Enterprise Inns, who own the freehold of the fire-stricken Carlton Arms in Cambridge, have agreed funding for the necessary repairs and it should reopen in May – great news.
The range of real ales at the Poacher Elsworth has increased to three with Wychwood Hobgoblin joining Woodforde's Wherry and Shepherd Neame Spitfire.
More beers also at the White Swan Conington with the offer up from four to six. On our last visit these were Greene King IPA and Abbot, York Terrier, Coach House Dick Turpin, Kelham Island Pale Rider and Greene King Mild. Sadly landlord Kevin was having to take the last of these off as insufficient drinkers were partaking of this delicious brew. The Abbot incidentally is served direct from the cask.
We belatedly caught up with happenings at the British Queen Meldreth which has been under new ownership since last August. Manager Keith Parker has five real ales on the go with Greene King IPA and Woodforde's Wherry as fixtures plus three guests, one of which is served straight from a cask stillaged behind the bar. When we called the guests were Adnams Lighthouse, Woodforde's Sundew and Greene King Fireside with ales from Buntingford and Sharps upcoming. All real ales are less than £3 a pint with two at £2.50. The interior has been tastefully refurbished and the scheme makes the most of the three old fireplaces - the one in the dining room is especially fine. Food is served 12-2, 6-9 Monday to Saturday plus there's a Sunday lunch. The next challenge is to make more of the five acres (!) of grounds with two petanque pitches and a croquet lawn being ready for spring. And not many pubs can offer a riverside walk.
Our very best wishes go to Duncan Hall, popular landlord of the Monkfield Arms Cambourne, who was robbed and badly injured whilst visiting family in Cyprus. He's making a slow but steady recovery but it's likely to be some time before he's back behind the bar.
James Hoskins, licensee of the St Radegund in King Street Cambridge, is hoping to open another pub in this legendary drinking boulevard. The Earl Gre actually closed in 1968 and was most recently used as a betting shop. Should James obtain the necessary planning and licensing consents then he intends running it mainly as a (real) cider bar though other drinks would also be available. The licensing application will be considered in March so we wish him luck.
The Burleigh Arms, Newmarket Road, Cambridge has been sold to Chris Cozens who will continue to run it as a pub/restaurant. (www.burleigharmscambridge.co.uk)
Good old South Cambridgeshire District Council have turned down Greene King's planning application to demolish the Blue Lion Fen Ditton and build a residential care home on the site. The pub is still on the market through Christies albeit at a very steep price (£475k). In the meantime it remains open under temporary management an is apparently trading well.
The Master Mariner, Perne Road, Cambridge has a new name – The Med. When we dropped by the main change seemed to be adoption of a largely salmon pink colour scheme though some work within the main bar was yet to be completed. Real ales were Adnams Gunhill and Fullers London Pride. When originally built in the 1950s, the pub was called the Weathervane but was renamed in 1982 to commemorate Captain Ian North who was killed along with eleven of his crew when his ship the Atlantic Conveyor was sunk during the Falklands War. The white-bearded captain was depicted on the inn sign.
The Slug and Lettuce, Green Street, Cambridge has closed. Although a cafe/bar rather than a pub it did have a handpump dispensing real ale.
Another Cambridge pub closing its doors is the Hopbine on Fair Street. It was being run by Oak Taverns on an agreement with owners Admiral Taverns which could be terminated at any time – and they decided to pull the plug. Admiral said “The Hopbine is being sold as it no longer fits with our portfolio” but whether the sale will be as a pub is unclear. No planning application for change of use has been submitted but CAMRA would strongly contest any that is. In the right hands there's no doubt that a centrally-located pub like this could be a goldmine.
Henry's, the large keg-only cafe-bar on the Quayside near Magdalene Bridge has closed and the lease is up for grabs. No doubt Mr Wetherspoon will take an interest – he is known to want a third Cambridge pub.
Alex Clarke, owner of the Good Beer Guide-listed Red Lion Hinxton, has bought the freehold of the Black Bull, Balsham. Mike Champion will run both pubs on a day-to-day basis; he's keen to build up trade in the Black Bull's restaurant but will also keep it very much a drinkers' pub. The four handpumps will dispense Woodforde's Wherry, Adnams Bitter, Greene King IPA and a changing guest from an East Anglian brewery.
