Heavy Lies the Crown

Cornish Crown is a difficult brewery for us to write about so we’re relieved to find that, finally, it might finally have come good.

It is based in an industrial unit outside Penzance and has a brewery tap here in town, The Crown on Bread Street which is the only PZ pub in the 2017 CAMRA Good Beer Guide. It’s a good pub, the pints are relatively cheap, and generally in good condition. It’s just that, for several years, the beer itself has been somewhere between indifferent and downright rough.

We said cautiously good things about the brewery when it launched, expecting it to get better, but actually, it got worse. But with decent branding, competitive pricing, and a strong local story, the beer was everywhere for a while, including places like London from where friends would text us: ‘This Cornish Crown… is it meant to taste like that?’

Every now and then someone would ask us what we thought of the brewery, on Twitter or in real life, and we’d be honest: ‘We don’t rate the beer.’ Sometimes, that would be met with astonishment, and we began to think that perhaps we were being a bit fussy. (We are, generally.) But the fact remained that for a long time we were happier to drink St Austell or even Skinner’s — another brewery towards which we are lukewarm — than Cornish Crown.

We kept checking in, though, things do change over the lifetime of a brewery (new kit, new staff, training and development) and, sure enough, last year we noticed a sudden upswing in quality. The keg vanilla porter in particular was not only passable but positively delightful. Then yesterday, prompted in part by the estimable Ellie Bennett, we made another visit to The Crown and gave the beer a fair workout.

Causeway best bitter is still not an exciting beer but was at least clean-tasting. If you like this kind of beer, there’s no reason you won’t like this particuarl example. One-Hop, the beer Ellie was excited about, was an extremely pleasant surprise, no longer muddy and cardboard-like, but popping with sweet citrus. It’s still fairly heavy-bodied and honeyish so not our favourite type of golden ale but there was nothing wrong with it at all within those parameters. Extra Stout Porter, a cask ale at 5.9%, was also sweet, mild and moreish, with no stale notes to spoil the fun. Our companion felt conned by the keg Red IPA –‘It’s more Greene King than Lagunitas’ — but it wasn’t sour or cabbagey as we have found it in the past.

We’d still rather drink a great pint of St Austell Proper Job than any of these beers but, for now at least, The Crown is back on the circuit for us, and we’re upgrading our advice on the beer from AVOID to GIVE IT A TRY.

Spiral scratch beer

Sign of the Cornish Crown brewery.

Sometimes, you come across a band’s first single and, despite low-budget production and rough edges, recognise raw talent.

Well, that also turns out to be our experience of the new Cornish Crown Brewery which we were so apprehensive about visiting.

On a cold Wednesday night, we made it to the Crown in the centre of Penzance, the tap for the brewery which is actually based on an industrial estate a few miles away at Badger’s Cross in Gulval, where we tried pints of Bitter (3.7%) and Strong Pale Ale (4.8%).

First impressions were not promising: the thin, scummy heads on our pints did not make our mouths water.

What these pints lacked in stage presence, however, they made up for in taste. West Country beer often tends towards sweetness but both of these were bitter in that way that makes you thirsty — a very good sign. There was evidence of a heavy hand with the hops in the aroma, too. Sometimes, a good first impression can diminish as the beer warms up but, in this case, both beers were good to the last drop. Perhaps there was a hint of the burnt waxiness we associate with Skinner’s or Otter, but not enough to be a serious distraction.

The final verdict: we happily stayed for a second pint and will be keeping a keen eye on developments.

The Bitter is better than the SPA; here’s what Darren ‘Beertoday‘ Norbury had to say in a piece for the local paper; Spiral Scratch explained here; and for more beer/music analogies, see Zac’s blog; picture nicked from their website.