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!

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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.

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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!

Cardiff Craft Crawl

This weekend I went to Cardiff to visit my Dad and his wife. They moved there about three years ago and I always love going to stay, as there is loads going on for a city that is so walkable. There are plenty of great pubs in Cardiff, so I’m sure I’ll write about my visits again at some point, however I’m just going to focus on a handful of places in this post.

thumb_IMG_2559_1024It was a lovely day on Saturday, so we decided to begin our afternoon crawl in The Pen and Wig on Park Grove, which has an excellent beer garden. I’ve been there a few times before and they always have a wide selection of cask beers available, as well as a few keg options too. I chose a beer I hadn’t had before which was recommended to me by one of the lovely bar staff – Mr Mojo Pale Ale from local brewery Crafty Devil. I always try to sample local breweries when I can and this American style pale did not disappoint. Mr Mojo is intensely hoppy and full of tropical flavours and left my Dad and boyfriend jealous – I would highly recommend.

Next on our mini crawl was Zero Degrees Microbrewery and Restaurant, which as well as having a large venue in Cardiff, has bases in Bristol, Reading and Blackheath, London. We had not been here before so I was keen to check it out. I chose a Belgian Witbier which was very much up my street. I would say it has quite a subtle taste but if you like a wheat beer, as I do, then you will like this. I would like to visit Zerodegrees again at some point to try the food, as there were amazing aromas coming from the kitchen during our visit.

Our last pub stop is one of my favourites in Cardiff – Tiny Rebel Brewery. The brewery itself is based in Newport and I’ve not had the chance to visit yet, however the bar in Cardiff is somewhere I try to go to every time I’m there. They always have an extensive selection of beers on tap, mostly their own but a few others too, and I’ve visited before when they’ve had tap takeovers as well. I had the Dutty Vermont Session IPA – a cloudy and golden beer with lovely notes of grapefruit and citrus. I’ve heard some say that they find this a bit hazy, but I like hazy beers personally. My Dad had two pints of Tiny Rebel’s Stay Puft Nitro – a marshmallow porter and probably one of his favourite beers ever. He first discovered this far too easy to drink porter on our last visit to Tiny Rebel and he has been raving about it ever since. My boyfriend also opted for the Stay Puft Nitro and gave it an equally glowing review – commenting on how easily it goes down. I’ve never been much of a porter drinker – I do like it but I always find I can’t drink too much of it – however this one could change my mind.

To finish this blog I want to mention two great bottle shops in Cardiff, which we visited on Sunday to stock up before our trip back up to Manchester. The first is one that my Dad has taken me to before and is a bit of a hidden secret (well, that’s what my Dad says anyway). It’s called Discount Supermarket and it’s on Whitchurch Road. You would never know it without going inside, but this place has one of the most incredible beer selections I’ve seen. It has a huge amount of Belgian beers, as well as lots and lots of beers from UK craft breweries and American breweries. I picked up loads from there, including an old fashioned lemonade IPA from Evil Twin Brewing (Brooklyn, New York), a ‘Wanna go to the Sun’ citra and mosaic pale from Lost and Grounded (Bristol, UK) and a brewery I’d never heard of before called Whiplash who brewed this particular beer at Larkin’s Brewing Company (Wicklow, Ireland).

While on our way to visit Discount Supermarket, we also discovered another gem on Whitchurch Road – Pop’n’Hops. We’d never seen this little place before, which sells both records and craft beer, despite it being there for over a year. It has a great selection of beers from the UK and from across the world and the staff are super friendly and helpful. My boyfriend had a quick peruse of the records, but I was a bit too over excited by the beer selection. We chose a Guerrilla IPA from CR/AK Brewery (Padova, Italy) that I had been keen to try for a while, as well as a few from Welsh breweries West by Three (Swansea) and Rival Brewing Company (Cardiff).

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If you live in Cardiff, or are just visiting or passing through, these bottle shops are not to be missed. If you do find yourself there at some point, please do get in touch and let me know what you picked up!

