Hawkshead Brewery

Last week I went on holiday to the Lake District with my boyfriend and our puppy, Chips. I’d never been to the Lakes before and we had a fantastic time filled with lots of walks, drinking great beer in cosy pubs and eating the best food. One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley. We’d wanted to visit for ages and when we realised that where we were staying in Bowness-on-Windermere was not too far away, we decided that we must go.

To get to Hawkshead, we had to get a bus to Windermere and then a train to Staveley. The trains are only every hour, despite it only being a 10 minute train ride, but we didn’t mind as it gave us an opportunity to have a look around Windermere. We stopped off at a great pet shop and bought Chips a toy turkey and some treats to keep him happy. He got very excited, as it was his first time in a pet shop and dragging him out of there so we could catch our train was somewhat of a challenge!

IMG_4851
Rob and Chips

We arrived at the tiny station in Staveley and worked out that it was about a five minute walk from the train. The village of Staveley is small and quaint, with lots of picturesque cottages. On the way to the brewery, we passed a few local restaurants, a coffee shop and a place selling gelato which all looked welcoming. We arrived at Mill Yard where the brewery is and realised that it was the modern looking building that we had seen as we were coming in on the train. At first Mill Yard appeared similar to many of the industrial estates where you can often find brewery or two, however we were surprised to see a chocolate shop which a local told us “sold the best chocolates you’ll ever eat” and also a bakery. We wondered if these places had already existed or whether the presence of the brewery attracted these other great businesses to Mill Yard.

We’d missed the brewery tour unfortunately, which runs every day at 1pm. For £10 per person you get a tour of the brewery which lasts around 45 minutes and choice of a pint or two halves at the end. As we’ve been on many brewery tours before, we were mainly interested in tasting the beer, so we found a good table, got Chips occupied with his new treats and turkey toy and headed to the bar. I started with a half of “Bright Light, Long Nights” a 4.3% Florida Weisse which was fruity and clean with a subtle tartness to it. My boyfriend Rob went for the “Thyme after Thyme” which is a 4.5% gose made with lemon thyme, thyme, sea salt and black pepper. This beer intrigued both of us as it was unlike anything we’d ever tried before – a really strong taste of the sea came through, but in a good way if that makes sense. Rob said it was one of the best goses he’d ever had, so high praise indeed.

1fb537aa-657b-42af-8d9d-f6cb3f5f62a8.JPG
Me with a sleepy Chips!

The Beer Hall at Hawkshead is very welcoming and all of the staff were extremely friendly and helpful during our visit. They have a great food menu too – we didn’t eat ourselves, however we did look longingly at the food being served around us while we drank and chatted with a variety of different people. You could very easily spend a whole day here, eating great food and great beer and talking – as long as you like dogs that is – the Hawkshead Beer Hall is very dog friendly and we met loads of lovely pups during our visit, to the delight of Chips!

Other highlights on the beer front included the “Great White” a 4.8% cloudy, botanical, wheat beer which was extremely light and drinkable and the “Red” a 4.2% sweet and malty red ale. Rob finished our afternoon at Hawkshead with an 8.5% “Tonka Stout”, which tasted beautiful and the flavour of the Tonka bean definitely came through. I finished with the much lighter “Lakeland Gold” on cask – a hoppy and fruity golden ale which is award-winning and I can see why. Hawkshead also has a great bottle shop on site where you can buy beers to take away, along with a wide variety of merch. I was very tempted by the hoody but decided to save my money – oh well, there’s always next time.

We had a great day at the Hawkshead Brewery and I’d highly recommend stopping off there for at least a few hours if you’re a beer lover on holiday in the Lakes. We will definitely be back at some point, especially as the Beer Hall (and the Lakes in general) are so dog friendly. I’m now thinking ahead to this weekend as on Saturday we are planning to visit the new venue for the Grub food fair in Manchester’s Green Quarter (near where we used to live!). We will also be popping into our local favourites Runaway Brewery and the newly re-opened Beatnitz Republic tap room, before heading over to Hemsley House for the fantastic Salford Beer Festival which we look forward to every year. Look out for a blog next week on my trip to Salford Beer Festival!

