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!

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London for Beer Lovers

I recently wrote an article for Viator Travel about the beer scene in London, showing how it has been changing and developing in recent years. I mentioned some of the pubs and bars worth visiting for the best craft beers in the city, as well as a few to try. Here is part of the article – click here or the link at the bottom of the page to read the complete article on Viator.

London for Beer Lovers

Not so long ago London was seen as one of the worst beer cities in the country, with only a handful of breweries remaining, despite once being the brewing capital of the world and the birthplace of traditional beer styles such as porters, IPAs, and stouts. But now new beers and bars are starting to appear in every corner of the city as part of this craft beer explosion; there are now over 30 breweries in London, around 5 times more than in 2006, and this number is increasing rapidly.

Micro-breweries such as Redemption, Kernel, Brodie’s and Camden Town are experimenting with beer styles and creating a new wave of craft brews, making it an exciting time to sample what’s on offer, and London has something for everyone on a beery quest. Here are some ideas on where to find fine beer in London, which brews to try, and which breweries are worth a visit.

Craft Beer Pubs

The resurgence in brewing in London, which was partly due to the discerning drinker’s desire to try more diverse, well-produced, flavoursome beers rather than the mass-produced beers that dominated the industry, has brought about the opening of a whole new breed of bars and pubs. These craft beer establishments showcase quality beers from innovative local and regional breweries and also feature unusual beers from around the world.

The Craft Beer Company  — Nearest tube: Farringdon

Craft Beer Company

Photo credit: calflier001 via Flickr.

The Craft Beer Company on Leather Lane, off Holborn, is a great place to start your craft beer crawl. This Victorian pub was taken over only a year ago, but with its ever-changing beers sourced from some of the best microbreweries in the country it has become very popular very quickly.  There are 37 beers on tap including 16 cask and 21 keg taps, and beers range from the light and hoppy Camden Town Pale Ale and the full-favoured Dark Star Espresso Stout (around £3.95 a pint), to interesting German, Scandinavia and US hop monsters on keg (at around £3.95 for a half pint).

There are also over 300 bottles on sale, including many rare small-batch US artisan beers—you won’t find big US names like Flying Dog or Anchor here. The pub has been nicely restored; in the downstairs traditional but sleek bar there is a lavish mirrored ceiling and chandeliers, and upstairs there is a small light and airy lounge. It’s very easy to settle yourself down here on one of the comfy chairs, but it’s not so easy to leave.

The Euston Tap — Nearest tube: Euston

Euston Tap

Photo credit: Bernt Rostad via Flickr.

The Euston Tap is housed in a 19th century station gatehouse opposite Euston Station, and this miniscule square bar has an impressive beer list with about 8 beers on draft and 20 on keg, the names of which are scrawled on a blackboard behind the bar, plus shiny fridges lining the walls stocked with around 150 bottled beers.

It’s not cheap if you go for a US keg beer—a half pint can set you back around £3–4—but a pint of UK beer from micro-breweries such as Redemption (just up the road in Tottenham) should cost less than £4. It’s sparse inside and there isn’t much seating downstairs apart from a few stools—it’s more of a standing pub, inside and out—but up the steep spiral staircase you will find comfy sofas and a few tables. The pub also has a cute terrace, which can be a nice little suntrap in the summer. Despite its small size, the Tap has a kitchen and offers New York style pizzas so you can have something to munch on to soak up some of the beer. It’s great spot to stop off when waiting for your train. Just be aware that you’ll probably end up missing it.

READ FULL ARTICLE  (link takes you to Viator Travel)

The 38th Cambridge Beer Festival, 2011

The 38th Cambridge Beer Festival is now over, having run from 23rd – 28th May.  It was a great festival,  but unfortunately I was ill for a lot of it so couldn’t enjoy it as much as usual and couldn’t make it to all the sessions. Also, we didn’t get the weather we were promised, being chilly, grey and rainy for several sessions. I did see a bit of  sun when I was there, but typically the sunnier sessions generally happened to coincide with when I was too ill to go down. Drat.

Buntingford Bravo

Buntingford Bravo

Anyway, all that aside, it was good fun and well organised, with over 200 beers to choose from (plus ciders, perries, mead, wine, cheese, curry, chips, lots of giant hunks of bread, etc) and this year’s theme was the 70th anniversary of Sir Frank Whittle’s jet engine – the noise of the engine by the entrance could be heard firing up every now and again. It was also the 60th anniversary of Cambridge’s city status, so all this was reflected on the souvenir beer glasses.

I won’t talk about every beer I tried, so here are a select few:

Kernel and Redemption No. 2, 6% – A wonderful collaboration between these 2 innovative London brewers.  Full of USA hop flavours, resinous, intense. A very popular ale by all accounts and it didn’t take long to sell out. (Their No. 1 collaboration is a Strong Dark Mild, by the way, which wasn’t at the fest).

Redemption Hopspur, 4.5% – Lovely, like a weaker version of the No 2 but easier to knock back – a hop explosion with a dry hop flavour; reminds me of the wonderful Dry Hopped St Rogue Red by Rogue brewery from the US (check out my USA beers post).

Potbelly Crazy Daze, Tintagel Harbour Special and Redemption Hopspur

Potbelly Crazy Daze, Tintagel Harbour Special and Redemption Hopspur

Redemption Urban Dusk, 4.6% – I am loving this brewery. This is different to their other beers, no blast of American hops, but darker, vanilla/caramel and very smooth. Nice.

Time for more beer

Time for more beer

Tydd Steam Golden Kiwi, 4.1% – A lovely golden ale full of NZ hops, sharp but fruity. Great brewery.

Oakham Scarlet Macaw, 4.4% – Peachy. Quite literally. A new one from one of my favourite breweries, and it didn’t disappoint. Light, fruity, not full-on hoppy like many of their other beers but delicious.

Busy beer fest

Busy beer fest

Buntingford Bravo, 4% – I actually started the festival with this one – Buntingford is a fantastic brewery – and this pale beer was lovely, as expected. Bursting with sherbetty Bravo hops from the US, citrussy and very moorish.

Buntingford Charter Flight, 3.9% – I preferred the Bravo, but this was pleasant and light, creamy, malty with vanilla flavours.

Blue Monkey Ape Ale, 5.4% – An unusual taste, quite grassy, but very nice – dry and full of American hops.

Hopshackle Resination

Hopshackle Resination

Hopshackle Resination, 7% – One of the best beers on, this was actually my beer of the fest. Strong, resinous (funny, that, given its name), hoppy, spicy, intense. Wonderful, had to keep drinking it, and with that ABV it pretty much finished me off.

Other beers I enjoyed that are worth a mention are Humpty Dumpty Nord Atlantic, St Austell Endeavour, Mighty Oak Captain Bob, Milton Proteus, and Northcote Jiggle Juice. And a few I didn’t get on with were Great Orme Celtica (just a bit too lagery for me) and Milk Street Mermaid (too smoky, I poured it away).

All in all, it was a great fest, despite the illness and the rain. It’s just a shame that it couldn’t have been on next week instead, when I will (hopefully) be feeling much better, and when it’s supposed to be really hot and sunny, so they say. But then again, they are always saying that, aren’t they…

By the way, Cambridge Octoberfest is on 14th and 15th October 2011 – see you there.

Everybody out!

Everybody out!

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