Taste Cumbria Beer Festival, Cockermouth and Pete Brown
Having explored quite a lot of Cumbrian beers recently, it was good to cap it off with a visit to the Beer Festival at Taste Cumbria. The CAMRA-run festival at the Jennings Brewery was part of a programme full of exciting food events in Cockermouth.
Because there was so much on, we only got to spend a few hours at the festival, but enjoyed a few of the range of Cumbrian beers and got to talk with some luminaries of the Cumbrian beer scene including Neil Bowness and his other half Sharon, Jeff Pickthall, Hardknott Alex and Coniston’s Ian Bradley and Helen Bradley. The beers were a good representation of the Cumbrian beer landscape and included some excellent examples from the progressive fringe, including Hawkshead NZPA, Hardknott Code Black, Coniston Infinity IPA, Coniston No 9 Barley Wine and Stringers Furness Abbey.
In addition I got to try a couple of beers from breweries that were less familiar to me. Hesket Newmarket Scafell Blonde was a pleasant light blonde of which it would be easy to sink a few pints after a long summer walk. Great Gable Yewbarrow from Egremont was a great beer hiding behind an unassuming pumpclip: a 5.5% strong dark mild that was packed with flavour.
We also got to chat with Pete Brown at the festival, and on the Sunday we went to his talk and tutored tasting. We tried a perry, cider and five beers from the festival, which Pete talked us through in an engaging and informative manner.
He also did a couple of readings from his books, including his new one, Shakespeare’s Local, about the history of The George Inn in Southwark. It sounded like it should be as fascinating and funny as the rest of his books, an exercise in studying the wood by looking very closely at a single tree. The book is released on 8 November and will be a Radio 4 Book Of The Week in December. Pete also talked about his new project surveying international ciders and perries for a world cider guide, which sounds like it should be an interesting survey of an drink that isn’t usually considered in a global context.
Sadly, I missed a few of the other beer events, including Jeff Pickthall talking about the more esoteric beers of Cumbria (although Jeff very kindly gave us a bottle of his aged stock of No 9) and Pete and Jeff’s pub quiz on the Saturday night. But it has been a fantastic weekend and everybody involved, especially including Neil and Sharon, deserve a lot of thanks for the work they put in to showcasing the best of Cumbria’s beers prominently alongside the best of its food.