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Pub/Bar of the Month December 2017: The Blue Anchor, Helston, Cornwall

The Blue Anchor, Helston, Cornwall, UK

The Blue Anchor at Helston is one of Britain’s most celebrated pubs.

Blue Anchor, HelstonIt’s not surprising then that nobody bats an eyelid as I wander around scribbling notes in my pocket book. It’s clear that I am a stranger, one of thousands who pass through each year, but the welcome is warm nonetheless.

The pub has been sitting here, towards the bottom of the town’s main street, since the 15th century, solidly stone-built and snug beneath its thatched roof. It was once a resting house for monks.

Today, the pub sign is swinging wildly. We’re catching the tail-end of Hurricane Ophelia as it whips up the north Atlantic and this part of Cornwall is very exposed.

Inside, however, everyone seems oblivious to the gathering storm. The locals in the public bar are well settled, ordering their pints and chewing the fat while, just a few miles away, giant waves are battering rocky coves and picturesque harbours.

Having strolled through the pub to refresh my memory – it’s been 16 years since I was here last – I’m satisfied that little has changed. Off the central corridor, rooms open up on both sides.

Cosy Boltholes

The public bar is to the right. This is where the drinks are sold, where old pictures line the walls and – just for good measure – a list of persons hanged in Cornwall is posted.

Off to the left are two smaller bars, cosy little boltholes that you and a few friends can easily monopolise and have to yourselves. On the right again is the back bar, with an uneven stone floor, crooked beams and a couple of barrel tables set before a huge stone fireplace.

This is where I eventually settle and it’s a good choice because, in the couple of hours I’m here, I learn a great deal about Helston and its residents.

There’s an almost sitcom-like regularity to the way in which as one local downs his pint and leaves another enters and takes his place at the bar, bringing with him more tales of local characters.

There’s no music or electronic distractions here but I have all the entertainment I need just pleasurably eavesdropping on what passes for news in these parts.

Brews Its Own

Every now and then I have to make a small apology and squeeze through to order another beer. I’m taking the opportunity to sample as many of the beers the bank of handpumps has to offer, as – famously – the Blue Anchor brews its own and you don’t find them in many other places.

Blue Anchor, HelstonThe little brewery is out the back up a flight of steps, just before you reach the skittle alley and the surprisingly large beer garden. I had a good look around last time I was here but didn’t really have the chance to drink much of its output at the time. I’m now making up for it.

‘Spingo’ beers came to national prominence when CAMRA first published the Good Beer Guide back in 1974. The Blue Anchor was one of the four home-brew houses listed back then and soon the pub became one of those places you had to visit if you dared to call yourself a beer buff.

The main offerings are called Middle and Special, variations on a dark theme that are malt driven, on the sweet side and slightly estery.

At 5%, Middle is the weaker of the two and it slips down very easily for the strength. Special, at 6.5%, also hides its alcohol remarkably well, just revealing a little tingle of warmth behind the caramel, the faintly earthy yeastiness and the hints of red berries.

They’ve branched out here in recent times and there are now other beers on sale. Flora Daze (4.2%) is an amber beer, sharp and citrussy, while IPA (4.5%) has a good bitter bite. Sadly, the need to move on prevents me from trying the Bragget (6%), based on an ancient style of honey beer with apples.

By the time I sup the last drop, I know I’ve had a drink. I also know that I’ve been in a proper pub, where there are no airs or graces, where good humour ripples across the bar and where the simple combination of a pint and a chat provides all the fun you need.

The Blue Anchor, 50 Coinagehall Street, Helston, Cornwall, TR13 8EL, UK
Tel. (01326) 562821
Opening Hours: 10am–midnight; 10am-1am Friday and Saturday

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