The Emperor and its beach beer garden, Cambridge

The Emperor

The Emperor

The Emperor is a relatively new addition to Cambridge and has moved into the building where the old Globe Ale House was situated on Hills Road, Cambridge. It was stripped, redecorated, and reopened about a year ago. The pub is run by Dave and Enas who run The Empress on Thoday Street, off Mill Road in Romsey Town, and they have already brought their popular beer festivals, quizzes, and unique touch to this pub. There are generally about 4 real ales on tap, regulars being St Austell Tribute, Oakham JHB and Sharps Doom Bar. On my last visit Tydd Steam Roadhouse Bitter was also on draft, a great beer from a great brewery.

The Emperor's Beach Beer Garden

The Emperor’s Beach Beer Garden

One of the things that makes this pub unique is the fact that its beer garden is decked out as a beach. The garden is full of real sand, brightly painted picnic benches, deckchairs, parasols, buckets and spades, seaside paraphernalia such as ropes, netting and buoys, and seagulls flying around. (OK, they are plastic birds suspended by ropes, but it’s a nice touch – they are also hiding away in corners, even on neighbouring buildings). There is an outside window opening to the bar, painted to look like an ice cream van, so you don’t even need to leave the beach to get a beer. All the fences have been painted with beach scenes – they have made a real effort; it looks great. It is slightly surreal being on a beach in the middle of a city, particularly after a few drinks, but it’s great fun – especially when you have to shake out the sand from your shoes at the end of your visit. You really feel that you have been to the seaside.

Beach toys

Beach toys

The pub itself attracts a mixed clientele – students, locals, visitors to the city – with its big screens, round pool table and regular events such as quizzes, discos, poetry, food events, comedy, beer festivals (the last of which was held on the beach a few weeks ago), barbeques, and even beach volleyball tournaments!  It also has a live music license so hosts a variety of gigs plus a popular open mic event every week. All in all, it’s a very cool pub and I wish them all the best.

With the summer well and truly here now, I have a feeling that this beach beer garden is going to get very busy…

Update, May 2013: The Emperor has sadly decided not to have a beach beer garden this year or in the near future – however, it still has a very nice beer garden with pot plants, hanging baskets, and a covered area.

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!

My Favourite Beer Gardens

My Favourite Beer Gardens

I was reading an article in the Observer recently about great beer gardens. This gave me the inspiration to create a list of my particular favourites, so after a bit of thought and some serious photography (you can’t talk about beer gardens without a few photos to show how good they are, can you?)  I came up with my own version. This is an ongoing project and is by no means the finished article – there are always new pubs and gardens to discover – so I will keep adding to it as I find more. Watch this space!

Cornwall

The Sloop Inn, St Ives

The Sloop Inn, St Ives

This cobbled beer terrace at the front of the wonderful old 14th century Sloop Inn overlooking St Ives harbour is a fantastic spot to sip on a pint of Doom Bar whilst watching the sunset over the sea as the boats come in at the end of the day. It’s also a great location to people watch, as the lively harbour front is a popular place for a stroll with its many bars and restaurants.

The harbour, back to the Sloop

St Ives harbour, the view from the Sloop

The Engine Inn, Cripplesease, (nr St Ives)

The beer garden at the rear of the typically Cornish stone built pub (which serves excellent pizzas and had well kept Betty Stogs on tap when I was last there) looks out across the Penwith moors, making you feel like you are miles from civilisation – there are some great walks around here and dozens of ancient sites and tin mines littering the area. I love it. The Engine Inn is well worth a drive out to if you are staying down the road in St Ives or Penzance.

The Napoleon Inn (“The Nap”), Boscastle

You can see the sea from the garden of this ancient pub, which was used as a recruiting office for the Napoleonic wars. This is reputedly Boscastle’s oldest pub. The Nap, as it is fondly known,  is located at the top of the town up a very steep hill, but it’s worth the climb; beer is served straight from the cask (lots of St Austell ales available) and the food is great.

The Golden Lion, Port Isaac

Port Isaac harbour, the Golden Lion to the left

The Golden Lion doesn’t really have a beer garden, it’s pretty much just a large balcony, but it’s the views that make it so great – it’s a beautiful sight, looking out over the harbour of Port Isaac with its little fishing boats bobbing up and down.

