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Beer of the Week (w/e 26th May 2024) with Spinko on the Pub Forum

The Blue Anchor, Helston

50 Coinagehall Street
Helston
TR13 8EL
Phone: 01326562821

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Reviews (Current Rating Average: of 10) Add Review see review guidelines


Quinno _ left this review about The Blue Anchor

Not much to add to the original review, except that it's now listed as ** in the CAMRA Heritage List. This time I went for a pint of Middle (NBSS 2.5) and several pints of Special (3.5); the pub dipped out of the GBG a while ago but has been restored and is in the 2024 edition. Check the shelf behind the bar for bottles of their other brews, as these include their special high abv holiday season ales. A good local craic in the front bar Saturday lunchtime. Food no longer looks to be available. One of those in the ‘try before you die’ bracket for me.

March 2009
The definite 'must-do' pub on my holiday and I wasn't disappointed. The pub is god-knows-how many years old and is a rustic and basic two-bar affair, with smaller and colder drinking rooms to the left hand-side of a long main corridor, leading out to the rear toilets and large marquee. The interior of the main bar may be a bit of a shock for some - it's rather dark and a different world from the high street you've just stepped in from - exposed stone and whitewashed daub walls, cosy settles etc. There's no piped music or TV - just chat, time ticking (and maybe the piano if you're lucky). The locals are friendly enough and are used to beer tourists turning up, so say hello at the bar and you'll get a few words. Tried the brewed-on-site ales including the 6.8% Spingo (brewed 'a little heavier in the winter' I was informed - indeed the bottle I took away was well-over 7%!), the beer wasn't to my taste but was kept fine. Sit back and relax - by the real fire in the back bar if you get extremely lucky as I did. Surprisingly there was also food available - I had already eaten but Mrs Quinno went for the local fish trio and was very happy with what she received - so a thumbs-up there too. It's been in every edition of the Good Beer Guide and long may that continue. A national treasure. Rated 9

On 4th April 2024 - rating: 9
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Graham Coombs left this review about Blue Anchor

Difficult to add anything that has not been said already, but this is a superb historic ale house which should not be missed. The range of beers has crept up somewhat, with five draught ales available as well as a couple of ciders.

On 11th September 2018 - rating: 9
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Just a quick pint, then I'm off left this review about Blue Anchor

Legendary pub with a special place in brewing history. Features a central corridor with the compact main and back bars to the right and the Children's and Gun Rooms to the left. Ultra-traditional furniture and decor throughput. The tiny first-floor brewery and cellar are housed in a separate building out the back, along with the 'heritage' outside toilets and a covered patio. Spingo Middle (£3.10) and Special on handpump, along with two ciders. One of those 'must visit' pubs, and well worth the effort of getting there.

On 15th April 2017 - rating: 9
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Pub SignMan left this review about Blue Anchor

