Our sortie started at the Brook, Mill Road, a spacious but welcoming pub owned by Greene King. Landlord Paul and his partner Fiona keep three real ales: Greene King regulars IPA and Abbot, and a guest from the Greene King beer list - on this occasion Olde Trip, a thoroughly good beer with which to start a campaign trail. The pub had the feel of being part of the community. Though this was quite early in the day, (we'd arrived at 12.00), there was a steady flow of regular customers, some of whom were pleased to tell us about Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), the pub's favoured charity. The new garden is a source of much pride and a very calm setting on a very hot day.
Moving on, we were pleased to find the Empress, Thoday Street now in the capable hands of landlord David Utting. David took over little more than a year ago and has seen his real ale range grow to six pumps plus one real cider (Old Rosie). Our tastings - there were lots because David is very enthusiastic about his beers - included Milton Sparta, Wychwood Hobgoblin, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Tetleys and Adnams bitters.
We also ventured into his tiny cellar to taste the Sharp's Dunbar straight from the cask (yum!). A community pub in every sense of the word, the Empress supports Magpas and is also raising cash through car boot sales, charity bingo and from a sponsored attempt at the notoriously difficult Three Peaks Challenge, to send Becki, the terminally ill four year old daughter of a pub regular, to Lapland.
There is much to praise about this pub, and we were left in little doubt about how proud David is of it. An extensive tour of the sun trap garden was followed by our first ever offer to inspect a pub's pristine personal facilities. Its reputation, though, will build on the presentation and quality of its beer. We found both to be excellent.
I'm afraid that the next pub, the Beaconsfield Arms is, at the time of writing, not open for trade. This is a great shame. On entering we were led to believe it was typically an Irish pub, and the ex-Landlord Brian O'Sullivan didn't pretend it was anything other. But we were soon to find there was more than Guinness on sale. Two hand pumps were available dispensing Adnams, Hobgoblin and Spitfire on a rota basis. [Good news - we hear that the pub has now reopened with Black Sheep and Hobgoblin on handpump - ed].
Next on the tour was the Kingston Arms, Kingston Street. Many accolades have been written about this pub and the quality of its real ales. I'm pleased to say they are all still true. The Crouch Vale Brewers Gold, a regular and one of ten ales on offer, certainly reminded me why it was recently twice the Champion Beer of Britain. Cider drinkers will also be pleased to see Cassells on pump and Aspells sold by the bottle. The Kingston supports local charities including the Friends of Mill Road Cemetery. Here too there is a garden area - a sun trap filled with comfortable seating. It had been a hard morning's campaigning so we took the opportunity to repose in a comfy sofa and sup just a little more. The Elgoods Black Dog Mild was also extremely quaffable.
Last, and by no means least on this leg of the tour, we completed our campaign trail in the Cambridge Blue, Gwydir Street. I used to frequent the Blue over 20 years ago in its former guise as the slightly sleazy Dew Drop Inn. No wonder then that I was tempted to try Nethergate's specially named Dewdrop Ale. Jethro and Terri are nothing but honest when it comes to ales - so honest that customers so inclined can see them pour the lovely stuff straight from the cask.
There were 8 ales and 3 ciders available on our visit, every bit as good as the ales they used to serve at the Carlton Arms. The Blue has always been known as a community pub, the regulars being as varied, and sometimes as eclectic as their beers. Jethro and Terri are continuing that trend. Fundraising for charities includes the Arthur Rank, Macmillan Nurses and Cambridge Headway and the pub took an active role in the famous Gwydir Street party at the end of June.
Our intention had been to continue campaigning right to the end of Mill Road knowing that there were still some excellent places yet to visit, but I'm ashamed to say it was in the Blue that our resolve flagged. A combination of fine ales, sunshine and excessive campaigning had taken their toll and we stopped for one last pint in the Cambridge Blue's massive garden and then called it a day.
Can't wait until part two: Mill Road, The Campaign Continues.