May 24, 2009
Abbott Ale is full-flavoured and smooth. There’s a hint of malt and overtones of spice and really I can think of no better brew to settle down with in the corner of a pub and get quietly sozzled.
When I lived in Cambridge this was my favourite tipple. It’s brewed in Bury St Edmunds by Greene King (who also make the lighter IPA – Indian Pale Ale). So I associate Abbott with the huge, melancholy sweetness of the flat East Anglian landscape. Big skies and nothing but fields and streams from here to the horizon, with only the occasional church spire soaring up, from Cambridge to King’s Lynn to the Norfolk Broads.
Cambridge is a great town. The Backs, where the river’s sandwiched between ancient colleges and a meadow, is perhaps the loveliest spot. You can picnic on the grass, or take a punt, or wander over bridges and through cobbled streets to find a likely watering hole.
If you want a bite to eat with your pint of Abbott, a Ploughman’s Lunch would be good, or a fish pie, or just cheese on toast with a dash of Tabasco sauce. Try to get your Abbott on draught. While the canned version crops up in most supermarkets, it doesn’t match the real thing. The delicacy of the drink simply disappears.
And if you can’t find it on tap, take a visit to Cambridge. You could work your way through dozens of brilliantly old-school English pubs. The Eagle, just near Market Square, was one of my favourites. Or there’s The Anchor, The Granta and The Mill, all right on the river.