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?

        Gary

        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!

            Gary

  3. 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…

  4. 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. 🙂

      Gary

  5. 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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