The Blue Anchor remains famous in ale drinking circles for being one of just four home brew pubs operating in the UK when CAMRA was formed in 1971. Unlike the other three (The Three Tuns in Bishops Castle, All Nations in Madeley and The Old Swan in Netherton), it is the only one that has continuously brewed beer since then. The pub’s Spingo ales are well known around Cornwall and occasionally found in a few other revered local ale houses, but the Blue Anchor is your best bet to find them. On my visit, their two flagship beers, Middle and Special, were on alongside a seasonal brew, with all three clocking in at over 5% abv. I asked the barmaid what she recommended and she said most of the regulars drink the Middle, so I ordered a pint and found it to be a very distinctive and remarkably sweet, old fashioned ale. It took me a while to get used to it but it drank reasonably well and it was certainly interesting to try something so out of kilter with modern beer trends. Two real ciders were also available and more of the Spingo range was available in bottled form.
The building reputedly dates back to the 15th Century, when it was used as a rest home for monks, but was converted into a pub and brewery in the 18th century, taking its name from Helston’s former days as a port town before the estuary silted up. Today we find a rare pub layout, with several rooms accessed from a central flagstone floored passageway. The main bar is in the front right hand room, with the dark wood servery tucked away to the rear left. Dark wood beams cross the ceiling and a collection of old tankards and pint glasses has been hung from them. Some excellent traditional pub seating fills out the front part of the room and there are some good black and white photos on the walls. This was by far the most popular room and the friendly locals generated a good buzz and seemed used to random strangers passing through. The front left room has pew and chair seating options, a table made from an upturned barrel, a grand stone fireplace and a great picture of Helston Town Band on the wall, alongside other old paintings. A small adjoining snug has room for a single table and a very old poster which advertised the nearby Seven Stars pub as being up for sale. Further down the passageway, you pass beneath a ‘Take Courage’ sign before you find another door to the left which leads into a cosy room with some more barrel tables and padded pews plus walls decorated with a series of excellent posters for the Spingo Brewery and various events in the pub. I thought these posters looked great in this room, which was a little cold although an electric heater was doing its best to keep us warm and dry out our sodden clothing. A second bar can be found to the rear right of the passage, where a few more locals had set themselves up underneath some more interesting local posters. The corridor emerges into the garden area from which you can access a huge tent full of seating and a closed bar, the outdoor toilet block, the skittle alley and of course the brewery itself. The pub seemingly attracts a fair amount of tourists and runs its own line of merchandising including packs of bottled beer, t-shirts and even Spingo mustard.
This is an obvious destination pub that is worth seeking out for the fabulous, unusual interior, the genuine warm welcome and the anachronistic beer range. I really enjoyed exploring this pub and sampling a beer that I would struggle to find the likes of elsewhere in the country. For me, this was a memorable visit and one I’m very pleased I made.

On 22nd November 2016 - rating: 9
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Aqualung . left this review about Blue Anchor

I first visited this place just over 30 years ago and have to admit that then it was my main reason for visiting Cornwall apart from seeing Land's End.
Other than the smoking ban and the marquee in the garden I don't believe the pub had changed one bit. As described in detail below, it's an old unspoilt pub with several different rooms and the Marquee was taken up with a group of golfers who were knocking back the Middle beer as though Armageddon was hours away.
Having arrived just after eleven, I got a seat in the bar where the seven hand pumps had two ciders, Flora Daze, Jubilee IPA, two Middles and the Special. I tried the Flora Daze (£2.90), Middle (£3.10) and Special (£4.30). While the pub itself is fantastic the beers brewed seem quite pedestrian compared to many of the new wave of microbreweries and none of them were completely clear. The Flora Daze is an attempt at a new style Pale Ale but just tasted weird to me. The Middle is a predominately sweet amber beer typical of South and South West England and is probably the best. The Special is so sweet it drinks like a barley wine rather than the 6.7% ABV it actually is. Thirty years ago a beer this strength was relatively rare but nowadays they crop up everywhere. I also thought it was too expensive.
This is a really great pub but if you don't care for sweeter old school beers it may disappoint.

On 26th June 2016 - rating: 9
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Soup Dragon left this review about Blue Anchor

What to say about this place, the home of the Spingo Brewery. Well, the small stone thatched cottage frontage, with its blue painted windows and door, hides a burghage plot that retreats some way back to a nice beer garden. I am always sceptical of historic claims; a 15th century monk's house and so on... well, i am dubious a monk lived here, but it may have been in possession of a monastry - nobody ever cites the source do they! Anyhow, back to the pub. The entrance takes you into a passageway decorated in white and blue, with stone floor. There are a couple of rooms off to the left, the first being the Children's Room, which is a snug in white painted stone with settles and old photos on the walls. The second room is in cream and fake beam, with stone floor, settles and Springo pictures on the walls. The two main rooms are off to the right and served by a central bar. The Gun Room is the lounge at the back, the bar is at the front; both have cream and wood panel decor, stone floors and sone fireplaces, with wooden furniture, including settles. Old photos are on the walls. There is no TV that i saw and no music either. The service was really friendly and the place populated by both holidaymakers and locals (more to the mature side). The locals are really friendly and if you go in the bar you'll get dragged into a conversation, or local banter, pretty quickly. Beer; usual tap stuff with 6 Spingo beers on; Special, Middle, Jubilee, Easter, one i failed to note and a class Stout. A brilliant place and a must do if in the area.

