We took a short weekend break to Cumbria this weekend, destination The Woolpack Inn and the village of Boot in the Eskdale valley. It’s around a two and a half hour drive from Stoke with the options of a safe but longer route around the south of Lake Windermere, or a shorter and for the more adventurous, the route around the top of Windermere, then taking on the often treacherous Wrynose and Hardknott Passes.
Always up for a challenge and being a lover of all things Hardknott, we went for the latter. During the planning stages I noticed that our journey took us to within four miles of The Hawkshead Brewery and Beerhall, they had beer, good food and most importantly were “dog friendly” (which tended to drive most of our decisions) all boxes ticked, RESULT.
The brewery is located in the little village of Staveley not Hawkshead as the name may suggest, nestled in the middle of a small industrial estate is this little gem of a place.
The all new shiny beer hall looks to have been an addition to the older brewery main building, it compliments it perfectly though and clearly been built with large amounts of visitors in mind having loads of parking and plenty of outside tables too, although these weren’t in use as it was piddling down with rain in true Lakeland style.
Inside the beer hall it’s a large modern room with plenty of seating and a generous bar area where several Hawkshead beers were available. There is also a decent beer shop too with a good choice of foreign bottles available from Europe and the USA as well as Hawksheads own selection.
As I was driving I had to make a choice although I’d love to have tried them all, so I opted for half of the lovely dark roasted malty Brodies Prime whilst Mrs H went for Lakeland Lager which is described as “It’s Lager, but it’s tasty”.. 😉
I can vouch for the food to it was delicious. We both opted for the sirloin steak and caramelised onion ciabatta sandwich. The steak was beautifully cooked, buttery onions and a lightly toasted bread, Brodies Prime suited it perfectly.
Knowing we were calling in I’d made contact with Matt Clarke the head brewer at Hawkshead earlier that day, he’d kindly offered to meet us on arrival I just had to message him on Twitter and he’d pop around from the brewhouse. Sounds perfect until you hit Cumbria where all forms of mobile telecommunication ceases to work. Meeting Matt was going to prove difficult, I had no idea what he looked like so I couldn’t try and spot him. After a while one of the bar staff kindly pointed Matt out to me, but he was deeply engrossed in conversation with an American guy who clearly knew a thing or two about beer and brewing.
I’d taken a couple of beers along from our area that I thought Matt would like, Lymestone Stone Brood and Buxton Axe Edge, so I hovered before jumping in and taking my chance to introduce myself, thinking I would leave them to it and head off. It turns out that this particular American was not just a beer enthusiast, it was Jim Busch, Director of Victory Brewing Co.
Better still they were just off for an impromptu tour of the brewery and I was invited along, BONUS!
*Apologies for the poor picture quality
It was a brewery tour like no other, Matt asked and I agreed that he dispense with the normal beer tour basics, but it was then really interesting to watch Jim and Matt talking about brewing kit and how much things differed, sticking noses into this and that, generally getting excited about beer and brewing.
Twenty minutes later we were done and back in the Beer Hall tasting the wonderful Hawkshead NZPA, keep an eye out for this as it’s not currently a regular beer, it should be, it’s THAT good. It’s made using four New Zealand hops, Green Bullet, Riwaka, Motueka & Nelson Sauvin and is a real hopfest in a glass.. 🙂
Refreshed then and extremely happy we left Matt and Jim chatting away and set off for The Woolpack and the passes…
If you are in the area and want a haven from the normal touristy stop off points in the Lakes, I couldn’t recommend Hawkshead enough, even dogs and the kids are welcome. Better still stay in the area to take full advantage of the beers on offer, there is camping nearby and a range of B&B’s too.
Lastly keep an eye on their website for news of the onsite beer festivals, having sampled what’s on offer I know I will be.
Big thanks to Matt and everyone at Hawkshead for making us so welcome.