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Classic Beer of the Month May 2012: St Austell Proper Job

St Austell Proper Job, 5.5%

Behind the name of a beer often hides a fascinating story.

St Austell Proper JobAs I revealed at length in my book A Beer a Day, the brewing world is a great respecter of tradition and achievement, a community that helps keep alive many a name or event that might otherwise have been forgotten.

Such a scenario is recalled by St Austell’s Proper Job. When the beer was first released it sported a colourful label that hinted, at least, at the origins of its name, but repackaging has given the beer a more sober aspect, one that makes discovering its background a little trickier.

Proper Job was created by St Austell’s head brewer Roger Ryman in 2005. It was conceived as an India pale ale with an American twist. Roger had spent a year working with the Bridgeport brewery in Oregon and so knew his way around the American hop harvest.

He decided to link St Austell’s home county of Cornwall with the tradition of India pale ale as a beer that was shipped out to the subcontinent to refresh British folk serving there as merchants, civil servants or in the military.

A notorious event involving the soldiers of Cornwall, and the bravery they showed in the line of duty, offered the ideal backdrop.

In 1857, unrest was growing among the colonized people of India. Resentment against the occupying, insensitive British and their religious evangelism led to a serious of uprisings that became known as the Indian Mutiny.

Lucknow Flashpoint

One particular flashpoint came in the city of Lucknow, where the British residency found itself under siege. The blockade lasted four months, and assaults on the base were only thwarted by the courage of the 32nd (Cornwall) Regiment.

When relief finally arrived, and the residency was liberated, Queen Victoria sent the regiment a message, thanking the men for their diligence and bravery – a gesture of gratitude for the ‘proper job’ they had done in saving British lives. Four members of the regiment were awarded the Victoria Cross.

St Austell’s own tribute to the Cornish soldiers is a much acclaimed, highly-refreshing beer. Winner of CAMRA’s Champion Bottled Beer award in 2011, it shines an enticing golden colour in the glass, revealing that pale malt is the sole presence in the mash tun.

The hops selected are Cascade, Chinook and Willamette and their zesty citrus qualities – abundant in notes of grapefruit, lime and orange peel – ripple right through the taste and finish. Being bottle conditioned, the beer is also wonderfully fresh and complex.

In cask form, Proper Job is a weaker beer, rolling out at just 4.5%, but the same characteristics that make the bottled version such a hit remain in place, with the plus point that you can drink even more of it than from the bottle.

It’s a deservedly successful beer, a worthy commemoration of the events it recalls in its name. Job done, you could say.

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