A rather over-styled barn of a boozer (the detail includes everything from sunny Iberian floor tiles to architects’ drawing boards), but one where the beer is solid. There is a tight selection of US bottles, such as Flying Dog, Anchor, and Sierra Nevada but the Architect also operates as a brewery tap for Cambridge micro Calverley’s. Its hoppy pale Supper Club was in good form, and with Titanic stout, Pilsner Urquell and Maisels Weisse wheat beer also available on keg, this is a decent, one-pint stop-off for the passing craft drinker. Despite it being a Greene King pub, the Architect’s sister outlet, The Alex, also carries cask beers from local and regional breweries such as BlackBar and Wolf, as well as Brewdog beers on keg.
• Pint from £3.40, 43 Castle Street, 01223 563779, thearchitectcambridge.co.uk
The Cambridge Blue
A pub that will stop beer geeks in their tracks, given that on entering you are greeted by three fridges stacked with more than 100 bottled beers. Those chillers contain mainly Belgian brews but also a connoisseur’s selection of less well known US craft beers, such as Sierra Nevada’s Kellerweis, Odell’s Runoff Red IPA and Two Roads’ Ol’ Factory Pils. Likewise, the Cambridge Blue’s extensive cask and keg line-up includes beers as traditional as Tydd Steam’s highly drinkable Swedish Blonde, wheat beers brewed in Essex (Mighty Oak’s Head In The Clouds), craft beers from New Zealand (I found Renaissance’s Voyager IPA a little sweet), and such exotica as a chilli-infused black IPA from Peterborough’s buccaneering craft outfit Bexar County. Basically, all brewing life is here. Belgian beer lovers may also wish to visit that other Cambridge shrine to the Low Countries, The Elm Tree.
• Pint from £3.20, 85-87 Gwydir Street, 01223 471680, the-cambridgeblue.co.uk
Cambridge Wine Merchants’ Bridge Street Wine Bar and Hot Numbers
With the craft beer revolution being less well advanced in Cambridge than it is in the UK’s cities, you occasionally have to veer off-piste to drink well. The Bridge Street branch of Cambridge Wine Merchants keeps some of its excellent craft beer stock – such as beers from Arbor, Brewdog and Partizan (from £1.80) – chilled for takeaway, which is a popular option with those punting on the adjacent river Cam in the summer. Otherwise, it also serves a small, regularly changing range of craft beers (for example, Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil, Beavertown’s Neck Oil, all £3.60) in its cafe-bar section. The terrific third-wave coffee shop, Hot Numbers, also carries a number of bottled craft beers (from £3.70). Staples from Kernel and Brooklyn are augmented by guests such as Tiny Rebel’s excellent F.U.B.A.R and the Panty stout from Dutch brewer Oedipus.
• 31 Bridge Street, 01223 568989, cambridgewine.com
The Cambridge Brew House
The city’s only brewpub (where you can watch brewer, Mark Burton, working away on his tiny brew kit), Cambridge Brew House serves six cask ales including three of its own beers. The dry, hoppy Misty River is, not unexpectedly, super-fresh tasting. If you are after something a little more creative and crafty, scrutinise the keg beers which, this time around included Redwell’s white IPA, Black Isle’s organic porter, Lagunitas IPA and rare appearances (if you come from Manchester, at least) for both Signature Brew’s 8.3% Black Tongue (its collaboration with bone-crunching metal band Mastodon) and Yeastie Boys’ Minimatta from New Zealand. The chatty staff are well-informed about the beer they are selling too, which helps. The CBH’s sister pub, The Mill, was recently been named pub of the year by the local Camra group.
• Pint from £3.50, 1 King Street, 01223 855185, thecambridgebrewhouse.com
Tucked away off Portugal Place, the Maypole’s quirky covered terrace – which has its own dedicated serving hatch – is a great place to swerve the tourist hordes on a sunny day. Beer-wise, the pub stocks a core of mainline US craft and Icelandic Einstock bottles; a high-quality selection of Belgian brews; and, on keg, the likes of Camden Pale, Lagunitas IPA and, on this occasion, Crystal Rye IPA - one of Adnam’s so-so attempts at craft. The pub’s 16 cask beers are more traditional, but you will find some notables in there from local breweries, such as Moonshine and Colchester Brewery, as well as new-wave guest beers from, for instance, Manchester’s TicketyBrew and Yorkshire’s Summer Wine.
• Pint from £3.80, 20a Portugal Place, 01223 352999, maypolefreehouse.co.uk
A rather hip bar by Cambridge standards (there is lots of wood panelling, industrial lighting, vintage-looking brass taps on the bar), Pint Shop specialises in cutting-edge craft beers. Its 10 keg and six cask lines were, on this visit, pouring beers from Arbor, Thornbridge, Redemption, Redwell and Dutch brewery Kaapse, as well as an intriguing Imperial India Brown beer from Beavertown in collaboration with Canada’s Bellwoods. I opted for Marble’s marvellous Pint, which – lingeringly bitter, full of floral and tropical fruit flavours – was a reminder of just how much flavour a skilled brewer can pack into a 3.9% session ale.
