We struggle a bit with Skinner’s, one of Cornwall’s bigger small breweries. On the one hand, there is lots to like about the company (committed localness, charity work, openness) but, on the other, we’re just not fans of their beer. Betty Stoggs, their flagship bitter, is one we’d choose over Sharp’s Doom Bar, but certainly not over St Austell Tribute. (The three are often seen on the same bar in Cornwall.) We’ve had the occasional excellent pint, but many more slightly nasty ones. Others seem to enjoy it, though, so it might be that we just don’t get on with their yeast.
Recently, they took on the Old Ale House in Truro, within walking distance of their brewery, and have made it their tap, to all intents and purposes. Truro is short of good pubs but the OAH was always the most appealing, as a building, at least, with gnarled wood, dark corners and Edwardian livery for the defunct Redruth Brewery.
Skinner’s, like some other ‘brown beer’ brewers, are stretching themselves a bit. Porthleven (4.8%) is a hoppy blonde ale, introduced as a seasonal last summer and back for the new season. Last year, we found it disappointing — sweet and, er, ‘Skinnersy’ — but, yesterday, it was excellent. Four unplanned pints in the mid-afternoon excellent, in fact.
Betty Stoggs was the best we’ve tasted it, too — surely the result of proximity to the brewery and hands-on quality control?
The excellence of those other beers was only highlighted by the oddly named ‘Kiddlywink’, which had the cardboard and plastic yickiness we’re more used to from Betty Stoggs. Not off, just not good.
If you’re passing Truro, and aren’t averse to Skinner’s beers, the Old Ale House is worth a visit, if only to enjoy the free shell-on peanuts from a barrel by the bar.