Giles spends an an evening with Cornish brewer St Austell to celebrate two of their iconic IPA’s, Proper Job and Big Job.
Our night was hosted by chef Jack Stein, who is not only local to St Austell but whose family are business partners with them.
Jack has recently been making a name for himself with his new book, World on a Plate, so it was fitting to have him there, pairing foods from around the world with a Cornish beer he knows so fondly.
St Austell was started in 1851 by Walter Hicks and to this day it remains as one of a handful of family brewers left in the UK. Recently, the company has grown to new heights, now commanding over 170 pubs in the South West.
Speaking with CEO, James Staughton, I learned that business hadn’t always been this good.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“As with all businesses, we’d had our ups and downs, but in the early 90’s we were facing into growing competition and a changing market. The truth was, we were struggling. That continued up until the millennium, at which point Roger Ryman came on board and completely turned things aroundÃ¢â‚¬Â¦it was then things started to pick upÃ¢â‚¬Â
Roger Ryman joined St Austell as Head Brewer in 1999 when he moved from Maclay & Co, Scotland, having previously worked at Scottish & Newcastle Breweries. Aside from accolades such as two-times winner of Brewer of the Year, it’s his passion that marks him out as a talent.
The first beer we tasted, Proper Job IPA, was the brainchild of Roger. Extraordinarily, he concocted the recipe after an inspirational beer tour in Portland, Oregan, way back in 2004 and before the British boom of IPA production: Brewdog wouldn’t even be around for another 3 years.
Officially launched in 2006, the beer has gone on to become the UK’s biggest selling bottle conditioned beer and the best-selling beer brand in Tesco.
Its flavour is best described as light and refreshing with an assertive hoppy bitterness. It pairs well with seafood and spice, demonstrated perfectly by Jack Stein who kicked off the night with a pairing of creamy bacon mussels cooked in Proper Job followed by spicy pork tacos topped with a fresh pineapple relish.
With our stomachs lined, we moved onto Big Job, a tongue and cheek name (if you can spot it) from CEO James Staughton. Aptly described as’big beer’, this 7.2% alcohol IPA is dry as a bone and carries strong citrus notes.
Globetrotting our way over to South East Asia, Big Job was paired with a crispy chicken laarb followed by a spiced coconut rice pudding. The limey flavours in the beer worked wonders with the spicy laarb as it did with slithers of sweet pineapple on the rice pudding.
Roger explained that the brewing process, contrary to popular belief, is the simple part. What’s harder is sourcing the right ingredients to the quality St Austell demands.
Proper Job and Big Job IPA’s contain Maris Otter malt, an ingredient known for its superior flavour but one much harder to cultivate and thus with much lower yield. As it turns out, this was a crop farmers did not want to grow.
Despite their reservations, Roger has persuaded suppliers otherwise and now works with a growing number of farmers in the South West to produce it, an indication of the strong partnerships he’s managed to forge.
Speaking to many of the St Austell directors that evening, I was reminded of why I love working in food and drink so much. It’s the way someone moves their hands when they speak to you, the level of detail they divulge, the length of time they talk (even if you hadn’t asked them anything!) and the unsurmountable depth of knowledge they hold, that defines a producers love for the products they sell.
St Austell as a product, brand and people oozes passion and you can taste it on every sip.
Find out your nearest St Austell stockist here.