Los Muertos Brewing Co (Part One)

logoAs an Englishman/Brit, holidays abroad usually means one of two things dependant on destination. Either an amazing selection of beer in certain parts of Europe or a sea of relatively bland yellow fizz in others, with a similar story further afield for long-haul destinations. As a seasoned beer traveller, very early on in the planning stages for our “non-beer” holiday, I always try and do a bit of digging as to what is in the area, or at least a short travelling distance in the hope we can escape for a little “exploration”. This time around we dropped on a really good deal for Mexico, a little place called Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast. All very last-minute, so with little expectation I tapped the destination into Google, fearing the worst but getting a most welcome surprise when staring back at me was “Los Muertos Brewing, Puerto Vallarta’s first Brewpub”. Digging deeper all the signs looked good, leaving getting there as being the only hurdle as it showed as being quite a distance away from our resort, some daft sod had plonked an airport right in the way dammit..

Once on the ground we found that there was a regular bus service into town which was really cheap, but as our journey required a couple of changes and speaking little of the lingo we took the cowards way out and grabbed a cab. Despite being close on a 40 minute journey though, the cost was a reasonable 270 Pesos or roughly £12.50 which is well worth it, especially as we had no real clue as to where we were going.

IMG_9610Arriving at lunchtime we grabbed a table by one of the large open arches of the cantina style bar, still relatively quiet apart from a few folks eating and watching the early football world cup game on one of the many TV screens dotted around, sitting awhile to take in our surroundings before making a beer choice.

IMG_9613First impressions, it sort of reminded me a little of a Brewdog style bar, not identical, but with that gritty modern-metallic feel, although clearly with a Mexican tint and a much more almost alfresco-esque twist. The impressively shiny but nonetheless imposing brew-plant drawing the eye, a stark reminder that this is a place of work as well as pleasure. I like it, it’s the sort of place I’d like to own, functional, fun, a happy place to enjoy a beverage or two.

IMG_9608The menu too is a welcome sight, 7 beers*, all brewed on-site, ranging from blonde though hefenweisse styles, into IPA’s and Ambers, with tantalising chilli beers and stouts for the more adventurous in the Mexican heat. Food to match, pizza, fantastic sounding sandwiches, chicken and more, with prices being exceptionally reasonable. All beers were 45 Pesos for around a pint (probably 500ml or the US/Mexican equivalent measure 16oz?) regardless of strength and style, this equating to around £2 at current exchange rates. Or maybe try the most enormous slice of pizza, salad and side, with a pint for an amazing value 60 Pesos.

*seven beers on at the time of our visit, this seems typical but I believe some of the range rotates

We started the beer selection in suitable fashion with a couple of thirst quenchers after our journey, the wife choosing Mexicana Rubia Blonde and myself opting for El Jefeweizen, a summer wheat beer. Both did their job and were pleasant enough, although I was slightly disappointed with the wheat, it being almost clear and lacking in the expected flavours or claimed coriander and orange, not bad, but lacking something.

IMG_9604Next up was Agave Maria Amber and Anillo de Fuego Chilli beer, the former being a typical American amber in style and very well executed, a welcome change to have a beer at last with some depth of flavour after the hotel offerings. Not massively hoppy, but enough to be pleasantly drinkable.

The chilli beer was also pretty good with quite a bit of chilli heat, although a pint was quite a challenge. It would probably make an excellent base for “Cielo Rojo” (Red Sky) as suggested in the commercial description. This is a local sort of beer cocktail as I believe, a variation of which I saw lots of people order back at our hotel. Made up of cerveza/beer, tomato juice, Worcester and Tabasco sauce and lime juice, served in a salt edged glass. I didn’t try one personally but Mrs H sampled one and quite enjoyed it (although not ordering another).

IMG_9616Revenge Pale Ale came next, the moment I’d craved long before walking in the door, hopped with Chinook, Columbus and Cascade, it did not disappoint and supplied the first “hop-burp” experience since leaving the UK. Hiding its 6.1 ABV extremely well it went down far too quickly which was a massive shame as I could really have sunk a few more. Sadly though I had to move on to get through the menu, the large measures not helping matters here.

