Our first visit on the tour proper was The Jolly Millers, High Street, Cottenham, where we were welcomed with a smile and a choice of beers which included Woodfordes Wherry (3.8%), Black Sheep Bitter (3.8%), Timothy Taylors Landlord (4.3%) and the ubiquitous Greene King IPA (3.6%). We tried the Timmy Taylors, the Black Sheep and the Wherry which were in good condition. Local customers Paul Garden and his friend Peter were keen to extol the virtues of the IPA. Landlady Ros Keep is trying hard to promote The Millers as a traditional community pub. It is the meeting place for the local rugby club, there are quiz and darts nights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and folk club meetings on Sundays. Charities supported by the pub include the Macmillan Nurses. This is a very friendly little pub and we were sorry to have to leave.
The next pub on Paul's agenda was the Three Tuns, Willingham. Unfortunately it is closed on Saturday afternoons so we headed a bit further down the road to the Duke of Wellington, 55 Church Street. For whatever reason, perhaps because there are so many of them in our region, Cambridge CAMRA tour members tend to steer away from Greene King pubs if we possibly can, but I must say I liked this one at first glance. Perhaps it was the open fire in the cosy bar; or the enthusiasm of Fran, the landlady, as she literally dropped everything in the kitchen to come and talk to us, but more likely, I think it was the hand written sign which promised Greene King XX mild (3%) straight from the barrel. Unfortunately this promised rarity was not available because the greedy locals had drunk it all. The other "guest ale", Davenports, was also not available for the same reason. The problem, Fran explained, is that the Dukes cellar is too small to cope with an increasing demand for real ale. This, hopefully, will be put right soon by the introduction of dual racking. We eschewed the strength of Abbot Ale 4.6% and settled for a decent IPA.
Though Fran, and her partner Barry, have not been resident long they have managed to organise many events, including a Garden Party, complete with 5 bands and a Charity Bungee jump in aid of Arthur Rank House. They are also keen to cater to the needs of their customers. The mild was introduced following a request from one of their regulars.
Third pub to visit was the White Horse, Market St, Swavesey. The White Horse is listed in the CAMRA 2008 Good Beer Guide; deservedly so if the quality of the Caledonian Deuchars IPA (3.6%) I sampled is anything to go by. The Horse has at least 2 and often up to five real ales available at any one time. But it is so much more than just a beer drinkers pub. In the spirit of traditional pubs the Horse is a cornerstone of the village and at the heart of the community. Annual events include, barrel rolling; a charity pinball competition in aid of Milton Hospice, and an annual quiz which attracts people from miles around and raises money for local charities. The pub also sponsors the fireworks for the village November 5th celebrations. All that and good beer too! Swavesey is a very lucky village.
The Admiral Vernon, 31 High Street, Over, is a pub with great potential. It has a large comfortable bar area and sells Wells and Youngs beers plus one guest. New tenants Kathy and Scott, are putting every effort into making a go of it, offering themed nights including Thai meals and Ceilidh dancing and free tours to the Wells and Youngs brewery. The beers they sell are, according to one local customer, a CAMRA member, "the best in the area". Yes, I agree, they were pretty good. It was disappointing to go there early on a Saturday night and find only a few locals at the bar. To be honest, we wondered why until we stumbled upon...
Over Community Centre Beer FestivalThe Centre, we were assured, has a pub license so we were eligible to enter this mini festival. The seven beers and one Cider were very good indeed, organised by Steward Sue Moore, with the help of those nice people from Fox Brewery, Heacham. There were a number of beers from Fox, including the lovely Heacham Gold 3.9%. This was a new initiative for the club whose regular beer is Wherry plus one guest. They were on their second day of three, had managed to break even and were going into profit. In all it had been a great success and a wonderful way for us to end our tour.
Congratulations to Sue and her team.