Saint Radegund was a sixth-century Frankish princess, daughter of King Bertachar of Thuringia. She was married to King Clothair I, along with five other women. Eventually, she got hacked off with him and ran away to found a nunnery. Who better, then, to name a pub after? Whatever the logic, that’s what happened, and the St Radegund on King Street in Cambridge, turned out to be a very interesting pub, and not only for its name.
It is the smallest pub in Cambridge, and occupies a roughly triangular plot on the corner of King Street and Jesus Street. Unknown to most visitors, a holy well lies beneath its floor. I visited the St Radegund on a warm late afternoon in late June. On that particular day, the outside of the pub looked quite scruffy, with plenty peeling paint on both the walls and doors. Inside the appeal is much more obvious. To call this place ‘snug’ would be an understatement. There are some benches and a long narrow table, but the atmosphere is just right. The pub claims to have a capacity of 50 persons, and that would make it quite packed. There is one toilet. I don’t mean one room with toilets in it, I mean one toilet.
I sat myself down on a bench at the long thin table as Lady A went off to do some shopping. At the other end of the bench was a small group of four or five mature students from the university. We fell in to chatting. They were post doctoral students, but were also all CAMRA members and this was one of their regular drinking venues.
On the bar were six handpumps. Two were from local brewer Milton, and Fullers, St Peters, Buntingford and Wolf were also represented.
I started with a Buntingford Apollo, a 4% golden ale that the landlord was puzzling over as I ordered my drinks. ‘Can’t quite get this,’ he said, ‘it’s supposed to be hoppy, but…’ He passed the glass over and I took a sniff and a gulp. The smell was sweetly caramel, as was the initial taste. It was certainly pleasant, but I understood the landlord’s puzzlement. It wasn’t hoppy. I went back to my bench and drank more of the beer. As I got to about two-thirds of the way down the glass, I realized that the flavour had changed. It was now distinctly hoppy. I looked up across the pub at the landlord, who was smiling at me, raising a thumb.
My next two were from local brewer Milton. I took a half of each. Minotaur was the first one I sampled, a 3.3% mild, very dark red or brownish in colour. This beer has a nicely balanced malt and hop flavour. I found slight but rewarding notes of treacle and coffee. Nicely rounded flavour for such a low alcohol beer. The other Milton beer was Proteus, a 6.2% strong bitter. This is a real mouthful! There is a very strong and yet very smooth hop flavour. Sneaking in under the predominant taste there is a pleasant hint of sweetness. All round excellent flavour. I think this is what some of those breweries that produce the mouth-puckering hop bombs are probably aiming at. Have a taste of this, lads – balance is what it’s all about.
I enjoyed those two. Time for another pair, Lady A was obviously enjoying herself, so I thought it my duty to do the same. I got two more halves from the cheerful landlord. First for this round was St Peter’s Ruby Red Ale, which I noted was a popular choice amongst my PhD CAMRA friends. This is a luscious ruby-red ale with an ABV of 4.2%. The initial taste is sweet fruit, followed by a spicy hoppiness that develops into a slightly bitter treacly finish. Good. The Wolf Golden Jackal, which was pretty ubiquitous in pubs all over eastern England during my trip, is a fairly simple beer – lightish, very hoppy and really quite bitter.
The St Radegund may be Cambridge’s smallest pub, and one of the smallest I have ever been in, but it manages to pack a huge amount of what is good about a pub into its diminutive dimensions. There was a knowledgable and affable landlord, friendly customers, willing to spare a word or two with the visitor and above all, plenty of good ale, well-kept. A ‘must’ for any visit to this great university town.
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