real ale

Fear of being disappointed

Lots of new breweries are opening in Cornwall: we know of three that have opened since autumn last year. This is exciting news, especially as at least one of them seems to be intending to fill the gap in the market for stronger and more intensely flavoured beers.

A few years ago, we’d have bent over backwards to get to them as soon as possible but, these days, we’re a bit nervous and a little reluctant.

The really silly thing? One of them has a brewery tap less than five minutes from our house in Penzance. And yet we walk past, we don’t go in. We fancy a pint, we go somewhere else.

Why? Why are we putting it off? Well… we’re afraid their beer might suck, and it’ll be disappointing and awkward.

We don’t worry about this a lot, by the way — just enough to keep “try that new brewery” slipping down our to do list. Next week, though, we’re going to do it. And if we don’t mention this again, it means their beer did suck.

pubs real ale

Where's the catch?

The Dock Inn, Penzance
Photo nicked from the Dock Inn website.

Yesterday evening, we finally made into a Penzance pub that we’d been meaning to visit for a while. We’d noticed through both traditional methods (looking through the window) and on Twitter that the pub in question served Spingo Middle (5%) from the Blue Anchor in Helston, a cult local beer which, for us, is usually a long, expensive bus ride away.

So, why did it take us so long? Partly because we don’t yet know how to read Cornish pubs like we used to be able to read them in London. We just can’t tell from the outside, in the dark, whether we’ll find a scary atmosphere, or a cheery greeting. So we dither, not wanting to wander into a… situation.

From the moment we entered the Dock Inn,  however, we felt comfortable and at home. It hits a sweet spot being clean, cosy and characterful all at the same time. Properly worn in, but not tatty. It has partititons and corners, sofas and tables, a fire and — most importantly — people behind the bar who talk to you like human beings whether you’re a regular or not.

The beer was good, too, although on the cold side, which, as it happens, we don’t mind at all. Spingo is Spingo, and in the sweet, malty West Country style which you either love or hate. (Although, this time, not at all sour.) Skinner’s Christmas Fairy (3.9%) was… a Skinner’s beer. The occasional pint of Betty Stoggs has impressed us but, sadly, we might have to face the fact that we just don’t get on with them. There was no faulting the condition, though, and this amber-gold beer could not have looked any more appetising in the squeaky clean glass.

This is our new favourite pub in town, without doubt. What a relief to have found it.