Category Archives: Cambridge

Cambridge and District CAMRA award winners 2014

Last night the Hopbine on Fair Street was again host to the annual Cambridge and District CAMRA awards.

Pub of the Year – Chestnut Tree

The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting, winner of last year’s Most Improved Rural Pub, is this year’s Pub of the Year. Rachel and Peter Causton have transformed the pub over the past couple of years and said “onwards and upwards” as they accepted the award. The pub is well worth visiting on this years Ale Trail, especially if weather allows use of the beer garden.

A Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Mario Castiglione whose family have been at the Maypole for over 32 years. Champion cocktail mixer Mario, and son Vincent, now have 16 real ales on the bar along with 50 bottled beers and three ciders. With a big smile Mario accepted the award, thanking his family and staff members past & present, saying “It’s a nice life, you’ll be really happy and I recommend it to anyone”

Here are the award winners:

Cambridge and District CAMRA award winners 2014

Pub of the Year 2013 The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting
Locale Pub of the Year (Rural) Carpenter’s Arms, Great Wilbraham
Locale Pub of the Year (City) The Mill, Mill Lane
Community Pub of the Year (Rural) Blue Ball, Grantchester
Community Pub of the Year (City) Six Bells, Covent Garden
Dark Beer Pub of the Year Red Lion, Histon
Most Improved Pub of the Year (City) Haymakers, Chesterton
Most Improved Pub of the Year (Rural) Three Horseshoes, Stapleford
Cider Pub of the Year Carlton Arms, Cambridge
Real Ale Champion Julian Huppert MP
CAMRA Lifetime Achievement Award Mario Castiglione, Maypole

Cambridge Pubs

Cambridge has plenty of good pubs, and after living here for over twenty years, I thought it was time I wrote a guide to them. Follow this link for a full round up of the best Cambridge pubs

For starters, here are four of my favourites:

Elm Tree

16A Orchard St, Cambridge CB1 1JT
Elm Tree
Friendly, relaxing pub with several real ales and a fridge full of Belgian beers including rarities, accompanied by detailed tasting menus. Outdoor seating along the alley at the side that becomes a sun trap in the summer. Live music several times a month. No food but the Free Press is just along the street – yes, two of the best pubs in Cambridge are just 50 metres apart…

Free Press

7 Prospect Row CB1 1DU Map | @FreePressPub
Free PressA wonderful little traditional backstreet pub, one of my favourite pubs anywhere, a must-visit Cambridge pub. Dating back to at least 1825, it was nearly lost forever to 1970s redevelopments, boarded up and awaiting its fate. Luckily, it was saved from the wrecking ball, refitted and renovated, and lives on. Two open fires in the winter, beer festivals in the beer garden in the summer, great food, draught beers are from Greene King and guests, and generally amongst the best kept beers in Cambridge.


14, Mill Lane, Cambridge CB2 1RX | @TheMillCam
Mill, Cambridge
Excellent pub in enviable riverside location, with Laundress Green serving as its unofficial beer garden, a perfect refreshment stop when punting. Great selection of cask, keg and bottled beer, very supportive of local breweries, good food – this pub has been doing everything right since it was refurbished and reopened under new management in 2012.

Pint Shop

10 Peas Hill CB2 3PN Map | @PintShop
Pint Shop
Opened in November 2013 in a handsome 1830s merchant’s house just off the Market Place in the city centre, it proved to be an instant hit. Impressive beer selection with 10 keg and 6 cask lines serving the finest beers from the likes of Buxton, Kernel, Magic Rock, Marble, Rogue and Southern Tier. Bar snacks available but separate dining areas keep the main bar and snug beer focused. An essential stop on any Cambridge pub tour.

Continue reading the full Cambridge Pub Guide with map

Calverley’s Brewery, Cambridge

Cambridge has a new microbrewery. Calverley’s Brewery has just released its first beer and Sam and Tom invited a few of us along to the brewery for a sample last week. The 4.8% Best Bitter was well received by all, a pleasingly full-bodied beer, malty toffee flavours balanced with good bitterness – we all seemed to keep happily returning for top-ups. A promising start, and there are lots more recipes in the pipeline.

