By Correspondence: Eddie Lofthouse, Harbour Brewing

Eddie driving the Harbour Brewing van.
SOURCE: @HarbourBrewing on Twit­ter.

We first became aware of Harbour Brewing not long after we’d moved to Cornwall in 2011.

New on the scene in 2011, they seemed to have more in com­mon with Brew­Dog and Thorn­bridge than with Skin­ner’s or, say, Tin­tagel. OK, we’re being coy here: it was a Craft Brew­ery (def­i­n­i­tion 2), with aro­mat­ic IPA rather than best bit­ter front and fore  – not some­thing Corn­wall real­ly had before Har­bour came along.

The com­pa­ny’s boss Eddie Loft­house dropped off pre-release sam­ples of IPA a few months after the brew­ery was found­ed and, frankly, they weren’t that excit­ing – not grim or shod­dy, just not thrilling. And he knew it.

We remained luke­warm and cau­tious but were slow­ly won over – most of the way, any­way – by an excel­lent Pil­sner on Scil­ly, a Beer-of-the-Year con­tender kegged pale ale in Fal­mouth, and numer­ous pints of straw-pale 3.7% Light Ale – the Cor­nish answer to Lon­don brew­er Redemp­tion’s Trin­i­ty.

The orig­i­nal head brew­er, Heri­ot Watt trained Rhys Pow­ell, left in 2015.

We still tend to qual­i­fy our praise – it’s hard for a Cor­nish brew­ery to top St Austell Prop­er Job, for exam­ple – but Eddie, either because he’s a diplo­mat or a gen­uine­ly nice bloke, or both, does­n’t seem to hold that against us, and agreed to a sort-of-inter­view by email. What fol­lows was stitched togeth­er from an exchange of mul­ti­ple mes­sages with a cou­ple of bor­ing bits removed and some small edits for clar­i­ty and sense.

*

B&B: What’s your back­ground and how did you come to be run­ning a brew­ery?

I have a var­ied career his­to­ry! From run­ning youth work char­i­ties to man­ag­ing bars and hotels. The lat­ter lead me to gain a love of beer and the desire to work in the indus­try. A oppor­tu­ni­ty to start a lit­tle ‘hob­by’ busi­ness arose while the hotel I was run­ning was being refur­bished and the idea went from there.

B&B: You’re called Har­bour but the brew­ery is actu­al­ly inland – what hap­pened?

We ini­tial­ly looked at open­ing the brew­ery in Pad­stow but when we looked at the avail­abil­i­ty of suit­able build­ings in that area and the qual­i­ty of the water we decid­ed to widen our search. At the time I was liv­ing in Polzeath so searched for premis­es in that area. The agent we used to find us a facil­i­ty alert­ed us to a site which had its own water springs with the water at the time being bot­tled as Cor­nish spring water. When we had the water analysed it was a per­fect blank can­vas to work with, and the build­ing was per­fect for us at that time. By the time we had final­ly decid­ed to base our­selves in Kir­land we had already set­tled on the name.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “By Cor­re­spon­dence: Eddie Loft­house, Har­bour Brew­ing”

Worth the Bus Ride

Tasting flight at the Driftwood Spars beer festival.

This week’s ‘mini beer festival’ at the Driftwood Spars was enough to tempt us into undertaking the two-stage, two-hour schlep from Penzance to St Agnes.

It’s a pub that we like at the best of times: the house beers are rarely less then sol­id and occa­sion­al­ly excel­lent, and there’s plen­ty of what­ev­er it is that makes for real ‘pub­bi­ness’. The fes­ti­val was just the icing on the cake.

Some of the guest beers were on the main bar, includ­ing a cou­ple of inter­est­ing keg prod­ucts, with a fur­ther ten or so casks on stil­lage in the back room. There were no fid­dly tokens or raf­fle tick­ets – just good old cash. Beer was £3.30 a pint, £1.65 a half, or £1.10 a third, the lat­ter also being avail­able in ‘flights’ of three for £3.30.

