pubs real ale

An Outpost of CAMRA-land

Trewellard Arms, Cornwall.

CAMRA-land is another country, overlaid upon and occasionally intersecting with the real world.

Like members of most minority nationalities, citizens of CAMRA-land have their cultural centres where they can mingle and speak of the old country in their native language.

These are pubs where games are still given space, open fires are prized, Good Beer Guide stickers cover window panes, and variety trumps ‘localness’ in the choice of beer on offer.

The Trewellard Arms, in the village of the same name beyond Penzance, near Land’s End, belongs to this world, if our fleeting visit on Saturday was anything to go by.

For one thing, the beer wasn’t the Cornish free-house holy trinity of St Austell Tribute/Skinner’s Betty Stogs/Sharp’s Doom Bar. In fact, all three breweries were rather pointedly absent.

Instead, there was Thwaites’ Pure Shores summer ale from Lancashire, alongside another ale particularly beloved of the people of Realalia — Wadworth 6X, from Wiltshire. There was one local ale on offer, but it was Penpont Cornish Arvor, which we’ve only ever seen on sale in Cornwall on a couple of occasions.

Black country pork scratchings, dartboards, CAMRA Kernow award certificates — all the signs were there. There was even a copy of Michael ‘Beer Hunter’ Jackson’s World Guide to Beer peeking out from a windowsill.

A CAMRA member who’d driven for hours to get to a holiday cottage might be dismayed to find a pub that would belong just as well in Sussex or Shropshire

But perhaps that’s not quite fair. Real ale isn’t the be-all-and-end-all — there’s also a long whisky-menu and a serviettes’n’tablecloths dining room — and it’s certainly a Cornish country pub: there are pilot gig racing mementoes on the wall, and so on. Locals come here to sit at the bar and watch the football, while tourists book tables for dinner.

For our part, even though it was in its mid-afternoon, change-over day lull, we loved this pub, and will certainly be back, especially as there’s a bus that runs from right outside more-or-less to our front door.

We’re not citizens of CAMRA-land, as such, but we do feel quite at home there.

11 replies on “An Outpost of CAMRA-land”

I don’t think said CAMRA member would mind if there were some interesting beers available, especially ones from the wider region. Wadworth’s 6X certainly isn’t a “usual suspect” nowadays.

However what is galling is going in a pub 150 miles away advertising “guest beers” and finding it’s Robinson’s Unicorn.

Interesting – the failing I’d most associate with “CAMRA Favourite” type pubs (and it’s not universal) is emphasizing their commitment to variety and localism by having loads of indistinguishable brown bitters from local garden-shed micros regardless of whether or not they’re actually as good as the brown bitters from the local regional or family brewer. Or alternatively, emphasizing their commitment to tradition and localism by having well kept pints of indistinguishable brown bitters from a locally ubiquitous regional or family brewer that aren’t as good as the brown bitters from the local garden-shed micros.

Maybe it depends what wing of CAMRA you’re talking about, though. I’ve also been into a traditional local CAMRA favourite pub that had Cool as a Cucumber on keg…

H’mph. Either you liked the place or you didn’t – and if you did, why spend most of the post sneering at it? I see this kind of thing a lot in mainstream beer/pub/restaurant reviews – condescend to the subject, invoke some stereotypes and make the reader feel superior, then do a quick U-turn and emphasise that this particular place/beer is rather nice, not like all those other (unspecified) examples which do fit the stereotypes. It’s a bit lazy, really.

(And, having just got back from Cornwall, I can assure you I would not have said no to Pure Shores. They have some fine beers in your neck of the woods, but the pale’n’oppy revolution seems to have halted at the Tamar, or possibly at the Bristol Channel. The St Austell pub I went in didn’t have anything paler than Trelawney; the Jubilee was even off in the Blue Anchor.)

No sneering intended and, reading it back, neither of us can work out which bit has got your goat.

This pub conforms, deliberately, to the vision of an ideal pub put across by CAMRA in successive Good Beer Guides for the last 40 years, and, as a result, we liked it.

In that case this is certainly going to be a Cunningham moment for one of us – possibly me – because it seemed to me that the entire premise of the post was a sneer. The CAMRA members I know are very varied (although a lot of them share a general inclination towards the pale’n’oppy); I’ve never known any of them to use words like ‘stout yeoman’ or eat a pork scratching. And the CAMRA members I know are the ones you bump into at local CAMRA socials and see behind the bar at beer festivals, which is to say they’re pretty much the hard core – CAMRA members at large are even harder to generalise about (and there are a lot of them). I’m not saying that CAMRA is hip & cutting-edge & down with the kids; I’m saying it doesn’t make sense to say that CAMRA is anything.

It might be that we can both come out of this unscarred…

The reference to the cultural centre is the key. Not all Germans wear lederhosen, chomp on sausages, and read Goethe, but those are the kinds of things that constitute national identity.

The Polish cultural centre in Hammersmith is a great place but doesn’t seem to have much to do with the lives of the Poles we’ve lived and work with — it’s based on some collective memory of the 1970s, I’d guess.

Pubs like this, we’re arguing (well, arguing is too strong a word…) represent a kind of generalised, idealised vision of CAMRA culture based on what is now more than four decades of accumulated preferences and sub-campaigning.

I guess it’s a way of sending signals to CAMRA members abroad, or those who flirt with the culture: you will probably feel at home here, even if you’re not One of Those Blokes.

Incidentally, the GBG no longer records whether a pub has a real fire, following a motion at CAMRA’s national conference. I think that’s a shame – that’s certainly something I value in a pub. But the very fact that that motion passed at conference means that it’s not one of the things most valued by CAMRA itself.

Not quite sure what to say. Our beers change daily and throughout July and August have 4/5 on all the time! O yeah and my daughter and son are the gig rowers Cheers all x

Gill — thanks for the comment. We’re looking forward to making a return visit.

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