Bell’s Cornwall Chimes
- Credit: Archant
Cheers! Visit Cornwall’s Malcolm Bell celebrates the renaissance of Cornish brewing and raises a pint glass (or two) to the men and women who rescued it
It was on a dark January night earlier this year that I went to St Agnes. Well, in fact it was to the lovely Trevaunce Cove, to attend a meeting of the brewers of Cornwall at the wonderful Driftwood Spar.
The meeting was full of energetic passionate brewers who are keen to develop their love of quality local beers as well as grow their markets. I was attending in my day job capacity, to see how we can help promote Cornish beers to our visitors and also to the great people of Cornwall. However, sitting there reminded me of Cornish beers when I was a young man back in the 1970s. In those days Cornish beer was not celebrated around the country, in fact it was not celebrated in Cornwall! We did have local breweries but not the best beers and I remember St Austell Extra which was as close to non-alcoholic beer as one could get - and I am sure was designed by the temperance society to put people off beer. Then there were the pubs with the
green signs for Devenish Brewery, which had another range of quite weak, warm and flat bitters and of course the infamous mild. I remember one pretty poor beer called Bosun bitter and then there was Falmouth bitter, which was nicknamed Foul Mouth bitter!
This was the era when many were saying that traditional Britain British beer was dying out and that we would all be drinking the continental style lagers - anyone else remember Harp lager. However, like many other predictions, how wrong could they be? Even if at that time most traditional beers tended to be warm, flat, weak and tasteless especially compared against the new exciting lagers.
I remember going to college in Manchester and my soon-to-be close friends from the north asked me how much I could drink. I was not a great drinker, but I said five to seven pints without too much trouble. How wrong could I be? As anybody who has been to the north and tried Boddington’s bitter, Robinsons, let alone Marston’s Pedigree will know they were and still are great beers.
After four pints of those beers I was very much the worse for wear. It was also to my embarrassment that when my student friends from the north came to stay one summer, all they did was take the mickey out of our beer and that just confirmed the prejudices about southern softies. So let’s roll on 40 years and how wrong were those forecasters of the death of British beer? Not just those who are keen and passionate about the subject and belong to CAMRA, but also the rest of us. You now see our great Cornish beers all ovLondon, be that St Austell’s great ales, Sharp’s Brewery and the famous Doom Bar. But stop. We are not a two-trick pony; we have many more coming through that are very strong: there is the Rebel Brewery in Penryn, Crown Brewery in Penzance and then there is Padstow Brewery and Penpoljust to name a few and there are many mo– so get out there and start exploring our great ales.
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I would like to remind all of us that whilwe have been watching and celebrating thgreat growth in Cornish wine and the amazing diversity in our cheeses, many of us have not noticed the burgeoning and brilliance of local brewers and not just the
main larger breweries, which are fantastic,but the growth of the small microbrewerieSo in addition to celebrating our food, wines, great restaurants and beaches we should also be singing loud and hard abouthe great beers in our local pubs and increasingly in pubs in the rest of the country.
So hail to the Cornish ale!