Thirsty Cambridge

Thirsty Cambridge, a new independent drinks shop, opened this week at 46 Chesterton Road, near the Bermuda Triangle of Mitcham’s Corner, in what was formerly the Threshers off licence that closed at the end of 2009.

Thirsty Cambridge

When I visited, Matthew and Sam were pouring the first bottle fills from their newly installed CrafTap beer dispenser. A fill of Summer Wine Pils was passed around with anticipation, beaming smiles all round upon tasting it, the kit doing the beers justice.

The CrafTap counter pressure device fills the growler first with CO2 and then, as that is discharged, the beer from the keg, maintaining the carbonation. Apparently the beer can then keep for weeks in the growler, although with beer this good it’s likely to be gone before you leave the store – there are some Bavarian bierfest benches and tables to sit at. 1 and 2 litre growlers are available for take out, or you can bring your own, and there’s a good selection of bottled beer including Moor, Weird Beard, Hammerton and Siren.

It’s a nice new place to get good beer and hang around for a chat, and as the nearby area of Mitcham’s Corner is about to be redeveloped, it feels like the right place at the right time. There are also four pubs less than a minute away – the Old Spring, the Waterman, the Boathouse and the Portland Arms (a fifth, the Tivoli, is currently closed, pending a rebuild following the fire earlier this year), with a beer festival across them all from September 4th – 7th, including a food market on the Saturday.

Thirsty Cambridge is open from 8am-9pm Monday-Thursday, 8am-10pm Fri & Sat, 12-7 Sunday.

The Plough, Shepreth

The Plough is a pub in the South Cambridgeshire village of Shepreth, less than ten miles from Cambridge.

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Cambridge Beer Festival 2015

The 42nd Cambridge Beer Festival begins on Monday 18th May and runs through to Saturday 23rd.
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Queen Edith, Cambridge

The Queen Edith, the first new build pub in Cambridge in over 30 years, opened on Wulfstan Way on 24th April.

Queen Edith

This is the third pub in the city run by Milton Brewery, following their reopening of the Devonshire Arms in 2010, and the Haymakers in 2013. We visited on the opening weekend and there were five Milton beers on handpump, alongside three or four guests including B&T Edwin Taylor’s Extra Stout and Star Brewing Meteor. As with the other Milton pubs in the city, the excellent Moravka lager, brewed in the Peak District, is on keg. Likewise, the interior furnishings will be familiar to anybody who has set foot in their other pubs, especially in the snug bar with its dark wood, high-backed seats. The lounge is a larger, lighter room and features the main bar. We enjoyed a couple of pints of Milton’s Justinian in the snug and a good vegetarian nut loaf Sunday roast.

Queen Edith

The Queen Edith is built on what was the car park of the previous pub of that name that opened in December 1961, around the time the nearby Addenbrookes Hospital began admitting patients on its new site. Originally a Lacon house, the first licensees were Mr & Mrs Coop.

It closed 50 years later in December 2011; the last to run the pub was Paul St John-Campbell, who was there for over two years before he was made redundant. In any case, the previous year owners Punch Taverns had applied to have the pub demolished and replaced by 8 houses, arguing the pub was unviable. These plans were rejected but the pub was sold, and in the hands of developers Danescroft new plans were approved that allowed the pub to be demolished last year and the new pub built, alongside a block of 12 flats. It’s a nice building, the first new build pub in the city since the Ancient Druids in 1984 (closed in 1996 and now a Chinese restaurant) with a large catchment area and few other pubs nearby. Tantalisingly, Milton brewery said they see this as a potential template for the development of other redundant pub sites.

Salisbury Arms and St. Radegund Reopen

I don’t know, you wait ages for a refurbished pub and then three reopen at once. Following the Grain Store opening at the beginning of March, the St. Radegund and Salisbury Arms also reopened in Cambridge this month.

Salisbury Arms

76 Tenison Road |

Salisbury Arms

A Charles Wells pub that appears to have recovered from its recent identity crisis. Once full of memorabilia, including 1970s Cambridge Beer Festival posters, dummies sat at a table on the balcony overlooking the main bar, and sacks of grain and a cyclist suspended from the ceiling, less than a year ago it had a makeover which removed all items of interest, repainted the interior bright white and left it characterless.

Salisbury Arms

However, this succesive refurbishment has redressed some of that, bringing back the Beer Fest posters, more bicycles, even the pub game Ring the Bull, rescued and returned to its rightful place on the wall (don’t try and compete with anybody who works there – they’re well practiced).

