Next up is the Castle, mentioned elsewhere in these pages for its highly priced Ruddles Bitter (though last time I passed this had been replaced by another Greene King beer) - GK IPA is also available. The Castle is first and foremost about food though anyone wanting just a drink, and willing to pay the price, is welcome.
Right next door is what's believed to be the biggest pub in England, Wetherspoon's Regal, converted from an old cinema (and with the Picturehouse cinema still above). We've said quite a bit about Wetherspoons in this issue but suffice to say that in recent years I've found both the quality and choice of real ales in the Regal to be excellent. The standard Ruddles and Abbot are supplemented by eight or so rapidly changing guests; beers from the Wentworth brewery of South Yorkshire regularly appear - I reckon their WPA (Woppa) to be one of the great beers of our time. Mind you, I only ever visit the Regal at lunchtime or early evening, before the music starts and the hordes arrive.
Upstairs next to the aforesaid Picturehouse where the bar has been serving two real ales for a couple of years. For a time they had "Reel Ale" specially brewed by Cambridge Moonshine though I haven't seen it recently. Usually something interesting though and in relaxed surroundings.
A few doors down is the cover star of the last ALE, the Fountain. As I remarked then, it's pleasing to see such a youthfully-oriented pub giving such prominence to real ale, three or four of which are usually on. Last time I called they were Thwaites Bitter (which is regular) Oakham Inferno and Adnams Gunhill.
The bar at the University Arms Hotel opposite doesn't sell real ale but we have to cross to that side anyway because the next stop, the Avery, is off to the left down an alleyway. This opened over 10 years ago in the former Avery weighing machine factory as the Hogshead, one of Whitbread's ale houses, selling a wide range of cask beers. However when Whitbread got out of the pub business it ended up with Greene King who renamed it and installed their "bog standard" range of IPA, Old Speckled hen and Abbot. The pub is on two floors, the upper one having views across Parkers Piece though it's closed weekday lunchtimes (the upstairs not the Piece). Like the Regal the volume is cranked up at night though even in the day the loud sports-oriented tellies are intrusive.
You can exit at the rear, walk along the edge of the Piece and enter our next pub, the Prince Regent, from the back. Another Greene King managed house, this has a superior selection of real ales; as well as those at the Avery you'll find St Edmunds and three seasonal/guest beers. Though now open-plan, the interior has several distinct drinking spaces and has a good traditional feel.
At the time of writing the next pub along, the Globe, was still in the throes of refurbishment. It's due to reemerge in September as the Emperor, sister pub to our Pub of the Year, the Empress and we expect great things of it.
Nearing the end now. On the corner of Station Road is the Great Northern which has reverted to its original name after countless other incarnations, most recently Sauce. It remains a "Kitchen and Bar" with stylish contemporary decor and an emphasis on dining. On my last visit, though, the sole real ale (Adnams Explorer) was in tip-top condition and served in a lined glass.
Finally, a perilous crossing of the Station Road junction to access the legendary Flying Pig. We'll be running a detailed feature on this fine, quirky pub in the next issue but worth mentioning again the recent availability of changing guest beers. The line up when I popped in recently was Black Sheep Bitter (permanent). Caledonian Nectar, O'Hanlon Goldblade and Beartown Peach Melbeer.
Finally, finally the Osborne Arms next door remains one of only four pubs in our area not selling real ale, the handpump being forlornly out of use. The redevelopment plans for the area, which at one point threatened the Flying Pig, envisaged the Osborne being converted into a hotel.
Should you manage this crawl in one go you are now permitted to enter the nearby Botanic Gardens, find a comfy bench and sleep it off.