Surprisingly good beer, surprisingly good pub

Beer glass with Bays Brewery logo.

Fowey (pronounced ‘Foy’) is one of those ‘Islington-on-Sea’ towns, crawling with celebs and with more bistros than you can drizzle a jus on. We arrived there on Sunday after a long walk along the coast, covered in mud and gasping for a pint, and began the ritual review of the pubs on offer, settling eventually on the Galleon.

Though the signs weren’t good — ugly red brick building, Doom Bar logos, the sounds (shudder) of live sunday afternoon jazz — it was the word ‘freehouse’ that lured us in. Might we find something other than Tribute, Doom Bar or Betty Bloody Stogs? Reader, we did: there were beers from the iconoclastic Cornish publican’s foreign brewery of choice, Bay’s of Devon.

Bay’s are a perfectly OK brewery. They’re good. They’re fine. They’re not at all bad. We wouldn’t go out of our way to find them, but we’re always pleased to see them on offer. Except, on this occasion, one of the beers was better than OK: it was excellent. Devon Dumpling (5.1% ABV), while not in the same league as Thornbridge Jaipur, reminded us of it, with a similarly hefty body and orange glow, and a well-judged balance of sweetness and bitterness. We awarded it a distinction in Leigh Good Stuff’s ‘same again please’ test and drank several.

By the standards of the UK’s hottest pubs and bars, the beer selection at the Galleon was nothing special, but it was well-chosen, including Sharp’s Cornish Coaster, a 3.6% golden charmer which ought to be their flagship beer; St Austell Proper Job, by far that brewery’s most exciting draught product; and Doom Bar, the most popular choice of the old boys at the bar. (The big gang of teenagers who’d just got back from a night out clubbing in their shiny trousers were on Tequila, Stella and white wine.)

What the Galleon shows, we suppose, is that a pub doesn’t have to be ancient to be cosy, and that it’s possible to offer quality and choice, in a quiet way, without scaring the horses.