The intriguing sounding Hop On was our next offering, billed as an American Strong Ale and arriving at the table much darker than I at least expected. In my mind I pictured something akin to a double IPA when in fact it was a really dark ruby glassful with a coffee crema-brown head foaming on top. Rich and malty with a decent hop hit and again something I’d quite happily order again should the chance arise.

IMG_9618Last beer of a really enjoyable afternoon was the McSanchez Stout. Listed as being the Los Muertos version of Guinness Irish Stout which I personally think does it a real disservice as for me, it knocks “the black stuff” into a cocked hat. I was a little wary of drinking an Irish stout on a day where the outside temperatures were in the mid thirties, but this was a real treat, chilled just enough so as not to be soupy, but still letting the delicious roasty flavours shine. Surprisingly my second favourite beer of the day.

More on Los Muertos in a day or two, with a short interview with brewer/owner Conner Watts, but for now, thanks for reading.

Cheers

IMG_9605MORE INFORMATION:

The Los Muertos beer menu can be found here, but I’ve listed those we tried below for ease of reference.

Beers

Mexicana Rubia Blonde: A light bodied ale that combines the smooth drinkability of traditional Mexican lagers with the bite of a Czech pilsner

El Jefeweizen: A crispy smooth summer wheat beer with just the right amount of cloudiness from a German inspired weisen. Great session beer highlighted with coriander and orange zest.

Agave Maria: A Medium bodied ale, lightly hopped, but full on the palate. Expect nutty flavours coming through in this highly drinkable American style amber.

Anillo de Fuego: Wheat based ale fermented on a bed of diced serrano peppers. This picante twist will definitely put a little pep in your step. Try this with tomato juice or as the base of a Cielo Rojo for a uniquely Vallartan beverage.

Revenge: A knock-you-down pale ale nearly hoppy enough to be considered an IPA by most beer enthusiasts – high gravity and high hops. Starkly distinct from anything you’ve had in Mexico and made for the hop-heavy, IPA crowd.

Hop On: We’re calling it an American Strong Ale which leaves us quite a bit of wiggle room in our interpretation of the style. This malty, hoppy, dark ale will really get your attention. Overall bitterness and coffee like flavours will entertain your senses.

McSanchez: Fancy Guinness with your bangers and mash? This is our version of a fresh pint of the creamy Irish classic.

Location and Contacts:

Lazaro Cardenas 302
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco 48380

Hours: Mon – Sun, 12pm – 12am

Phone: 01 322 222 0308

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“Nino-vation” – De Ranke

Nino Bacelle, takes the floor at “Beermoth” in Manchester’s Northern Quarter and after a brief introduction apologises for his slightly poor grasp of the English language, he’s here to talk about “De Ranke Brouwerij”, his brewery and the wonderful range they create. (The latter being my words not his, but nonetheless true). The apology is clearly not needed as the room is full of beer lovers glued to his every word, and he proceeds to deliver one of the most engaging talks of its kind that I’ve witnessed.

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Image courtesy of BeerMoth

On the table in front of us all sit six bottles, of that six only one (the XXX) is new to me, as I’ve been a fan of the De Ranke range of beers ever since I first began to explore what Belgium has to offer. XX was the first De Ranke I tasted and it was just so different to any Belgian brew I’d tasted  before, so dry, bitter and incredibly drinkable. I also loved the paper wrapped bottles and still do, unwrapping one to pop the cap adds a bit of theatre to the occasion every time.

IMG_9312Nino relays his story of the struggle to learn how to brew in Belgium many years ago at around 1981, experimenting with what he could get hold of at the time, the lack of information available and the often reluctance of established brewers to share their secrets. From there a spell at a Belgian “brew school” before cutting his teeth by offering his services to help out when and wherever he could to put those newly acquired skills to the test.

Once he was happy that he was able to produce something to produce commercially that would have some market appeal, the journey began in earnest as the first steps proper towards what we now know as De Ranke were taken. Taking hired brew days at Deca Brouwerij in Woesten and soon being joined by Guido Devos (the second brewer and joint owner of De Ranke), it was here the first production of Guldenberg, an abbey beer typical in style at least to other popular beers in the area and designed to appeal to the local drinkers was brewed.