The Best Bitter has already been delivered to the Kingston Arms so that’s likely to be the first pub in Cambridge to serve Calverley’s beer, and also happens to be the nearest pub to the brewery, less than 300 metres from door to door.

Calverley's Brewery

The brewery is located at the end of Hooper Street in one of a cluster of workshop buildings that have included organ builders, upholsterers and garages. The building is shown on an Ordnance Survey map from the 1880s, and presumably dates from the 1870s when most of this area was built up. There were once two pubs on Hooper Street – the Great Eastern Tavern on the corner of Ainsworth Street, and the White Hart, now the Backstreet Bistro, on the corner of Sturton Street. This area off Mill Road was also once home to a couple of breweries – William Worboys Sturton Brewery and off-licence stood on nearby Sturton Street, and Pitson and Newman’s Gwydir Brewery existed at the Mill Road end of Gwydir Street, later the site of Dales Brewery.

It’s a family run venture with brothers Sam and Tom doing the brewing and other family members helping out. The pumpclip shows the brewery logo, an Eagle Owl from the Calverley’s family crest, taken from the coat of arms of Sir John Saville, the first alderman of Leeds – his sister Alice married Sir William Calverley. The Coat of Arms of the City of Leeds also features these owls on a blue background.

Keep an eye out for it in Cambridge pubs this month and hopefully at Cambridge Beer Festival next month…

Cambridge Pubs with a Jukebox

The other night a friend visiting Cambridge wanted to find a pub with a jukebox and I could only be certain of one, so we ended up at the King Street Run. I probably hadn’t ploughed money into that particular pub’s jukebox since the 90s, but then most of the songs we put on were at least that old, and conversation revolved around the records being played.

Which prompted me to put together a list, with the help of Twitter, of which Cambridge pubs currently/probably have a jukebox:

Dobblers 184 Sturton Street CB1 2QF
Carlton Arms Carlton Way CB4 2BY
Earl Of Beaconsfield 133 Mill Road CB1 3AA
Empress 72 Thoday Stree CB1 3AX
Emperor 21 Hills Road CB2 1NW
Geldart 1 Ainsworth Street CB1 2PF
King Street Run 86 King Street CB1 1LN
Portland Arms 129 Chesterton Road CB4 3BA
Salisbury Arms, Tenison Road CB1 2DW
Six Bells 11 Covent Garden CB1 2HS

Earl of Beaconsfield Jukebox

Earl of Beaconsfield

Pint Shop, Cambridge

Last night the Pint Shop opened its doors for the first time for a preview evening, prior to the launch on Monday 4th Novemember, the first entirely new pub in Cambridge for over ten years. Inspired by the proliferation of beer houses that followed the Beerhouse Act of 1830, the Pint Shop aims to be a relaxed, intimate place for craft beer and simple food, and first impressions suggest they’ve got this spot on.

Pint Shop

Expectations had been building since the beginning of the year when the Pint Shop name first popped up, but the promise of a craft beer bar in Cambridge was taken with a pinch of salt – after all, we’d been here before with the Cambridge Tap having twice tried and failed to open at the train station, around which time Brew Dog was said to be sniffing around Cambridge, although this too came to nothing. However, in August any doubts were dismissed when the location for the Pint Shop was finally revealed, a handsome three-storey building just off the Market Place in the city centre, an area short of good beer.

Before the transformation

Before the transformation

We visited prior to the refitting and were shown around what were then empty offices while Rich and Benny waxed lyrical about their vision. It wasn’t hard to see how the former stuffy offices could become a bustling beerhouse, and a few things in particular piqued our interest – glimpses of original fireplaces and features, albeit partly concealed, the potential of the large cellar, and perhaps most of all, the surprise of an outdoor patio area at the rear of the building – in the centre of Cambridge, a quiet, secluded spot we wouldn’t have known existed (and that would be much improved with a trellis of hops!)


During the renovation, the fireplaces were uncovered to expose marble fireplace surrounds, carpets ripped up to reveal parquet floors, original shutters and fine doric columns refurbished, and walls knocked through to form a spacious front bar and cosy snug.



