Hard to believe, but before I started my work at Cask Marque at the ripe old age of 35, I had never visited Cornwall in my life. My first journey down to Cornwall in my line of work was blighted by the worst snow storm Cornwall had seen in years. Only ten miles shy of St Austell brewery, the charismatic head brewer, Roger Ryman, phoned me and advised me to turn back. Bitterly disappointed, I drove the five hours back home to Yorkshire, and had a second attempt a month later. Without a doubt I was rewarded with a county which rivalled Yorkshire in terms of friendliness, quality of pubs and superb beer. I fell in love with Cornwall instantly (although Roger warned me I might not feel the same at the height of the season when the county is swarming with tourists and the roads are gridlocked).
St Austell Tribute can count itself as one of the major success stories of the 21st century – and deservedly so. St Austell modestly claim Tribute is “the South West’s favourite beer”. I would argue against that: it’s one of the country’s favourite beers. It has a fantastic zesty orangey and grapefruit flavour, superbly balanced with a seriously biscuity malt. It’s well made, it’s consistently good and it put this brewery balanced on the edge of the country on the map.
I’m a bit biased when it comes to food with this beer. The marketing guys at St Austell are right in saying it goes well with pub classics such as fish and chips, burgers and a good old Cornish pasty. But I like to re-live the whole experience of Cornwall by having a glass of Tribute with a Cornish crab sandwich, served on white bread with salty butter. It reminds me of sitting by the window in the Old Customs House on the harbour in Padstow and watching the wintery landscape.
By the way, the second worst snowstorm to hit Cornwall started that night, and it took me eight hours to get home. But that pint of Tribute was worth it.