We’d heard a few mentions of Beerwolf Books, which opened in Falmouth, Cornwall, in the run up to Christmas, and had understood that it was either a bookshop with beer, or a pub with some books for sale. Either way, it sounded like something different, and so we made sure it was on our list of places to visit during a weekend away in the coastal town.
Even approaching Beerwolf feels like you’ve stumbled upon a secret: it’s up an easy-to-miss alleyway between chain stores, in a beautiful eighteenth century building on Bells Court. Through the red door, there’s a creaking wooden staircase and a view of shelves of books. So it is a bookshop. Then the smell of beer and the sound of chatter drift down. So it is a pub.
With deep red walls, dark wood, furniture neither too neat nor too tatty, and just enough daylight through small-paned windows, the pub part of Beerwolf (the bit we were most interested in) appealed immediately. The book shop, off to one side, and with a place to rest your beer while you browse, sets the mood, positively inviting long reading or writing sessions amid the buzz of conversation.
The beer is good, too. Very good. Among five cask ales, none of them the usual suspects, were 80 Shilling from local brewery Rebel (grainy, dark and silky), Marble Manchester Bitter (the kind of pale and hoppy beer that makes us consider a move up north some time) and our favourite Penzance Brewing Potion 9. In the fridges, a few Belgian standards such as Kwak and Chimay – not the stuff to excite hardened beer geeks, perhaps, but little seen in Cornwall.
We set up camp for the afternoon, watching and listening. What appeared to be a contingent of local CAMRA members staked out the bar and worked their way through the full range, murmuring their appreciation. Students came in pairs or gangs, buying piles of books and lots of lager, tea and coffee. Middle-aged couples came for the books and stayed for a pint. A stag do came for pints and walked away with some books. “Wow!” said more than one person on reaching the top of the staircase.
Struggling book and record shops: we urge you to find a struggling pub and pair up. Supermarkets, with their idea of offering several services on one premises, might just be on to something.