Monday, 5 May 2014

Littleworth, Oxfordshire.

No railway business in this entry, but just in case anyone is bothered by this here's a picture of the First Great Western bicycle rules for services in the Thames Valley. This particular sign is in Oxford which is our destination's nearest station.

There was a time that myself and Brother of Beer Branches (BoBB) were sat about talking rubbish. In fairness this is still a fairly regular occurrence, but on this occasion we were discussing the phrase 'sausage fest'. It got us to wondering if there was anywhere that actually held a sausage festival and like most people these days would, we took to Google. In amongst all the expected results were a few hopeful sites, butchers and the like. Eventually we came to the website of a pub called the Cricketers Arms, in the village of Littleworth, Oxfordshire that held an actual beer and sausage festival! Twice a year! Oxfordshire, why that's only one county away! The dates were favourable, the travel was easy and before we knew it we'd got a gang together and the outing was a goer.
What we didn't realise then was that this was to become an annual pilgrimage, and so for the fourth year in a row I made the trip north. On this occasion I was accompanied by Cousin of Beer Branches (CoBB), himself on his second pilgrimage.
The trip to the pub is relatively easy by public transport, at least on a weekday or Saturday. Buses leave Oxford city centre hourly and the trip is about half an hour. A taxi would be even quicker, and not exorbitantly  expensive.

The festival was the brainchild of Stuart and Angie Bull, the pub's landlords, and has grown in popularity over the years. The beer on offer is always interesting and there's something to suit all tastes. Over the course of the festival there are 14 beers, most of them available from the start. There is also a good choice of real cider from the excellent Tutts Clump.
Stuart explains:

"I try to include any new breweries, breweries which I don't use regularly and regularly used breweries, so that we have a broad range that will appeal to beer festival people and regulars alike.
I also try to have at least a couple of black beers, because we don't have them on as standard and push the alcohol level up a bit (we don't normally go over 4.5%), as well as having at least three or four session ales."

With so many ales available, space on the bar is obviously at a premium. Hand pumps on the bar dispense three of the beers, while the rest are racked on a special built stillage.
Stuart goes on to say:

"The stillage was specially made so that I could move it myself. Once certain furniture is moved, the stillage goes in, in case of any beer arriving early."

A comprehensive tasting notes is available for a small fee, which goes to charity. This also allows for a 'beer of the festival' to be selected, the notes being used as a voting slip. It's also pretty handy for ticking what you've had off.

"I ask the breweries for tasting notes or use ratebeer and then remove anything too flowery. Then that's formatted by Angie into a template and emailed to the printer for delivery the week before the festival."

It's not all about the beer though, and the sausages are almost as much as an attraction in themselves. There's a range of 12 available, though the popular ones sell out fast. The sausages are available in two forms, either with mash and gravy or in a roll with onions. I opted for a couple of rolls so as to try two different varieties of sausage. CoBB opted for the mash option, which from previous experience I can say is superb. There's also a range of snacks on offer, including Angie's delicious Littleworth Pie. If you've still got room, or even if you haven't, there's also desserts for the sweet tooth.
Stuart explains:

"Angie orders the sausages the start of the week of the festival for delivery on the Wednesday or Thursday. Choice depends upon previous good sellers and ones that have an interesting combination of flavours. Jan's desserts will be delivered the morning of the festival."

By all accounts February's festival was a record breaker, so I'd strongly advise you clearing your diary for September. Even if you can't make the festival, it's a fantastic pub any time of year and quite deservedly in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide.  

Find out more:
Cricketers Arms