The Cambridge Brew House, King Street
The Cambridge Brew house opened on Wednesday 6th February.
Brewing will soon return to Cambridge as the Brew House opens this coming week with a brewery launch to follow next month. Head brewer James Godman was formerly senior brewer at the Hop Back Brewery in Wiltshire, where he brewed Hop Back Entire Stout, Champion Winter Beer of Britain 2011. Last year he launched the Henley Brewing Company and this year returns to Cambridge, his former home, to launch the Cambridge Brewing Company.
The brewing vessels arrived just a few weeks ago and aren’t yet fully installed so the new beers are currently being brewed at Henley. The new beers for Cambridge are:
King’s Parade 3.8% ABV ‘best bitter’
Night Porter 4.8% ABV ‘stout porter’
Misty River 4.7% ABV ‘hoppy ale’
They’ll also serve guest ales, mainly from local breweries, and hope to soon have beers from Bexar County Brewery, a new Peterborough brewery that has already released some cracking beers, ‘robust porters’ and ‘aggressive American styled’ IPAs amongst them.
The pub has been completely refurbished with the lower bars opened out into one large room with two main areas – a pub lounge side with views through to the brewery and a side aimed more at dining, joined by a long wooden bar. Lucas the opening manager kindly showed me the upstairs function room that also has views of the brewery, and the ‘Locker Room’, a bar with a smaller beer selection and a screen to show sports. This room has perhaps seen the biggest change with the former low ceiling removed to reveal a much higher ceiling, creating a light and airy space in what was once a fairly dimly lit room. It leads to an outdoor terrace at the rear of the building. There are lots of different styles of furniture and lighting throughout but it all works well together and there are some really nice touches.
We were lucky enough to go along pre-launch for a vegetarian Sunday Roast and really enjoyed the food, including a sample of their own smoked cheddar and an Eton Mess for dessert. We washed it down with a pint of King’s Parade, a biscuity best bitter using East Kent Goldings & Styrian Goldings hops, and a Freedom Organic Lager. Adnams Broadside was also on.
The 1970s building doesn’t look like a place that would have much of a history – a 1974 pub guide says “It is all too easy to be deterred by the stark modernity of the brick exterior, but the inside is in fact quite pleasant” – yet there has been a pub here since at least 1839 and brewing in this area of Cambridge goes back centuries…
The Cambridge Brew House is the only brewery in the city, the first since Moonshine moved from Radegund Road to Fulbourn in 2008, the City of Cambridge Brewery ceased brewing at Cheddars Lane in 2001, and the first brewpub in Cambridge since the Ancient Druids (now China City restaurant) and the Fresher Firkin (now the Tivoli) ceased brewing in the late 1990s.
King Street has been home to a brewery before; in 1866 George Scales founded the Cambridge Brewery behind what is now d’Arry’s restaurant, opposite the Cambridge Brew house. Much of the former Cambridge Brewery buildings and memorabilia remained until the late 1990s when Greene King stripped the heritage out and threw it away when they turned it into the failed ‘Rattle and Hum’ theme pub. The remaining brewery buildings can best be seen from above street level:
Brewing on King Street goes back much further. The Charters of the Radegund Priory, which existed from the 12th century to the end of the 15th century, record in 1446 the lease of a building on Walls Lane, now King Street, to
John Chapman, brewer, and Margaret his wife, a vacant plot in Walls Lane, in the parish of Holy Trinity, lying between the wall of the Friars Minor to the west and a tenement of the nuns in the tenure of Thomas Thorne to the east, the Lane to the south, and a garden of the nuns occupied by John Heyward to the north.
The lease was for 26 years at 2 shillings, with a covenant to “build and maintain a house on the said site”. Beer was also brewed at the nearby Benedictine Priory, now Jesus College on Jesus Lane which runs paralel to King Street, and the Franciscan Friary established in 1266 on land bordered by Walls Lane, now the site of Sidney Sussex College. One of the only buildings mentioned in the Nunnery accounts was the Priory’s ‘Hospicium’ where brewing was carried out (Gray, 1898) and the Franciscan Friary buildings included a brew house (Porter, 1958).
Former pubs on this site
King’s Arms. Several pubs have stood on this site previously. The King’s Arms is recorded from as early as 1839 with the publican James Creek. As Queen Victoria reigned from 1837, the King’s Arms could well have existed before then. As early as 1688 (Loggan’s map) buildings are shown on the site. King Street itself was formerly Wales lane, later Walls Lane until as late as 1804 (Cole’s) becoming King Street by 1830 (Baker’s). This would suggest it was named King Street sometime during the reign of George III (likely, since the Royal Arms of George III appear in the Cambridge Arms), George IV or even the year King William IV ascended to the throne.
Glazier’s Arms is recorded here or adjacent to it from at least the 1850s to 1887. William Austin was recorded as a beer retailer on King Street in 1839. A glazier by profession, he is later recorded as the publican of the Glazier’s Arms, so it seems possible he gave the pub its name.
Royal Arms is then recorded here from at least 1895 to 1970, after which the building was demolished and the area redeveloped.
King’s Arms (again). In the early 1970s redevelopment, the present building was erected in 1972 with the pub name reverting to the King’s Arms. It comprised of three large bars and a restaurant, the bars being named after significant items of the King’s Coat of Arms – the Lion Bar, equivalent to a public bar, the Unicorn Bar and the Rose Bar upstairs next to the restaurant – items which seem to support the ‘King’s Arms’ being a Hanoverian Coat of Arms.
Bun Shop. In the early 1990s the pub was refurbished and took the name of the Bun Shop (a pub of that name originally stood on Downing Street). A CAMRA guide from 1994 called it a “hugely enterprising revamp of the once hapless King’s Arms” which served amongst other beers, a Tolly Cobbold ‘Bun Shop Brew’ house beer. That would have been about the time I first visited the Bun Shop. It comprised of a traditional bar with a snug in the right hand room, a wine bar to the left and a tapas bar and restaurant upstairs that was also used as a function room. By 2002 the ‘Traditional Bar’ advertised “a range of beers from some of Britain’s finest regional breweries, including Youngs, Tetleys, Marstons, Greene King, Shepherds Neame and Adnams.”
The Bun Shop closed in 2008 and for the past few years the pub had opened only for short periods before closing again, first under the management of D’Arry’s (opposite the pub) who scattered plenty of sawdust all over the floor, and then in 2011 under the management of the Jolly Sailor in Suffolk. It became the Jolly Scholar, with another refurbishment opening up the previous two room layout into one large room. It closed again just a year later and stayed shut until reopening as the present Cambridge Brew House.
King Street pubs
In 1874 twelve pubs are recorded on King Street, today only four remain – Cambridge Brew House, Champion of the Thames, King Street Run (formerly Horse & Groom) and the Saint Radegund. The buildings of several former pubs still stand – the Earl Grey is now Raja Indian Restaurant, the Cambridge Arms and brewery is d’Arry’s restaurant and the Yorkshire Grey is a private dwelling.
In 1881, at least ten pubs were named on King Street:
Champion of the Thames
Horse & Groom
An 1888 town plan shows names for eight pubs, with the Garrick demolished and replaced by the Saint Radegund, the Town Arms renamed the Cambridge Ale Stores, and a Millers Arms standing opposite what is now the Cambridge Brew House.
Here’s hoping the future of the Cambridge Brew House is a long and prosperous one.
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Arthur Gray, The Priory of St Radegund, Cambridge (Cambridge Antiquarian Society, 1898)
H.C. Porter, Reformation and Reaction in Tudor Cambridge (1958)
The Cambridge Brew House