IMG_9316It was what went on from there with these two guys is what I found really interesting, back in the nineties, deciding to buck popular trends in their homeland and produce beers that they wanted to drink rather than for market demands, a risky but quite a topical strategy considering what has happened here in the UK in recent years.

XX Bitter was the first of these “new-fangled” beers and caused a stir at Deca at the time, inspired funnily enough by British beer and the writings of “The Beer Hunter” Michael Jackson. Using cast iron and copper equipment dating back to the 1930′s as I recall, but modifying it so as to use full cone hops and not essences or pellets, fresh local ingredients, much to the astonishment of the resident brewing staff. “Why do you do it this way, it creates so much mess and makes the process so much more difficult”, the answer, simple, “better flavour, aroma and bitterness”. This insistence on using only the finest and local where possible ingredients continues to this day, as does their dedication to quality.

I could rattle on about Nino’s story, the history and description of each beer for pages but I won’t, partly because I probably wouldn’t do it justice with my pretty hopeless memory but also as I think more people should hear it from the man himself, only then would the enthusiasm for doing what he and Guido do clearly be evident.

What I will say though is what a joy it was to go through the range of beers in his and the company of folk in mutual agreement and appreciation. As I mentioned earlier, all but one of them on offer were new to me, that though, although delicious, wasn’t the highlight. For me, getting reacquainted with many of them that I had perhaps forgotten made the evening so much more pleasurable, Guldenberg and Noir de Dottignes in particular on that front.

IMG_9314To briefly recap on “XXX” before I close, Nino explained that it was brewed initially for an American beer festival, where the demand for their beers are high. Made using exactly the same recipe as “XX Bitter” but altered by the addition of 50% more hops alone. The result of this is not what I and my drinking companions expected and in fact splits the table in terms of which they prefer. It is bitter yes, but much fuller in body than its sibling and as such feels completely different, stronger in abv even when it fact it is 0.2% lower. I’d really recommend trying both side by side to see for yourself as we did, dragging the last bottle of previously devoured XX from our table.

If you read this in time, you may still have the chance of meeting Nino and sampling a few beers together this afternoon (Saturday 14th June 2014) at BeerMoth between 1-3PM. If not, please do try the beers and hopefully we can get him back across to the UK again sometime soon.

Thanks to Nino for your innovation all those years ago, and your clear passion to continue enjoying what you do, also to the guys at BeerMoth for really memorable night, I just hope I’ve captured enough here to do it all justice.

Cheers!

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The Lord Clyde RedWillow Kitchen Takeover

When Molly, one of the fine staff at Red Willow Bar in Macclesfield first told me about a “not to be missed” event coming soon to the bar, I immediately said “when, count me in” and stuck the date in my diary. However I must admit to being a little startled at the £50 per ticket price tag when later I saw the full announcement, but knowing Toby and Caroline Mckenzie’s passion for quality I went with it and handed over the loot. By god I’m glad I did.

The event was to be a five course beer and food matching dinner, based on the tasting menu created by chef Ernst Van Zyl of The Lord Clyde in Kerridge, just outside Macclesfield. I’d not been to The Lord Clyde before, but had heard Toby speak highly of it many times previously and once I took a look at the website too, Ernst’s own track record working at many famous food establishments spoke for itself.

“Heston’s The Fat Duck, Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, London’s Park Lane Hotel, Noma in Copenhagen, Restaurant Frantzén and latterly Head Chef at Etrop Grange Hotel … Ernst and Sarah’s careers are as colourful as the creativity produced in their kitchen”

journey-page-inset-the-lord-clyde

Before I crack on with my view on the nights events, I just need to add that I am not a food writer, nor am I a beer and food matching expert, enthusiast yes, specialist no. There were many things on the night that were completely new to me, a proper learning experience was had as well as a really good evening. Also as I was intent on enjoying and not writing, I made only mental notes, so I’ve added Ernst’s own brief descriptions to add a little more meat to the bone so to speak.

