Hawkshead Brewery Beer Hall, Staveley, Cumbria
Having walked the six miles from Kendal in pouring rain and driving wind, we arrived through the doors of Hawkshead’s new Beer Hall in Staveley Mill Yard looking like an especially windswept Atlantic trawler crew. After stripping off the waterproofs and sitting down in two comfortable leather armchairs, we felt that we definitely deserved a beer.
Hawkshead beers are always something to look forward to when I go to the Lake District: consistent and reliable in terms of quality but also interesting. After the long walk the first beer we went for was Windermere Pale, a lovely light juicy pale made with Citra hops. Unusually for Citra beers this was only 3.5% and I enjoyed it to the point that I wanted to buy some bottles to take home. However, unfortunately I was told that it was too weak for bottling.
After the walk I would have been quite happy to knock back three pints of Windermere Pale and be done with it, but there were four more beers to try. Next up was Brodie’s Prime, a deliciously fruity, bitter, slightly smoky porter. The complex citrus taste with a decent level of bitterness reminded me of Crown’s recent Brooklyn Black, a highly-hopped porter which might be mistaken for a black IPA.
The previous, smaller Beer Hall at the Brewery had relied on the cafe Wilf’s next door for food orders but now they have their own kitchen serving a selection of “beer tapas”. With the Brodie’s Prime we had a great Brodie’s Prime Scotch egg and picalilli and a nice chunk of Lancashire cheese with chutney and pickled onions.
I’m afraid I drank the beers in entirely the wrong order for a serious tasting, but next we tried the Hawkshead Bitter, a slightly sulphurous bitter with a floral elderflower taste. Hawkshead Red is an amber beer, dominated by a woody dryness and maltiness. Finally, Lakeland Gold, made with Cascade and First Gold, swept the pine and grapefuit into a rounded creamy bitter finish.
Whilst all the beers we tried were very good, the Brodie’s Prime and Windermere Pale were real standouts. Off-sales include a number of Belgian and other imported bottles as well as Hawkshead bottles, minikegs and even beer-in-a-box. I bought a few Lakeland Lagers to take away, which had a nice floral taste.
If you fancy going to the Beer Hall – which you definitely should for great beer and great food in a great pub – it’s open from 12 noon every day but is only open into the evenings on a Saturday, when they often have live music. They’re having a Winter Beer Festival on 18-20 March 2011 and a Summer Beer Festival on 21-24 July 2011.