beer reviews pubs

The Hand Bar, Falmouth

The neck of a bottle of Goose Island Pepe Nero 2011.

Confession: we acted like dicks in the Hand Bar in Falmouth. Not massively,  just a bit. When we ordered a bottle of Sharp’s Monsieur Rock, the very friendly, knowledgeable barman really wanted to tell us all about it. “Do you know the story behind this beer?” he said excitedly.

And we did smug know-all faces and said: “Yes, we do.

His face fell.

Sorry, nice barman.

Anyway, what did we make of the bar? Well, Adrian Tierney Jones has rightly compared it to the Rake and it does have similar atmosphere, even if the selection of beer is smaller and less adventurous. The phrase Shoreditch-on-sea may have come to mind at one point. Overall, we were impressed, not only by the staff, but also by the range of Belgian and American beer which is otherwise hard to find beyond Plymouth. There is no cask ale, but then that’s not their niche in the market.

Monsieur Rock itself was served too cold, we think, and we found it intriguing if not mindblowing. We got a hint of something mysterious in the aroma — fennel again? — and thought we tasted honey along with some lemon and some dusty hops. It was certainly very, very clean and refreshing.

We also tried Pepe Nero by Goose Island, which was harder work but very rewarding. It was dark brown in colour with Belgian yeast flavours right upfront, although it had more floral hops and roasted flavours than we’ve come across in many real Belgian beers. The spices tingled on the tongue. Only the body let it down. We found it a little fizzy and thin which may fit with the idea that it’s a (very dark) saison but, at 6%, we’d have liked more weight to it.

Finally, we wanted something with “silly hops” and 400lb Monkey by Left Hand fit the bill. It smelled like a stoned teenager’s foggy hatchback and the tea-like hop flavour was tongue-stripping. Was it nice? Not exactly, but it was certainly hoppy. No, we certainly can’t deny that.

beer reviews

Sharp's honey spice beer at the NFT

It’s all in the title really.  I had some Sharp’s honey spice beer, on tap in a plastic beaker in the National Film Theatre bar.

We had a similar beer in a bottle a while back and didn’t like it that much (too thin), so I wasn’t expecting much —  it just seemed a better option than Amstel.  I was pleasantly surprised though. The spicing was really subtle, just enough to make it interesting without being overpowering.  It didn’t seem thin like the bottled version (or other honey beers).

Worth a go, even in plastic beakers.

Everyone else seems to like the “award-winning” bottled version. I should point out that when we tried it we were sitting on a train and it was probably a bit shook up.

Boak (from Spain, posting automatically)

beer reviews

Chalky's Bite Improves with Age


In a recent tasting, Zak Avery compared Sharp’s Chalky’s Bite to Koelsch, which spurred us on to open the last bottle of a case we were given as a gift a year ago. In Zak’s honour, we drank it from Koelsch glasses.

We pretty quickly decided that we didn’t really see any similarity although we take Zak’s point about the cold conditioning of top-fermented beer.

What we also noted was that it had aged beautifully. It was nice enough fresh, but after a year mellowing in the ‘cellar’ (garage), it knocked us for six. Without a fresh one for comparison, it’s hard to say what had changed, but our feeling was that it had lost some bitterness, become rounder and less brash — like a classy Belgian blonde.

We’d be interested to hear any suggestions for other British beers, apart from the usual suspects, that age well.