In recent months, we’ve been asked several times by beer geeks where they should visit in Cornwall. These days, there is a clear answer: Falmouth.
This small coastal town (pop. 27k) now has enough going on that, even if it can’t compete with London or Manchester, it could be said to have a ‘beer scene’. There’s certainly plenty to keep a beer geek entertained for a few hours.
A pub crawl
Here’s our suggested route which takes a very manageable 20 minutes or so to walk end-to-end, right down the main street.
1. Five Degrees West, Grove Place, TR11 4AU
A pub that wants to be a bar, 5DW is a good place to tick off cask ales from smaller local breweries such as Rebel and Black Rock. There are usually some Belgian and American beers in bottles, though nothing out of the ordinary.
2. The Front, Custom House Quay, TR11 3JT
For a long time, Cornwall’s primary real ale destination. In the face of competition, it seems a bit less exciting than it used to, but is still a great place to find a wide range of real ales, including many lesser-spotted beers from local stalwarts Skinner’s and Sharp’s. (We’re not enamoured with either brewery, but that’s a matter of taste.) There are also several interesting ciders. There’s no kitchen but you are positively encouraged to bring along your own fish and chips or pasties from one of the nearby shops.
3. OPTIONAL: The Oddfellows Arms
To extend the crawl, or to adjust the balance towards real ale, take a detour to the Oddfellows Arms (2 Quay Hill, TR11 3HA) for pints of well-kept Sharp’s in a resolutely pubby atmosphere.
4. Beerwolf Books, Bells Court, TR11 3AZ
We loved this discount-bookshop-pub mash-up from the off and it keeps getting better. We particularly appreciate the range of cask ales from outside Cornwall (e.g. Magic Rock, Salopian, Dark Star, Burning Sky) but this is also one of a handful of places which regularly stocks beers from the Penzance Brewing Company, based at the Star Inn, Crowlas. Bottled beers include Hitachino Nest, Rebel Mexicocoa and Belgian classics. There is also a choice of ciders. Its cosy atmosphere is better suited to winter than summer, though.
5. The Seven Stars, The Moor, TR11 3QA
An old-fashioned pub which has been listed in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide since the 1970s, the Seven Stars probably won’t appeal to the ardent craftophile: it’s speciality is perfectly kept Bass Pale Ale. There are also guest ales, sometimes adventurous, but it’s not really about ticking or novelty. If you don’t stop here for at least one pint, you’re missing something great.
6. Hand Bar, Old Brewery Yard, TR11 2BY
Falmouth’s very own ‘craft beer bar’ is the very opposite of the Seven Stars — modern in style, with an emphasis on the diversity of beer. Run by a former employee of North Bar in Leeds, it feels as if it has been transplanted from a more metropolitan setting, and is popular with students. The beer can be expensive, but not unusually so for this section of the market, and there are usually some genuine rarities to be found on tap or in the bottle fridges.
7. OPTIONAL: The Bottle Bank (off licence), Discovery Quay, TR11 3XP
Right back at the other end of town, near 5DW, this off licence offers a very decent range of interesting beers from breweries such as Siren, Hardknott and even Mikkeller. It is also a good place to pick up the Sharp’s Connoisseur’s Choice range.
8. FOR TICKERS ONLY: The Seven Stars, Penryn, TR10 8EL
This otherwise unremarkable pub in Penryn, 15 minutes from Falmouth by bus, is the local outlet for Spingo Ales brewed at the Blue Anchor at Helston. We have enjoyed pints of Ben’s Stout here, in an atmosphere of glum distrust…
Apart from beer, Falmouth also has decent beaches, coastal walks, shopping, an excellent museum and plenty to stimulate the history buff. It also has some great places to eat, including, at the Meat Counter, the most convincing posh burgers and hot dogs we’ve had this side of Bristol.
In previous years, we’ve provided lists of our favourite Cornish pubs (2012 | 2013) and beers (2012 | 2013). All the places we mention in those posts are still worth a visit, and the general standard of Cornish pubs is pretty high, as long as you don’t mind Tribute, Betty Stogs and Doom Bar.