Wiltshire

The Red Lion, Avebury

The Red Lion, Avebury

The Red Lion, Avebury

A pub in the middle of a stone circle – you don’t come across those very often! The terrace of The Red Lion is a great place to sit with a beer and admire the gigantic stones of Avebury, one of the largest stone circles of Western Europe, which surrounds the village. The Red Lion is a 400 year old thatched pub which is said to be haunted by a girl who was thrown down the well, which is inside the dining area of the pub and now covered with glass. It’s a GK pub which means all the usual beers are on offer – I had a nondescript IPA on my last visit – but the location more than makes up for that.

The Barge Inn, Honeystreet

I love The Barge Inn – it’s the centre of the crop circle phenomena, with photos of crop circles all over the walls in one of the bars (quite a few appear in the area). You can sit outside the pub right on the edge of the Kennet and Avon canal and watch the barges go by whilst admiring the white horse of Alton Barnes on the hillside ahead. Wonderful on a summer’s day. It also has a large campsite and holds various music events throughout the year.

Cambridgeshire

The Bridge, Waterbeach

The Bridge, Waterbeach

I have mentioned The Bridge before in a previous post, but it has to join the list of wonderful pub gardens. The pub is right next to the River Cam and has a pretty outside patio area for dining and a lovely garden for sitting with your beer watching the action on the river. The interior is dark wood with beams a-plenty, so my kind of place. Good guest ales too.

The Green Man, Grantchester

The Green Man is in the village of Grantchester, only 2 miles from Cambridge. Grantchester is a lovely village and is famous for its beautiful meadows that the meandering River Cam winds through, Rupert Brooke the poet, and the romantic Orchard Tea Gardens.

The Green Man

The Green Man

The Green Man is one of 4 pubs in the village, and is a typically pretty village pub which was closed for a while, quite worryingly, but now has new owners who have recently refurbished it, very nicely in fact. It still maintains its dark wood interior and has kept its soul, unlike the Rupert Brooke down the road (although that does also have a couple of nice beers on tap still, despite now being more of a restaurant than a pub). The Green Man generally has a few real ales on tap; it had Skull Candy by Brew Dog (3.7%) on my last visit which was a pleasant surprise.. There are a few tables out the front and a grassy long and narrow back garden, but I prefer to sit out the front where you can watch the world go by; it’s a lovely place to sit, but if it’s a sunny day you have to get there early to get a seat as everyone has the same idea!

The Blue Ball, Grantchester

Again, this pub in Grantchester has a front and back seating area, and although the back garden is cute (it even has a cricket-style pavilion to sit in if you want some shade, with cricket memorabilia dotted around) I prefer to sit out front. There are only a few tables out the front, but that’s where the regulars gather. And the view across the road onto the meadows is very pretty too; there are quite often cows grazing. The pub is dark, old, tiny, with a piano in the corner, and has a good atmosphere. It serves Adnams ales and guest beers. This is a proper drinking pub, it’s the locals’ pub in the village, and that’s why I love it.

Outside the Blue Ball, Grantchester

The Old Riverview Inn, Earith

Driving through Earith before I have always wanted to stop off here at the Old Riverview Inn. So the other day we made an effort to do just that. It was quite a windy day, but sitting on a bench by the river with a beer watching the boats and barges go by was lovely. The other pub down the road, The Crown, is owned by the same people, and it also has a riverside beer garden. They picked their properties well! The pub has rooms, but you can even pitch a tent there in the garden!

The Riverside beer garden, Earith

The Cambridge Blue, Cambridge

I have mentioned the Blue in a previous post, but the garden is one of the biggest and bestest in town, and sitting with a pint of Dew Drop (their house beer) in the sun in the garden makes for a pleasant afternoon. The beers are great, and they also hold beer festivals and set up a big marquee in the garden as an extra bar for the occasion.

Cambridge Blue beer garden, as seen from the cemetery

They have just actually revamped their garden, and have concreted much of the main seating area where there was some grass before, but they have laid some astro turf at the far end with some benches, plants and trellis, and it looks great. There are even some steps up to the space over the wall to the cemetery that everyone uses as a short cut to the beer garden, and they left a space in the trellis especially for it! (See my Decent Real Ale Pubs in Cambridge for more about the Blue).

The Eagle, Cambridge

The Eagle is a Cambridge legend, being the pub where the discovery of the structure of DNA was first announced, and having a bar where Second World War RAF officers burnt their signatures into the ceiling with their lighters  (still preserved). The patio area is heated and lively although it can get crowded – get there early to bag a seat!