Onward…

The menu promised five courses of delicious sounding food (with a hint of mystery for the uninitiated) each paired with one and on occasion two beers designed to complement each dish, where two beers were on the table, this was for you to make the choice as it could not be agreed upon when the menu was planned.

IMG_9229We were made welcome on arrival with a glass of refreshing “cider sour”, something different ahead of the beery pleasures to come, this was a blend of Skidbrooke dry cider, Wild Turkey bourbon and fresh ginger, cool, palette cleansing with a zingy warming aftertaste, soon quaffed as Toby introduced us to our chef and we took our seats at the table.

First to arrive was an unannounced but most welcome pre-meal treat of freshly baked warm sourdough bread served with a smoked butter, the latter arriving in a small stoneware pot that softly smoked as the lid was removed. Normally I am not a fan of butter (shock horror), also my wife of smoked food, but this was delicious and melted into the warm bread wonderfully giving it a salty subtly smoked edge.

10169386_10152101160835684_5991157214930291963_nSalmon and heirloom tomatoes, grapefruit and Jack by the hedge, served with First Chop “HOP” and Brasserie DE Cazeau’s “Saison Cazeau”

IMG_9221Chef Ernst’s notes: Poached salmon with heirloom tomatoes, blueberries pickled and purée, pick grapefruit cells, celery and jack by the hedge. This was quite possibly the nicest tasting piece of salmon I have ever eaten, it looked raw but wasn’t it had such a wonderful melt in the mouth texture. Cooked using the sous-vide method I believe, with the tomato and other accompaniments it tasted just superb. Both beers went with the dish really well, the HOP particularly with the salmon but weirdly perhaps too similar, with the effect of complimenting rather than any contrast or change. The saison was the star though, with the cutting floral notes twisting flavours this way and that, bringing different tastes to the fore.

Beetroot and goats cheese, Marmite and grapes, served with RedWillow “Reckless” and Beavertown “Black Betty”.

IMG_9227Chef Ernst’s notes: Salt baked beetroot, pickled pink beetroot, raw yellow beetroot, grapes as poached, fluid gel and fresh, mini Marmite meringues and as powdered and goats cheese. A challenging dish here for some, me included as I absolutely detest goats cheese and of course for some, Marmite is a tricky one too. Firstly, what a beautiful plate of food! Second, Marmite meringue, who knew?? Although I have to confess to only eating a little goats cheese with a few of its plate mates to see how they blended together I also have to say I actually enjoyed this dish. The meringue was delicious, imagine a slightly crunchy exterior concealing as sort of savoury toffee, slightly sweet, but not really recognisable at all from the base ingredient, for me on both novelty value and in how it worked so well with the cheese, the star of this dish. Two very different beers on offer again this time, with I think Wreckless added late on to the menu. However it was definitely  a winner, the tropical fruit and bitterness just worked. Black Betty is a top quality beer which I love, but here those roasty flavours slightly overpowered rather than combined. That said, I could have still quaffed another…

Jacobs ladder, tarragon, shallot and egg, served with RedWillow “Smokeless”.

10411419_10154267637840171_2963383854791257791_nChef Ernst’s notes: Seared Jacobs ladder, with roast shallot emulsion, tarragon purée, brined egg yolk, caramelised shallot purée, pickled red onion, shallot wafer crumbs. Another new one for me in “Jacobs ladder” which I now know to be beef short ribs. On the night though I had no real idea of what was concealed inside the carefully laced pickled red onion outer layer. Served almost rare, with a slightly firmer texture than I expected (once I realised what it was), it was a mighty mouthful of flavours when combined with the various purées and smooth creamy egg. Smokeless worked well, it’s soft toasty smoky notes drawing out the succulence of the beef and complimenting the creamy egg yolk.

