beer reviews pubs

The Yellow Restrained Chili Peppers

Harbour Beers at the Hand Bar, Falmouth.

On Friday, with some effort and multiple forms of public transport, we managed to make it to Falmouth for the tail-end of Harbour Brewing’s ‘meet the brewer’ event at the Hand Bar. We snagged a couple of ‘tasters’, but actually had much more fun afterwards drinking proper measures of beer we’d paid for, without the slightly awkward school assembly format and the heckling hipsters.

Aji Limon Pale Ale (6%) was interesting: aged in bourbon barrels, though that didn’t come over in any way we could detect, and with the addition of a particular variety of chili pepper chosen in consultation with a chef to provide additional citrus flavour. It gave only a very faint burn (to us, anyway, but then we’re fairly immune to chili heat) followed by a lot of dry spiciness — lemongrass and dried coconut came to mind. We think we liked it; we certainly found it interesting; and we were impressed at the thoughtfulness and restraint with which the brewers had employed a ‘non-beer’ ingredient.

Harbour IPA (5%) has come on a long way since we first tasted it, though it still doesn’t quite measure up, in our view, to the aromatic intensity of Brewdog’s Punk, which it has increasingly come to resemble. [UPDATE: said we weren’t taking notes! We had IPA No.2.] What it lacked in perfume, however, it made up for to some extent with the very faintest roasted spice and seed flavours, presumably from the yeast. Nice. We’d drink more of this, if the chance arose.

Finally, a beer that we were surprised to be impressed by: No. 2 Pilsner (5.5%). Though Eddie from Harbour seemed keen not to talk it up too much — it’s intended as a middle of the road crowd-pleaser — we were delighted by its golden gleam, shaving-foam head and, most importantly, crisp cereal snap. It struck us as remarkably precise, with no bathtub brewery twang. It was better than both the big brand lager we’d ‘enjoyed’ with dinner and St Austell’s Korev, and is perhaps, we think, Harbour’s best chance at elbowing their way into the locked-down Cornish market. Too strong to drink by the litre, perhaps, but we wouldn’t giving it a shot if there was a decent beer garden anywhere nearby.

Harbour is a still a brewery finding its feet, but all the beers we tasted were well-made; and a couple were excellent. We’d certainly like to see more of them about.

Now here’s a thing: because the various pale ales and IPAs were coming from font-type taps, and we weren’t taking notes, we don’t know which were kegged and which were cask-conditioned, and certainly couldn’t guess.