Black Square Russian Imperial Stout (12.5% ABV, bottle)
A handsome, very dark Russian imperial stout with fleeting chinks of red, below a rich caramel coloured head. The nose is musty, rich, leathery and slightly spicy, with hints of treacle sweetness. There’s fairly lively carbonation, making a noise somewhere between a bowl of Rice Krispies and a Geiger counter.
On the palate, as you’d expect for a beer so high in ABV, there’s a lot going on. There’s espresso coffee, molasses sugar, Demerara sugar, vanilla, some woodiness — not surprising as it’s been maturing in oak barrels — a little creaminess, and fruit notes of black cherry. The body is smooth, almost viscous, and there’s a good warmth that continues on to a velvety, bitter sweet finish that lasts well.
A beauty of a beer, developed in association with Moscow brewery New Riga’s. (30-10-2017)
Eureka (5.9% ABV, keg)
For this tasting, Eureka was part of St Austell’s Small Batch range, however, since the start of 2017, it has now joined St Austell’s regular portfolio as a keg and bottled beer, at a lower 4.9% ABV. The original was a collaboration between St Austell head brewer, Roger Ryman, and Thornbridge head brewer, Rob Lovatt.
I wrote originally in my notebook that the hop flavours are unusual and may be an acquired taste rather than an instant hit. The beer was deep golden with a white head and lively carbonation and had a big grapefruit hit on the aroma. The grapefruit was joined by a piney, fresh note on the palate with Madeira cake malt in the background. The finish is quite dry and lingers well with a slight mintiness. (27-06-2016)
Flower Power (4% ABV, cask)
A pink small-batch beer, coloured by hibiscus leaves. Think of its as a rosé wine of beer. It smells floral, of course, and on the palate there’s pink grapefruit. Very fresh and innovative. (04-08-2019)
Hicks (6% ABV, bottle)
Deep amber, almost red in colour, with an off-white, creamy head, it’s, well, HSD but stronger. Will that do? Okay, the aroma is bready malt with a hint of caramel sweetness, and the taste is rich, bready — wholemeal bready — with some caramel sweetness, but also berry fruit notes and a hint of plum skin sharpness. The finish is bittersweet and, yes please, I would like another, although a draught HSD would also be very acceptable. (11-10-2017)
Mena Dhu (4.5% ABV, keg)
Since this replaced Murphy’s, and before that Guinness, in our local, there’s been no looking back. Even drinkers who never used to have Guinness are now partaking regularly. It pours black with a creamy beige head. There are rich coffee notes, some nuttiness, burnt caramel sweetness and liquorice. Smooth and creamy it goes down very well indeed. If there’s a fault at all, it’s that it comes out of the keg line quite cold and you need to get about a third of a way down the glass to start releasing the flavours. (08-12-2015)
Ruby Jack (4.6% ABV, bottle)
A new incarnation of one of the first specials created by head brewer Roger Ryman when he arrived at St Austell in 1999, it is amber / ruby in colour with a beige head that lasts well. Aroma is light bready malt with a hint of red berry.
On the palate, there’s toffee, like the toffees my grandmother used to proffer from her handbag, red apple, with notes of strawberry. The rye comes through nicely and adds a little spice to the experience. Good beer which I’d go back to again.
The name refers to the nickname of Cornish heavyweight boxer Bob Fitzsimmons, born 1863, who was the sport’s first three-division world champion. (11-10-2017)
Underdog (4% ABV, can)
There’s a burst of hop fragrance as the can opens, and a pleasing piney aroma once the beer is in the glass. It’s hazy straw in colour with a white head that lasts well. It’s not the fullest bodied beer ever, quite thin, but there’s some good light lemon citrus notes there, perhaps a hint of lime and mango, too. The bitterness is gentle without being overwhelming.
If I’m honest, though, I much prefer the draught keg version. (06-08-2017)
Small Batch Brewery
1972 (4.5% ABV, cask)
Named after the year in which St Austell trade quality manager, Mervyn Westaway, started working at the brewery, this brew is deep amber with a slightly off-white head. On the palate, the smooth bitter has notes of red apples and caramel malt, and is a bit nutty. There’s a bittersweet finish and hints of strawberry linger. It smells of bready malt and a hint of spice. A nice modern interpretation of a traditional bitter. (13-01-2017)
Ardennes Pale (5.3% ABV, cask)
A collaboration brew with Stuart Howe, of Harbour Brewing Co, this beer is Belgian style, which is one of St Austell’s fortes, and beautifully made. Robust and light amber in colour, the beer is spicy, with flavours of orange skin, a hint of apple and lovely salted toffee from the malt. Excellent. (24-06-2017)
Ellis’s Original Old Hayle Ale (5% ABV, cask)
This brew has been re-created specially by St Austell to be sold in the Cornish Arms, Hayle, which stands at the front of the site where Ellis’s Brewery — previously the Hayle Steam Brewery — was located. It’s comfortingly old fashioned — hop zing is not the consideration here. Bready malt has a caramel, in fact more like rich toffee character, while there’s berry fruit in the mix, too, specifically strawberries on the nose, and a decent bitter finish. The deep amber beer, with its off-white tight head, may be the result of an historic recipe, but St Austell’s modern skill makes this one to come back for.
