Category Archives: real ale

Cornwall Update: Falmouth Levels Up

Falmouth’s already thriving beer ‘scene’ has a (relatively) new addition in Mono, a music-focused bar and gig venue on the corner of Killigrew Street.

We first spotted it in July but didn’t actually get chance to sit down for a drink until last weekend. This doesn’t constitute a review — we had one pint each during a quiet Friday lunchtime — but though it worth flagging.

It looks a bit like a BrewDog bar — doesn’t everything these days? — even down to those ubiquitous ‘craft’ light-bulbs, and has 10 keg taps as well as four for cask-conditioned beer mounted on the wall behind the bar.

Lightbulbs and interior at Mono, Falmouth, October 2015.

On our visit, the keg offer included beers from Brew By Numbers, Wild Beer Co and Harbour Brewing, all priced at between £4-£4.70 per pint. The cask tended more to the traditional and featured Timothy Taylor Landlord and Bass (a Falmouth staple) at a rather competitive £3 a pint, alongside Siren Liquid Mistress (£3.40) and Harbour Amber (£3.10). The Landlord was in good-as-Yorkshire condition.

Its owner, Peter Walker, is also behind the nearby Hand Bar and runs his own beer distribution operation. We visited both bars on Friday and were pleased to find different draught beers on offer in each. When we spoke to him briefly at Mono, he was keen to stress that it is a gig venue rather than targeted at beer geeks, but if you’re pub crawling in Falmouth, and craving up-country beer, you’d be daft not to take a look.

Why Brew Gose Instead of Mild?

There’s a simple answer to this question: because no-one in Britain actually likes mild.

Of course that’s not quite true — a few people are obsessive about it, and quite a few others like the occasional pint for a change. In the Midlands through to the North West, it seems there are even some regular mild drinkers left.

In general, though, it’s a style that the Campaign for Real Ale has been trying to get people excited about for 40 years with little success. First wave CAMRA members prefered cult bitters; in more recent years, they’ve turned their attention to hoppy golden ales.

And many (most?) post-2005 craft beer enthusiasts think like Tony Naylor — what’s the point of it?

[Mild] as it developed in the 20th century, was a low-strength (around 3%), very-lightly hopped beer, that became a staple thirst-quencher for miners, factory workers and anyone keen to sink eight pints and still get up for their shift the next morning… Flavours… were deliberately dialled-down to an innocuous level. Even its most misty-eyed fans admit that this was a beer designed to be undemanding, easy drinking.

They’ve got a point, too: if ‘connoisseurs’ rejected Foster’s lager and Watney’s Red because they were weak, sweet, bland and fizzy, then mild’s only point of superiority is that it isn’t usually highly-carbonated. Not much of a sales pitch.

“But no-one likes Gose either!” That might well be true but, if they dislike Gose, it’s because it tastes weird, which is preferable in marketing terms to tasting bland. And, as it’s usually bottled or kegged, not that many people have to like it for it to be worth brewing or stocking. Cask mild, on the other hand, needs a few people to drink several pints a night if it’s to be any good at all.

Nor does it help that lots of milds are, regrettably, bloody awful. We do like mild (mostly, it must be said, for sentimental reasons) but even we struggle with pints of sweet bland bitter dyed black with caramel or, worse, mislabelled, watery stouts that taste like the rinsings from a dirty coffee percolator.

We’d love to see more mild around — we can go months without a taste of the stuff — but let’s not kid ourselves that, if only, say, Magic Rock would make one, it could be cool again.

‘It’s Meant to be Like That’: 2015 Edition

Tandleman has long been an outspoken critic of unfined beer, primarily on the grounds that hazy beer looks bad and, in his experience, usually tastes bad.

We haven’t always been receptive to that — the idea that clear = tasty, cloudy = rough is, we’re certain, a learned cultural prejudice — but in recent months, Mr T has made an ever-more persuasive case for why everyone should share his concern: it is confusing people, dragging down the quality of cask ale overall, or at least threatens to, and is damaging public confidence.

We’re not completely convinced there’s a trubocalypse underway, not least because most ‘normal’ pubs and the people who drink in them aren’t remotely interested in the politics of unfined beer. The following recent Twitter exchange, however, suggests there might well be an issue at the specialist end of the market (click the date below to read the whole thread):

Now, half-arsed bar staff have been using ‘It’s meant to be like that’ as a deflection probably for as long as beer has been sold — we remember being given a pint of vinegar in a pub in Salisbury and the chap behind the counter insisting ‘real ale is meant to have a tang to it’ — but this new angle on the same wheeze isn’t good news.

Perhaps hazy-beer-brewers labelling their products with a warning is no longer sufficient — maybe breweries who want their beer served bright should also state that clearly on the pump-clips and keg lenses, and shout about it on social media? It would be difficult for bar staff to say ‘Oh, it comes hazy’ if the point-of-sale material states boldly otherwise. And there’s plenty of historical precedent:

Brickwoods advertisement, 1912.
From 1912.

Cloudwater specifically has another problem: that name, which rather implies that all its beers might be ‘fantastically cloudy‘.

The Talbot Arms, Settle

As you’ll see from the gallery we posted earlier today there’s no shortage of pubs in the conjoined-twin-towns of Settle and Giggleswick but one was our clear favourite: the Talbot Arms.

Situated off the High Street, behind the market place and a few doors down from the 17th-century architectural oddity that is the Folly, the Talbot is visually striking: a wall of white with the pub’s name in huge black letters and an unusual sign of a white dog which looks both hip and yet also strangely medieval.

Inside is a single large room, rather bare, which somehow conveys that dining is an option without making it feel like an obligation. On our multiple visits we found locals chatting at the bar, in corners gossiping, or in muddy boots reading the Craven Herald with glasses of wine.

The ale list at the Talbot.

The cask ale offer struck us as interesting for various reasons. First, because we recognised few of the breweries; secondly, because there was a clear effort to cover a range of styles, from mild to pale’n’hoppy via old-fashioned bitter; and, finally, because the range seemed more resolutely small-and-local than some other pubs in the area.

Pump clip for Partners Cascade.

Not every beer we tried was top notch but none of them were downright bad, and all were in good nick. It was also here that we also found our beer of the week: Partners Brewing Cascade (4% ABV, £3 a pint). Somewhat neglected in favour of more fashionable hop varieties, Cascade is surely due a revival — citrus, yes, but with a distinctive fruits-of-the-forest character that lent this particular beer a ripe juiciness to balance a light body and flinty bitterness.

Perhaps those of you who know the northern scene better than us will let us know whether Partners is a generally well-regarded brewery — we suspect not, or we might have heard of them — but, regardless, this particular beer was one we stuck on for multiple pints, and for two days in a row at that.

The Talbot Arms also has a proper beer garden — that is, not a wasp-infested yard next to the bins with a pile of mouldering carpet, as is found in most English pubs, but something landscaped and leafy, with solid tables, and a mixture of sunshine and shade. It isn’t quite up to German standards, but it’s not far off.

Now, if you visit Settle, the Talbot might not be your favourite — perhaps we were lucky with the weather and the particular beers that were on offer — but you can certainly have some fun finding out over the course of a day or weekend.