Wednesday 13 May 2020

Wednesday Beer — St Austell Proper Job

St Austell in 2002, I dunno what the car is
I have had a long relationship with Proper Job, first drinking it when it was released in 2004, developed by St Austell’s head brewer Roger Ryman after he’d spent a month’s sabbatical in Portland’s Bridport Brewery (sadly no more, though during my only visit to the taproom in 2015 left me thoroughly underwhelmed). His inspiration was Bridport IPA, which is probably why the beer in cask and bottle was 5.5%, though the former was soon reduced to 4.5% to be more acceptable to British sessioneers. 

It’s a mainstay of St Austell’s pubs, of which there are several in Exeter (my son used to work in one during vacation), while the bottle-conditioned 5.5% version is very much a supermarket sweetheart. My initial tasting notes of the beer back in the 00s are of a Carmen Miranda-like fruitiness, pineapple, melon and guava with a striking bitter finish bolstered by a sweetness that perhaps is a characteristic of beers and palates in the southwest. I still think it’s an excellent beer, though have recently wondered with some bottles I recently bought from Aldi (how funny that going to the supermarket now has the same risk as driving a 550cc Kawasaki at 100mph on the M6 as I used to do until a near accident calmed me down) if the Carmen Miranda fruitiness had been muted somewhat. Now, it’s in 440ml cans, not bottle-conditioned, but still fresh and fruity and Carmen Miranda is still flying down to Rio, all manner of tropical fruit embedded in her hat. 

And while I’m thinking about Proper Job, I would like to raise a glass to Big Job, which I always had a couple of bottles while visiting (or should that be embarrassing?) my son when he was working at the quayside pub in Exeter. And now, even more thoughts crowd in on me — I do miss St Austell’s Admiral’s Ale, which was launched in 2003 during a British Guild of Beer Writers trip to Cornwall that I organised. This was chestnut/russet in colour with lush toffee/caramel notes balanced by a juicy citrusiness. It was a beer of which I drank deeply over the years, but it doesn’t seem to have been around for a while (there was a Big Admiral at the 2016 Celtic Beer Festival but nothing at the one last November). 

It is funny but understandable that during this time of Covid-19 a nostalgia seems to pervade through the soul of beer — I have read of beers that are missed (some before I began drinking), the moods of pubs in the 1970s and before, breweries that are no longer around and what their products would have been like and breweries such as Boxcar, Anspach and Hobday and Five Points doing up and doing over mild and bitter as if it never went away. All of which makes me ponder (with the thought of a glass of Proper Job later), maybe beer is more about nostalgia than we think and maybe in this time of Covid-19 we need that nostalgia. 

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