Cornwall was fantastic. However, I have had to leave it a bit earlier than I expected. There are rumblings and goings-on up north, of the beery variety, that have put me on a train back to familiar Oxford. Then tomorrow I head up to the Lake District. I don't totally know what awaits me up there, but that's the way I like it. I do know that there is an event planned in Leeds on my last night, and I would also like to spend a couple of days pottering about the pubs and fells of Coniston.
Sadly, I'm seeing more pubs going corporate. By this I'm not talking about design, layout and atmosphere (that's a different matter), but rather staffing and management. It is harder to run across the publican-led pub, especially in urban areas. And the smiling, friendly staff that engages you in a conversation is the exception rather than the norm. Kudos to the Tinner's Arms in Zennor near St. Ives. The barkeep warned me that the 5.2% ABV pint that I was in the process of acquiring was " a bit strong", and the landlady gave me advice for the walk over the neck of Cornwall to Penzance. I give high ratings there to the Admiral Benbow and the Turks Head.
Cornwall is definitely dominated by the St. Austell's brewery. A large percentage of the pubs I visited were tied. Last night I was in Fowey on the southern coast, a beautiful little harbor town. Out of the five pubs, four were tied, and the fifth sported Sharps Doom Bar, Wadworth 6X and, you guessed it, St Austell's Tribute. While there, staring out over the harbor, I got to witness a young, cocky Diageo boy replace a shiny ice-cold Guinness font with a newer and shinier ice-cold Guinness font. Yuck.
I'm supposed to be in the land of the unsparkled pint, but an Austell's pub in St. Ives was dispensing "northern". Nothing wrong with that in my book, unless the sparkler was used to prop up a fading cask, which was the case on more than one occasion. I ran across another in Fowey.
The business plan for the satellite pub is coming along slowly. Thoughts and images need time to soak in. I finish this entry from my new favorite pub in Oxford, the Rose and Crown off Woodstock Road, which I discovered off the Good Pub Guide. A free house with a well-kept cellar, lots of little rooms, and a covered patio overgrown with vines. It's also bereft of students. Cheers!