But back to the beer. Earlier in the year we’d met Rich to hear more about the plans over a few pints. It was clear by then that it was more than a pipedream, and the kind of beers being enthusiastically discussed were exactly the kind of beers that Cambridge lacked – craft beers from the likes of Magic Rock and Buxton that seemed to have passed Cambridge by on their way to London. Fast forward to today, and although this isn’t by any means the first time craft beer has been served in Cambridge, the beer selection currently sitting in the cellar includes some of the best beer being brewed in this country today, with the likes of Buxton Axe Edge and Kernal IPA soon to appear amongst the ten keg and six cask lines. Unlike the original beer houses, there’s also an array of gins, with Adnams Copper House as the house gin.


On the preview night we were treated to a free bar featuring Kernel Table Beer, Rogue Dead Guy, Adnams Dry Hopped Lager and Old Ale, Marble Pint and Oakham Asylum – all in good nick and served with zeal by an impassioned team. More than the beer itself, the enthusiasm of the staff is what impressed – the previous week spent on a crash course of beer and gin tasting, food pairing and cellarmanship, clearly paying dividends.

Dining Room

For a place with the slogan ‘Meat Bread Beer’, it was not unexpected that the bar snacks being served were mostly unsuitable for vegetarians, but the food seemed to be going down very well for others. Although snacks will be available in the bar area, what was especially welcome was the separation of the main dining and drinking areas, with dining rooms at the rear and on the first floor, avoiding the situation in some pubs where tables in the main bar sit ‘reserved’, empty and free of discouraged drinkers.


It also helps that the building itself has such a great ambience, with plenty of original features and nice added touches – a foot rest running the length of the bar, ledges for drinks in the outside alley and along the corridors, a chalkboard for the essential details of the beer – they all added up to a great first impression and it lived up to it’s promise as a place I can see myself visiting often, drinking a variety of good beer. I’ll raise a glass to that.

A History of No. 10 Peas Hill

The present building, “an unusually ambitious house” with “giant pilasters and a Doric stone frieze” (Pevsner, 1970), was originally a merchant’s house built c.1830, perhaps earlier, which would make it contemporary with Cambridge’s Bridge of Sighs. During its lifetime it has been a bank, Toft’s cabinet makers, Mary Cullum’s lodging house, Francis & Co solicitors (the oldest firm of solicitors in Cambridge, now merged with Mills & Reeve) and most recently an office for the University administration and records. At the time it was built, it would have stood facing the Bell Inn, since demolished to make way for extensions to the Guildhall, now the site of the Tourist Information Centre. The Three Tuns also stood on Peas Hill by St. Edward’s passage, a tavern frequented by Pepys who “drank pretty hard” there, it too has been demolished.

The Bell Inn

The Bell Inn

Although this is the first time the building has been a pub, two “well known inns, the Talbot and the Dung Hill Cock (afterwards called the White Hart)” once stood either side of the present Pint Shop site, the White Hart recorded from at least 1572. A Dunghill Cock was a rooster, and dung hills would have been common on the streets of Cambridge, especially around the market place – as recently as 1850 the superintendent of the Fire Brigade which stood near the Guildhall complained to the mayor of a “dunghill at the back of the Corn Exchange which leaks into the engine room when it rains”! In 1575 regulations were made to clean the streets twice a week, with orders that “Innkeepers or others who kept more than four horses or bullocks must only deposit muck or dung in the highways when the carters were about to call” (Reeve, 1976)

The Augustine Friary

The Pint Shop stands on what was the north side of the Austin Friary from c.1289 to 1538. Although the buildings were cleared away after the disolution, part of the refectory and the gateway fronting Peas Hill remained standing until as late as 1789, then used as the lecture room of the professors of botany, the former friary grounds forming the first University Botanic Gardens c.1760. Behind the Pint Shop, excavations of the present Arts School cellars revealed fragments of the Augustinian Friary.


