Light Split at the Fountain, Mevagissey

Light split (HSD and Light Ale).

We’ve got quite good at working out which pub in a Cornish town or village we’re likely to enjoy the most.

Where there are mul­ti­ple St Austell hous­es (there often are), we avoid the man­aged, over-pol­ished, pla­s­ticky places, and, instead, look out for the signs – ‘Bil­ly and Lynn wel­come you to the Foun­tain!’

Cov­ered in foliage and claim­ing to be the old­est inn in Mevagis­sey, the Foun­tain cer­tain­ly looked cosy. Duck­ing inside, we found all the indi­ca­tors of a ‘prop­er’ pub, includ­ing a knack­ered piano.

Hop­ing for a pint of Prop­er Job, we were dis­ap­point­ed, at first, to see only Trib­ute, Dart­moor and HSD on the bar. While we wait­ed, how­ev­er, we began to notice oth­er pleas­ing details, from bot­tles of brown and light ale in the fridges, to Gold Label Bar­ley Wine on a shelf beneath the optics.

It’s one of those time trav­el pubs,’ we mut­tered to each oth­er.

And, as it hap­pened, the Trib­ute was at its best, and HSD bet­ter than we’ve ever tast­ed it – dri­er, with that unbeat­able com­plex­i­ty that (we think) makes itself evi­dent in many cask ales about twen­ty-four hours before they turn to vine­gar.

With plen­ty of time before our bus was due, though we did­n’t fan­cy the look of the Gold Label, we could­n’t resist try­ing both brown and light splits, prompt­ing the vet­er­an land­lord to share a bit of insight:

No-one buys light ale any more, but all I ever used to drink was light splits. The West Coun­try was nev­er mild-drink­ing ter­ri­to­ry, so brown split was nev­er that pop­u­lar.

Greene King Light Ale was sur­pris­ing­ly decent on its own – a nice whiff of Eng­lish hops – but tast­ed, we both agreed, exact­ly like the nine­teen-eight­ies. That is, it remind­ed Boak of sip­ping beer from her Dad’s glass in a pub gar­den when she was lit­tle; and trig­gered Bai­ley’s thir­ty-year-old mem­o­ries of ‘help­ing’ with the stock-take in the cel­lar at the pub where he grew up in Exeter.

A time trav­el pub indeed.

There’s a small gallery of images from the Foun­tain on our Face­book page.

15 thoughts on “Light Split at the Fountain, Mevagissey”

  1. Hmm, very rare to see old-fash­ioned 275ml bot­tles of brown and light ale at all now. I did­n’t know Greene King still made them.

    I think I might be quite pleased to come across HSD as I did­n’t see it at all on my recent trip to the area, where­as Trib­ute and Prop­er Job were ubiq­ui­tous.

    1. The brown ale was Man­n’s, BTW. Rea­son­ably easy to find in pubs round here, notably at two of our ‘top ten’ Cor­nish pubs – the Old Ale House in Truro and the Star Inn, Crowlas.

  2. Glad to hear you can still get the old fash­ioned light ale. Tak­en with the Gold Label that does spell 1980’s… The way to use the light ale IMO is to mix with bit­ter for a light-and-bit­ter. It must have start­ed to wake up some almost dead bit­ter beer, or dis­guise some of that vine­gar you were talk­ing about. 🙂 Some peo­ple used lager to make the half and half but that’s light and lager. All very 80’s too but I’d wager with that Greene King light ale you could make some good drinks of this kind. You might con­sid­er the Gold Label for a future try. It used to be unpas­teur­ized (cen­trifuged) and was a good drink and quite influ­en­tial on Amer­i­can craft brew­ing in the ear­ly years.

    1. The canned ver­sion of Gold Label has been cut to 7.5% ABV to avoid High Strength Beer Duty – I expect the bot­tles are the same. I did a review of the 8.5% ver­sion here.

      In the 60s, “Lion Bi’er” used to be the sta­ple drink in many pubs in Lon­don and the South-East.

    2. The way to use the light ale IMO is to mix with bit­ter for a light-and-bit­ter.’

      AKA light split, at least in some parts of the coun­try.

      1. Ah, but just so I under­stand. A split in our parts means a half (or small­er) bot­tle, e.g., a split of Cham­pagne. So when you wrote ini­tial­ly of a light or dark split, I thought you meant the bot­tle of beer tak­en by itself.

        What you pic­tured though, was that half bit­ter half Greene King Light Ale?


        1. That’s half St Austell HSD (sort of a best bit­ter) and half Greene King Light Ale; we also had half HSD/half Man­n’s Brown Ale.

          Apolo­gies for using jar­gon with­out explain­ing it! We real­ly ought to know bet­ter.

          1. Okay got it, thanks. Such an inter­est­ing vari­ety of names for beer blends in Eng­land. Was just read­ing of the Mick­ey Mouse, a half of bit­ter, half of lager, sup­pos­ed­ly so named because each is not pint-size – which sounds con­tra­dic­to­ry but there you go!


  3. Gold Label mixed with bot­tled Guin­ness was a win­ter stand-by in my keg-only local in the 80s

  4. A “bit­ter and light” is my goto when I end up in a Greene King pub round these parts. Makes the, nor­mal­ly bad­ly kept, GK IPA almost drink­able…

  5. Mrs Wheels’ dad main­tains that when he was a lad in the East End every­one drank light and bit­ter because ‘in some pubs back then it could be use­ful to have a bot­tle handy. If you know what I mean’.

    1. Well, many years ago (80’s), I was in an East End pub, prob­a­bly after shop­ping at Pit­field Beer Shop. Fresh from read­ing Jack­son and the ear­ly beer writ­ers, I was dis­cussing a light and bit­ter with some peo­ple at the bar. I said, I’m not from here (they could see that of course) but a light and bit­ter is a bot­tle of light ale mixed with draught bit­ter. One reg­u­lar, and this was ear­ly in the day, said, no son it’s not, a light and bit­ter is the light ale and draft lager. I was­n’t wor­ried about a bot­tle being thrown at me, but I fig­ured, don’t argue with him. 🙂


  6. I tried the Foun­tain in Mevagis­sey dur­ing a hol­i­day there last week. Love­ly old pub, char­ac­ter­ful and wel­com­ing. Two things both­ered me – the beer off the hand pump was far too cold, and they’d stuck a blar­ing great tv in the ‘smug­glers’ area of the pub. A great shame – I did­n’t go back. The best pub there in my view is the King’s Arms, and the Bet­ty Stog­gs in there was on spec­tac­u­lar form all week. The Ship served Prop­er Job to per­fec­tion as well, but was very slight­ly tacky com­pared to the King’s Arms and the Foun­tain.

    1. Chris – it was a bit on the cool side, now you men­tion it, but we’ve got a slight pref­er­ence for it that way. (Must remem­ber to declare this in posts when talk­ing about beer being in good nick.)

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