On 5th May 2013 - no rating submitted
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Gill Smith left this review about Blue Anchor

Always call in when in Cornwall, and found the beers much improved since my last visit. This pub has a long history of being in the Good Beer Guide, but is not in 2010 edition. Maybe the owner has changed. There was a musical event in the back garden area last weekend while we were there, and it was great sitting in the back bar on the rocking chairs by the fireplace listening to the acoustic music, while enjoying Spingo Middle and Spingo Special. Was informed there is a beer festival being held at the beginning of September at the pub. The small rooms on the left as you go in as well as the front and back bar are certainly interesting to look round.

The above was on my 2010 visit, and we do still visit a few times when on holiday in Cornwall. They are producing a larger range of beers now, and we have had the usual Spingo beers plus Fireman's Fury 4.8%, Flora Daze 4.0% and Olympic 4.9%.

On 1st July 2012 - rating: 8
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John Bonser left this review about Blue Anchor Inn

Occupying a central position in the centre of Helston is The Blue Anchor, a well-known home brew pub.

It's immediately noticeable for its striking, thatched cottage style appearance, somewhat out of kilter with nearby buildings. Originally a monks home, it became a local ale house soon after and began brewing its own beer in the 15th century.

A central flagstoned corridor has two characterful, low ceilinged, unspoilt bars on the right hand side. The first room is the main bar and is basic, but traditional with stone floors, wooden furniture, ( including settles ), and plenty of interesting framed prints and photographs. A small framed print tells us that "the art of brewing beer was once widespread in The Duchy of Cornwall. At the beginning of the 17th Century, when the population of Helston was 300, there were 30 brewing ale houses here". Also of note is a listing of public executions in Cornwall between 1790 and 1862 which includes one for "setting fire to corn". In this room are displayed CAMRA awards for 25 and 30 consecutive years in the annual Good Beer Guide.

Further down the corridor is The Gun Room - a much smaller room with a splendid fireplace over which are a pair of impressive looking firearms.

There's a largish beer garden at the back. Part of this is covered and acts as a smokers marquee. A separate bar is here - not open on my visit - used when festivals are on. Also at the back are the outside toilets and the brewing house. There's B & B available in a connected building next door

On the left of the corridor are 3 additional basic rooms providing additional seating. The first of these is designated as a children's room. In one of the other rooms is a framed poster depicting the Helston Railway Centenary ( 1887 - 1987 ) . It was whilst sitting in one of these rooms that I was accosted by a strange, oddly dressed woman - I think we used to call them "hippies" when I was a kid - who politely enquired as to whether I was here for the beginners Cornish Language class. She seemed somewhat disappointed when I responded in the negative.

As a reflection of its fame and popularity as a "destination" pub, various items such as Blue Anchor branded T shirts, sweat shirts, fleeces etc are for sale.

Dotted around the pub were a number of flyers advertising a Monday quiz night starting on 20 September - "Test Your Nollegge" - ( as spelt ), which I presume is an attempt at local Cornish humour.

