The Pint Shop and the Blue Moon – two new Cambridge pubs!

This has been a pretty exciting few days for Cambridge – two new pubs have opened a mere day apart, and they both sell decent beer. Hurrah!

 First of all, the brand new Pint Shop opened its doors on Monday 4th November,  and then the Blue Moon on Norfolk Street (formerly the Man on the Moon) had its opening night on Tuesday 5th November – just in time to welcome in the crowds after the fireworks.

The Pint Shop, Peas Hill

Cask 'snug' barPint Shop (opposite Jamie’s Italian and a few doors away from the Corn Exchange) is an exciting addition to the Cambridge pub scene. Specialising in quality beer, with 10 beers on keg and 6 on cask from some of the most exciting breweries in the country and beyond, it also sells locally-produced food and about 45 gins; it’s slogan is Meat, Bread, Beer. As I am a veggie I’ve sampled the last two, which are great, and I understand the first one is pretty good too – if you eat meat.

Keg barWe went to the pre-launch party on the previous Thursday (Halloween) to see the place in all its splendour after massive renovation work to convert it from office to pub. They’ve done a fine job in creating a great space with nice touches; there’s a light and spacious bar area with giant beer chalkboard, a ‘snug’ style small cask beer bar, a surprise terrace garden out the back (I can’t wait for summer already) two sleek and simple, cosy and candlelit dining rooms (separate to the main bars) and lots of seating in every available nook and cranny. There are bar snacks such as chips and curry sauce and fennel pork scratchings, and their specially-baked bread and butter is wonderful (now I don’t usually enthuse about bread, but this one is g-o-o-d – and a perfect beer soaker-upper!)

There were about 6 of the potential 16 beers available at the pre-launch event including the light and easy-drinking Kernel Table Beer and the much stronger but fantastic Rogue Dead Guy Pale Ale from Oregon, USA. There was also Adnams Dry Hop Lager on keg, and their Old Ale on cask (which seemed to be going down very well). The house gin is Adnams Copper House gin, and was served with juniper berries and was very tasty.

Beer board in Pint ShopThe opening night saw all 16 beers on, and on Tuesday night, before the fireworks, I had a delightful De Molen Vuur & Vlam on keg, one of my favourites from the Netherlands, and a very tasty Buxton SPA on cask – hoppy, sweet, and moreishly delicious.

The staff have all been well trained, having attended several training sessions including beer tasting run by Mark Dredge (which we walked in on) as well as gin and wine tasting. It’s a hard life!

It’s great to see this former office building converted into a pub – we were lucky enough to be shown around by Rich and Benny before the renovation work started where they were enthusiastically explaining their vision and showing us the plans, so it’s wonderful to see it all come together so well. Good luck guys, it’s what Cambridge has been waiting for…

The Blue Moon, Norfolk Street

The Blue Moon is the new baby of Jethro and Terry from the Cambridge Blue and The Three Horseshoes, Stapleford. This former dive music venue/bar had squatters in between the last owners leaving and Jethro and Terry moving in, which was a shame for them when they just wanted to get stuck into the renovation, but it finally all came together and they were in there for a good few weeks stripping the front bar and making it their own. When we went in on Tuesday we were pleasantly surprised; what was once quite a run-down bar was much fresher feeling, with old sepia images of old Cambridge pubs on the walls, candles on every table, and  music playing on the stereo in the background. It’s simple and still only half-finished, but they’ve made a huge difference already.

Blue Moon - Redwell Pale AleThe line of 10 keg beers is the central focus on the bar, and a few cask ales also feature including old favourites Oakham Citra and Inferno. I had a Redwell Pale Ale on keg, an easy drinking beer with tropical hop flavours. The Harbour IPA at 6% was great; pretty potent and full-flavoured. Fruli strawberry beer was also on tap as well as Köstritzer, Duvel, and Brooklyn Lager.  So plenty to try.

Jethro and Terri’s empire keeps growing and they work hard, so I wish them the best of luck with their three pubs. I understand the beer selection is going to get very exciting at the Blue Moon so I am looking forward to that – watch this space!

It’s fantastic in this economic climate to see two new pubs springing up in the space of two days in Cambridge – one brand new one, and one much improved. Could this be the sign of things to come? Wishful thinking perhaps, but now I’m just happy that the choice of pubs in this city where you can find good beer has suddenly increased. Cheers to that!

Cambridge Beer Festival 2009

The beer event of the year is upon us – the 36th Cambridge Beer Festival. I love this festival; it is held around the same time every year (18th-23rd May this year) on Jesus Green in a series of large marquees and has a wonderful outside area with lots of grass, chairs and tables, and several food stalls (Thai, curry, veggie, etc) for when you inevitably get peckish after sampling lots of fine ales.

There are over 200 real ales on offer during this festival, as well as ciders, perries, foreign beers, wine and mead. Every year I say I must try some real cider, but with so many fantastic beers on offer I never seem to get round to it. This year the festival is focusing on local ales from local brewers, although there are many ales available from far and wide.

So, so far I have been to two sessions of the festival, and tried some great ales. At the moment, Buntingford brewery is coming up tops for me – this has to be one of my favourite breweries as all the beers I try from them are somehow fantastic. Yesterday I tried Golden Plover (3.8%), which was golden and light with a fresh smell, and went down well. My favourite so far is Polar Star (4.4%) – I shouldn’t advertise this as I don’t want it to all go before I get to try some more of it, but the sherbet smell and citrussy flavours blew me away.  Very similar to Western Musketeer, my beer of the festival last year. Buntingford are great.