By the pint from the main bar, we enjoyed Bol­ster’s Blood, the house porter, as much this time as ever before – it’s a tasty, old-fash­ioned-tast­ing, ses­sion­able black beer. The oth­er Drift­wood beers (Dek 10 and Red Mis­sion) were nice enough and, if lack­ing the big hop aro­ma so in vogue these days, at least intense­ly bit­ter and chewily malty respec­tive­ly.

Hav­ing been dis­ap­point­ed by the few of their bot­tles we’ve tried, we were glad of the chance to try a Mallinson’s beer on cask. Now we get it: the pale’n’hop­py Sim­coe (3.8%) was a dead ringer for an old favourite, Dark Star Hop­head, and, if we weren’t in tick­ing mode, was one we could hap­pi­ly have set­tled on for the rest of the after­noon.

We did­n’t expect to like Har­bour Brew­ing Farm­house IPA (cask, 7%) – sure­ly, we thought, that is code for ‘an IPA that got infect­ed’ – but, no, it was real­ly very mor­eish and sat­is­fy­ing. It had an unmis­take­able sai­son (Dupont?) yeast char­ac­ter along with some lemon/lime/lychee hop fruiti­ness, with some­thing like cheese rind in the far, far back­ground adding a note of chal­lenge.

We did­n’t agree with the bar­man’s sug­ges­tion that Tiny Rebel Loki Black IPA (cask, 4.5%) was ‘sub­lime’, but we did enjoy it. Kind of. Tiny Rebel beers seem to have a very dis­tinc­tive ‘house char­ac­ter’ which has, in the past, struck as us a bit ‘wrong’, but, in this case, suc­ceed­ed in con­vinc­ing us it was ‘quirky’ and inter­est­ing. We need to drink more of their beer and give them more thought.

It was anoth­er Har­bour Brew­ing beer that won the day for us: Pale Ale (keg, 6%) was like some­thing we’d expect to find in a Brew­dog bar. What does that mean? It was bold to the point of brash­ness, stop­ping just short of rough – loud but bal­anced. It was opaque, but by no means yeasty, mud­dy or murky, with lots of juici­ness but no grit. The hops were a weedy, minty and mus­tardy green sal­ad. We need to drink it anoth­er time or two, but it has the poten­tial to make this year’s local list.

Though this was­n’t the time to try them, we also not­ed that the stan­dard range of bot­tles seems to have improved: Brook­lyn Choco­late Stout, Boon Kriek, West­malle Tripel, and sev­er­al oth­er ‘world beer’ clas­sics were knock­ing about in fridges at the back of the bar.

As we worked our way woozi­ly up the hill from Tre­vau­nance Cove, past the ruined mine work­ings to the bus stop, we came to two con­clu­sions. First, small fes­ti­vals with achiev­able beer lists, held in pubs rather than echo­ing con­fer­ence cen­tres, are the best. And, sec­ond­ly, the Drift­wood Spars, even with­out a fes­ti­val under­way, is one of a hand­ful of pubs we think it’s worth trav­el­ling for two hours to reach.

A Scilly Pub Crawl

The Turks Head pub, Scilly.

There are pubs on four of the five inhab­it­ed islands in the Isles of Scil­ly and we could­n’t resist try­ing to vis­it them all.

First, in Hugh Town on St Mary’s – the near­est Scil­ly has to a bustling metrop­o­lis – we stopped in at the Mer­maid, which sits on the har­bour, not far from where the Scil­lon­ian drops off vis­i­tors from the main­land. Though it’s a pub­co pub, it has spe­cial per­mis­sion to sell local beer because of the chal­lenge of keep­ing it sup­plied, and is decked out with gig rac­ing para­pher­na­lia. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, on our vis­it, a beer from Ales of Scil­ly (Scup­pered, we think) was just in the process of turn­ing to vine­gar, but a cosy atmos­phere and Guin­ness saw us through.

