Black Prince at the Bucket of Blood

Pub sign for the Bucket of Blood

It feels as if St Austell have a pub every ten or twelve metres between Exeter and Land’s End, but their dark mild, Black Prince, is nonetheless hard to find amongst a sea of Tribute.

We first heard of Black Prince several years ago when Bailey’s dad rang us in a highly excited state from a pub in North Cornwall. Mild is his drink of choice in the pub when available but, sadly, it rarely is. Black Prince, he declared, was a proper, lovely, delicious old-fashioned mild. We’ve been after it ever since.

When we got a tip from Darren ‘Beer Today’ Norbury (our local beer journo) that the Bucket of Blood in Phillack near Hayle always has it, we  decided to make it the finishing point for a coastal walk.*

Although the Bucket of course sells Tribute, it otherwise eschews the more commonly seen cask St Austell beers (HSD, Proper Job and newcomer Trelawney) in favour of Black Prince (4%) and Bucket of Blood (an evidently not-so-seasonal 4.4% Halloween red ale). The landlord clearly has an awkward streak, for which we are grateful.

Black Prince behaved just as mild so often does: initially underwhelming, gradually improving, increasingly complex until, by the end of the first pint, we knew we were stuck for at least a couple more.

Why are we having to hunt this excellent beer? And why is it pretending to be a ‘Dark Ale’? It’s time for all those breweries who sneakily renamed their milds ten or more years ago to reverse the decision: old beer styles need to be kept alive and, anyway, what was once a synonym for ‘grandad beer’ has surely now slipped across the line into vintage cool, hasn’t it?

* In case anyone is interested, we’ve now ‘ticked’ the South West Coast Path from St Agnes to Cadgwith. We are very pleased with ourselves.

12 thoughts on “Black Prince at the Bucket of Blood”

  1. I do so very much hope you drank it out of a dimpled jug.

    I remember going into pubs in the late 1990s with my late Uncle Bert, a dedicatee (along with my father) of Amber Gold and Black, when he would ask the (generally Australian) bar staff, far more in hope than expectation: “Do you sell mild?”, only to receive the sort of look you might expect if he had asked: “Do you sell chilled wombat’s testicles?”

    The experience you describe is exactly what great session beer gives you: you don’t realise how fahking terrific it is until at least halfway down the third pint.

  2. Maybe the cold May has helped the reliability and perhaps the reputation of mild this year? Tried plenty of them here in sunny Sheff this month and not had a bad one yet. Even Steel City Brewing did a mild, although have yet to find it yet….

    And they were all called mild as well, crucially. Strange that Moorhouses with Black Cat and Copper Dragon with Black Gold (maybe less so style wise) are still afraid of telling us what most of us already know. I wonder why they and, as you mention, St Austell are coy about their mild?

  3. 4 (out of 6 pubs) in Padstow last week were St Austell’s, but none had those two you mention unfortunately, in fact the only deviation ‘from the norm’ was their Torch Bearer.

  4. This is absolutely a lovely beer! As a visitor from across the pond where there is no such beast (and unlikely to ever be, unlike the already lost brown ale), it would be a shame to lose this beer and this style altogether. I found it at the Museum Tavern in London in ’09, but never again for the two weeks I looked while visiting in ’10 and ’11.

  5. Martyn — no dimples, but a very nice, squeaky clean straight-sided pint glass — no Guinness branded tulips or scratched old nonics, at least.

    Wee Beefy — the breweries that ditched the mild tag tend to be bigger regional/family brewers. Lots of beers called ‘dark’ or ‘black’ were launched (top of head) between 1999-2005. (Not sure when Fuller’s Hock got its slightly weird name.)

    Arn — yep, typical, I’m afraid. The line from the brewery is that their tenants don’t order it and that they can’t force them to do so, which makes sense, but it’s a shame from the consumer’s point of view.

    Paul — did you try the St Austell mild, or are you talking about mild in general? It’s very hard to find in London, even now. Fuller’s make two (their own Hock and Gale’s Festival) but they’re seasonal and not found in every pub; Young’s, as far as I know, haven’t made one for years; Greene King make one but we’ve never seen it in a pub; and so it goes on. On the upside, our local in London used to have a permanent mild pump and it was one of their bestsellers for years on end, with a young crowd, too, so there is hope.

    1. I did try St Austell’s Black Prince in London but haven’t seen Black Prince since 2009, but other milds are difficult to find, too. Sad to hear that St Austell apparently doesn’t promote this great beer.

      Last year I visited the Royal Oak in Borough for the Sussex XX Mild, which was in perfect condition (and always on I understand). Was that your local? Great pub, we returned later that week for dinner and had a grand meal.

    2. I think the Hock is older, based on tegestological recollections, at least 1993….

      I suppose the micro brewery market might better be suited to marketing mild as mild, since retro (albeit sometimes perceived) and revival styles seem more popular with enthusiasts – no detriment to larger regional brewers but I suppose if their geographical core clientel aren’t big on mild there’s no incentive to change the brands back.

  6. “what was once a synonym for ‘grandad beer’ has surely now slipped across the line into vintage cool, hasn’t it?”

    If hipsters can make cardigans and NHS specs fashionable, expect to be awash in a sea of mild this time next year.

  7. I remember trying it at the North Inn in Boscaswell one rainy March Tuesday in 2005 efter a fine dinner at the Queen’s Arms in Botallack. It was presented as a porter, which I thought was adequate for the weather and as a nightcap. As I expected a porter, I was very underwhelmed.

    After learning it is actually a Mild I have tried in vain to find it again while walking the South West Coast Path. As you say, there are plenty (or more) St. Austell pubs along the path, but you can tire of Tribute and HSD. The Bucket of Blood disappointed me by being closed when I passed in 2007.

  8. I brew an old-style mild, from a recipe in the Durden Park booklet – Old British Beers, in my small, amateur brewery.

    It’s stronger than modern milds, at about 6-6.2%, but popular with ladies and older gents.

    Older recipes are the way to go!

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