As I wrote in the introduction to this series, RealAleRocks and I think we’ve previously been to a little over one-third of the pubs on the list. Three Cups is definitely one of the ones with which we are already reasonably familiar. I first started coming here a couple of decades ago, nipping out the office for a sneaky pint at lunchtime – it wasn’t the pub right across the road from work, it was the better pub, 5 minutes’ walk away. In fact I seem to recall a happy fortnight in about 1997 when a bunch of us enjoyed a liquid lunch for nine days out of the ten, and Three Cups would definitely have featured.
As time passed, due to changing jobs and so forth, I visited less often, probably not going there for a good 10, 15 years. But these days, a visit there is a moderately frequent occurrence, and today, due to this blog, we’re going with an extra purpose.
We arrive on a weekday, just before people start popping in after work. Outside, next to the sandwich boards advertising Sunday roast and other food offerings, the Cask Ales chalk board list reminds us that this is the “North Beds CAMRA Pub of the Year 2017”. The white-painted exterior with the hanging baskets, the bay windows, and the Cask Marque sign next to the door, all add up to make it look an attractive prospect. But of course, I already know it’s going to pretty good, so I’m necessarily biased.
On entering via the front door, the bar is ahead and centre, and there’s plenty of space. To tables at the side, a small group is seated, quietly playing with their phones. There’s a fireplace here, but it’s not lit – I wonder if it sometimes is, I can’t recall. A man sits at a seat by one of the front windows, reading. Further back, next to a mirror wrapped in fairy lights, sits a man in notably a feminine presentation, drinking, and looking at his phone – I’m glad to see that he seems to feel comfortable here. A few men are seated around the bar, but it’s easy enough to work around them and get served.
RealAleRocks and I sometimes get put off by the two omnipresent brewers of the region – Charles Wells and Greene King – and Three Cups is in the latter camp. However, we know that this place serves many a good guest ale, and today is no exception. On the handles we have three offerings by local brewer White Park (Dark Matter, First Flight, Cranfield Best); Milestone Loxley Ale; Banks & Taylor Golden Fox; as well as GK IPA, (GK) Old Speckled Hen, and Weston’s Old Rosie. Tasting notes for the ales are chalked on slates, hung above the bar. With a selection like that, I think I forgot to look in the fridge. I plump for the Dark Matter; she goes for the Loxley; £7.40. RealAleRocks points out to me that they do an offer for three thirds-of-a-pint. Could be tempting, for when you just can’t choose.
The stereo plays John Lee Hooker, Beatles, Eagles, Shadows, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, all at a comfortable volume. We go to sit in the back room, where the last of the daylight trickles in through the side window, illuminating the wooden floor and the red leather bench that runs around two sides of the room. There are a couple of women here, perhaps in their 60s. In the corner is a piano, with a small TV on top, turned off. There’s an alcove with a table which could probably squeeze in 8-10 people, if things got lively. As the sun fades, the light moves over to the filament bulbs and the soft pearl lamps.
Looking around, we can see advertisements for quizzes and music nights, and for “Stitch ‘n’ Bitch” night. “Take a book, return a book”, reads another sign.
Before it gets too dark, I remember to go and check out the beer garden; it’s quiet, of course, just one woman perhaps in her 20s. There’s decking, and a handful of tables, and at the bottom of the garden, a pair of cable-car “pods”, each now serving a delightfully whimsical and terra firma existence as a sort of beer-garden-based personal-greenhouse-for-six.
Back inside, and just before 6pm the lights get turned down, and the music, up – but it’s still fine to hold a conversation, at least as long as your group is small. There are four men and a woman at the bar, quietly chatting. Later on (we stay for another pint), things start to thin out a little; soul music plays. A handful of men remain, playing with their phones.
A visit to Three Cups has, again, not disappointed. We head out into the night, certain that we’ll be back before long: we should check out those cable-car pods – perhaps when the weather is a just a little warmer.
Images by GirlMeetsPint, CC BY 4.0