With a few notable exceptions, Cambridge students seem to do most of their drinking in clubs or their own rooms. So it is that except some truly gruesome attempts at home-brew undertaken by the critically short on cash, real ale mostly passes under the student radar.

The great shame is that Cambridge is actually a fantastic place to live for the real ale lover- in addition to the main annual festival, CAMRA also lay on a Cambridge Oktoberfest, at which every beer from Munich's original is available and a Winter Beer festival every January. However, the main Summer event is one of the biggest in the country and offers a fantastic chance to get to know some local ales.

The range of over 200 is quite exceptional ranging from milds to stouts and from Redemption brewery's 3% Trinity and Green Jack's 10.5% Baltic Trader taking in such delights as Comrade Bill Bartram's Egalitarian Anti-Imperialist Soviet Stout along the way. Whether the bitter, peppery taste was meant to be representative of life under the Russian Communist regime is doubtful but Ale brewers' love of a good name is unrivalled and pints somehow seem more interesting when you order an Atilla the Hen or a Gloster Squirt (beware if offered in any other context.)

The selection does not finish at ales, so girlfriends who don't share your passion for bitter can be appeased with a selection of over 80 perries and ciders and several English wines and the mead and imported lager stands provide an option for anybody looking for a change. The presence of kebab and burger vans caters for those for whom no night out is complete without their Gardi's or CK.

Of course one of the eternal fascinations of ale festivals is the lunatic nature of many ale enthusiasts. So it is that I can heartily recommend the festival for anybody who may not be a fan of ale but who has regretted the lack of any British Insane Facial Hair Convention. From mutton chops to walrus moustaches the facial fuzz is out in strength and a strange fad has grown up at this year's festival of pork scratching facial hair competitions with barmen offering to take your photo when you purchase a bag.

An unidentified ale fanatic.

Several novelty beers have been selling successfully, most notably from the Beartown brewery from Cheshire, whose Ginger Bear and Peach Melbear, despite terrible names, are beautifully brewed and provide refreshing variation. Coming in the middle of the exam period it is only natural that the festival will be fairly under-attended by students, but if you're keen on your ale, or would like to learn more about it, then for £4 entry (free for members of CAMRA) Jesus Green can provide an excellent night out this weekend to drink away some of that exam stress.

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