8th February 2023.

It’s as well that I completed the GBG last year (you remember that ?) as this year I’m spending more time in Waterbeach with Mum and Dad than in Sheffield or anywhere else, which I don’t begrudge at all but obviously it’s really limiting exploration and ticking.

But I can still get out to stretch my legs, even if Cambridge is famously flat, and managed an hour’s wander from the station on Wednesday.

Being able to beat the Google estimate of 55 minutes by a third gives you pubbing time of nearly 25 minutes with hourly trains, and as Simon will tell you 25 minutes is ideal.

I picked the famous Free Press because it was shut on Mondays last time I attempted to visit, and because the Kite area is so gorgeous under the blue skies that accompany the righteous.

This is the pub where I had my first ever (ever) pint of real ale back in the late ’80s, when I was convinced the beer was called “Ipper” and perhaps it was back then.

Ghost signs, jug and bottle, the famous snug; a classic corner local.

And traditionally packed on any visit, but of course no-one drinks at all on a Wednesday afternoon, even in Cambridge, so I joined a lone Scouse visitor drinking Beavertown at 3pm.

The XX Mild wasn’t on, but I’d always have gone for the IPA, anyway, because it’s one of the (very) few beers I rarely enjoy.

But it was gorgeous in the similarly fashioned Champion of the Thames last year, and equally gorgeous here; flat, cool and rich (NBSS 3.5).

Good job that fire’s on, eh !” I said to Beavertown bloke, who I think appreciated the gesture of acknowledgement so much he went outside lest I continued the conversation. Or possibly for a fag.

I’d gave recalled the Press as music free, but today you get Stealer’s Wheel, Rupert Holmes, and this classic which I note is a mere 35 years old this year;

In fact, I think it was released the year I first drank IPA in the Free Press. In all honesty, it’s just as good as I remember it.

But, like the notion that music has never been as good as now, the notion that beer can be just as good is an unpopular one.

23 thoughts on “THE FREE PRESS

  1. The worst pint of cask beer that I ever drank was in 1976 in Uppermill.

    It’s generally very good these days, and I’ve not been confronted by anything like that for many a year.

    The thing is, I think I actually finished that pint…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. First pint of real ale? Probably the Nag’s Head, Wrexham, 1978. Border Bitter. “And it’s Border Bitter, Border Bitter for me, it’s by far the finest beer that you will ever see.” It wasn’t really.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Magnet was magnificent, you’re right Andy. I remember a pint in the Black Lion in Firbeck near Worksop that was as good as beer gets. It was a very sad loss (see also : Sam Smiths Museum).


    1. Andy,
      Yes indeed. DBA was Champion Beer of Britain in 1990 and Adnams Extra three years later, both well deserved I thought. DBA was in plenty of Allied pubs locally not long after Uttoxeter’s Plough was the second Midlands pub to take it and I remember a particularly good pint of Extra in Leamington’s Red House.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That photo of your half-empty glass is one of your best in the genre. It really made me feel that I was in the pub, or wishing I was in the pub, or being envious that I wasn’t in the pub but you were. A complex feeling that is not inappropriate for a complex real ale.

    Or maybe I just have a complex.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The last one, with lacings, I guess ? It’s very easy getting satisfying shots of pints in the right light, I love looking back at photos like that.

      You certainly ARE complex, Will. But not weird (except in Spoons, apparently).


  4. Sad to say that Greene King XX Mild is now a “seasonal beer” and only brewed when GK feel like it. That’s why the Free Press didn’t have it. Rest assured, if/when it reappears, it will be back there and in a few pubs here in Stevenage.

    Liked by 1 person

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