On the first proper spring day, and in a lovely beer garden in just a t-shirt (well, not just a t-shirt — that wouldn’t be great for anybody), it seems counter-intuitive of me to be enjoying a 6.66% ABV beer that rich, roasty and black as night. But Exmoor Beast (did the ABV give it away for you?) is a wonderful pint that I don’t see that often and was on a small but very well formed beer list at the Cornish Arms beer festival, in Hayle.

Exmoor BeastBeing a pale-skinned non-smoker, I’d never ventured to the beer garden before, but it’s a great space for families and dogs, and for enjoying good beer with friends. I’m blessed with great friends, most met through beer in some way, and they all love a decent brew.

Elsewhere on the festival menu, Young’s Bitter (3.7% ABV), now in the custody of Burton upon Trent’s Marston’s, was a delightful session sip, although I’m sure it’s lighter in colour that it used to be. Village Idiot (4.1%), from White Horse Brewery, in the wonderfully named Stanford-in-the-Vale, in Oxfordshire, is always a winner, golden again, refreshing and citrusy, with a good malt balance. For a traditional bitter, St Austell’s Puffing Billy (4.4%) hit the spot. I’ve discovered since that it’s an unusual ale, being fermented with a lager yeast. Opinion on the table was divided, but I felt it was a classic bitter with good depth.

After a fine afternoon like that, and with at least two pints of Beast on board, a sensible quaffer might have called it a day. I am not that quaffer. “Coming on the bus to the Star, Darren?” “Why not?”

And what’s there? Sitting amid a full line-up of Penzance Brewing Co ales is Fortytude, a 5% amber /ruby coloured bitter created to mark the 40th anniversary of the Cornwall branch of the Campaign for Real Ale last year. In top form and, like all the Penzance beers, ridiculously drinkable. As well as the roast malt, chocolate and caramel notes one might expect from this sort of beer, there’s an added twist of berry notes and a hint of vanilla. Still drinking well so many months after it was brewed.

No more beer garden, though. With a hair style like mine, or rather lack off, the redness was a cue to stay close to the bar, waiting for that last bus home.

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