Cambridge CAMRA Pub of the Year Awards 2013

We were invited along to the Cambridge and District CAMRA Pub of the Year Awards which took place last night at the Hopbine. As well as the award for pub of the year there were 10 other awards going, including community pub of the year, locale pub, and most improved pub.

Audience

By 8pm the Hopbine was heaving with familiar faces including Jethro and Terri from the Cambridge Blue, Jess and Steve from the Elm Tree, and Lawrence from the Champion of the Thames (and now the Clarendon as well). There were also several local brewers present such as Joe from BlackBar, Mark from Moonshine, Jon from Lord Conrads, and Richard from Milton.

I drank Moonshine’s Cambridge Pale Ale pretty much most of the evening, a lovely easy drinking bitter with caramel and floral hop flavours. We were asked to take a seat in the back room of the pub where there was a large award display board for the event – a nice backdrop for the winners photos.

The compere made light hearted jokes as he read out pub descriptions before each award was presented, to try to make us guess which pub he was describing (he quite liked the word ‘breweriana’, which came up a couple of times in the descriptions. Guess which pubs he was referring to..!)

Will SmithWill Smith from CAMRA presented the awards and posed for official photos with the winners and their framed certificates; he even received the occasional kiss.

The winner of Pub of the Year went to the Flying Pig. You know, that wonderful pub that’s under threat of being demolished (which I wrote about in a previous post). Congratulations Justine and Matt. Hopefully this award will open people’s eyes as to how valuable a lovely pub like this is to the community.

The Flying Pig

Here’s a list of all the winners – well done everyone, especially to some of my local favourite pubs, you know who you are 😉

Pub of the year 2013:  The Flying Pig

Locale Pub of the year(Rural) 2013:  The Crown Inn, Linton

Locale pub of the year 2013 (city):  The Cambridge Blue

Community Pub of the year  2013 (Rural):  The Plough and Fleece Horningsea

Community Pub of the Year 2013 (City):  The Elm Tree

Dark Ale/ Mild Pub of the Year 2013:  The Maypole

Most improved pub of the year 2013( City):  The Mill

Most improved pub of the year 2013( Rural):  The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting

Cider pub of the year:  The St Radegund

Real Ale Champion 2013:  Richard Naisby, Milton Brewery

CAMRA Lifetime Achievement award:  Lawrence Dixon, of The Champion of the Thames and Clarendon Arms.

Lawrence Plough and Fleece Jethro and Terri, Cambridge Blue Jess and Steve, Elm Tree

There’s one rural pub on the list that I haven’t made it out to yet, so I will make sure I rectify that as soon as possible. And if you haven’t visited these pubs in a while, make sure you do – they all need our support!

Green Man Beer Festival, Grantchester

I was looking forward to visiting the Green Man Beer Festival in Grantchester, mainy because I’d missed their first ever festival and heard good things about it, and secondly because I’d heard which breweries were providing beers.

The festival was held between Friday 30th September and Sunday October 2nd. We headed there briefly on the Friday (by bus, too hot to walk), got off at the Blue Ball and headed to the lovely old Green Man pub in the middle of the village.

The beer festival marquee had been set up between the pub and the garden. The beer selection was very impressive, with beers from Redemption, Skinners, Buntingford, Summer Wine, Thornbridge, Milton and more. The festival glass was £2 to hire, and for CAMRA members beer was priced at a reasonable £3 a pint. There were over 50 cask ales and there were also ciders available.

Green Man Beers

Green Man Beers

Immediately I went for a Redemption Trinity, having missed out on this beer at the Cambridge Beer Festival. I couldn’t believe this beer was only 3% – I had to question the chap behind the bar and he confirmed that was right. He also said it’s quite difficult to get hold of Redemption beers, and he was pleased that they had managed to get some. We took a seat in the shady area of the long garden. The golden ale was full of fruity hops and was very pungent and piney. Lots of flavour for its impressively low abv.

Next up was some Summer Wine Diablo IPA, 6%. It was double the abv of the Redemption, and it tasted strong but incredibly tasty. Those resinous US hops and tropical flavours made this beer a winner.

I then got myself a Cambridge Moonshine Spiritual Matter, 3.7%, and was told I was probably the first member of the public to try this in Cambridge as it was brand new. It was fantastic; light fruity and flavoursome, and probably the best Moonshine beer I had tried. But we then had to head off.

