Tuesday, May 17, 2016

OXFORD BEER: Brewer Walton of Shotover Hill

Brewer Walton
Keeps the malt on.
His Trinity brand
Is ever so grand.
(Clerihew by JT Marlin.)
I have previously recorded a visit in New York City from Paul Walton, a branding expert who contacted me after reading my article on the coats of arms of the Oxford Colleges in the Michaelmas issue of Oxford Today.

Arms as Brands

We both see coats of arms as one of the earliest forms of branding.

It was important in battle to know who was trying to kill you, and who you were supposed to kill. Imagine a sports field where everyone wore the same color shirt...

(Hey, wait, Yoko Ono already Imagined this; her message was that chess matches would be very peaceful if all the chess pieces had the same color and the chess board squares were undifferentiated. No thrill of battle, but the compensating joy of peace.)

Brewer Walton

Earlier this month I was in Oxford and visited with Paul at the Coffee House at the Broad Street end of the Turl (its formal name is the Turl Street Kitchen).

We talked inter alia about his craft-beer enterprise, Shotover Brewery. He says the Trinity brand of his beer (one of the Brewery's four brands) is doing well and he thinks its success reflects both its good name and good taste:
  • Trinity is certainly a good name – why else would the Great Gatsby have chosen it as the name of the college at Oxford that he claimed to have attended, when he had the pick of the litter?
  • On the taste front, the brewery recently won an award as the best beer in Oxfordshire. 

Shotover Brewery gets its name from Shotover Hill, which is located in Headington (leave Oxford by  Magdalen Bridge and take the Old Road) on the other side of the Ring Road.

But how did Shotover Hill get its name? A couple of sources say that Oliver Cromwell shot his musket over Shotover Hill when he was engaged in the Siege of Oxford. If you remember, Cromwell and his New Model Army eventually overwhelmed Charles I and a few years later beheaded the hapless king, the only sitting English king ever executed (after Charles, the "divine right of kings" dogma was peddled less aggressively).

But Paul says that Shotover Hill is a lot older than Cromwell's musket:
It was an arrow that shot over the hill. Shotover was an ancient royal hunting forest. Another good contender for the origin is from the French Chateau Vert.
Just to confuse us all further, I consulted Widow Wikipedia, Grandma Google's sister, and she agrees with Brewer Walton that Shotover is older than Cromwell–so old that in her opinion the "Shotover" is derived from the Old English scoet ofer, meaning "steep slope".

Take your pick.

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