Salisbury Arms

The interior layout has been altered, most notably a distressed wood, metal-topped bar on the extended ground floor level, and the addition of a pizza oven on the lower level (ensuring a few more choices for vegetarians, to add to the Ciambotta and Mac & Cheese).

Salisbury Arms

There were 4 real ales and 8 keg lines on the new bar, including Young’s London Stout and the first appearance in the city of Charlie Wells Dry Hopped Lager – although I’d say more hops have been used in decorating the interior of the pub than in brewing that particular beer.

Salisbury Arms

The Salisbury is perhaps best known as having been one of the CAMRA Investments pubs in the 1970s, at the time boasting “possibly the largest selection in the country of bottle-conditioned English and Belgian beers”.

Salisbury advert 1970s

I lived just along the street in the early 90s when it was a bustling pub, packed with students in the evening, with loud music from the jukebox (since removed) and at least eight hand pumps, with beers including the since discontinued Mansfield Riding Mild.

Salisbury Arms Salisbury Arms

Although the interior is much altered from the one I fondly remember, the latest refurb has nevertheless made it a welcoming place again, the main bar large and airy, the small back room still almost like a snug (who knew books didn’t only appear on wallpaper), and it’s back on the map for a Cambridge pub crawl.

St. Radegund

129 King Street

Radegund Free House

Even with a new layout, this is probably still the smallest pub in Cambridge if not the county. The renovation has certainly let in more light, with the raised ceiling uncovering the tops of the windows, although this has involved the removal of the names burned into the ceiling by some of the regulars. Much of the memorabilia has been retained, including pictures of Dame Vera Lynn (the Vera Lynn Appreciation Society was formerly held on Friday evenings), framed articles about the King Street Run, and a photo of the Garrick pub which once stood here on the corner at Four Lamps. A TV screen above the bar was showing the rugby, which everyone else in the bar was watching.

St Radegund

I’m not sure if the relocation of the bar has really gained much floor space or any extra seating, but it has uncovered a fireplace, although it’s not clear if this will actually be used (it was cold enough on the day that a fire would have been welcome).


There are 8 pumps installed on the bar, although on the opening day only two were on – Saffron Brewery Royal Blue and Yakima Gold from the ever dependable Crouch Vale, with keg Brooklyn Lager, Budvar and Kozel – although no sign of the Milton Sackcloth which used to be a regular ale brewed exclusively for the Radegund. It’s still a work in progress though.

Tivoli in ruins

Sadly, on the day two Cambridge pubs reopened, another was burning down – the Tivoli, a Wetherspoon on Chesterton Road. It caught fire in the early hours of the morning and burnt for hours despite its riverside location, with water being pumped from the Cam to fight the fire. As I was nearby I had a look, and was told by a fireman that the roof had collapsed and that the fire and water had caused structural damage that has left the building in a perilous state. It will be a shame if Cambridge loses not just another pub, but a fine old building, formerly the Tivoli Cinema (Tivoli blog post).

The Tivoli

The Grain Store, Cambridge

The Grain Store, formerly the Avery, on Regent Street in Cambridge opened on Friday 6th March after a “complete makeover” by Greene King. The “six figure” investment promised an “extensive choice of craft beer and cask ale sourced from local, national and international breweries”, along with a modern interior decor and a revamped kitchen and menu. I went along to the pre-opening night to see what had changed.

Grain Store

I expected the beer line up might be a showcase for Greene King’s “speciality craft keg” range, but of the 10 taps and 6 hand pumps (duplicated on the first-floor bar), only three were their own – Double Hop Monster keg, the rebranded IPA and a house 3.9 on cask. Not quite the promised “extensive choice of craft beer and cask ale sourced from local, national and international breweries” – the only international brewery on the tap list was Goose Island, a brewery they have exclusive keg distribution rights for in England and Wales, while the nearest local brewery was Old Cannon, from Greene King’s hometown Bury St Edmunds thirty miles away – nevertheless a pleasant surprise.

With four of BrewDog’s beers on tap for the opening, Greene King are hoping that brand will give them some credibility as a ‘craft beer’ provider. That six of the ten tap beers were from Scotland suggests they’re tapping into the distribution network they have north of the border, enabled by their Belhaven brewery. I spoke to people from the brewery during the evening who readily admitted it will be a challenge for them to provide a beer list to match venues like the nearby Pint Shop – as a comparison, over two visits to the Pint Shop last week, I had beer from the likes of Evil Twin, Magic Rock, Buxton and To Øl.