Lamb and heritage carrot, broad beans and curry, served with RedWillow “Sleepless”

IMG_9235Chef Ernst’s notes: Pan fried lamb rump with spiced sausage, heritage carrots, Israeli couscous, broad beans and a lamb jus. Not all of the pictures here are great, bad light, phone pics swiftly snapped in between lots of conversation. This one in particular does not do the dish justice, nor does it portray the warming spice aroma wafting from the plate. The lamb was cooked perfectly, soft and juicy and bursting with strong flavour, the sausage firm and meaty with a lovely peppery after-burn, and yet another new experience, Israeli couscous in a lightly curried sauce. It looked a little like tiny peas, tasted a like little popping dumpling pearls and I want some more. (I have tried, but very hard to find) Sleepless was a good pairing, it wasn’t my favourite but the chewy toffee malt went well with the meat, with the prickly hops complimenting the subtle spices.

Strawberry and tonk a bean, hazelnut and nasturtium, served with The Kernel “Export Stout”

1497631_10152101390250684_415873344191195102_nChef Ernst’s notes: Textures of strawberries with tonk a bean rice pudding, crispy white chocolate, milk crumble, hazelnuts and nasturtium. Personally speaking I’m not normally a big sweet person when I’m drinking beer, normally at this point I’d choose the cheese board every time, but man oh man this dish rocked. The almost nougat-like tubes of tonka bean rice pudding were super creamy, add the strawberry combination of textures, dusted with chocolate and toasted nuts it was not overly sweet, but super tasty. The Export stout was an inspired choice, rich with coffee, fruit, chocolate and vanilla with a drying hoppy finish, it seemed to just elongate every mouthful, new tastes popping into the mind just as you’d got over the last. Definitely the pairing of the night for me, closely followed on the night by the Saison Cazeau.

All in all a really enjoyable night and good value for money too. The food and service were excellent, timings perfect. The dishes were beautifully presented and ample in proportion, with plenty of beer to match, with a good third to half of each. Meaning we left happy and content rather than bloated and hammered, happily tootling off to the station in good time after sampling a few more of RedWillow Bar’s tip-top selection and lastly the “gin section”.

The Lord Clyde offer various dining experiences from a full tasting menu down to sarnies, so if ever you are in the area it maybe wise to take a detour, here’s the latest menu. Then of course park the car in Macc and wash it down with a few beers at the Red Willow Bar and other fine local establishments.

A massive thanks for reading and to everyone involved, a resounding success!

Cheers

Check out Charlie of Gin Fuelled Blue Stocking‘s piece on the event here.

REDWILLOW

The Lord Clyde

+44 (0)1625 562123 | 36 Clarke Lane, Kerridge, Bollington, SK10 5AH

Brew Beginnings #BackInMacc

Yes, I’m still here….

It has been a while since the first (only) #BackInMacc update, things sort of developed and what with lots of other stuff going on, it just hasn’t seemed a good time to be on the blog at all if I’m honest. The original planned date of Saturday 13th September 2014 still stands, but after discussion with a few of the folk involved the format has changed slightly, but hopefully will still appeal to anyone who loves great beer, food and company.

Back In Macc

Amazing graphic creation…

After my announcement way back when, that we would be going back to Macc, something just didn’t feel right about the whole thing. The main reason for the original delay was about availability of everyone involved, in particular from the perspective of the businesses. They put a lot of time and effort into things like this, planning is key as it is vital that everything is in place to show each venue off at its best. But there was also an uneasiness about holding another full-blown “Twissup” type event in the same place so soon even though things have moved on somewhat, expanding the beer appeal.

So after giving it some thought, I had a chat with a few folks who were of a similar mind and decided I’d like to “try” and create something of a more permanent nature. An event that if successful, may have the potential to become an annual feature on the beer calendar in Macclesfield, and yet still draw in folks from across the UK and beyond as the original #isosceles twissup originally did.

As we all know, beer is going through a bit of a renaissance, I don’t think we have ever had it so good, ever. New breweries with new beers, pubs and bars looking at new approaches to cash in on the demands of the more discerning customer. Exciting “Willie (Craft) Wonkeresque” specialist beer shops springing up all over the place, crammed to the rafters with an elaborate array of brightly labelled bottles in all shapes and sizes, promising to be the elusive ale drinkers golden ticket, the latest BIG THING.

