Town and Country Show and Covent Garden Street Party, Cambridge

Food stalls and ferret racetrack

I just had a very enjoyable day in Cambridge. First of all we strolled down to the Town and Country Show on Parker’s Piece, an Oakleigh Fairs event. This festival has craft and food tasting marquees, a beer tent with live music, food stalls, animal demonstrations, ferret racing, steam engines, kids rides, mediaeval village, battle re-enactments, and more – it’s a nice friendly festival in the centre of Cambridge. And it was sunny. Result. Naturally we headed to the beer tent. The ales on offer were Oakham JHB (3.8%),  Dark Star Hophead, (3.8%)  Woodforde’s Wherry (3.8%) and Titanic White Star (4.8%) – a good selection of very nice beers. I went for the Titanic, Adam had the Dark Star.

Beer Tent

Beer Tent

Both were good but the Titanic came out on top with its hops, smooth tones and mellow fruity character. The Hophead was a bit more bitter, but very hoppy and drinkable all the same – just not as lovely as the Titanic.

We then had a wander along Mill Road en route to Bacchanalia (a fantastic beer shop where we go for our bottled beers, they have a wonderful selection and very friendly staff – the wonderful Brewsters Pale Ale was one of the beers we came away with ) and came across the Covent Garden Street Party taking place on a closed off Covent Garden, where the tiny Six Bells pub is situated.

Covent Garden Street Party

Covent Garden Street Party

Covent Garden Party Ale

Covent Garden Party Ale

It’s a traditional old pub and in a nice spot, tucked away on a side street off busy Mill Road, and hosts pub quizzes and open mic nights. It’s just a real shame this is a Greene King pub (in my personal opinion). The beers are just regular GK offerings; there were no interesting guests on ( and am I not counting Ale Fresco even though GK would want me to, another of their uninspiring ‘guests’). Anyway, the pub was bustling inside and out, and the street was decorated nicely with lots of bunting, stalls, a stage area for musicians and poets, and dancing, all to raise money for local charities. I was very pleased to come across a stall at the end of the road near the drama centre selling Covent Garden Party Ale from the barrel (and cider from a barrel too).

Covent Garden Party Ale is a brew from Cambridge Moonshine – not a rebranded beer, but one specially brewed for the street party. How nice. Lovely and golden, light and hoppy with malt flavours coming through, easy to drink. Nice job, Moonshine, one of your nicest beers I have tried.

We then headed to one of our favourite pubs, the Cambridge Blue. Lots and lots of beers on tap, as always. We took advantage of the nice weather and sat in the large beer garden; I drank Oakham Bishops Farewell, similar to JHB but stronger, with a more rounded flavour but bursting with citrus hops – not to the extent of their Citra though. They also had the lovely Oakham Inferno on at the bar. Adam had some tasty Tydd Steam Roadhouse, a bitter with beautiful hoppy flavours. Then we left by climbing over the wall into the cemetery (yes, they left a gap in their trellis especially so you can do this – nice way to enter and leave the premises I think!).

Cambridge Blue beer garden from the cemetary

Cambridge Blue beer garden from the cemetary

I reckon we’ll probably head back to the beer tent at the Town and Country Show tomorrow; it’s on for two days after all, so it would be rude not to. More Titanic is in order. Let’s just hope the sun is shining still by then…

Strawberry Fair 2011 and Oakham Ales

Strawberry Fair Parade

Strawberry Fair Parade

Saturday June 4th was Strawberry Fair day in Cambridge, a summer event that I always look forward to. This one day festival, with its live music, entertainment, wacky stalls and hippie vibe, returned after a year off, having had to cancel last year due to licensing and policing issues – and it has changed quite a bit. There are still the old favourites present like the Parade, the Wigwam stage, the Acoustic Tent and the chilled out Green Area, but there is now a Village Green and bandstand where events are staged, a Mad Hatter Cafe where you can get tea and cake, a makeshift pub (the King’s Head), and a fenced off Kids area. Strawberry Fair ParadeIn fact, the whole festival is now all fenced off, with security on the gates. Due to the fencing, it’s now a lot smaller; the festival once sprawled across Midsummer Common until, well, as far as you could be bothered to walk. The food stalls were noticeably limited, with just a handful of oriental stalls (my favourite Chinese food stall wasn’t there) and Jamaican barbeque stands. There is no longer any camping permitted, which meant no campervans parked alongside the river and tents surrounding the area for days. This created quite a different festival to what it was previously.