Richard Lyne, 1574

Peas Hill

Peas Hill was an area of Saxon occupation from c. 8th century. Although the ‘hill’ isn’t so evident today, it was originally on a ridge of higher ground, the gradual levelling up of the lower ground over centuries having covered the contours – from the Pint Shop to the river at King’s College, the ground level slopes down about twenty feet.

It became the site of the fish market in 1579 when an ordinance of 12 February provided that “all the fresh-water fish and sea fish brought to the town and all the common fishmongers which usually have stood in the market over against the new shambles shall from henceforth be sold on the Pease Market Hill and have and keep their standing there” (History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, 1959). The Fish Market was important, and “dealt in a great variety of fish: salmon, Colchester oysters, as well as mackerel, herrings, sprats, eels, jacks, and other freshwater fish” (Conybeare and Griggs, 1910). The fish market continued there until 1949. The name ‘Peas’ may be a corruption of ‘pisces’, Latin for fish.

Peas Hill was the scene of the Town vs. Gown riots of April 1534 and the Battle of Peas Hill on November 13th 1820 (Elton, 1958). These tensions were aggravated down the centuries by the legal privileges accorded the university, which gave it an extraordinary dominance over the town. (Bayliss, 2006)

There are a quarter of an acre of tunnels under Peas Hill which were fitted out and used as air raid shelters for 400 people during the War.

They damp tunnels were wired for electricity, lavatories were installed, wooden seats fitted in the tunnel recesses, and oil lamps were kept close at hand in case of emergency. People used the shelter during daytime raids, some sleeping down there when there was night bombing, while ‘Roadsters’ used them every night to sleep. The first Cambridge tunnels dug under Peas Hill were used as wine vaults and one is blocked off by a wall of wine bottles cemented together. (Mike Petty, Looking Back)

Parts of the Pint Shop cellars do appear to form part of those tunnels, and should the need for shelter arise, this is where I’m heading.

Highways & Byways in Cambridge – Conybeare and Griggs, 1910
Outside the Barnwell Gate – H.P. Stokes, 1915
The Augustinian Friary in Cambridge – Cranage and Stokes, 1918
By-ways of Cambridge History – F.A. Keynes, 1956
Star Chamber Stories – G. R. Elton, 1958
History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, 1959
Cambridgeshire – Niklaus Pevsner, 1970
Cambridge – F.A. Reeve, 1976
Cambridge Street-Names – R. Gray and D. Stubbings, 2000
Town and Gown – Sarah Bayliss, 2006
Looking Back – Mike Petty

Oakington White Horse

The White Horse, Oakington is another of the Pubs along the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway – less than half a mile from the Guided Bus stop at Oakington, or a 30 minute cycle along the cycleway from Cambridge.

I visited this Greene King pub just after their Bank Holiday Beer Festival had finished, and had a Growler Umbel Magna from the low-ceilinged bar – also on, Greene King IPA – and took it out to the large beer garden at the rear, as the marquees were being packed away. Food was being served to a few tables inside, which seemed promising for a Tuesday lunchtime, as I’ve called at several nearby pubs recently that were closed on a weekday lunchtime.

Oakington White Horse

“The White Horse at Alehouse Green, which is recorded from the 1760s and was rebuilt after a fire in 1805.”

From at least 1879 to 1904 the White Horse also served as a butcher’s and the meat hooks are said to still be in the loft.

Oakington pubs
© OpenStreetMap contributors

From the bus stop you can see the New Inn which closed in 1989 and is now a house. This route passes two other closed pubs – Harvest Home, now a hairdressers/garage, and the Plough and Harrow which closed in 1905 and is now the village stores and Post Office.

Harvest Home, Plough and Harrow

Harvest Home, Plough and Harrow

The Plough & Harrow, and many others in Cambridgeshire, were closed “when Cambridgeshire magistrates started the task of extinguishing licences of public houses thought to be superfluous. The offers of compensation were accepted in all but three cases.” (Cambridge History). Seven or more pubs may have existed in Oakington – the King’s Head and Lion and Lamb were also closed under the scheme between 1906 to 1908 – only the White Horse is still serving.

