Baron on Tour: Hawkshead

Last Thursday a mate & I attended the grand opening of the Hawkshead Brewery Tap in Stavley. We got the train there from Windermere (£2.80 return) and from the platform you can see the estate where Hawkshead are based.

After a short five minute walk from the station we were greeted by the brand new impressive glass fronted building that is the new brewery tap, also check out the Hawkshead branded articulated trailer next to it - wouldn't mind that dropping off some beer at Baron Towers!

The brewery tap is just part of their £250,000 project to increase Hawkshead's brewing capacity by 80% as well as to create an excellent bar stocking plenty of cask and world bottled ales.

We were greeted by Katie who is the retail manager for Hawkshead, and two pints of Windermere Pale were poured for us. It's an absolute cracker - a low 3.5% ale which drinks way above it's strength, massive tropical smell, bittersweet biting bitter taste and a long lasting pithy finish. The new bar is very impressive, light wood and chrome give it a very classy look.

As we were enjoying the Windermere Pale, samples of their 'Beer Tapas' menu were being handed around so on the first pass we got to try warm pork pies and mini fish & chips - both of them were excellent and nicely paired for beer drinking.

As the glasses ran empty it was time to try another cask-only ale, Citrillo - a 5% pale ale hops with at least Citra & Amarillo. It was chewier than Windermere Pale with a lovely sweet resinous quality about it - another excellent Hawkshead ale, I could see this working nicely in bottles.

More food came round at this point, sticky sausages on sticks which were a bit of a nightmare as they were so sticky they left bits stuck firmly in your teeth - not great when you are meeting new people for the first time! Freshly cooked scotch eggs sliced into wedges also circled the room, a plate of these were left within reach so I enjoyed quite a few segments!

It was then time for the official grand opening - a short speech from Hawkshead owner Alex Brodie was followed by speeches from Keith Bott of SIBA & Tim Farron (local MP and chairman of the Lib Dems). The ribbon was cut, the press took their photos and applause was heard and then the bar was open again.

I played my wildcard next and prompted for a half of the 8.5% Brodie's Prime Reserve 2011. My reasoning? I was still fairly sober and so would treat this beast of a beer with the respect that it commands as well as being able to fully appreciate the effort and hard work that had go into brewing it. I wasn't let down - big whisky aromas and tastes,similar to a barley wine in it's sweetness and mouthfeel with a lovely spirity chocolate finish.

This is a very well crafted beer - at that ABV it could have just colapsed into a malty sweet mess but it has such poise that it was a pleasure to have been able to sample on cask (only two exist and one of those is left to age some more).

At this point we met up with Jeff Pickthall, Richard from myBrewerytap/Magic Rock Brewery as well as Dave & Ann (and Sooty) from Hardknott Brewery.

The excellent SIBA "proud of beer" video was then shown on a large screen in the upstairs bar to a full room (and it was an optional activity!) and then Alex, Keith and Tim raised various points about beer duty, taxation & pub closures.

Next was some Brodie's Prime - black, silky smooth with a lovely dark chocolate bitterness, I think the cask version trumped over the bottled one. Matt (brewery manager and head brewer) then hunted us down to take us, Jeff & the Hardknotts on a personal brewery tour starting off upstairs in the malt store.

They use a combination of Fawcetts & muntons malts, I spotted bags of chocolate,vienna,wheat,caramalt & crystal malt. The malt hopper is on the first floor making it very easy to add the malt to the mash tun.

Everything was stainless steel but one thing I've not seen before on my limited brewery tours was this panel full of outlets. With the use of a few horseshoe-style connectors you can manage the flow of the liquid all the way through the entire brewing process - from the look of the photo it appears that Hardknott Dave would like it!

The warehouse full of casks & bottles ready to be delivered was very impressive - I'm wondering if Matt would mind me camping overnight in there sometime ;)

We also got to see not only the Bladnoch whisky cask that Brodie's Prime Reserve was aged in but also his self-made bottle filling system (for the reserve) utilising a Becks Vier tap!

They have their own Hawkshead strain of yeast now, managed by BrewLab which is re-cultured between brews. I also grabbed a quick snap of there 'hop store' (read as a few shelves on the wall).

Once the tour was finished we rejoined everyone else to find that the Hawkshead Winter Beer Festival had started without us so we had to make up for lost time!

I got to try:
  • Marble Utility IPA - 5.7%,nice sweetness with a resinous american IPA quality
  • Thornbridge Kipling - tropical and lovely as ever
  • Marble Stout - lovely black half of smoothness
  • Fyne Ales Jarl - 3.8%,excellent pale ale,similar to Windermere Pale without the long lasting bitterness
  • Stringers Yellow Lorry - 4%,very nice pale ale
  • Red Bull Terrier (on Jeff Pickthall's teary recommendation) - nice caramel bitter ale
  • Hercule Stout - 9% bottle conditioned Belgium Stout on Jeff Pickthall's recommendation (I think I bought this as I was getting a bit drunk as I normally stay well clear of Belgium stuff - my palate doesn't appreciate them yet)
We left to get the 9:30 train back to Windermere and both my mate & I had a great time. I would like to say a massive thank you to Hawkshead Brewery for inviting us along to the grand opening and being so generous with their ales & food.

I would also like to say thanks to Matt for being so welcoming, the personal tour around the brewery as well as the complimentary bottle of Brodie's Prime Reserve 2011 - I'm really looking forward to baron rating this one!

Buy Hawkshead ales here and here or here


Neil, Eating isn't Cheating said...

really enjoyed this write up. I really like the look of the Hawkshead brewery 'Cumrbian Five Hop Ale' that's going to appear in the wetherspoons real ale fest.

I also tried the Marble IPA recently and found it had a fantastic balance of flavour, and for a high abv IPA was ruinously drinkable. Even for a pretty big beer it was thirst quenching and moreish. lovely, lovely stuff.

Anonymous said...

Great looking place and a fantastic beer menu too by the look of things. Planning a trip to the area later this year so will definitely put it on the "things to do list". Is there anywhere local to stay rather than getting the train from Windermere?

Baron Orm said...

I know that there are holiday rental cottages in and around Stavley, why not give the local tourist information centre a call, I believe there is one in Staveley itself.

Birkonian said...

The obvious place to stay is the GBG Eagle & Child also in Staveley. A superb traditional pub with a great choice of ales, good food and a real fire. Trouble is the rooms get booked up months in advance especially at weekends.
Campers be aware that the Camping & Caravanning Club Windermere site is not actually that close to Windermere but within walking distance of the Beer Hall. It's a bracing 40 minutes walk on public footpaths across fields which includes part of the Pennine Way. A bonus is the two handpumps in the campsite bar. Thwaites usually supply on of the beers. Cheap food served as well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks guys

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