Ahhh... The Live and Let Live, one of my favourite haunts, and a safe haven in life's troublesome waters.
There are many great pubs in Cambridge's Mill Road area - The Cambridge Blue, The Kingston Arms, The Geldart and the Salisbury - to name a few. But The Live is a place where you can have a beer and a read, or a good conversation without the hustle-bustle of other pubs. There's no blaring music or people barging past you, no nasties hanging around in dim corners, just the smell of good ale and old wood, a place where you can be yourself and no one will bother you.
Perhaps I favour it here, as Pete (the landlord) is a beer drinker after my own heart. He's not afraid of the strong stuff, or dark beers - just as long as it's well made. Yes, the ale selection always contains a good few rapidly changing session ales between 3.8 and 4.5%, but if you want a stronger drop you'll rarely be let down; whether it's a porter or stout, strong ale or the ever changing and excellently sourced Belgian draught beer (not to mention a very competent Belgian Bottle selection).
I hear again and again in 'Real Ale' circles, drinkers passing up the opportunity to try stunning brew simply on the Alcohol by Volume (ABV). Rather opting to drink more volume of a weaker ale. May I suggest a tactic: replace three or four pints of quaffable ale with a couple of pints of strong but high quality ale (or more if your like me).
I understand that one doesn't want to ruin the next day with a sore head, especially if it's a weekday, so if it's stronger replace volume with potency. People have strange ideas about what happens to beer over 5%. It doesn't automatically turn into Special Brew or sweet over the top beer! There are fine brewers out there that know exactly what they're doing and can hide the alcohol with artistic finesse, and it's these beers I wish to focus on here and suggest you try at The Live and Let Live, in particular Belgian beer.
A good place to start is the current Belgian on draught (circa 9th August) a delightful Saison style blonde Ale at 5%. A Saison is essentially rustic country ale with a farmyard aroma. It's got a great assertive bitterness and definite hop character, which can be lacking even in the greatest Belgian beers. It's light, clean and refreshing with a classic Saison yeast kick. Why not try similar beers bottled and generally always in the fridge: De Ranke XX Bitter (6.2%), Zinnebir, Abbaye De Rocs Nounnete (7%), or the Trappist Westmalle Tripel (9.5%).
For a darker style have ago at the Ellezeloise Hercule Stout (8.4% rich and comforting) or another splendid Trappist beer, Rochefort 8 (9.2% with wine like complexity).
For wheat beer enthusiasts, sample the Watou Wit beer at 5%, a citrusy wheat beer, and for cider and beer lovers alike, or those up for challenging their palate, try a sour Lambic beer such as Hansens Oude Gueuze (6%)
This is just a cross section of a few old favourites too good to miss in my opinion. As I've said, they don't have to all be done at once, but like a fine wine: sit, savour and enjoy these gems, try not to play it too safe and try something different. And if all else fails, or you're accompanying an ale drinking partner or friend, bare in mind there's always a couple of clean, well made lagers like Staroparoman or Becks on draught, and at the ready if it all gets too much.
So I'll see you down there! And we can all raise a glass to Pete, the staff and the Live and Let Live.