I have friends who plan their weekends around beer festivals and are generally to be found out an about on a Saturday. For me, the allure of these events has worn off a little so I’m not quite sure why I boarded the number 2 bus for Helston to go to the Blue Anchor’s late summer festival, other than the need to get out and have a beer after a busy week. But I’m glad I did.
For those of you unfamiliar with this drinkers’ Mecca, the Blue Anchor is an historic brewpub, originally a monks’ rest house, which claims 600 years of brewing history, although the recipes for the current Spingo beers — Middle, Special etc — date back a mere 100 years or so. To learn more about the brewery’s current operation, and its interesting battle of traditional v craft between the brewers there, have a read of this excellent long-read blog from Boak & Bailey last week.
Perhaps I should go to more beer festivals because this one was rather good. It wasn’t a big festival — 15 beers plus the regular Spingo range and six ciders; it wasn’t in a big, flash venue — an open-sided marquee at the back of the pub, albeit with a very nice, purpose-built festival bar; and when I went, in the middle of the day, it wasn’t buzzing with punters, although it would be later on and had been the night before, apparently. But the service was excellent and friendly, those that didn’t know about beer were given excellent advice (unlike the festival I went to earlier in the year where visitors were told IPA left London at 4% ABV and was brewed further on board a ship, getting to 7% by the time it reached India), and the self-styled Old Farts’ Club, into which my single table gradually got subsumed, were as amiable and witty a group of, er, men of a certain age you could ever want to spend a couple of hours with.
Still, I was there for the beer, and the notes from the crossword page of my i newspaper show Burton-on-Trent-based Blackhole Brewery’s Milky Way (6% ABV) to be the pick of the bunch for me. This was a deep golden wheat beer, quite continental in style, with notes of honey and banana, and during my session it got quite a hammering.
My other picks were Circus IPA (5.8%) from the Killer Cat Brewery in Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, an amber brew dominated by tropical fruit flavours but with a good backbone of biscuit malt, and Ajax (6%), from Isca Brewery, in Dawlish, Devon, which was a light amber ale zinging with juicy orange citrus flavours. Honorable mention, too, to a beer I hadn’t come across before from the RCH range, 30.1 (4.5%), which was a very flavoursome amber bitter.
I must go back to the ‘Blue’ more often. It really was a delightful experience and a pub that’s clearly in excellent hands. To sit and drink with the waft of the mash from the brewery drifting through the air only added to the experience. Highly recommended if you find yourself in south west Cornwall.