15But, although all this is great for us punters, for new start-up breweries it is probably tougher than ever to make it through that bustling hop scented crowd and get noticed. That’s where I’m hoping this event will come in and provide some sort of platform, a mini soap box to give as many as is practical a leg up to catch the beer loving multitudes collective attention.

Of course I understand this is not particularly ground breaking, new breweries feature at beer festivals and beer bars all over the country at various times, but not I’m hoping at the same time which is our aim here, to showcase a selection of the best new or aspiring brewery’s and or brewers, some of which may not even be in commercial production as yet, and in doing so keeping it very fresh.

We already have some really exciting sounding projects in progress and committed to the cause, including creations from “Five Oh Brewing Co“, “Axiom Brewing“, “Otherton Ales” and “Broadford Brewer” more news on those in coming weeks. We still need more though, so if you have any recommendations or feel that this event would suit you, please do get in touch via comments section below or the Facebook page and of course catch me on Twitter.

As per last year I have a few ideas about foodie treats to keep the belly full and your strength up which will be also confirmed soon too. Plus of course the day will not “exclusively” be turned over to the new blood, we still plan to have some phenomenal beers from established favourites too.

Cheers all, hope to see you there.

The Art of Beer – Rob Pointon at The Bulls Head

IMG_8740I don’t tend to do event plugs on here (as stand alone posts at least), but this one is a little different as it features something that has both happened and is yet to be. It features many people I know well, and sees a guest appearance of my own best doggie pal Maggie.

Sporadically over the last few weeks, my local pub The Bulls Head in Burslem, has paid host to artist Rob Pointon as he painted a scene perhaps typical to most people reading this, the inside of a pub, or maybe more importantly, warm daily pub life.

Rob set up his easel over several nights and it was absolutely fascinating to watch him build up the scene on canvas, a living picture you were part of. Starting with blocks of shaded colour, familiar faces and objects began to take shape gradually over time, before fine details were committed to history with an almost casual looking, but ultimately accurate flick of Robs brush, bringing them to life before our eyes.

The finished work is set to feature in an exhibition at the Bare Wall gallery in Burslem, showcasing art from the Potteries and North Wales. The event details are below, if you are in the area, make sure to call in.

Cheers

http://www.robpointon.co.uk/home 

Rob, signs the finished masterpiece.

Rob, signs the finished masterpiece.

POINTON

An exhibition of new work featuring The Potteries and North Wales.

Saturday 29th March 2014 until Saturday 5th April 2014

Barewall Studio, 2-4 Market Place, Burslem, Stoke on Trent ST6 4AT.

You've been framed! (Thanks to Jim at the Bulls head for the pic)

You’ve been framed! (Thanks to Jim at the Bulls head for the pic)

 

 

 

Glassware Conundrum?

Being a “bit” of a glass pedant, I often get asked questions by folk like “what glass do you think best suits this beer?” and such things.

Now I know there are no hard and fast rules, and to some folks, a glass is purely a method of shifting liquid from table to gob with no thoughts of what benefits using a suitable designed receptacle could bring to the party. Some don’t bother with glasses at all, but we won’t mention those…. ;)

Seriously though, if you are interested, there are loads of books out there on beers and beer styles that offer advice with the associated perceived enhancements to expect, or maybe purely just the historical reasons behind why a specific beer glass is the way it is.

You could also do worse than keeping theses two “info-graphics” to hand. Both of the attached articles were published by Jay Brooks over at Brookston Beer Bulletin (a great source of information on this sort of thing and well worth subscribing to), and whilst both, as Jay states, are only guides, they should give you at least a reasonable idea on what to look for.

Hope they are of some use and that Jay doesn’t mind my sharing again.

Cheers

1 “Today’s info graphic is Which Beer Glass Should I Choose?, created for the Central Blog, the blog for Central Restaurant Products’ Foodservice Equipment & Restaurant Supply.”

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2 “Today’s info graphic is a poster of the most common glassware for beer, with a list of styles below each glass that whoever created the poster believes would work best with each one. I’m not sure I agree with every choice, but at least some styles are listed with multiple glassware. That suggests that none of this is written in stone, which we all know, of course’

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Click here to see the poster full size.

