22nd Cambridge Winter Ale Festival (17-20 January 2018)

Ok chaps here is the thing. After years of Phil nagging on me about that festival I decided to come over and see what’s the fuss about. But since I have no Engaland experience whatsoever and Phil sometimes doesn’t take his memberberries regularly I decided to ask help from allmighty forums!

Festival info: https://www.cambridgebeerfestival.com/

Our plan in short would be:
Wed: Arrive, rent a car from Stansted and do a little bit of driving around Cambridgeshire for county/place sightseeing ticks. Don’t know exact route yet, but something like (prioritizing Brewpubs/Breweries and trying to avoid big places) : Bishop Stortford (Hertfordshire), Stebbing or straight to Braintree (Essex), Sudbury or Bury St. Edmunds or Elvden (Suffolk), Thetford (Norfolk) and then decide if we want to continue towards Lincolnshire (Market Deeping) -Rutland- Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire or go straight to Cambridge itself. Do check-in and do pub crawl of some sort.
Thu and Friday: do festival (half day?) and then pubs.
Saturday: Do festival if anything is still needed from there and then hit London. My return plane is Sunday morning around 6 am so kind of no point of doing 3hour sleep in some overpriced hotel and then hit the airport. I better hit pubs 'til they close and then take train or coach to airport and sleep there for few hours (if at all).

Questions: is anyone around Cambridge at that time? Does anyone want to join us on wednesday? Any recommendations, tips and tricks?

Thanks in advance!

I sometimes go to the festival. Usually just a day from London as it’s an easy trip on the train. And, also, reasonably priced hoterls in Cambridge are thin on the ground. But we frequently do some travelling in January as there are plenty of bargains to be had. So, won’t know whether I’ll be going to the festival until nearer the time.

Bury St Edmunds is a nice place and has two brewoubs. Unfortunately, being Greene King’s home base it also has a lot of their pubs. But the brewery tour is quite a good one.

Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire are rather disappointing for beer and pubs in my view - Bedfordshire has never had very many breweries for some reason. I know you want the place ticks so a quick pitsop at a couple of nice country pubs is probably your best bet. CAMRA’s pub database, WhatPub is a useful resource and far more comprehensive than RateBeer’s places section out in the sticks.
Unfortunately it doesn’t really have a mapping function so it’s just a question of planning a prospective rough route and searching the towns and villages on the way. Beware of afternoon closing in country pubs!

The elusive Rutland place tick is probably still best achieved by hitting Grainstore in Oakham.

Even though you’re renting a car, you can actually take the Stansted to Birmingham train (or vaguely follow the route) for some good stops:

  • Ely (Cambs): a good micropub, some trad pubs and 3at3 where you can stock up on East Anglia bottles.
  • Peterborough (Cambs): I know you wanted to avoid big places but the Oakham brewery is worth a tick although not as nice as it used to be. Plus the Stoneworks is there.
  • Stamford (Linconshire): An easy ticking destination for the county. Melbourne Brothers is technically a brewpub as the Sam Smiths fruit beers are brewed there. Bakers Dozen, the Rutland Brewery, run the Jolly Brewer.
  • Oakham (Rutland): Reiterating Chris’ post, the Grainstore Brewery bar is the best pub in Rutland.

A few more points:

Herts: You mentioned Bishops Stortford… no good pubs but there’s an excellent little drink-in bottle shop (the Bishop’s Cave). Sawbridgeworth has a brewpub (the Gate) that doesn’t always have their beers on. There is a good beer chain (BEER shop) in Hitchin and St Albans.

Norfolk: Thetford is dead beer-wise. The London Tavern in Attleborough is technically a brewpub but I’ve been there twice and neither time did they have any beer on.

Suffolk: Chris mentioned the two brewpubs in Bury… there’s also an amazing bottle shop (Beautiful Beers). I have not been to Old Chimneys brewery in Market Weston but their beers are top notch.

Northants: fairly dead beer-wise but Rushden has a couple places: Hopmaster General, a new micropub, and the Rushden Historical Transport Society which does cask ale. They are a private club, but they sometimes have open days. The Albion Brewery Bar in Northampton is decent, but again, big places…

Bedfordshire sucks for beer. If you’re after a place tick, your best bet is the Wellington Arms in Bedford, or maybe the Engineers Arms in Henlow (a village between-ish Hitchin and St Albans.

Cambs: A couple breweries/taps in Cambridge, you may also wish to try the Chequers in Little Gransden for the Son of Sid brewery.

Leicestershire: I’ve not done proper exploring in the countryside here. I know there’s the Belvoir brewery in Old Dalby but I haven’t been.

