It was with a little anticipation then that I had my first day all to myself in Cambridge. What better to do then? Pub Crawl of course! See what the city has to offer in the way of ales and the like. Of course when it comes to wandering around a new city, Google is always your friend, so after drawing up some route battle plans from Google Maps it was time to set off and haunt some new pubs.
The first on the list was The Golden Hind, not an independent pub (Spirit owned, then Punch owned, then back to Spirit) But still an interesting sounding one to start off with.
I was allured by the promise of 6 cask ales. I came to find that the main offering of these was Black Sheep, Speckled Hen, Ruddles and the like. They were serving some Adnams Explorer and Broadside so I had a half each of those.
The whole place was actually rather impressive, and the beer was on excellent form and was served expertly. Not a bad place to start off with, even if it was a chain. You got a big family feel from the place, and even though the walls were plastered with 'Food Hygiene Star Awards' all the regulars were still getting new pints from the same glass... I kinda liked that. But enough about that though, on to the next pub.
The second haunt was The Mitre, in a more central town setting. It did have a big town centre feel to it, but being Cambridge and being directly opposite one of the colleges, you felt very welcomed and pleased to venture in.
They have a good selection of 8 rotating cask ales. Todays selection boasted the best from Sharps, Adnams, Rudgate and other local ales. I went for the Incubus Hopdeamon, just because it looked great, and had a fantastic name! It was in fact, not a Hop-Deamon, which left me feeling a little disappointed.
The next two pubs that I visited had big reputations and many awards to their names but unfortunately only served to remind me that some pubs aren't open in the afternoon...
The Kingston Arms and The Empress would have been great to visit, but unfortunately didn't open their doors till 5. I can't help but wonder if it means they loose much trade??
The last pub really was the jewel in the crown, and goes a long way to show that it's not what you know, it's not even who you know, it's who you communicate with and the questions you ask! It was though, with a little scepticism, when my taxi driver said the best real ale pub in Cambridge was down this street... doesn't look like a great pub street, but hey, nothing ventured nothing gained!
Turns out the pub right at the end, The Cambridge Blue, has the qualities to rival most of your 'great pubs'!
It doesn't look like more than your average pub down a back street, but it's this kind of place that usually works out for the best I find.
7 Cask lines, two rows of pump clips on each. I was a little confused to begin with. I started out with a half of the Oakham Green Devil IPA (a beast of a beer at 6%) and assumed they would be operating a double tap system or something like that. The bar maid disappeared round the back though. Turns out all the pump clips on the bottom were served from casks in the cellar, and the clips on the top were served straight from the barrel in a little side cold store just in next room. I thought I'd found my heaven! Straight from the barrel could also explain why the Green Devil was tasting so damn good.
The cask beers weren't the only good thing about this place. The food was great, they had a bottle selection that could have probably rivalled North Bar, and every square foot of wall space from ceiling to floor was plastered in old and new school beer memorabilia. It was a real beer geek hunters dream, and I think the next time Cambridge gets a haunt, it won't be for a pub crawl - it will be for a proper sesh in this place!
One other little side point, whilst I was in my first pub - The Golden Hind, I got chatting to the bar man about beer and we had ourselves a little geeky beer chat. I asked the dreaded question of 'if they had any sparklers on site at all?' He said that they did, but they'd never been used before - not once. I asked him if I could see one and he said 'yeah no problems, if I can find one!'
Now, I don't know what relation this has to a sparkler, or anything about what it might do for the beer, but according to the South this is a sparkler:
If anyone can shed any light on this strange looking piece of metal, please let me know, because it's the only 'sparkler' I saw all day, and it hadn't even been used ever! The beer out of the casks in the Cambridge Blue certainly made up for the lack of sparklers though. Till the next time I decide to roam the streets, Cheers!