The Green Man, with the Red Lion behind

The Green Man, with the Red Lion behind

On the Sunday we strolled back to Grantchester, despite it being far too hot to be walking across the meadows to the village from the city centre.  Those last few steps to the back garden entrance of the Green Man were pretty tough, I could hardly put one foot in front of the other by that point. But I knew what was inside, so I just kept going.

Redemption Big Chief had taken the place of Trinity, so I went for some of that straight away, although water may have been a wiser idea. On the label on the barrel it stated that this was 3%. Really? It tasted so much stronger. Then again, the Trinity did too. I asked for confirmation of this, as before, and it was confirmed. However, after knocking back this hoppy and full-bodied beer and realising that it couldn’t possibly be that weak I checked the beer list on the bar. It said it was 5.5%. I looked at the barrel again. That said 3%. Hmm. I brought this to the barman’s attention. He said he knew, and had now informed all bar staff. Bit of an issue, though, if you are driving and thought you were just drinking a quick half of weak beer. Luckily we weren’t.

Brewsters Decadence was  next, a tasty beer at 4.4%, hoppy and refreshing and moorish. I love Brewsters beers, especially their wonderful Hophead. I then wanted to try some of the fantastic Skinners Cornish Knocker on cask (I usually drink it bottled) but was upset to find that I had missed out and it had all gone – this tasty beer is one of my favourites; full of hops and wonderful flowery flavours.

We sat inside the marquee to watch a fantastic jazz band, Have You Heard, and I finished off with a Buntingford Polar Star, 4.4%, a great beer from one of my favourite breweries. Pale and light with US hops giving it a grapefruity and citrussy flavour, it was delicious and perfect for the sunny weather –  recorded as the hottest October day ever in England.

The Green Man Garden

The Green Man Garden

The Green Man did a great job in sourcing their beers and organising this wonderful festival. My one comment would be that I’d have liked some tasting notes – it cuts down the time spent at the bar wondering which ale to try next! All in all it was a great event and I look forward to the next one with anticipation.

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!

The Devonshire Arms, reopened!

It’s always great to see a pub reopening when so many are closing, at a rate of around 50 a week, if we are to go by the lastest dismal statistics. And it was fantastic to see that the new manager of the reopened and refurbished Devonshire Arms here in Cambridge is Dom Morris, previously behind the bar at our local, the Elm Tree, another great pub.

I do think that customers tend to follow good barstaff / landlords, and we did that when we found out that Dom and Jo had taken over running the Devonshire Arms. We wanted to check out the new Milton-owned establishment, but we just did it a bit sooner than we would have when we saw Dom’s face smiling out of the Cambridge Evening News at us as the new manager! Dom and Jo have always been more than friendly in the Elm, happy to give everyone tasters of new beers and share their knowledge about them, and help out customers who needeed, well, a helping hand in choosing a good brew.

The Devonshire Arms
Anyway, on to the pub. After an extensive 5-week project, it has been totally refurbished. As well as the constuction work it has had several coats of paint (I particulaly like the deep scarlet paint on the ceiling along with the Victorian stuccos, ceiling fans and candelabras), the floorboads have been stripped, and there is a lovely wood burning stove burning plenty of lovely wood in the rear section of the bar. There is a lot of large pew-style seating, and the rear bar area is deceivingly large.

And now onto the beer. On tap there were five Milton beers (being a Milton pub this was to be expected) which were Pegasus (4.1%), Nero (5%), Collossus (5.6%), Mammon (7%), and Caligula (a whopping 8.8%)! And guest ales included Brentwood IPA (3.7%), Brentwood Gold (4.3%), and Tring’s Legless Lal’s Winter Ale (4.5%). Between us we tried the Pegasus, which wasn’t bad but nothing special, the Brentwood Gold which was wonderful, light and hoppy and so nice I had to get more of the stuff, and the Brentwood IPA, which was pleasant but not as spectacular as the Gold. The Legless Lal was delicious, quite dark and chocolatey with a deep hoppy and wintery taste, but the Collosus was quite dark and lacking the flavours of the previous beer.

Brentwood Gold

Brentwood Gold

Good luck guys, I am sure the Devonshire Arms will be a great success if you are running it!