The Kingston Arms, Cambridge

The Kingston Arms beer garden

The Kingston Arms beer garden

The Kingston Arms is just round the corner from the Blue, located on Kingston Street, off Mill Rd. The beers are numerous and fantastic (JHB, Summer Lightning and Landlord on tap as regulars, and about 5 or 6 other taps) plus they hold monthly beer festivals with even more ales to sample. The garden is out the back of the pub and is secluded, so much so that it’s hard to imagine you are in the city – and not only that, it has sofas under a large canopy, and fairy lights all around, not to mention the pretty plants and trellis. Lovely. You can also get free wifi access there.

The Empress, Cambridge

The Empress, over the bridge on Mill Road, has just won an award for the Cambridge Pub of the Year 2010. It has a patio beer garden, and when I was last there it was holding a beer festival in the garden. I like this pub and garden; it’s welcoming to kids with some toys for them to play with, but the main draw are the 3 pub pigs, housed in a little pen, as well as rabbits running around under your feet – it’s like having a beer in a little zoo. Good on ’em! It’s a really private garden too, so you can forget you are in the middle of the city. Nice beer too! (See my Decent Real Ale Pubs in Cambridge for more about the Empress).

The Emperor, Cambridge

The Emperor on Hills Road, Cambridge, has an unusual beer garden – it’s filled with sand. That’s right; it’s a beach. In the middle of the city.The tables are painted bright colours and there are also deck chairs, buckets and spades, seagulls and parasols. The pub holds many events, some of the most recent being a beer festival and beach volleyball! This is the sister pub to the Empress, and also serves about 4 real ales, regulars being St Austell Tribute, Oakham JHB and Sharps Doom Bar. Check out my Emperor post to read more about this pub and its garden.

The beach beer garden, The Emperor

The beach beer garden, The Emperor

The Anchor, Cambridge

The Anchor, from the River Cam

The Anchor is an institution. Fronting the river in one of the prettiest parts of the city, the Anchor is in an ideal location and popular with the students. It’s a GK pub, but then again, most pubs in the city centre are. Grab a beer and sit on the outdoor terrace to watch tourists falling off their punts into the mill pond and listen to the punt touts on the bridge trying to come up with inventive ways to hook in more trade. An idyllic location – but unfortunately Cambridge University wants to redevelop the whole of this area which may involve a change of use of the pub (probably into an upmarket restaurant), so if you haven’t been there already, go now in case it disappears.

The Granta, Cambridge

The Granta

Round the corner from the Anchor, The Granta is another pub with a riverside setting but it’s set higher up from the river than the Anchor and is tucked away round the corner from the main tourist area and overlooking another mill pond which is just as pretty. Another GK pub, but decent enough Abbot Ale.

The Fort St George, Cambridge

This pub used to have much more character before Greene King refurbished it recently and ripped some of the character out. But the garden terrace of the Fort St George is beautiful, being right next to the Cam and with plenty of seating so you can watch the rowers go by, or turn the other way for a view over Midsummer Common and the cows! A lovely location.

The Fort St George, Cambridge

The Fort St George, Cambridge

The Elm Tree, Cambridge

The Elm Tree outside drinking area is tucked down the alley, behind all the drinkers!

I can only say good things about the Elm Tree. It has about 10 ever-changing hand pumps, lovely landlords, morris dancing outside in the summer, and it has a real village atmosphere even though it’s in the middle of the city. The outside seating to the side of the pub makes for a tranquil spot to have a fine ale (Banks & Taylors Dragon Slayer is a good one that is regularly on tap).

The Royal Oak, Barrington

The Royl Oak in pretty Barrington is a beautiful old thatched pub dating back to the 13th century. Barrington has one of the largest village greens in the country – you have to see it to believe it.  The pub serves good food and beer (there are usually Potton or Adnams ales on tap) and the garden at the front faces the green (where they hold cricket matches). It’s a fantastic place to relax if you want to get away from city life for a while.

Northamptonshire

The Boat, Stoke Bruerne

The Boat, Stoke Bruerne

A lot of my pubs seem to be riverside ones – and this is no exception. Watching the barges go by from outside The Boat in the little village of Stoke Bruerne is a lovely sight. It’s an old free house with several bars, one with Northamptonshire skittles which is always great fun to play. I had some great beer from the local Frog Island brewery when I was last there.

Some of the beers!

Some of the beers!

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