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beer reviews pubs

A Weekend in Beer Town

We’ve just spent a couple of nights in Falmouth, Cornwall’s best beer destination, where we tried lots of new beers and revisited some standards.

We had a couple of beers here and there that didn’t do much for us — for example, a cask Cloudwater Session Pale at Hand could have done with more bitterness to balance the sticky candied peel hop character, and a Vocation Chop & Change Pale Ale at Beerwolf had too much bitter-leaf and onion for our palates. Generally, though, we reckon we chose well, or were lucky, and we came away feeling that our tastebuds had been given a proper going over.

We particularly enjoyed…

Two beers and a CAMRA mag, from above.

1. Rebel Eighty Shilling, 5%, cask, at The Front. We’ve had Rebel on the naughty step for a while after a string of muddy-tasting pints of this particular beer, some bland-shading-nasty golden ales, and the hit-and-miss quality of their very expensive Mexi-Cocoa in bottles. This was like a completely new beer, though — tongue-coating chocolate sauce, with much of what made Mexi-Cocoa at its best so exciting, only at something like session strength (5%). Unlike some other sweet mild-type beers there wasn’t a hint of any acrid burnt sugar about it. It made us think of Schwarzbier only chewier. Maybe there was even a hint of Belgian Christmas beer about it. Good stuff — but will the next pint we find be the same?

Two beers from 45 degrees, with beer mats.

2. St Austell Admiral’s Ale, 5%, cask, at The Chainlocker/Shipwrights. For some reason this is the first time we’ve ever actually stopped for a pint at this pair of conjoined pubs — it’s too easy to fall into the circuit of Front-Beerwolf-Hand on a day trip — and we were quietly impressed. It’s got a bit of that corporate chain feel that afflicts many St Austell pubs but there’s enough genuinely interesting weathered nautical tat on the walls, and enough grime in the grain of the wood, to give it character. We enjoyed being surrounded by boat folk, too — the down-to-earth types who crew yachts but don’t own them.  The beer line-up included seasonal special Liquid Sunshine (a kind of baby Proper Job at 3.9%, firmly bitter), the excellent Mena Dhu keg stout, and Admiral’s Ale, an old favourite of ours that is rarely seen on cask. It’s quite a different beer to the bottled version — less glassy-clean, more subtly citrusy, and generally softer. Intriguing and many-faceted. It makes HSD, also brown and at the same ABV, seem a bit old hat. We wouldn’t mind at all if this was available everywhere, all year round.

All Bretts Are Off Pump Clip design.
SOURCE: Siren Craft Brew website.

3. Siren/Crooked Stave All Bretts Are Off, 4.5%, bottle, Hand. A well-proper-craft take on English bitter with Brettanomyces — how could we resist that? The first bottle the barman opened gushed everywhere but, with a bit of teamwork, we managed to get 99% of the second attempt into a pint glass, with an insanely huge head. It smelled very like Orval (we’re still stuck on that frame of reference) and tasted really like one of our attempts at blending Orval with English ale. Or Harvey’s Sussex Best at its funkiest, and then some. Dry, light on the tongue and differently fruity — as in, apples just beginning to think about rotting in a crate behind a barn, rather than grapefruit. This is one way British brewers could be mixing things up without just turning out pretend American beers and made us want to taste takes on the same idea from breweries like Fuller’s, Adnams and St Austell. By the same token, as in this case presumably, it’s also a way craft brewers might bring themselves to brew trad bitter with Fuggles (and they might have to in years to come) without feeling too compromised.

9 replies on “A Weekend in Beer Town”

Love those photos, just the head on those beers looks appealing. My Sis and I rated to Rebel 80/ close to perfect in the Sportsman’s Arms at Heamoor, though confess we always go for the craft keg in Hand, which is one of my favourite UK pub/bars.

The Chainlocker has always been one of my favorite haunts in Falmouth, I was dismayed the last time I was there in December to see that St Austell had taken the pub over and were displaying a set of building plans on the wall. I hope they leave it the same, unfortunately I suspect it will be another corporate make over that ruins pub.

I’ve had “All Bretts” on cask; it was bloody awful. This may just reflect my inability to get past the taste/associations of ‘sour beer’, though.

It wasn’t sour, just funky, but I guess that’s why you went for ‘associations’. Maybe it’s because we’ve been drinking a lot of Orval for the last year or two but it didn’t strike us as *that* wacky.

Points all taken but another way to distinguish viz America is use English hops – Fuggle, Golding, Target, Challenger, Northdown, in quantities which are historical and helped to make the fame of English brewing what it was.

Some years ago, the Fuller website stated, I’m not sure if it is still there:

“The four major ingredients of beer are water, malt, hops and yeast. An average daily brew of Fuller’s flagship brand London Pride uses 750 barrels of water, 13 tonnes of malt, 110 kilograms of hops and 320 kilograms of yeast. All of this produces 640 barrels or 184,320 pints of London Pride…”.

That works out to under half a pound hops per English barrel if I calculate right. In the 1800s, 3-7 pounds was used, leaf hops. Even if we add a factor for presumed use of pellets, say another 25%, it is 3/4-ers lb hops per barrel. If you want to say it’s really 1 lb due to modern refrigeration and QC and presumed increases in alpha acids from the 1800s, that is still a third of the low end in the 1800s. …

I’m not arguing with Fuller’s beers – they’re great. But if English hops were used again as they once were, I think the beers would more than match to America’s best. Part of the reason the U.S. beers did so well is precisely that they use a lot of hops. It’s true English hop types have a different flavour, but it’s a very good flavour, and using hops in the amounts used in the 19th century would favour the beers a lot IMO, at least for the specialty market, the one that looks for the American-type taste.

Gary

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