ALE Summer 1997 No. 288

Company Profile no. 9 - City of Cambridge Brewery

As late as 1950 five breweries were operating in Cambridge but when Tolly Cobbold closed the Star Brewery, Newmarket Road, in 1972, the city's brewing traditions seemed to have reached the end. Since then, two in-pub breweries have opened - the Ancient Druids in 1984 and the Fresher and Firkin in 1996. Both are temporarily out of commission. Neither however supplied beer beyond their respective pubs, so commercial brewing remained dead - until May 1997.

The City of Cambridge Brewery opened that month, its first customer being CAMRA's own Beer Festival. The men behind the venture are Don Graves and Steve Draper, both with years of experience in the sales and marketing area of the trade. Don was with Tolly before starting his own agency, the Cambridge Beer Company. Steve has worked for Greene King, Eldridge Pope and Ruddles.

The brewery occupies an industrial unit in Cheddars Lane. The neat 5-barrel plant was designed by brewing guru Rob Jones who has also helped with the recipe for the beer, Hobsons Choice. This is a superbly balanced golden ale with a 4.1% ABV. It has a full-bodied, moreish flavour and a slightly bitter finish which doesn't outstay its welcome. The quality of the ale was proven when Beer Festival customers voted it Beer of the Festival ahead of 90 other brews. The original order sold out by the Wednesday, prompting an urgent reorder.

City of Cambridge are proud of the quality ingredients they use. The main malt is Pipkin - proper "floor" malt from Warminster - plus a little caramalt. The new dwarf hop, First Gold, has been employed and this is responsible for the lovely light colour. Brewing currently takes place twice a week with the beer being kept back for six days before delivery to allow it to mature.

Steve and Don are extremely anxious to ensure that their beer is given the treatment it deserves, hence their reluctance to use beer agencies. Instead they aim to make all their own deliveries which necessarily means that trade is essentially local. Among the outlets so far have been the Cow and Calf; Cambridge Blue; Fountain, Ely; Waggon and Horses, Milton; Queens Head, Sawston; Bees-in-the-Wall, Whittlesford. The paucity of genuine free houses in the Cambridge area is bound to make life a little difficult for the new venture, so it's a good job that Don and Steve know what selling is all about.

Looking ahead there are plans for two more beers: a strong ale, Atomsplitter, and a mild. CAMRA wishes the City of Cambridge Brewery every success, not just for re-establishing brewing in the city after a 25 year gap, but because the product represents real ale as it ought to be.

The City of Cambridge Brewery
19 Cheddars Lane
Cambridge CB5 8LD
Tel. 01223 353939

The City of Cambridge Brewery; Jet Black Launch

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