When I lived in Hertfordshire 20 years ago McMullen had a decent reputation with local drinkers.
There were a few non-foody drinkers pubs west of the A1, the boisterous (for St Albans) Farriers Arms was the birthplace of CAMRA locally, and the Queen’s Head in Whitwell served the best Bass south of Burton. The AK Mild on form was so good I’d often forego the Bass for it though.
Over the last 20 years, many of their pubs have become “me-too” eateries, and amid rumours of cask breathers their beers have fallen in favour as Tring, Buntingford, Fullers and the Cornish brewers have risen.
The Cricketers in Woodford Green appears to be the only McMullen house in the 2016 Beer Guide, though the now-free Farriers still sells Country. This fall in favour with local CAMRA branches mirrors that seen by family brewers like Arkells and even Wadworth, though not of course Robinsons.
Anyway, the case for McMullen rests on a couple of pints I’ve had this year. The first was an excellent Country in the Spice of Life, possibly their London flagship; the second his week in Baroosh Cambridge.
Mrs RM picked Baroosh for lunch as she likes opened-up pubs as much as I hate them. It also had a menu with lots of healthier snacks than the meat-heavy alternatives which the “crafty” places like Pint Shop, and Brewhouse are heavy on. A whole aubergine is a bit much though.
Baroosh had plenty of retired folk in for lunch, more than I saw in the more traditional pubs like the nearby Baron of Beef and Fountain recently. Cambridge folk seem to like to eat in a place that looks like a restaurant rather than a pub.
The venue is the former Arts Cinema, and the fourth levels still has a screen with nostalgic photos, but I think Wetherspoons do local history better, particularly in their converted cinemas.
We enjoyed the food, but the beer was better. Look at that head. Even first out the barrel (only 11.30 !), we rated the IPA good enough (NBSS 3) and the Christmas special even better (NBSS 3.5), though to be fair these are both beers around the 5% mark. I might even vote for it in GBG 17 nominations if it’s as good a second time.
No doubt someone will tell me now that the beer will have been served with a cask breather – who cares. It tasted really good and we’d both happily pop back for a beer. I may even make a nostalgic return to the Farriers for an AK.
Baroosh succeeds where the comparable All Bar One and Revolution fail, in offering a decent beer in a late night venue.