More Pubs along the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway

History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely – A. P. M. Wright & C. P. Lewis, 1989

Pint Shop opening in Cambridge

UPDATE: Read the full review of the Pint Shop, Cambridge

Pint Shop have announced they will open in Cambridge in November. The new pub at 10 Peas Hill is due to open on 4th November and the three-storey building near the Market Square is currently undergoing a complete overhaul as the former offices are converted.

Pint Shop

Meat, Bread, Beer

The bar will have up to ten keg and six cask beers regularly changing, with beer from the likes of Buxton, Camden, Kernel and Magic Rock hopefully soon being served here, along with a small selection of bottled specials. There’ll also be around forty gins, twenty whiskys, and a small selection of European wines.

A weekly changing menu of simple, fresh, British food, mostly locally sourced, will feature spit roasted and slow braised meat, hot pies and ‘real bread‘.

Richard Holmes and Benny Peverelli have bagged an elegant building in a prime location, just off Market Square, opposite Jamie’s Italian and next to the recently opened CAU and Zizzi, an area that’s seen plenty of regeneration recently. The first new pub in Cambridge for over ten years, the Pint Shop promises to be an exciting addition to the city centre, providing a welcome new flow of great beer into Cambridge. We’re looking forward to joining them for celebratory drinks when the Pint Shop opens in ten weeks.

Ten weeks and counting…

UPDATE: Read the full opening review of the Pint Shop, Cambridge

The start of something bloody brilliant

Today, during the 40th Cambridge Beer Festival, I served a man who told me he was at the very first one, back in 1974 when it was held at the Corn Exchange.

What was it like back then, I asked.

“It was the start of something bloody brilliant”


“They ran out of beer and my mate had to drive a truck to Young’s brewery in London to bring some back. He can’t drive a truck anymore. He couldnt drive one then”

He talked about some pubs in the area at that time.

“Pubs didn’t have the pipe cleaning equipment they have now. They had a little sponge they’d shove in the pipe and then force it through with cold water. Sometimes, not reading the instructions, they’d put pipe cleaning fluid in the pipes and leave it overnight – it was supposed to be washed out after an hour”

“There wasn’t much choice of beers. It was keg Double Diamond or Watney, or some terrible local homebrewed ales. If you walked into a pub that had Greene King beers, you thought you’d reached the promised land”

Cellarmanship was apparently lacking at a local football club bar.

“Keg beer was indestructible back then. At the end of the football season, they knew how to look after the grass, but the beer was just left there until the next season started. They had lovely grass…”

The infamous Watneys Red Barrel was referred to.

“Well, Watneys Red Barrel was weak. You could drown in it and never get drunk.”

“The winter of 1963 was a harsh one, but although the water in the taps was still running, the landlord’s barrel of Watneys froze and all that came out was a bit of alcohol because there weren’t much of that”

As he walked off, pint in hand, he turned and said “I’ll be coming back here to the next forty Cambridge Beer Festivals”. I’ll drink to that.

Cambridge Beer Festival 2013

Cambridge Beer Festival is this week celebrating its 40th year. Way back in August 1974 when everybody else was Kung Fu Fighting, Cambridge CAMRA was serving up beers from breweries such as Hoskins, Rayments, Ridleys and Tolly, while local pubs the Ancient Druids, Bun Shop and Cambridge Arms featured in the Good Beer Guide. None of those breweries and pubs have survived, but the beer festival still has plenty of life left in it, as evidenced by last year’s record breaker, when over forty-one thousand visitors enjoyed the sun-baked sessions. Beers have arrived here this year from as far away as the American West Coast, and as nearby as Cambridge’s own Brewhouse, less than half a mile away on King Street. And if the thought of over 200 different beers, over 60 ciders and perries, plus meads and wine doesn’t whet the appetite, there’s always the cheese counter.

Cambridge Beer Festival

Cambridge Beer Festival runs weekdays from 12pm-3pm and 5pm-10:30pm, and Saturday 12pm-10:30pm

Volunteers are always much appreciated (and rewarded with beer tokens, free food and a T-shirt!), particularly for this Thursday evening.