Fifth Amendment (5.2% ABV, cask)
Chestnut brown with a beige head, this was one of the most successful of the maltier small-batch brews in 2017. On the palate there is date sweetness and some strawberry notes, the fruitiness emanating, possibly, from the use of American ale yeast. There is some spiciness and notes of bitter chocolate. (29-03-2017)
Grand View (5.3% ABV, cask)
There’s a huge resinous hop aroma on this deep golden beer, as well as a suggestion of tartness which doesn’t quite manifest itself on the palate. Mandarin notes here, which turn to lemon on the finish. Decent malt balance. (26-08-2016)
Heather Ale (4.6% ABV, cask)
How to get golden beers drinkers onto an amber beer. Give it this lovely, yet subtle, heather flower flavour and aroma. Like a best bitter with a sweeter, more floral, almost herbal side, with a delicious bready malt background.
Hop Over the Pond (4% ABV, cask)
Bright golden, this beer is characterised by crisp, fresh hop, piney and clean with grapefruit notes and a hint of tartness. With a good, bitter, fruity finish, this has loads of flavour for its ABV. (16-05-2017)
Icon (4.7% ABV, cask)
A good bitter, this. Hedgerow hops, some blackcurrant and spice against nice biscuit malt. It’s a bit sweet, but the hops get a good showing. Bitterness comes through on the finish. (12-06-2017)
Italian Job (5% ABV, cask)
Big, fresh lemon flavour dominates here, which is not surprising as Sorrento lemons went into the brew. Fragrant, slightly herbal (mint?) hop note are there, too, and there’s biscuity malt balance. The lemon flavour heightens on the finish, then leads to gentle bitterness. The aroma combines lemon pith and spicy hop. (06-08-2016)
Ruby Jack (4.8%, cask)
Actually amber rather than ruby, with a slight off-white head, this has returned after being one of head brewer Roger Ryman’s original special for St Austell soon after he joined the company in 1999. Malt leads, and there are rich berry fruits and toffee, with a gentle bitter finish. Nice to see it back. (12-11-2016)
Rye the Long Face (4.7% ABV, cask)
Great rye notes on this best bitter, and it has a lovely body, too. Good sweetness — toffee with a hint of nuts — but not cloying. There’s a decent bitter finish. (30-04-2017)
Saisonier (5.7% ABV, cask)
A great introduction to the saison style and a great Cornish beer! Hazy straw coloured with a big, thick, foaming head, the aroma is musty, with citrus fruit and a hint of sourness. On the palate it’s a bit more tart than sour, lemon and lime flavours, with some pepperiness and ginger. There’s a sense of the wheat in the malt bill, too, contributing to good head retention. (22-06-2016)
Toast (4.8% ABV, cask)
Created by brewing team member James Vincent, the malt is the star of this best bitter. Mahogany in colour with a beige head, there is, naturally, bready malt flavour but berry notes come through as the taste develops. There’s a moreish, bittersweet finish. The name derives from the surplus bread from the Eden Project which has been included in the mash. (16-10-2016)
Vanilla and Bourbon Barrel-Aged Porter (7.4% ABV, bottle)
Very deep, dark mahogany in colour, with a beige head that dies down quite quickly. On the nose there’s wood, leather, mustiness, hints of rich vanilla and subtle bourbon.
On the palate, the bourbon really comes through and builds to the finish, leaving a dry warmth at the back of the mouth. Very warming, dark plums in there, with some red apple skin. The finish is lingering, warm and boozy.
It’s a cracking brew, but it’s a shame that the head doesn’t last and the beer looks flat and tired. (07-12-2016)
Vesper (5.5% ABV, cask)
A lightly-hopped, well-balanced bitter, a bit resinous and with some slight spiciness, but all vert subtle. A fragrant beer with light kiwi fruit notes coming through. Little bit woody.
XXXX Mild (3.6% ABV, cask)
The welcome return of an old friend, albeit as a one-off special. Not black, but a very, very deep, dark red, with a white head, it’s easy drinking and clearly very well made. The malt flavour is subtle, there are hints of berry fruit, with coffee and vanilla on the back of the palate. Would be nice to see it again more regularly. (22-12-2016)