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I tried some Cambridge Moonshine beer, the 800 Years of Engagement (3.8%), after reading the tasting notes that mentioned it was a ‘fruity, floral and light session bitter’. I actually found it to be slightly eggy, with hint of a vanilla, and it didn’t go down as easily as I would have liked. Never mind.

I really enjoyed Oakleaf’s Hole Hearted (4.7%), brewed with 100% Cascade hops – lovely! My sort of beer. Adam had some Essex Boys Bitter (3.5%) from Crouch Vale, being a fan of Brewers Gold, but it was just ‘boring and brown!’ – I tasted no hops whatsoever and no taste to speak of. It was just… well, brown.

I also tried some Spingo Jubilee (4.5%) from Blue Anchor in Helston, having been to the brew-pub myself and got myself  into a bit of a state after too much of some of their extra-strong Spingo beers (can’t remember which ones for some strange reason..). Anyway, I was slightly disappointed with the Jubilee, slightly bitter and not particularly hoppy, even though described as such. I was eager to finish it and move onto the next beer.

Everards Sunchaser Blonde is a pleasant, hoppy, light, golden beer at 4% – it went down quite nicely thank you! Adam enjoyed some Stonehenge Sign of Spring (4.6%), which instead of coming out as a nice blonde ale as we expected, it was green! Very interesting, and a nice flavour of hops and malt.

Green beer!

Green beer!

So that’s about it for now – roll on Cambridge Beer Festival 2010!

Cambridge Winter Ale Festival 2009

The 13th Cambridge Winter Ale festival 2009 took place on the 22nd-24th January in the University Social Club on Mill Lane, where the Octoberfest also takes place. This festival, being more established than the Octoberfest, is much bigger – there are 3 bars available:  one main large bar upstairs, and 2 smaller bars downstairs.

Beer mugs!

Beer mugs!

With this being a winter festival, the beers on sale were a lot stronger and darker than the previous festivals of the year. However, I am a golden ale sort of girl and am not too fond of dark beers, plus  I really can’t handle strong brews. An ale around 6 or 7% would’ve been my first and last – so the aim of the day was to hunt out the weakest and lightest ales of the festival.

Hoppy Poppy by Harwich Town was a good start at a mere 3.6%, and it was lovely – light, refreshing – and weak. So weak that I went back for more!

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Cambridge Moonshine’s Minion of the Moon at 4.6% was another one of the paler and weaker beers available on our visit on the Saturday, and although this one smelt quite eggy, it was a very hoppy and tasty brew.

Adam had some Cock A Doodle from Saffron (3.8%) but neither of us liked it much, it was syrupy and we didn’t think it was a particularly enjoyable drink. But the Iron Brew by Tydd Steam at 4.2% was better, although slightly fizzy, and it became hoppier the closer I got to the bottom of the glass – lovely.

As Old Cannon bitter from the Old Cannon brewery in Bury St Edmunds was also available, I made sure I had some of that as well. (It’s also available in the newly re-opened Bun Shop in King St, which is one of its regular draft ales;  the pub itself is also quite nice, with sawdust all over the floor and lots of dark wood).

But the beer of the festival for me was Elmtree’s Golden Pale Ale at 5%. The hoppy aftertaste on the tongue after every sip blew me away.

So that’s it for the Winter Ale festival 2009. Only just over 4 months to go until the summer festival….

Here is the festival beer list, if you are interested:

Beer list side 1

Beer list side 1

Beer list side 2

Beer list side 2



The Cambridge Chop House

It was great to discover that the Cambridge Chop House on Kings Parade serves local real ales straight from the cask. This is more of a restaurant than pub, serving classic British cuisine (and it’s not particularly cheap, but this is Cambridge for you, and you are right in tourist central) but you can just go and order a beer or two without food if you like. The beers available on my last couple of visits were from the Milton Brewery; they had Sparta, Dionysus and Pegasus. Dionysus is my favourite, being very hoppy and only 3.6% – an ideal daytime beer! Sparta is pretty good too at 4.3%, it’s just a bit more bitter. I have also seen Buntingford ales available there as well (Buntingford’s Western Musketeer is a favourite of mine, one that I nominated as beer of the festival at the Cambridge Beer Festival). The location is great too, you can grab a table outside the restaurant with a fantastic view of Kings College and sip on your beer watching the world – mostly tourists and language students at this time of year – go by.

Cambridge Blue Beer Fest

At the end of June the Cambridge Blue (a great pub on Gwydir St, Cambridge) had a week-long beer festival. I tried some fantastic beers from the main bar, their tap room, and the marquee they had set up in their large beer garden. My favourites were Fanny Ebbs Summer Ale from Tring – very light and citrussy – and Crouch Vale Golden Duck which was hoppy and gorgeous.

We got there too late and missed out on Fox’s Heacham Gold, one of our favourites at this year’s Cambridge Beer Festival, and also missed out on Wolf’s Golden Jackal. Surprisingly I didn’t really enjoy Salopian’s Hop Twister or Derventio’s Summer Solstice (anything with hops or summer in the title is generally something I am drawn to!) – I found they both had strange flavours and not very easy to drink. But Nethergate’s Dew Drop made for a refreshing finish – it’s only 3.9% and the special house beer of the Blue, which was formally named the Dewdrop Inn. We went to the pub on the day of the Gwydir Street Party, which takes place every year, and the atmosphere was great with the road closed to traffic and live music in the street, stalls selling books, children running around chalking pictures onto the road, other kids were jamming on their guitars. Residents had dragged their sofas out onto the street and were sitting chatting to their neighbours and eating together. It was lovely standing outside the Blue and listening to the live music, all the nicer with beer in hand.

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