It was a stormy Saturday afternoon. Storm Brian was coming in and, as it happens, would not have too much impact on our part of west Cornwall, but the prospect was enough to deter me from a second visit to the excellent Falmouth Beer Festival, where I had enjoyed CAMRA hospitality on Thursday.
I decided, instead to spend a couple of hour in St Ives. The Pilchard Press Alehouse first, an all-cask, beer on gravity micropub, then an amble to Beer and Bird, half craft beer bar, half high-end friend chicken restaurant, where my pal Reuben would be working behind the bar.
The Pilchard Press had just opened when I arrived, but was already filling up. It doesn’t take much more than a dozen people to make the historic, nicely renovated, former pilchard processing room look busy, and there were 20 or so people in, including owner Nick Simpson. Luckily, there was a spare stool at the impressive sturdy bar.
Last week I had dropped in and not been inspired by the choice. This week was different, and the favourite, in my opinion, and apparently from the gathered throng, was Skinner’s Green Hop beer (4.2% ABV, pictured), produced every autumn as part of its seasonal Aleblazers range. The hops are picked at a farm in Worcestershire and driven back to Truro to be used in a brew within 24 hours. No vacuum packing and storage for these ingredients. The result, this year anyway, is a very light and fresh beer, light golden, with subtle lemon citrus and grassy notes, slightly spicy, balanced by a biscuit malt flavour. Very sessionable and very refreshing, even though the weather outside indicated a need for a more winter warmer style of brew.
The Pilchard Press can get pretty warm any time of year, though, once the bodies are packed in, so light beers were the order of the day. There was another Skinner’s – GTA (3.8%), formerly Ginger Tosser, before the brewery decided upon a more conservative branding – which again was nicely presented, bearing honey and gentle spice notes, but subtle and with good balance. Dartmoor Legend (4.4%), too, was proving very popular, mid-way between a golden and an amber bitter, gently spicy and well balanced with some bready malt notes.
Cotleigh Brewery Dark Wing (4%) was tapped while I was there, a pleasant 4% ABV darker bitter which, from the bat pumpclip, I suspect has been produced as a Halloween special. It was certainly more treat than trick. Roast malt toffee notes with hints of red fruit.
Also, I couldn’t leave without trying at least a half of the local St Ives Brewery Brehouse Belgian Ale. A robust 7.3% ABV, it wasn’t selling fast – despite being on at just £3.60 a pint – but it was worth the effort and was more appropriate to the weather conditions, even though it was still the afternoon. It’s an unusual style for a small British brewer to offer, but I’m glad st Ives does. One of the best beers in its range.
The company was great. We talked rugby – specifically rugby before the modern era – and, of course, breweries, in this case Scotland and the Midlands, from where a fellow drinker on holiday hailed.
Such it was that, with a wife agreeing to pick me up at 6pm – she was on a strict, or should I say Strictly timetable – I was away without that Beer and Bird visit. The latest DDH hit would have to wait. Sorry Reuben…