Bishop’s Cave- noted! We wanted to do Tesco/petrol station + some proper beer shop sweep anyway so why not start from here.
Essex: As looking the website King William IV (https://www.ratebeer.com/Place/state/city/placename/69634.htm) @Braintree is pretty much worth visiting, but what about White Hart (https://www.ratebeer.com/Place/state/city/placename/74239.htm) @Stebbing? It’s kind of on the way, but at the same time can’t quite use A120? Do they have their own beers at all these days? Looking at facebook, in couple of pictures I see their IPA, but nothing more (except tons of macro).

Anna and I will almost certainly join Marduk in London after CWAF, but will not be flying home with him on Sunday. Is there any couch-surfing potential in the London area for the Saturday night? Local knowledge to guide Marduk (and us) between “just arrived from Cambridge” and “heading to Stansted” would be appreciated. I may have been a Londoner once, but that was when I was half my current age, and was only the burbs anyway, so I’m mostly useless.

If we’re in town, certainly. But, as I said earlier, we often go away in January and it’s sometimes a bit of a last minute thing so you probably don’t want to be relying on it.

I spent a week in Thetford during the summer. One day I went into 5 pubs and walked straight out again, all they had on was Greene King IPA or Doombar. The two local breweries were both locked up when I dropped in. Old Chimneys was shut that weekend too. The only OK places were the Elveden Inn and seperate farm shop.

Only spent a couple of hours in Bury-St-Edmunds so at least got to go to Beautiful Beers.

If you’re looking for a lunch stop in the Cambridge vicinity, this is an upmarket farm shop/deli/cafe that stocks local beers. More specifically you can drink bottles from the shop in the cafe:


Green King is a curse on the region, you’re preaching to the converted. Thanks for the other info.

“We also stock ales from a much celebrated local independent microbrewery Mark at Moonshine Brewery”

I know we’ll hit Bacchanalia when in town, and they will almost certainly have Moonshine, but I’d hate to miss a Moonshine, so will see if we can squeeze Shelford in. I seem to remember there was a pub that did great Thai curries there, I wonder if that still exists. (I used to work in Harston)

Cheers for info! Looking at the map Aleyard Brewery is close to Thetford, but it looks to be closed down. But place isn’t? Or is it? Here is the link to place: https://www.ratebeer.com/p/aleyard-brewery/60694/

Now I’m thinking of maybe to change a route so that we can hit either Old Chimneys Brewey https://www.ratebeer.com/Place/state/city/placename/11683.htm or through Thetford straight to Wolf @Attleborough, https://www.ratebeer.com/Place/state/city/placename/64605.htm . Question is is Old Chimneys Brewery worth the country roads? :slight_smile:

Aleyard have ceased production following the death of the brewer according to this site:


Brandon and Iceini were the two breweries that were shut when I visited.

They’ve always had them when I’ve looked in.

I found this website. Does anyone know how reliable is the info there: https://www.pubsgalore.co.uk/countries/england/

We’ve now armed outselves with paper copies of:
2017 edition of the /Good Pub Guide/ to help guide our pre-Cambridge car-crawl round the counties (East Anglia the preferred loop currently); and
2015 edition of Des de Moor’s /The Camra Guide to London’s Best Beer Pubs and Bars/ to help us on Marduk’s leaving “night”, the Saturday-going-on-Sunday

We’re planning to stay close to the Liverpool Street area, and Marduk will be looking for places with late licences, so that he can spend as little time as possible waiting for a bus (no train that day) and a plane. Recommendations welcome - crawl assistance very welcome - any volunteers?

@chriso - what’s the accomodation scene looking like that evening - we won’t stay pubbing as late as Marduk, we can leave him somewhere from where he’ll be able to find his transport 10 beers later.

1st day, arrival day is planned. 10+ counties it is! 5h26m on driving time but only less than 400km? England is weird.


Sorry Phil, it’s not really convenient at the moment as it looks like we’ll have my mother staying - she’s had a fall and isn’t mobile at the moment so needs some care. It also means I’m unlikely to be able to come to Cambridge Winter BF.

Enjoy the trip!! Cheers.

NP. Mums are very important! It’s either to Denham to visit my dad, or Brighton, to discover a new town…

Apropos the road-trip part - we’re planning on clipping Derbyshire, and will aim for this pub:

I can’t find it on ratebeer as a place, neither can google - it seems variously to be described as being in either Sawley, or Long Eaton - which should it be? The brewery there’s already on RB:
Can someone local-ish add the place appropriately addressed please?

Ug - can someone provide some quick advice for getting a place tick that will contain ticks in Buckinghamshire? We’ll be heading down the M1 from Crick in Northants, planning on diving east through Beds to Cambs, and we’ll be short on time. So basically, it looks like it’s Newport Pagnell or if that draws a blank the NE corner of Milfnot Keynes.
Whatpub makes the selection of beers in the pubs sound dire. The best I can come up with so far is:

My brother lives in MK and loves this place:

… there’s also this new place:

Personally though I’d recommend veering off down the M40 instead and hitting the High Wycombe holy trinity of Heidrun, Mad Squirrel and Bootlegger.