Bruges: De Halve Maan Brewery

I’ve been so busy again recently that I’ve barely had any time for writing. Works been hectic and my boyfriend and I are trying to buy a house, so that’s also taking up a lot of our attention right now. I’m going to have to start writing more again though, as there are so many great events and beer festivals coming up  in Manchester over the next few months! Before I get back to writing about more local beer though, I am going to finally write about our fantastic trip to the De Halve Maan Brewery in Bruges this summer.

I first heard about De Halve Maan Brewery from reading this Buzzfeed article about the two mile, underground beer pipeline that transports beer from the brewery in central Bruges to the bottling plant outside the city. Ever since reading that article I’d been really keen to visit the brewery, and of course I’d already sampled De Halve Maan’s wonderful Brugse Zot, so was excited to taste it again straight from the source.

33022149600_e5c998f06f_b
Entrance to De Halve Maan Brewery

We decided to book on to the Deluxe tour which was €19 each and included a guided tasting of three beers. The standard tour is cheaper and is about an hour quicker, so is a good option if you don’t have much time or need to stick to a budget. You also still get to try Brugse Zot unfiltered – the only place where you can do so. We booked in advance, but most people appeared to show up on the day to join a tour.

When you first arrive, it feels a lot more commercial than a lot of other breweries – mainly because there are so many people – but once you get inside the brewery itself it feels very different. A complete contrast between much newer, shinier equipment and the older, traditional parts of the brewery. Our Tour Guide, Ann, was extremely knowledgeable and took us through much of the history of the brewery, as well as the specifics of Belgian brewing. Ann’s vast knowledge and enthusiasm really made the tour feel special and she was happy to take questions and give recommendations.

One part of the tour that was unexpected but definitely one of the highlights was climbing the staircase up to the very top of the brewery and taking in the view of Bruges. It was spectacular and controversially, I thought the view from the brewery was even better than from the Belfry which we had climbed earlier that day. A word of caution though for anyone not comfortable with climbing lots of stairs or being in confined spaces – there are lots of steps that are quite steep and hard to climb (even harder to climb down because they are very narrow). Fortunately there are a few areas to rest along the way!

View_on_Bruges_from_De_Halve_Maan_brewery_(12) (1).jpg
View from the roof

The final part of the tour was the best bit – tasting the beer! We were led down to the brewery tasting room which had an traditional feel with dark mahogany furniture. It’s very much like how you would imagine an old beer hall to be. We were then taken through a guided tasting of the unfiltered Brugse Zot, Dubbel, Triple or Quadruple (you can choose whether to have the Triple or Quadruple, but if you are in a couple or with a  friend choose one each so you can try both!).

Ann expertly guided us through the tour, even telling us what cheese you should pair with each different style. She inspired us to plan our own Belgian beer and cheese night, which I can’t wait to organise! Apparently the Dubbel and Tripel goes well with a lighter, creamy cheese like a brie or camembert, whereas the stronger Quadruple complements a strong blue cheese. It was also interesting taking part in the tasting as a group because everyone seemed to have a different experience and favoured certain beers over others. I really enjoyed the Dubbel for instance, but quite a few people on our table found that they couldn’t finish theirs (I wasn’t complaining…). The unfiltered Brugse Zot was also amazing – so much more satisfying that the version you find more readily across Belgium. Unfortunately you don’t get to see the infamous two mile beer pipe, however Ann told us that she gets a lot of questions about it!

IMG_3059 (1)
The beer recommended to us by Ann

Following our tour, we decided to stay in the De Halve Maan bar for a little longer. My boyfriend had loved the Tripel we had tried and was also wearing a t-shirt he had bought at Cantillon Brewery in Brussels (well known for their lambic beers brewed with wild yeast), so Ann recommended another beer to him that she thought he’d like – the Straffe Hendrik Bruges Tripel ale, re-fermented with a wild “Brettanomyces” yeast. It was delicious. She also brought over a leaflet for us about the beer with the full description and information about how it was made. We really appreciated this and were really struck by how passionate and attentive Ann was as a tour guide. She clearly loves her job and we feel very lucky that she guided us through our trip to De Halve Maan.

So if you ever find yourself in Bruges, make sure you visit the De Halve Maan Brewery – it will be well worth your time. Even if you don’t have time for a tour, make sure you order an unfiltered Brugse Zot and sit in the brewery’s lovely outdoor bar and watch the world go by.