Also in Hugh Town are Scil­ly’s two St Austell pubs. The Atlantic is huge but nonethe­less has lots of cor­ners to hide in. When fresh­ly sup­plied, it has a decent selec­tion of the brew­ery’s beers all of which were well looked after. We enjoyed a sar­cas­tic pub quiz, sur­round­ed by boaty types, along with pints of Trelawney and bot­tles of 1913 Stout.

Just up the road, the Bish­op and Wolf (named after two light­hous­es) offered an excel­lent pint of Prop­er Job along with the usu­al St Austell cor­po­rate inte­ri­or dec­o­ra­tion job. Nice enough but noth­ing to blog home about.

The last pub on St Mary’s is in Old Town and is called, obvi­ous­ly, the Old Town Inn. Being a lit­tle out of the way, we found it qui­et, but, as the end of May approach­es, were delight­ed to at last find a pint of mildTriple FFF Pressed Rat & Warthog – in decent con­di­tion and tasty enough to stay for more than one. We were made to feel very wel­come and, when we left, got a round of good­byes and ‘take cares’ from the locals perched at the bar.

The New Inn, Tresco.
The New Inn, Tresco, Isles of Scil­ly.

There­after, we were reliant on boats to reach pubs else­where in the arch­i­pel­ago. The New Inn on trop­i­cal Tresco, which we reached in the mid-after­noon, was all but emp­ty. At one point, a bird hopped in through the door, ate some crisp crumbs under the pool table, and hopped out again. We found more mild – the less­er-spot­ted Black Prince! – along with Ales of Scil­ly Fire­brand, which we found pleas­ant enough, if not earth-shat­ter­ing. The real high­light, though, was kegged Har­bour Brew­ing Pil­sner which remind­ed us of real­ly fresh, flow­ery beer from Würzburg or Regens­burg. (It was, how­ev­er, £2.50 for a half – ‘craft’ tax+tourist prices+Scilly sup­ply pre­mi­um?)

The Turks [sic] Head on St Agnes is yet anoth­er cosy nau­ti­cal­ly-themed tav­ern, though with a touch of Hamp­stead about it. Its house beer, Turks Ale, brewed by St Austell, has a pump clip designed by a for­mer mem­ber of staff, and tast­ed to us as if it might be a blend of Prop­er Job and Trib­ute, though we stand ready to be cor­rect­ed. St Austel­l’s sea­son­al spe­cial, Prince Albert, is a brown ale, and its accent on mid­dling-dark malt flavours made a pleas­ant change. Skin­ner’s St Piran’s was in very good con­di­tion and is yet anoth­er decent gold­en ale from a brew­ery whose brown beers we don’t real­ly like.

Frag­gle Rock on Bry­her almost did­n’t make this list. It’s a cafe, real­ly, but it does have draught beer and a pool table, and, at any rate, busi­ness­es on this small, qui­et island have to do dou­ble duty. The views, espe­cial­ly from the gar­den, are stun­ning.

In con­clu­sion, there are no bad pubs on Scil­ly, and, despite being out in the Atlantic, it offers a wider range of beers than most Cor­nish towns, and cer­tain­ly more mild, in May at least. Don’t go there for the beer, but don’t wor­ry that you’ll go thirsty, either.

Did we miss any? Let us know below and we’ll make sure to vis­it them next time.

Top Ten Cornish Beers 2013

Chocolate vanilla stouts.
Choco­late vanil­la stouts from Har­bour and Rebel. (Hon­ourable men­tions, below.)

Last year, as the season approached, we put together lists of our favourite Cornish beers and pubs. Those lists were fine then, but things are changing fast on the beer scene in Cornwall, and we though we ought to revisit our ‘top tens’ before the new season. (Though floods, hail and gales suggest it’s not here quite yet.)