On the beer front, beers on were Jubilee, Middle, Braggett and Special at gravities of 4.5%, 5%, 6%, and 6.6% respectively. Both beers sampled by me - Jubilee and Middle ( which is described as the most popular beer ) at prices of £ 2.60p and £ 2.70p respectively - were pleasant pints, but, on two consecutive evening visits, both beers seemed rather thin for their advertised gravities. I'm probably going to be crucified for saying this, but, in my opinion, neither the Jubilee nor the Middle had the distinctiveness of ( say) Skinners Cornish Knocker ( as tasted in The Seven Stars, Falmouth ) or St Austell's Proper Job ( as tasted in The Mill in the Exe, Exeter or The Masons Arms, Falmouth ), both pubs that I had visited several days previously. Perhaps I should have gone for the bottled Spingo, as many other obvious non-regulars to the pub were doing. Interestingly, in 2010, the pub lost its 100% record in CAMRA Good Beer Guides since inception.

In summary, yes, I like the pub immensely and I'd definitely return, but, based on my two visits, there's better beers to be found in Cornwall without too much difficulty.

Finally, you'll all be no doubt pleased to hear that there seems to be a taxi rank outside the pub, so if you get spingo'd and can't find ( or be bothered to stagger ) back home, help is readily at hand.

On 5th October 2010 - rating: 6
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Roger Button left this review about Blue Anchor Inn

I have always been a big fan of the Blue Anchor and consider it one of the country’s real pub treasures. This thatched town centre brewpub has a brewing history going back some 600 years and is full of charm and character the moment you step through the front door into the central flagstoned corridor. The 2 main bars are to the right whilst on the left are 3 small, intimate snug bars that appear to be later additions within the pub framework. The front main bar is a delight with bare stone floors, settles, cosy window seat, antique table and an upright piano. The walls contain plenty of of interesting photos and momentos including a list of public executions that includes 2 for an assault on the Blue Anchor landlord in 1790. Things aren’t quite as rowdy these days and the atmosphere is very welcoming with plenty of light hearted banter going on between the locals.

The smaller rear bar centres on a large fireplace with 2 built in seats and crowned by antique firearms. The tables are converted beer barrels and there are some reproduction posters advertising wrestling matches and warning against stealing oysters from the Helford River.

Opinions on the pub’s 4 Spingo beers appear to be divided but I have always found them excellent although you are unlikely to see them all on at the same time. The Spingo Middle (5%) is the prominent brew along with the Special (6.8%) but there is also Jubilee (4.5%) and Bragget, a beer made with apple and honey with no hops, a recipe dating back to the brewery’s origins. I tried both the Middle and Special (very drinkable for such a strong beer) and both very reasonably priced. The Special is also brewed at additional strength for Christmas and Easter. For the non ale fans there are the usual suspects and even the tea and coffee are good value. A full description of the various beers is on the wall next to the bar.

At the rear (past the outside toilets) is a beer garden, now partly housed in a marquee where there is a separate open air bar, presumably used for functions, festivals etc. A set of steps leads up to the long brewhouse (the door was open so I had a peek in although I am sure the knowledgeable and enthusiastic landlord would happily show you around if the circumstances allowed it).

I have never had the opinion that the pub is merely a tourist magnet as previously suggested and if it weren't for the 500 mile round trip I would happily spend many a night here propping up the bar. On my last visit I took a few bottles of Spingo home and I really am keen to take back the empties.

On 4th January 2010 - rating: 10
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John Horton left this review about Blue Anchor Inn

Inspite of this being one of the 3 or 4 brewpubs that inspired the birth of CAMRA I regard this place as not very good. Small rooms generating little atmosphere. Over hyped & over rated beer, full of trendy middle-class tickers treating real ale as though an expensive premier cru Claret. I'm in Cornwall very often & avoid this place like the plague. It relies on an outdated reputation and tourists. The beer may be strong but strong does not mean good, tasty or flavoursome it just means strong, which quite frankly they aren't. Only 5% ABV for middle or 6.7% ABV for 'strong'. In Brussels they wean their kids on that! No, this is NOT a nice comfortable easy going house - its simply a tourist trap. Parking - zilch. 1 star for history!

On 6th August 2008 - rating: 4
[User has posted 148 recommendations about 148 pubs]

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