My next call gives lie to the oft-expressed opinion that some pubs just aren’t worth trying to save. The Devonshire Arms has come gloriously back to life in the more than capable hands of its new owners, Milton Brewery. What had been a seedy, gloomy dive is now an attractive, light-filled real-ale emporium, which has been triumphally busy since its relaunch in January. If you haven’t yet visited, get along quick – and enjoy the other fabulous real ale pubs in the same vicinity.
Pub four on my less-than-grand tour was the Osborne Arms, Hills Road. Real ale did reappear here during 2008 with the lone handpump usually occupied by Adnams Broadside. Sadly, recent visits have found it back in a state of disuse. The building was scheduled to be converted to a small hotel as part of the cb1 development, though that scheme has now run into some troubles.
The Cow, Corn Exchange Street was stop five and this remains resolutely keg only. My final call was the Graduate, Chesterton Road, then an “It’s a Scream” venue. It subsequently became part of the Barfly music-venue chain but closed in Summer 2008 “for refurbishment”. Nothing happened and a “To Let” sign soon appeared. We know that Wetherspoons took a look at it back then and decided not to pursue so it was a surprise to read in the Cambridge news recently that they were “closing in on a deal” to take it over – perhaps the price is now right. Should they secure it then real ale will obviously return to what was once the Fresher and Firkin brew-pub.
Since the article was written, three estate pubs in north Cambridge – the Ship, the Jenny Wren and the Grove – have stopped selling real ale so we now have five, rather than six, keg-only pubs in the Branch area (plus, of course, a host of café-bars which don’t offer the real thing). The main shame is that, in the right hands, both the now-lost Jubilee and Duke of Argyll could have been viable real-ale pubs, as the success of the Devonshire demonstrates.