Published in: on January 27, 2010 at 8:09 pm  Comments (1)  
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2nd Rag Beer Festival, Cambridge

Cambridge Rag put on a beer festival for Rag Week on the 6th and 7th March. It was a great little event actually – there were more cask ales  available than I previously anticipated, with offerings from Beeston brewery, Milton, Cambridge City and Moonshine and Oakham, to name a few. There were also ciders and perries, and bottled foreign beers.

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It wasn’t very busy in the early afternoon, but the later it got, the more the students piled in. One of my favourites of the festival was Afternoon delight by Beestons, which at 3.7% had a hoppy kick and was sweet with a slight taste of honey. I had some Mulberry Whale from Moonshine at 4%, and although I have enjoyed this out of a bottle, I can’t say I particularly rated it on this occasion; it wasn’t unpleasant, it just wasn’t very memorable. I love Milton beers, and Milton’s Icarus (4.2%) was very light coloured, just as I like it, but tasted slightly watery. There were some much nicer ales available.

Northumberland’s Bucking Fastard (try asking for that one after you’ve had a few) was lovely and very easy drinking at 4%. But the beer of the festival for me was Oakham’s Asylum, 4.5%. Oakham do just wonderful ales; JHB and Bishop’s Farewell are my favourites, and Asylum is up there at the top with them. It’s described as a session beer and I wish I had discovered it earlier on in the festival, but I really can’t drink very much and therefore  didn’t manage to have as much of it as I’d have liked.  It has a really grapefruity smell, and a taste of hops and sherbet. That’s the best way I can describe it! It’s a really uplifting beer.

A nice man called John  was sitting with us, and we had a few samples of the drinks he was trying that I wouldn’t normally go for, such as the Marcus Aurelius (Milton) at 7.5% – heats you up like whisky as it goes down! – and the Pickled Pig perry which is so strong and tart that I wouldnt be able to drink much of it. He is opening up a pub in St Neots, so must pay him a visit soon.

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Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 4:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Cambridge Octoberfest 2008

Fun was had by all at this year’s Cambridge Octoberfest, held at the University Social Club at Mill Lane on 31st October and 1st November. It’s only the second Octoberfest to take place in Cambridge, and was an event I was looking forward to after enjoying last year’s festival. Entry was free for CAMRA members, and £2.50 for non-members.

This year there were several local breweries represented, such as the Milton brewery, which had the wonderfully hoppy Pegasus ale on offer (4.1%) as well as some beers that were way too strong for me – one being Marcus Aurelius at 7.2%. There were also ales from Cambridge Moonshine (Thunder Moon was particularly tasty at 4.1%) and Son of Sid brewery, whose Sweet Chestnut was quite smoky and moreish (4.5%). Oakham’s Three Witches was the seasonal offer, being the day after Hallowe’en, and it had quite a bite to it, somehow becoming tastier after I had finished drinking it – the hoppiness lingered on the taste buds and became even stronger as time went on, don’t ask me how – magic… !

My favourite beer of the day though had to be Old Cannon’s Best Bitter (3.8%) – this was labelled a session beer, and it most certainly is – I could have just drunk this beer all festival and have been happy! The flavour was quite distinct and I had to get more just to try and work out why I liked it so much ;). The Old Cannon brewery and pub in Bury St Edmunds is well worth visiting, by the way – they brew their own beer on the premises and their sparkling silver brewing vessels are on show in the bar. They have several of their own ales on tap, and also have some Adnams beers available too.

Festival beer glass

Festival beer glass - with some Old Cannon bitter inside!

The Cambridge Octoberfest is more subdued than the Cambridge Beer Festival (which takes place each May on Jesus Green), being a whole lot smaller (The Social Club isn’t a massive venue) – but it’s cosy and welcoming, even though it feels a bit like a school hall. A few Hallowe’en decs would have been nice to see (but maybe not everyone would agree; I just like Hallowe’en..!). I get the feeling that the serious ale drinkers and connoisseurs come to this smaller festival, whereas the large one is popular with everyone whether they enjoy beer or not.

The 13th Cambridge WInter Ale Festival 2009 takes place in the same venue between 22nd and 24th January – another date for the diary; looking forward to it already!

Ale List


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.

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