It's no secret that Cambridge is much more ept at producing a good pub than a good club. However, judging by the stampedes that develop around Wednesday Cindies, it is clear that these quality drinking establishments are being woefully neglected. Even the regulars of such popular pubs as ‘The Eagle’, ‘The Anchor’ and ‘The Mill’ are missing out on the depths of what Cambridge has to offer.
This term, touring the less frequented pubs and bars of the town, we shall boldly go where only the most intrepid beer-lovers have gone before, plumbing the depths of the Cambridge drinking scene and reporting exotic treasures (but more importantly, local brews) back to you, dear reader, in the form of speciality beers and ciders. This is our search for that holiest of holy grails: the Perfect Pint. With the number of pubs in our delightful city more than trebling the number of clubs, it is clear that this is no mean undertaking.
'The Hopbine' in all its glory. Image Credit: Julia Stanyard & Sian Avery
So without further ado, the first pub we come to is 'The Hopbine', a small, no-nonsense pub tucked away close to the Grafton centre. Self-proclaimedly dedicated to real ales, their selection of guest beers was certainly very good for a relatively small establishment, with a variety of choices on tap. Cambridge’s own single hop blonde ale, ‘Slap’n’tickle’, a favourite of Cambridge Beer Festival goers, was a highlight of what was on offer (though perhaps too summery for the oncoming term) while the darker ‘Lickety Split’ provided a smooth and velvety alternative. Geographically departing from Cambridge beers, ‘Green Bullet’ proved a sharper and more refreshing option.
The selection of ciders was somewhat more limited, but still good. A particular highlight was the Rum Cask cider, a brew so potent that Julia holds it directly responsible for a rather embarrassing fall later that evening which has left her on crutches for a week.
Julia with her really quite potent pint. Image Credit: Julia Stanyard and Sian Avery
While only a couple of fellow students trickled in towards the end of our visit, the place was amply populated by locals making good use of the excellent pool table, resulting in a relaxed atmosphere well-detached from university hustle and bustle. Such an atmosphere was all the more impressive given that we had ventured to 'The Hopbine' at the rather obscure time of 5pm on a Tuesday.
That the vast majority of student pub-goers opt for more polished, familiar establishments seems bizarre to us, as this charming pub offered not only relatively cheap pints, but a tempting array of food offers, from buy-one-get-one-for-a-pound burgers to Fish Fridays – two for £9.95. By sheer willpower we restrained ourselves to the bar snacks, which the friendly barman generously piled high for us.
Sian looking very happy with her black olive. Image Credit: Julia Stanyard and Sian Avery
So finally, leaving The Hopbine swaying a little, but still very much on our feet (for the time being at any rate) we concluded it is certainly time that students allowed themselves the pleasure of frequenting it.