Feel Good Hit Of The Summer: Hawkshead Summer Beer Festival
It’s been a bit hard squeezing in time to be beer geeky recently, as I’ve been training to walk the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge for the Alzheimer’s Society. However we did manage to make a trip to the Hawkshead Summer Beer Festival last weekend, as it was conveniently positioned next to the outdoors.
After a long walk through the Lyth Valley on a sunny Saturday afternoon, we showered, napped and headed out to Staveley Mill Yard and the Hawkshead Brewery. No dedicated beer geek would be seen dead at a beer festival on a Saturday night: all the good beers have gone and the place is full of people drinking to have fun, rather than carefully rating the beers in four categories and posting the results online, as the brewer intended. No, for the beer geek it is best to get to the festival on the first day, or even to wangle an entry to the trade session, so you’re only drinking with the judges and professionals, when you can impart your helpful advice and learned critiques of their beers to the brewers directly.
This particular Saturday night at a beer festival was full of people having fun: local businesses had food stalls out, a band was competently playing songs from the DFS adverts. Loads of drinkers – yummy alt mummies, mountain bikers, suspicious teenagers, orange girls caked in makeup, fell runners, middle-aged men in aged brewery polo shirts – were outside in the decidedly un-Cumbrian weather, but they also packed the new Beer Hall, the older River Bar and queued for the loos.
We got a seat in the River Bar and noticed, as could be expected, that the beer selection was dwindling by the third evening, and the pump clips were turning their faces away by the minute. I had a feeling that the conservative Cumbrian palate might have shunned the hoppiest beers in favour of the easy drinking bitters. However this didn’t seem to have been the case. In fact, they were guzzling down 6-7% New World hopped IPAs like no-one’s business.
However the beer list was so good (and with such a focus on hoppy pales) that even the leftovers were brilliant: Hawkshead’s own spiky USPA and NZPA were just what the doctor ordered, and Dark Star Renaissance did well in a similar weight-range. Presumably only because Hawkshead has good stocks of its own beers, Windermere Pale was still on the bar outside, one of the few session beers left standing, and one of the best.
The one beer that seemed unfairly overlooked, to the point that it was the only one on the River Bar by the end of the night, was Moor Old Freddy Walker. It made sense that this 7.3% rich, dark, fruity vintage ale was left moping around the bar at the end of the warm evening when all the other beers had been paired off. However it made for easy pickings for the predatory beer geek, and paid off in spades.
Hawkshead was a great, inclusive, friendly beer festival on a Saturday night. I’m sure it would probably be very enjoyable on a Thursday afternoon too.