Up to Number 21 on my Top 100 (+/- a few), and still no entries from Stockport. Or Maidenhead.
I’d been on the brink of featuring my third Cambridge entry for some time, but the Maypole isn’t a pub I go to as often as it deserves. Two quick visits this week after the Cambridge Beer Festival have settled the decision.
Architecturally this is more Olde Vic than Magnet, a scruffy looking ex-Pubmaster building with a few pleasing internal features, and a rather fetching mural on the wall. If it was in Falmouth it would be the ‘Front, and they’d let you take your fish and chips in, rather than selling you their proper home-made Italian food. But you’ll rarely see many folk eating here.
It feels like a proper suburban local, in Cambridge’s most attractive residential area off Jesus Green, and feels well away from the most touristy part of the town.
I’ve never seen it less than pleasantly busy, but the best time to enjoy it is late at night when the crowds spill out on to the patio/gazebo. Some of the latest closing hours help (1am at the weekend), as does the Cambridge Beer Festival’s closure between 3 and 5.
Half the 3.30pm crowd yesterday were refugees from the Fest, turning down the competing attractions of Mitcham Corner’s Greene King houses in favour of the Maypole’s own stunning festival.
I’m no fan of massive beer lists in pubs, but pubs like the Wellington, Magnet and the Babington Arms locally show that ale exhibition houses can work. The step up from the normal dozen to this week’s offer isn’t that enormous.
But it’s quality that counts. And the three halves I had yesterday were immaculate; the Mallinsons Station scored NBSS 4.5, as good as that Bass in South Leicestershire, with Moor and Burning Sky close behind.
They got through a lot of beer in the hour I was there, to as wide a range of customers as I’ve seen in any Cambridge pub. The Maypole wins awards for its commitment to dark beers (Milton Nero stout a standout), and I was reminded in conversations with Norfolk’s hardened drinkers that (amazingly) not everyone likes Oakham Citra.
The Maypole has been run by the lovely Castiglione family for more than 30 years, and it’s a shame it took them so long to get the freehold off Punch to give them a proper range of beers to works their cellarmanship on.
Visitors from further north than Norwich might balk at the £4+ pints, but I’d rather pay more for consistent quality.
And if that hasn’t sold it to you, see what they’ve got coming up next week (the day after I get back from Nuremberg). Now that’s what I call keg;