup outside the ‘White House’ serves fantastic coffee and brownies (from local producers Jericho Coffee Traders and Patron), as well as letting you get hold of some cans. They’ve also teamed up with Tommy’s Burgers in the Westgate, allowing you to order a burger and have it delivered to the White House (please check when this is available if you are making the trip just for this!).
On the subject of the old ‘White House’…
This venture is taking shape with a plan to be open before Christmas, which is brilliant news! Building work commences in August, seeing both floors renovated; which will provide fantastic views over Brasenose and Queens Colleges recreation grounds, down to the river. Artwork will take the form of the original can artwork canvases with around 25 of these, spread throughout.
Tess tells me they want to keep the welcoming feeling of home at the new venue, which will continue providing amazing coffee, as well as having a kitchen for some pub classics and dishes with a Canadian twist – I look forward to those! The venture will also open up new job possibilities for those coming back into the community from the justice system within hospitality, which is fantastic.
Some may have seen posts earlier in the year about a new Tap Social venue in the Covered Market. This is still moving forward, but the joys of COVID-19 have made the exact timeline still to be confirmed. Tap look forward to working with local producers in the coming months to move this venture forward and help with some new products. Tess and I both agreed how great it would be to give the Covered Market a bit of a Brixton Market feel, with local eateries and producers getting involved.
I was lucky enough to be given a few cans to try at home:
Time Better Spent – IPA 5.1%
This beer is light gold in colour with a slight haze, giving off a fruity, sweet grapefruit aroma. It has a big hoppy hit, joined up with some fruity mango-like vibes with a lasting bitter finish. This one disappeared quite quickly, making it very easy drinking. Could defiantly see myself with a few of these in the sun over the summer!
Cell Count – American Pale Ale 4.5%
Rich amber with a slight haze in colour that gives off a sweet, malty aroma. The taste brings a full fruity hit with malt and bitterness. This bitterness gives way to a biscuit-like finish. Overall a very smooth drinking beer with a less hoppy kick than Time Better Spent. Another one that could be drunk quickly, and at 4.5%, not a bad session beer.
False Economy – Lager 4.8%
Very light gold, almost yellow in colour with some haze that gives you that familiar sweet aroma you get from good lager. Very easy drinking with a refreshing sweet and fruity taste, giving some bitterness on the finish that fades quickly, making you want another gulp. Not too carbonated, which I like, but enough to give a small frothy head and comes alive when drinking.
WIN: Tap Social beer!
We have a six-pack of Tap Social beer for you to win, all you have to do is follow these crazy-simple instructions:
- Follow @tapsocialmovement, @tapsocialwhitehouse, @tapsocialtaproom AND @BittenOxford on Instagram
- Leave us a comment on our giveaway post on Instagram saying ‘TAP ME UP’
The competition closes at midnight next Saturday 15th August. We will choose a winner at random who will win a six-pack of Tap Social beer, that can be collected from the Taproom or The White House by Tap Social, or delivered to an OX1-OX4 postcode.
Get entering, good luck! 🍻
Tap Social Movement
Taproom & Brewery: Unit 27 Curtis Ind. Est., North Hinksey Lane, Oxford OX2 0LX
Brewery: Unit 68 Sandford Lane Ind. Est., Sandford Lane, Oxford OX1 5RP
The White House by Tap Social: 38 Abingdon Road, Oxford OX1 4PD