Pints and Punts – HMS BlackBar

The River Cam provided the main route for trade in Cambridge for over a thousand years, perhaps as far back as the eighth century, with Cambridge regarded as a seaport up to about 1300 (Bryan, 2008). Though the arrival of the railway in 1845 destroyed most of this commercial activity, transport of goods along the river continued well into the twentieth century (Taylor, 1999).

Beer on the Cam

Several mills, granaries, malthouses and brewhouses stood slong the river, with Stourbridge Fair providing a centre of trade for hops, according to Defoe’s Tour Through Great Britain.

In like manner great quantities of heavy goods, and the hops among the rest, are sent from the fair to Lynn by water, and shipped there for the Humber, to Hull, York, etc., and for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and by Newcastle, even to Scotland itself. Now as there is still no planting of hops in the north, though a great consumption, and the consumption increasing daily, this, says my friend, is one reason why at Stourbridge fair there is so great a demand for the hops. He added, that besides this, there were very few hops, if any worth naming, growing in all the counties even on this side Trent, which were above forty miles from London; those counties depending on Stourbridge fair for their supply, so the counties of Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridge, Huntingdon, Northampton, Lincoln, Leicester, Rutland, and even to Stafford, Warwick, and Worcestershire, bought most if not all of their hops at Stourbridge fair.
(Defoe, 1722)

The river was also important for transporting beer and the ingredients for making it, and some breweries were built by the river to take advantage of this means of transport.

Undoubtedly some breweries used river transport both for the reciept of barley and malt and for the delivery of beer. Indeed some of the more remote riverside pubs can only have been supplied by river for much of the year (Flood, 1987)

Bitter Beginnings

Almost certainly, none of this was in mind when Joe Kennedy from BlackBar Brewery decided to deliver his beer to Cambridge Beer Festival using the river as transport. Perhaps environmental concerns led him to consider punting the beer for the last 3 miles of the journey from the brewery to Jesus Green. More likely it was partly to avoid the city centre traffic and partly as an excuse for a spot of firkin about on the river.

From Spring Lane Field in Grantchester, twenty five firkins were loaded onto an ocean liner of a punt, provided by Scudamores and ably guided downstream by our captain Dan.

Dan can

With buzzards wheeling overhead, and sedge warblers chattering in the reeds, it took just over an hour for us to calmly glide down the river, save for a bit of effort negotiating the deep water and sharp bend that is Dead Man’s Corner, to arrive at the weir where we were granted shore leave to visit the Mill.

MillThe Mill public house stands overlooking the weir where two mills once stood, Bishop’s Mill and King’s Mill. Lauren generously provided free pints of BlackBar Bitter to any landlubbers who showed up wearing black in support of our efforts, along with a few who weren’t wearing black but were nevertheless keen on free beer.

Refreshed, we then gained a few extra pairs of hands to help roll the casks along the road in front of the Mill, and down the steps to the lower river where our punt was waiting.

We then embarked on the final leg of the journey, gaining a shipmate at Quayside as Louise boarded, with Rich, our photographer, apparently losing his sea legs:

BlackBar encourages responsible drinking

Blackbar encourages responsible drinking

At Jesus lock we unoaded the beer and the casks were forklifted to the beer festival site. All bar one, which Joe took for a quick shred on the skate park:

Blackbar on a roll

And then we were finished. Well, Joe at least, and it was off to the Maypole for a final drink. The Maypole will be holding its own beer festival to coincide with the Cambridge Beer Festival, with a new BlackBar Porter on (I was granted a sniff from the FV while at the brewery and if the aroma is anything to go by, it will be a cracking beer).


Thanks to Joe for inviting me along, and to everyone that showed support for HMS BlackBar, particularly Lauren at the Mill, Scudamores and Cambridge CAMRA. Blackbar beers will be available at the beer festival – worth a punt.

Peter Bryan – Cambridge, The Shaping of the City (2008)
Alsion Taylor – Cambridge, The Hidden History (1999)
RJ Flood – Cambridge Breweries (1989)
Daniel Defoe – Tour through the Eastern Counties of England (1722)
HMS BlackBar 2013 The Story
Cambridge Beer Festival