Cornwall CAMRA chairman, Bob Bunce, presents the award for county pub of the year to Matt Reay, manager of The Front, Falmouth
It’s a spring Saturday afternoon and I’m drinking a 5.6% ABV Joe’s Cider, from the Purbeck Cider Company, at the Falmouth branch of national cider and pizza chain, The Stable. I haven’t traditionally been a cider drinker, but I’m getting into it, spurred on by a pint of Skreach in the Pilchard Press Alehouse, St Ives, a few weeks ago.
It’s presentation day for Cornwall CAMRA’s pub and cider pub of the year — and this year, remarkably, both awards have gone to The Front, a few steps away from Stable Falmouth, on Customs House Quay. But en route there’s time for CAMRA chairman, Bob Bunce, to present the runner-up cider pub of the year to Stable manager, Adrian Hall.
Bob said the award justified the fine reputation the Fuller’s-owned Stable enjoys across the country. And there is a lot of cider, Cornish and from further afield. Oh, and while we were there one of the pizzas came out, looking properly home-made and very appetising. Bob told the CAMRA members gathered for the presentation: “Thanks for showing your support for cider. We don’t do enough for cider.” I’m starting to realise that.
To The Front, then, where there was the usual fine selection of beers, mostly Cornish, although Shiny Brewing’s Disco Balls, a bold US-style IPA, was notable by its presence. Having had a hoppy evening earlier in the week, at HAND Bar’s Cloudwater tap takeover, I settled on a malty afternoon, starting with Treen’s Classic. At 4.3% ABV it drinks stronger, both in terms of flavour and body, rich and bready, with some caramel notes and hints of berry fruit. Delicious and very sessionable, if it weren’t for the other delights on Front manager Matt Reay’s bar.
The other highlight was winter warmer Gwaf Tan (5.8% ABV) from John Heard’s Tintagel Brewery, in North Cornwall, and rich, dark brew, creamy smooth, with rich chocolate notes and some spiciness. With this week’s promised heatwave yet to arrive, this was a welcome brew and ideal for the convivial company.
Bob heaped praise upon a pub which made it to the final four of the national pub of the year competition in 2011, pointing out how it had triumphed in a field of some 620 pubs across Cornwall. “This pub focuses heavily on beer, but the cider influence is being recognised here. Congratulations to Matt and the team.”
Matt said he was “a bit flabbergasted” at the award, and added, modestly: “All credit has to go to the girls behind the bar. Thanks to everyone who voted.”
A pint of Sharp’s Special finished the afternoon off, but not before an impromptu tasting of two Harvey’s (Sussex) beers, from the personal collection of Front regular Bob (a different Bob), who had let them age in Matt’s cellar. There was a classic Imperial Stout — one of Harvey’s most famous beers — bit even that paled against the 7.5% ABV Prince of Denmark, a viscous, port-like drop, offering plum fruit and molasses sweetness, served in a suitably celebratory stemmed glass.
Well done, Matt and The Front team.