The Mill, Mill Lane, Cambridge, ex-Enterprise Inns, is now free of tie. An immediate positive result is that one handpull is devoted to beers from Cambridge Moonshine brewery – there's also local cider (from Cromwell, Huntingdon) and wine (from Chilford Hall). Deuchars IPA stays on as a permanent beer accompanied by two ever-changing guests – Sharps Doom Bar and Theakston Black Bull when we called. There's a second real cider in the form of Weston's Old Rosie.
Sue Horsnell has taken on the Railway Vue Impington on her own following Steve's departure from the business. The interior, and the locals' bar in particular, will have a “sparkly” soon. And, who knows, one day you might be able to visit using the Guided Bus stop across the way.
Work is under way on the major refurb of the Bun Shop, King Street, Cambridge which will re-emerge as the Jolly Scholar. Eight real ales are promised.
At the Emperor, Hills Road, Cambridge, the real ale range has settled down to Oakham JHB, Sharps Doom Bar and St Austell Tribute plus a guest beer – Langdons Beer Engine when we called by. They also have a new chef and a new menu, featuring some lighter meals as well as old favourites.
Thornbridge Jaipur IPA has become a fixture at the Maypole, Park Street, Cambridge. This magnificent 5.9% ale is also regularly available at the Kingston Arms.
Ian Mapherson, who delivers ALE to 13 pubs in the south of the Branch area, found them selling a total of 43 real ales on his last round. There were 24 different beers with, inevitably, Greene King IPA the most common, being present in seven of the pubs. The three Duxford pubs alone offered 12 different ales with five each in the John Barleycorn and Plough and three in the Wheatsheaf and only IPA appearing twice. The Pheasant Great Chishill offered five beers, including Nethergate Pheasant Best, and the Red Lion Hinxton had four, of which Humpty Dumpty Bitter from Norfolk was the most unusual. Ian's fourteenth drop, the Tickell Arms Whittlesford, was closed for extensive building work.
Last March Stuart and Karen Laurie leased the George Babraham from Greene King and installed daughter Jo as landlady, before moving in themselves a tenant landlords in November. GK have now notified them that the pub is being taken into management and will become part of the Old English Inns chain – meaning the Lauries will have to leave despite wanting to stay on. A Facebook page has been set up by customers in support of the Lauries – there are fears locally that the pub will lose individuality if it becomes a managed house. One of our members who live in Babraham has commented “People in the village are very unhappy as the pub had spent eight years in the doldrums selling rubbish beer and (literally at times) turning away local drinkers and organisations. There has been a great buzz about the place since the Lauries took over as everyone knows them in the village and we finally have a local meeting place again”. Stop Press: the great news is that GK have responded to public indignation, reversing their decision to make this a managed pub and offering a lease to the Lauries instead. They had already made plans to move their operation to the Bakers Arms Fulbourn and have decided to run both pubs.
The Black Horse, Rampton has been bought by a local chap so is no longer in the hands of the developer who made regular planning applications to build a house on most of the garden. Improvements to both the pub's interior and the garden are planned for later in the year. Wells Eagle IPA is now the regular beer with three changing guests, mostly from small breweries and often local ones.
Finally, as usual, our survey of local pubs currently on the market. Greene King seek new tenants for the Clarendon and Cricketers Cambridge, the Five Bells Burwell, the Plough Great Shelford, the Red Lion Cherry Hinton and the Waggon & Horses Linton. Once again no Punch or Enterprise pubs are on offer. Fleurets are still advertising the former Slap Up Waterbeach as a pub (£325k) though it has been an Indian restaurant for some time. Their For Sale remains on display at the Greyhound Cambridge but there's nothing on their website – ominous? Christies continue seeking a buyer for the King William IV Heydon (£925k) and a leaseholder for the Rupert Brooke Grantchester.
Finally, finally, an update on our two new breweries. Mark from Fellows tells us that his beers are garnering lots of compliments, Cambridge Fellow and Gulping Fellow in particular. Recent new outlets for the beers have been the Maypole, Elm Tree and St Radegund, Cambridge, the Green Man, Grantchester and the Three Horseshoes Madingley. The 10000th pint has just been brewed and the fifth beer in the permanent range, Burton Snatch, launches in April. Meanwhile Mark is working up recipes for a series of ecials and is looking into bottling. Over in Dry Drayton, the Lord Conrad's Brewery is coming together well and Jon hopes to be brewing again some time in April. The building has needed a lot of work to satisfy Jon's wishes for an environmentally-friendly operation and he's also installed a sophisticated computer-controlled system to ensure that only the best-quality fresh water goes into each brew. Look out for beers from both breweries at the Cambridge Beer Festival.