Sunday 7 September 2014

BRAPA - Cambridge - 8 New Pub Ticks

First rule of BRAPA club (apart from the fact that, of course, there is no BRAPA club) must surely be to eat.  And keep eating.  When will I learn that drinking on an empty stomach impairs my blogging ability?  It doesn't have to be a sit down meal.  Just a scotch egg here, a pork pie there, bag of crisps, swig of water,

When I'm BRAPing alone, as I often tend to, the survival instincts kick in and I'm sensible.  Yet when I have travelling companions, it's like I feel more untouchable and end up losing bags, losing my memory, losing the plot.  So I apologise in advance for my hazy recollections.....

Cambridge : a lovely city, picturesque, lots to see and do, classy, cultured, a real sense of calm I don't find in York.  The only downside was crazy cyclists going too fast, and too many of them.  I suddenly have a hatred for the Cambridge cyclist.

Let's stop waffling and get down to pub business.

520 - Devonshire Arms, Cambridge - As myself and my travelling companion Jig awaited our lift to Histon (the centrepiece of our day), we had time to squeeze in this little cracker just a short walk equi-distant from our B&B and the train station.  The beers had very much a Milton leaning - a brewery I've never been too convinced about having only really had them in the Pembury Tavern before THAT win at Arsenal.  I have now fully revised my opinion after a delightful pint of Minerva and a nice sample of the Pegasus.  Staff and locals at the bar were friendly helping us choose, beer was cheap for Cambridge, pub was woodeny, perhaps not the comfiest in winter, but I'd recommend this to anyone. What was with the huge tables?  Do they expect everyone who visits to be in a group of 20, or do they get a lot of giants coming in from the fens?  Very odd.

Devonshire Arms : Milton heaven near our B&B

521 - Red Lion, Histon - Our lift arrived and before we could blink, we were plonked outside this pub in a one-horse village 4 miles North of Cambridge, home of one of Leeds Utd's more amusing capitulations.  The first thing I must say about this pub is "what a ceiling!"  I've never seen so many pump clips and old toby jugs.  It was quite a feast for the eyes if you are an ale geek like me.  A ridiculous German beer festival (£30 a ticket!) was due to start that evening but didn't detract from a great range of English ales, including a 7.5% Christmas Black Sheep they'd forgotten had been in the cellar so only being used now!  Barman seemed to fancy himself a bit, it didn't strike me as a friendly pub really, as a group of middle aged posho's had hilarious conversations where they'd throw in a random line such as "he seems to be masturbating less vigorously these days".  Clare's Dad arrived to give me some beermats and the inside track on Cambridge's best pubs (we knew we'd never get round all 12 so needed some recommendations).  Nice pub, food looked good, cosy atmosphere and I bet it's a cracker in the winter when the fire is in.

Top ceiling action at the Red Lion in Histon

522 - Maypole, Cambridge - This was a must visit pub simply because it had 16 ales on, 8 in one bar and 8 in the other and because it stayed open til 2am, we were back there for our last pint of the day.  It is owned by an Italian family which is reflected in the food menu, and was a light and airy pub with a nice large outdoor area.  We sat in the back bar both times and despite it feeling almost like an Italian cafe when you first sit down, it soon beds into a really good pub and was always busy which is a good sign.  All 16 beers were from interesting breweries and perfectly kept, the chocolate one was beautiful, my Oakham Inferno, even better.

Who knew Italians and Real Ale could be such a winning combo?
523 - St Radegund, Cambridge - On the famous King Street, this was a lovely old pub which really did feel like it had been around for centuries.  It was just a small one roomer but it had a cracking atmosphere.  I spied a series of beers from a Saffron Walden brewery (where I grew up - the town I mean, not the brewery though it'd explain a lot!) but the landlord talked me out of them and chose me a Milton instead!  He then proceeded to chat to all his friends despite an influx of people and his poor barmaid being run off her feet.  It's little things like that I notice.  It's impossible to fault this pub in any other way.

St Radegund, at the end of King Street.  Very good.

524 & 525 - Hopbine & Elm Tree - This is where I struggle to remember.  Both merge into one.  In fact, Jig and Clare had to convince me I'd definitely been in the Elm Tree.  In one, we sat at the bar.  One had lots of bric a brac.  In the Hopbine, I had a fairly average pint of Britannia from the local Buntingford brewery I kept seeing.  In the Elm Tree, I had a B&T Edwin somebody Stout which was lovely and blackcurranty once I got a second wind to drink the damn thing.  Both were proper olde worlde pubs, exactly my kind of places, I think that's part of the problem.  I might even have fallen asleep - who knows?  Rubbish Simon!

At the bar in the Hopbine

526 - Kingston Arms - Reading the pub descriptions in the build up to my trip, this was a must visit and thankfully, Clare's Dad agreed.  Even our landlady at the B&B said it was a cracking pub and I didn't get the impression she was an ale aficionado!  The fact it was so heaving was a combination of being well into Saturday evening and the fact that locals know a good pub when they see it.  Another huge range of perfectly kept ales meant our worries about 'flat southern beer' now seemed ridiculous.  They even had heads on most of them - and no, don't ask me about sparklers.  We had to sit outside, even getting a seat here was a problem and Jig finally put our food woes behind us by ordering three huge bowls of chips - and what good chips they were!  When Hull City are back in league two, this could be my pre-match venue.

My travelling companions enjoy a pint on a very thin table.

527 - Live and Let Live - The final pub tick of this trip (and possibly, the 2014 GBG) was another fantastic cosy pub which again leaves me running out of superlatives.  I was never expecting Cambridge to be THIS good for ale.   My Nethergate 'Lemon Head' slipped down a lot more easily than the last couple, a nice hint of lemon but no more than that.  The average age of the people in here seemed a bit older than the last place, which made me feel younger!  I made friends with a funny little dog that kept jumping up at me, Clare's boyf James turned up for a post-work drink and to pick her up, and I really couldn't have felt more content.

So, well done to Cambridge and a few days rest for my liver now as I hope the 2015 GBG arrives so I can get into my "book-work" (a phrase coined by Prof Charles Taylor, NOT Prof Tom Irvin).  And then we'll keep the educated city theme going with a trip to Oxford next weekend.  Surely the pubs can't compete with this, but I hope they do.

'Til next time, good bye!  Si



  1. I've no idea if comments on post this old get read, but for the record:-

    You got it spot on regarding Cambridge pubs (very good) and the big tables in the Devonshire. I share your feelings for our cyclists; it's a terrifying place to walk at times. The flatness gets to you after a while too.

    Must read about Oxford now.

  2. Thanks Martin, yes quite a hazy day so I'm glad my memories tied up with your thoughts on Cambridge pubs. Everyone tells me the same about Cambridge cyclists.

    Right off to see if we can win at Leeds! Have a good weekend wherever you are,