The Green Area

The Green Area

Anyway, this is a beer blog, so onto the beer. As usual, Oakham brewery stocked the majority of beer for the festival, and I was pleased to see that Oakham ales were available in both the King’s Head and the Acoustic Tent, the latter having the bigger selection. Prices were higher than normal, but it didn’t matter too much; I was prepared to pay for decent beer, and besides, everything’s expensive at a festival anyway.

 

On offer in the King’s Head was Oakham White Dwarf (4.3%) and Marston’s EPA, 3.6%, so naturally I chose the Oakham beer, a very pleasant White Dwarf full of beautiful hoppy and fruity flavours which went down well on this sunny day. In the Acoustic Tent was the main Portland bar from the Portland Arms pub (which also hosts some great live bands), and on offer from Oakham Ales was JHB (3.8%), Citra (4.2%), Inferno (4%), White Dwarf (4.3%) and Bishop’s Farewell (4.6%). There was also Gulping Fellows (4.2%) from Fellows Brewery, just up the road in Cottenham, and CB1 from Cambridge Moonshine (4.2%).  I had a very pleasant light and easy to drink JHB, followed by refreshing golden Citra, bursting with grapefruit flavours due to the plentiful Citra hops. All beers are served in plastics (which are inevitably left laying around on the grass for all to stand on once used) and the beers are generally pre-poured and sitting in allotted spaces to speed up the serving process at the bar. I haven’t noticed this affecting the quality of the beer, however, as demand is pretty high; as soon as one beer is being served the next beer is being poured.

So my Strawberry Fair was spent listening to live music, eating lots of expensive but tasty festival food and drinking good beer in the sun (we were very lucky with the weather). It’s a shame the Strawberry Fair only lasts for one day as I could have easily returned today for more Oakham ales and festival atmosphere. I’m looking forward to the next Strawberry Fair already, but luckily I don’t have to wait that long for my next Oakham beer – now where did I put that bottle of Citra….?

Oakham Inferno

Just been to the Maypole in Cambridge and was delighted to see Oakham Inferno on tap. What can I say, I just love Oakham beers.  Oakham has to be one of my favourite breweries, if not my actual favourite. I can tell as soon as I smell the beer if it’s an Oakham ale, mainly by their “sherbet” hops aroma – zingy, heady… you just can’t top it in my opinion. Inferno is 4.0%, incredibly pale and citrussy, the lemon jumps out at you, and the colour of the ale is almost luminous. This award winning beer is the sort of beer you can drink like pop. And I pretty much did.

Oakham Inferno

Oakham Inferno

Other Oakham beers that I love, and have no doubt mentioned on previous posts, are JHB,  the beautiful, easy drinking, hoppy, golden session ale at 3.8%, and Bishop’s Farewell at 4.6% which is even more intensly hoppy and stronger, although still knockbackable (that’s the only word I can use to describe it, and in fact how I would describe all the Oakham ales that I like).  I tried Mompesson’s Gold the other day in the Regal, which is very ‘Oakham’ but just on the verge of being too strong for me at 5% but very nice all the same, I just can’t drink as much of it. Oakham Citra at 4.2% is another wonderful straw coloured beer. The grapefruit flavour and Citra hops burst out of the glass; there is no doubting that this is an Oakham beer.

The Maypole is, by the way,  a lovely little real ale pub, tucked away on Portugal Place, a little alleyway off the main drag of ancient Bridge Street, where there are several pubs and restaurants.  Also on tap there was Canary Pale Ale from Green Jack Brewery, a pleasant hoppy ale but not heady like the Inferno. There was also Sparta from Milton, a lovely beer, as well as beers from the good old St Austell Brewery, Tribute and Tinners. The Maypole also serves tasty Italian food, if you are feeling hungry!

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