I haven’t tried most of the beers that I bought in my haul yet so look out for a feature on those in an upcoming blog…

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Coming soon…

 

Cloudwater Brewery Tour

I started a new job in February and as a farewell present, my colleagues at my old work very kindly booked me tickets for a Cloudwater Brewery Tour. Ah, they know me so well!

Along with the gift, they printed off this article in the Manchester Evening News about Cloudwater being rated as the second best brewery in the world. I had sampled their beers many, many times however I’d never been on the tour, so I was really excited to learn more.

Last Saturday the day finally arrived and we headed over to the Cloudwater Brewery, based at the Piccadilly Trading Estate. I’d been to the actual brewery itself once before as it used to open as a tap room on a Saturday before they opened the Cloudwater Barrel Store on Sheffield Street. I’ve heard that the plan is for the tap room to re-open next door to the brewery quite soon, but I’m not sure exactly when that will happen.

The tour began at 10.45am and we were immediately offered a choice of two IPAs as we arrived. My boyfriend and I both went  for the 2.9% option instead of the alternative, which was pretty strong at 6.5%. Neither of us had eaten any breakfast, choosing a lie in instead – definitely not advisable before going on a brewery tour!

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Breakfast?

One thing that I thought was really good is that everyone on the tour was told that they could help themselves to beer throughout. We didn’t top ourselves up again because we knew there would be more tasters later, but I felt that it helped add to the relaxed atmosphere of the tour.

We were very lucky to be visiting the brewery on a brew day, which we were told rarely happens at the weekend. The reason they were brewing on a Saturday was due to something going wrong during the brew on the Friday, something else we were told happens quite rarely, with only around 1 in every 90 brews going wrong. I am no brewing expert, but I thought this was pretty impressive, especially considering how many different beers the brewery produces.

Cloudwater doesn’t have a core range of beers and instead makes seasonal beers, using ingredients that are readily available. For example, they wouldn’t tend to brew a strawberry beer in the winter and would usually brew darker beers instead. As of last weekend they were on there 425th recipe – not bad in only three years!

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Shot from inside the brewery

The first part of the tour focused on a brief history of Cloudwater, as well as a general overview of the brewing process. We were actually stood inside the main brewery floor during this part, but did have to move eventually so the brewer working hard that day could continue with his work. Like on most other brewery tours I’ve been on, we got the opportunity to try different types of malt used during the brewery process and various different types of hops were also passed round for us to break apart.

It was then time for the best part – the guided tasting! We got to try two different beers: one was a pale ale brewed with mango and the other was an IPA, which if I remember rightly was made with Centennial hops. I really liked both, but the second one was particularly delicious and went down far too easily.

Towards the end of the tour, our guide gave everyone the chance to ask him questions. This was really interesting as it provided the opportunity to understand so much more about the brewery. For instance, although Cloudwater is only three years old, it’s such a well thought of brewery that I had just assumed it’s quite big, however that’s not the case. Although it is growing in notoriety and has increased the size of its team, it is still a relatively small brewery. They don’t export their beer at all at the moment except for special events. I asked our guide if they’d noticed a difference in demand since they were named second best brewery in the world. He told us that this had made some difference, however demand has been growing since early 2016 and that the brewery is now producing five times more beer now than it was then. There was a group of people on our tour who had come all the way from Seattle too, so their reputation is clearly spreading far and wide.

We also learnt more about hops. Apparently it’s not as simple as breweries being able to pick and choose what hops they would like to use each week, but instead they have to take out a “hop contract” which lasts a year. I also found out that Citra hops – the most expensive in the world – cost £28 per kilo! Perhaps I’m being a bit nerdy here, but I found it all fascinating.

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Barrels inside the brewery

The tour was now coming to a close, but the fun wasn’t quite over yet. At the beginning we were all given a token which could be exchanged for a beer of our choice at the Cloudwater Barrel Store, around a 5-10 minute walk away from the main brewery. We made a quick food stop on the way and then headed over. I had the MCR DIPA CITRA BBC which was a bold and tasty choice full of tropical flavours.

I had a brilliant time at the Cloudwater Brewery Tour and would recommend to anyone interested in brewing, enjoys drinking good beer or is looking for something different to do on a visit to Manchester.