Grain Store

Most impressive were the new tanks for Pilsner Urquell, four 500 litre tanks for the unpasteurised beer they believe “guarantees you’re drinking the beer as fresh as possible“, the first pub in this country outside of London to have it delivered this way. It’s probably the bottled beer I drink most often, and my go-to beer in other pubs that have it on draught, so it was good to taste it so fresh and full of flavour, and will probably be the most compelling reason for me to return to the Grain Store.

Grain Store

The six cask ales on were Red Squirrel Winter’s Tail, Cottage Norman’s Conquest Texas Brown Ale, Oldershaw Great Expectations, Old Cannon Gunner’s Daughter, along with Greene King IPA and house beer 3.9. Fridges and shelves are stocked with familiar bottles, and Amstel and Heineken are also on

Grain Store

It would be easy to be cynical about this makeover, I mean really easy – the bus seats look like they came from the same vehicle the Cambridge Brew House plundered for their refit two years ago.


Yet it was notable though that at no point during the evening was I given the ‘hard sell’, and as with previous conversations I’ve had with folk from Greene King, the modest tone seems in complete contrast to the bravado of their marketing material which hype “monster” hop flavours in thier beers or describe the Grain Store as wanting to be “the place in Cambridge for high quality craft beers and moreish food”. Nor did I sense any delusions about how this venture might be seen. If there’s a percepetion of them riding the coattails of more credible craft brands, then perhaps it’s a case of damned if they do, damned if they don’t. After all, it’s only two years since the Brew House opened, and 16 months since the Pint Shop and Blue Moon. In any case, who owns the trademark on exposed beams, beer boards, 10-keg-&-6-cask, shabby chic, industrial, or any other characteristics a modern bar might have?

I gather this is something of an experiment for Greene King – can they provide a compelling beer offering, build a credible ‘craft’ brand, find a position somewhere between the price points of Wetherspoon and the Pint Shop – there’s a lot of ground between a sub £2 pint of John Smiths and a £12 Double IPA. Will this new approach draw a new crowd, the “affluent young professionals” they seem to be courting, or cannibalise trade from their existing pubs? That is, amongst other things, what they’re aiming to find out.

Grain Store

Twenty years ago, this large building, originally the factory for Avery Scales, stood derilict overlooking Parker’s Piece, a 25-acre common on one side, and on the other side accessible from Regent Street, a main route into the city centre from the Station. I used to walk past it often, wondering how a fine building in a prime location had come to stand empty and unused. Then nearly twenty years ago it was acquired by Whitbread and opened in July 1996 as the Hogshead, boasting a large bar on each of the two floors, each with its own stillage and ten handpumps. It received a blow from Wetherspoon in 2000 with the opening of the Regal, at the time the pub with the largest capacity (1600) in Britain, just 300 metres along the street.


It came into the hands of Greene King in 2004 after their acquisition of over 400 former Whitbread-managed pubs from Laurel Inns. Renamed the Avery, it served only Greene King ales, which was quite a limited range at the time. However, trade never seemed to pick up, and on my most recent visit last year, the beer selection was as dire as ever, with no real ales and only the usual suspects on keg – Becks, Stella et al – the evening salvaged by bottles of Strong Suffolk from the fridge. It had become an unappealing sports bar, badly in need of some attention, so it’s good to see it get a new lease of life, and I hope it gets the custom it will need to avoid falling empty again.

From my first impressions, I like the Grain Store more than I expected to, it’s a nicely fitted out space with a nice ambience, the service was friendly (sure, it was a launch party, but it seemed like a genuine attempt to engage with customers), and the beer list offers enough temptation for me to pop in again to see what’s on. Worth a visit I’d say.

Grain Store

The Grain Store, 69-71 Regent Street, Cambridge, CB2 1AB

Golden Pints Awards 2014

Golden PintsI enjoy looking back on the best beery moments of the year, and reading what were the highlights for others. That said, it’s tricky picking winners from all the great beers and bars encountered over the course of a year, and it feels a bit skewed towards novelty when my choices include beers I’ve only tried a few times, and a bar I’ve visited only once.

Thanks to Andy Mogg at Beer Reviews for hosting the awards again.

Best UK Cask Beer – Mighty Oak Kings

Citra hopped beers are plentiful, but Kings is outstanding. If I could have chosen one beer as a permanent this whole summer, this would probably have been it.

Mighty Oak Kings

Best UK Keg Beer – Magic Rock/Birra Toccalmatto Custard Pie

I knew when I tasted this back in January that I’d still be thinking about it come December. A wonderful beer, bursting with tropical fruit juiciness.

Custard Pie label
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