It’s almost three years since the Cambridge Brew House opened in what had previously been the Jolly Scholar, but was best known as the Bun Shop, its name in the 90s and noughties. The 1970s building replaced an earlier pub, originally the King’s Arms. It’s only a couple of years since Mark Burton was appointed head brewer, and now, to add to last year’s title as joint winner of Cambridge Beer Festival Beer of the Festival with Chicken Porter, he’s just picked up awards for the best Porter in East Anglia and runner-up overall Champion Beer of East Anglia with Night Porter.
So far this year, in my attempt to visit every pub and bar in Cambridge (over 90 of them in all), I’ve yet to write about any of the handful of pubs that I go to most frequently and get the most enjoyment from spending time in. I’ve been visiting them, to keep my sanity, but haven’t wanted to put in the effort of taking notes and photos, and then bundling them together in a blog post. However, in light of Cambridge Brew Co’s recent awards, and as I’ve had to endure some mediocrity in my pub travels of late, I thought now would be a good time to write about one of the better Cambridge pubs. I’ve written about the history of the Cambridge Brew House area before, so I only had to take a couple of snaps, enjoy the beers (the Night Porter was on and deserves the accolades), and hey presto, another pub ticked off the list.
It helps that I like most of the beers brewed on the premises here – you can see the brewery-in-a-fishbowl from the main bar area, with malty goodness often wafting through the pub – particularly the dark beers such as the aforementioned Night Porter and Chicken Porter (a vanilla stout), the Chocolate and Banana Stout, and best of all a keg Dunkelweizen called Dark Wheat, but then the head brewer also runs Fellows Brewery, whose Double Stout has always gone down well at the Cambridge Winter Ale Festival. They also have a decent keg pale ale on permanently, which has been improved on with both Mosaic and Citra hopped versions. There are more exciting beers than the King’s Parade best bitter and the Misty River pale, but I guess they’re the ones they sell the most of, so fair play.
As well as their own beers, they have a good changing range from the likes of Adnams, Beavertown, Lagunitas IPA pretty much permanent, Magic Rock, Nene Valley, Redwell, Siren, Thornbridge and Weird Beard – hats off to the barman who confessed he broke dryanuary three days early with a pint of the 11.1% ABV triple IPA ‘Debaser’. It’s been a while since I ate here, but the food was good, I only wish that when it wasn’t peak mealtime you didn’t have to justify sitting in the empty booths (I mean old bus seats) with just a drink. The upstairs Locker Room with its huge projector screen is one of the best places to watch sport, and was packed on the memorable evening Cambridge United played (and lost to) Man Utd in the FA Cup fourth round replay – it’s testament to the conviviality of the place that the sole Man Utd fan who cheered each of the three goals wasn’t lynched.
As I understand it, the Night Porter now goes on to compete in the nationals. If it wins there, well I can point to this post and say I got the first album/t-shirt and liked them before they were famous/cool. I’m only doing this for kudos.