So, for 2013, here are the cask-con­di­tioned beers we’ve par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoyed in pubs in Corn­wall in the last year. We could eas­i­ly have named five beers from Pen­zance Brew­ing Co., and anoth­er five from St Austell, but have tried to ‘spread the love’.

  1. Drift­wood Spars – Dêk Hop (3.8%). Pale amber, flinty and tan­nic; hop­py with­out being flow­ery. (What we said last year.)
  2. NEW ENTRY Har­bour Brew­ing – Light Ale (3.2% when we tried it). Super-pale, with lemon peel zingi­ness, ton­ic bit­ter­ness and a restrained aro­ma.
  3. Pen­zance Brew­ing Com­pa­ny — Potion 9 (4%). A ‘pale and hop­py’ which con­tin­ues to blow our minds every time we drink it: ses­sion­able but com­plex, with the same fresh bread malti­ness we find in the best Czech lagers.
  4. Pen­zance Brew­ing Com­pa­ny — Trink (5.2%). Potion’s big broth­er, edg­ing towards Thorn­bridge Jaipur ter­ri­to­ry. Deep­er in colour, stronger, and more hon­eyed than Potion, but with a dis­tinct Eden Project exot­ic flow­er­i­ness – Cit­ra?
  5. NEW ENTRY Rebel Brew­ing — Eighty Shilling (5%). Some­where between a stout and a mild in char­ac­ter; plum­my, with a touch of roasti­ness, and a lit­tle cof­fee cream.
  6. Skinner’s — Porth­leven (4.8%). You would­n’t know this gen­tly-per­fumed gold­en ale was from the same brew­ery as Bet­ty Stogs. Not out­ra­geous­ly flam­boy­ant in its aro­ma, each pint leaves the throat just dry enough to demand anoth­er.
  7. NEW ENTRY Spin­go — Ben’s Stout (4.8%). As served at the Blue Anchor, one of the few decent dark Cor­nish beers, even if it is a lit­tle vari­able. We find our­selves crav­ing it. Like black tea with brown sug­ar, in a good way.
  8. Spin­go — Mid­dle  (5%) A clas­sic, and an illus­tra­tion of a typ­i­cal sweet­ish West Coun­try beer. Keeps improv­ing, too, and now has a lit­tle more dry­ness and a good malty snap.
  9. St Austell — Prop­er Job (4.5%) The best of St Austell’s reg­u­lar beers, but not found in all of their pubs. It was mod­eled on a US IPA and, though lighter-bod­ied than many of those, does pro­vide a sat­is­fy­ing whack of cit­rus hop char­ac­ter.
  10. St Austell — Trib­ute (4.2%) With Sharp’s Doom Bar and Skinner’s Bet­ty Stogs, part of the bog stan­dard line up on a Cor­nish free house bar, but by far the best of the three. Actu­al­ly an inter­est­ing beer (cus­tom Vien­na-type malt, US hops) and, on good form, a delight. (We said the same last year.)

Hon­ourable men­tions

  • Few of Sharp’s reg­u­lar beers real­ly float our boat but their spe­cials (e.g. Hayle Bay Hon­ey IPA) can be very char­ac­ter­ful, and we loved their Con­nois­seur’s Choice bot­tled beers.
  • Har­bour and Rebel are both mak­ing some very inter­est­ing bot­tled beers, e.g. choco­late vanil­la stouts.
  • St Austel­l’s Korev Lager, which we hat­ed at first, con­tin­ues to rise in our esti­ma­tion. Not a ‘chal­leng­ing’ beer, it is cer­tain­ly very sat­is­fy­ing, espe­cial­ly on a hot sum­mer’s day. Their spring and sum­mer sea­son­als tend to be vari­a­tions on Prop­er Job but low­er in alco­hol and were stun­ning last year. And need we men­tion 1913 Stout again?

As before, brew­eries who aren’t men­tioned and think they ought to be should drop us an email, or com­ment below, and we’ll tell them why.