Hawkshead Spring

IMG_8659The night before I set off to Staveley, the home of Hawkshead Brewery, for their annual Spring Festival, someone said to me, “well, there’s not much on” in reference to the beer list. I feigned mock concern but secretly thought, “I doubt it”. The person making the remark is a fan of Hawkshead and the comment I think was not meant in a derisory way either, but if you travel to lots of standard UK beer fests as he does, it’s perhaps an easy mistake to make.

Personally speaking I’ve been to far too many beer festivals that claim to have 25-250 real ales, ciders and perry to tempt you to venture along, only to find a far too high proportion of them are the same old standards you’ve tried at festival after festival, or in your local, or in the supermarket. Don’t get me wrong, I understand it to a degree, festivals cost money, sponsored beer is sponsored beer and of course if that is what the local punters lap up (or what the festival beer list compiler prefers) that I’m afraid is that.

IMG_8667IMG_8658For me though, it’s one of the many reasons why Hawkshead have the format nailed, and in some ways I feel, shows they were early pioneers of the modern “craft” or mixed serving method festivals we are seeing more and more of as years go by. Back in July 2012, I spent two days at the Summer Festival and had a brilliant time, that was the first occasion I’d had the chance to try kegged beers outside of a specialist bar, so to do it at such an event alongside an exciting range of hand pulled cask was just quality.

At this years Spring Fest (or my first) what Hawkshead seemingly decided, was to choose breweries and allow them to showcase a good proportion of their range, rather than take the scattergun approach and take one individual beer from here, there and everywhere. To the untrained eye or for the festival traditionalist that may make the beer list look a little barren at first glance, but when you look at who those breweries were and what they had on offer, you couldn’t help but be happy. I won’t list beers but those breweries were:

Hawkshead (obviously), Magic Rock, Buxton, Ossett, Quantum, Roosters, Siren, Stringers, Thornbridge, Tickety Brew, Tiny Rebel, Weird Beard and Wild. As you can see, still a good mix of local brews and those from further afield.

IMG_8655It’s not just beer choices though that make the Hawkshead festivals so special, they have such a relaxed feel, a bit like taking a stroll around a big farmers country market with an amazing beverage bonus waiting in the wings, all served to absolute perfection. But, if the beer hasn’t got you hooked already, here are five more reasons why it is one of my favourite beer festival locations, and why you should put a few box X’s on your own calendars this coming July and more in 2015.

1. Freedom I love the openness, there is no entry fee to pay, or programme to buy, so if you want to just pop in for a couple of halves you can do, no problem. I can only liken it to De Molen’s Borefts in that respect on there a fee for a glass and programme is charged. A side product of having the space on your own premises I suppose, but it’s definitely a winner that not everyone could replicate.

2. Munchies Then of course you have the fabulous food, from the Beer Kitchen and various local suppliers, all complimenting the occasion well, Brodies Prime sausages being my particular favourite.

3. Location, Location, Location Although the brewery is nestled at the back of a small industrial estate, that estate is in a picturesque little village in the Lake District, the Lake District is beautiful, the air is clean and it JUST FEELS NICE

IMG_86644. Four Legged Friends Whenever we go away for a beery trip, inevitably it means leaving the beloved pooch behind, adding to the organisational nightmare and journey times, besides that, she’s family, I miss having her around and she loves a good beer. This year we took her along, as did many many others and it was really enjoyable for us all. Maggie of course revelled in all the fuss and attention (Diva).

5. Folk Everyone is just so friendly, no doubt a by-product of all the above, relaxed, chilled having fun drinking good beer in fine company. As a city boy I reckon life in Cumbria would be tough, but whenever we are there, it always feels like I’m welcome and makes me want to sell up and move in.

In terms of my favourite beers, who cares really, I had a few that perhaps stood out, but more importantly none stood out for the wrong reasons, meaning either I made excellent choices, or perhaps they were made for me weeks ago without my knowledge..

Cheers to all at Hawkshead, to everyone who’s beer I supped and to those of you I supped them with. See you next time

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