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.