• Pint from £3.80, 10 Peas Hill, 01223 352293, pintshop.co.uk
Rhode Island & foodPark
Sadly, I didn’t make it to this burger and craft beer joint in the suburb of Cherry Hinton (bus C3, 15mins from station), but its craft beer range speaks for itself. Its house beers are Brooklyn lager and Sierra Nevada, while its 10 ever-changing guest bottles include gems from British pace-setters such as Wild Beer, Kernel, Five Points and Cambridge-based micro BlackBar. In fact, BlackBar is currently brewing a beer with Rhode Island which will launch in May. Talking of places in Cambridge which pair street food with craft beer, the bar at the foodPark Night Market events also serve a compact but discerning range of craft beers, including various cans from Beavertown (look out for its seasonal blood orange IPA, Bloody ‘Ell) and at least one local beer. For instance, at the last Night Market, the bar had bottles of a pale ale brewed by Cambridge wine merchants, Cozzi & Boffa.
• Beers from £3.60, 15 High Street, Cherry Hinton, 01223 778080, rhodeislanduk.com
The Grain Store
Among craft beer geeks, Greene King is a bit of a laughing stock. A major pub company and brewery, located in Suffolk, its IPA is regularly (and rightly) derided as not worthy of that name. Meanwhile, the beers it has released to muscle-in on the craft market have met with, at best, a lukewarm response. None of this is deterring Greene King, which has recently launched Grain Store, its first dedicated craft beer bar. Despite the graffiti and glazed brickwork, it very much feels like a corporate take on the concept and the relatively mainstream nature of the beer selection - not to mention the staff’s somewhat sketchy product knowledge – is not going to turn it into a destination for craft aficionados. But, for all that, there is a certain satisfaction in seeing Greene King forced to minimise the presence of its own beers (that IPA, Noble lager) in its own pub, and, undoubtedly, the Grain Store will expose some drinkers to exciting new beers they would otherwise not have encountered. Those beers include unpasteurised tank Pilsner Urquell; several Brewdog, Red Squirrel and Black Isle keg beers; bottles from excellent US brewery, Goose Island (now distributed by Greene King in the UK), and guest cask ales from such breweries as Wolf, Potbelly, Slater’s and Colchester. Looking out across the adjacent parkland of Parker’s Piece, I drank a half of Brewdog’s (entry-level, over-carbonated) Electric India saison and toasted a pub which, for all the caveats, feels like a victory for the craft beer movement.
• Pint from £3.20,69-76 Regent Street, 01223 323405, grainstore-cambridge.co.uk
It looks a bit dismal from outside, but this student-friendly pub (Anglia Ruskin University is nearby), with its pizza oven, film nights and firm focus on craft beer, is a find. Its staff are clearly beer enthusiasts and know their hops. As promised, the Adnam’s/Magic Rock collaboration, the Herbalist, did indeed taste remarkably of fresh basil. I opted instead for an old favourite, Dark Star’s Hophead (“There is nothing boring about Hophead,” the barman reassured me). Blue Moon’s range revolves around four cask and 10 keg lines, which were dispensing, among others, Almasty’s Figin Porter and Nene Valley’s Big Bang Theory. It also carries a small range of bottled Weird Beard and New Zealand beers, from Renaissance, Yeastie Boys and Tuatara. Thanks to the efforts of local supplier Jolly Good Beer you see New Zealand beers more often than you expect to in Cambridge.
• Pint from £3.20, 2 Norfolk Street, 01223 500238, Facebook page
They are a rarity in modern Britain, but the area of terraced housing around Cambridge railway station is home to several street corner and mid-terrace pubs. The Alex (Gwydir Street), Devonshire Arms (1 Devonshire Road) and the Live & Let Live (40 Mawson Road) are all worth a visit, but it is Cambridge Blue (see separate entry) and, to a lesser extent, the Kingston Arms which really carry the flag for craft beer. The Kingston’s 11 cask ales mix stalwart real ales, such as Landlord, with hop-forward creations from, say, Bristol Beer Factory, Celt, Burning Sky, Dark Star and TicketyBrew. That modern classic, Jaipur from Thornbridge, is notably one of the pub’s permanent beers. As well as a small range of bottles, the Kingston’s dedicated “crafty keg” line serves beers from such breweries as Firebrand and Fyne & Wild. In the covered patio garden, you will also spot a stillage and bar, ready to be racked with beers for the monthly ale festivals held over summer.
• Pint from £2.80, 33 Kingston Street, 01223 319414, kingston-arms.co.uk
• Train travel between Manchester and Cambridge was provided by Cross Country Trains
Beer university … Cambridge is catching on to craft brews. Photograph: Alamy