Words by Rosie Cattrell
In the beating heart of Porthleven, one entrepreneur who has already been met with a wealth of success finds himself on a path to something new.
The quiet fishing community of Porthleven has truly come to life over the past few years, and more people are frequenting the pretty Cornish village than ever. One man who can be credited for helping to put Porthleven ‘on the map’, so to speak, is Kelvin Batt, a local entrepreneur who has certainly had a hand in bringing the place to life with his various creative endeavours over the years.
Many know him as the Director of The Masked Ball, an annual event that began in 2006 as a small, ticket-only all-nighter for a few hundred like-minded revellers. More recently, the three-day spring ball that would take place on the cliffs of Porthleven became renowned for its artistic creativity, imaginative site layouts and hedonistic zest for having the best time humanly possible.
Labelled one of the best festivals in the world for 2019 by Conde Naste Traveller alongside the likes of Coachella and Glastonbury, the event has featured hundreds of acts, DJs and performances across a multitude of curated venues. Kelvin reflects on a venture that has been enjoyed by thousands of people: “The Masked Ball ended up (unintentionally) putting Porthleven on the map for the younger generation. It was fortunate enough to be recognised as one of the longest standing festivals in the country at one point, and we’ve had some of the world’s best electronic acts play; it’s made me so proud of the place I’ve come to call home, it’s an amazing thing for a little fishing village in Cornwall to be able to pull together.
“Porthleven means a great deal to me,” he continues. “I’d do anything for this place, it’s shaped a whole generation – in a good way! I, like others – notably my buiness partner Alec Short – have put alot into Porthleven, like the Food Festival. We held the reins on it for five odd years and took it from a relatively small event to nearly 40,000, which has to be said was too many for such a small village, but you can’t control the weather!”
A little more recently, Kelvin set his sights on establishing The Mussel Shoal, a laid-back al fresco café, restaurant and bar on the quay, serving French bistro-style food like moules-frites, squid and chowder, alongside some delicious drinks to be enjoyed next to the ebbing water of the harbour. While the welcoming vibes of the Shoal have become a favourite among locals after a long working day, the real fun begins on the pontoon, where you’re invited to book for a group of you to eat and be merry whilst afloat on the waters of the harbour, a wonderfully dramatic dining experience on the sea.
With a love for his home community in his heart, and with a wealth of experience behind him, Kelvin is now turning his attentions to a passion that he’s held close since childhood. After leaving his grandfather’s hop farm in Kent and moving to Cornwall as a child, Kelvin was immediately embraced into the Cornish lifestyle, finding friends at school to go surfing with and who he remains close with today. It was during his school days that Kelvin developed a keen, if controversial for his age, interest in home brewing, as he kindly explains: “It’s crazy looking back, I had five 10-gallon drums with heater belts on all bubbling away in my bedroom. My poor step mum... the smell was atrocious!” Little did he know then that he would later be preparing to establish his very own brewery in the heart of Porthleven.
Fast forward to 2022 and preparations for the opening of Shoals Brewery are in full swing. Having set the wheels in motion last year, Kelvin and a small team have taken root in the Shipyard, at the very centre of Porthleven. “Trevor Osborne has played a big part in letting us use the Shipyard,” he explains. “I’d helped him open an indoor market originally over the road but we had issues with the structure so needed another place to put it, he kindly offered to change his plans and use the Shipyard for the original market, which is now flourishing under the management of Hannabeth Johnson. It’s a great turnaround for the space and has turned into a really cool hub for young businesses, including ourselves!”
Rather unusually, Shoals Brewery have the opportunity to source their very own hops to brew themselves. “We’re actually using the hops from my Grandad’s farm for Shoals Brewery, which we’re growing ourselves with the help of Howard Batt (Batt & Son Hops), then using them for our beer. I’m pretty sure that’s quite unique in the brewing world; we like to say ‘from ground to guzzle’. It’s great as we have a real input into what gets grown and how, thanks to my uncle and cousin. It’s been one hell of a learning curve.” With the team’s ‘Endeavor’ hops having recently won Best Aroma at the Kent Hop Competition in November 2021, I’m sure we can expect great things from the beer produced at Shoals Brewery.
With his right-hand man and best friend, Dai Lawton, at the brewing helm, Kelvin is confident in the end result: “Dai’s been brewing at home for years, and is actually very good, not like myself! He’s the man – he’s even grown a brewer’s beard just for the job.” Along with their partner Dom Kamara, an old surfing friend from Gwithian, Shoals Brewery promises another exciting addition to the collection of fresh local businesses that are populating Porthleven, which Kelvin reflects on: “It may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but Cornwall is changing, and I think luckily Porthleven is changing in a better way than a lot of the county due to a big local contingency not being pushed out by a more corporate model of buiness. There’s this amazing balance now, where young, local businesses like Origin, Flexi-Hex and ourselves are free to develop and grow. It’s funny that the owners of these flourishing businesses all went to school together; in fact, we were even in the same year! There must be something in the water…”
Set to open imminently, and with plans for outdoor seating in addition to a relaxed environment inside where you’ll be able to pull up a seat and grab a chilled pint brewed in the very same building, Shoals Brewery certainly has our attention. Following the success of The Mussel Shoal, you’re sure to see some friendly local characters on the scene, and undoubtedly a mix of fresh-faced visitors looking to take in the tantalising flavours of Porthleven as the sun starts to show its face this summer.
At the epicentre of a small Cornish fishing village that has found itself to be the setting of some truly exciting ventures, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’ll be making sure to pay a visit to Shoals Brewery to sample this latest triumph thanks to a face familiar to many here in Porthleven – Kelvin Batt.