I Travelled Among Unknown Men
Saturday dawned a little overcast but with the promise of sunshine. So it proved. Too good an opportunity not to have a trip out somewhere. And where better than the Hawkshead Brewery? For they were having a beer festival, making it an even more appealing prospect.
Hawkshead is a very pretty village in Cumbria and inspired local lad Wordsworth to scribble some lines about it. Of course, Hawkshead Brewery isn’t actually in Hawkshead but in Staveley. This makes it accessible by train, but only after changing at Preston and Oxenholme. And then there’s the daft ticket pricing policy, although that can be negated by loitering in First Class and then dashing to the toilet at the first sign of a conductor.
The brewery is only a short distance from the station and is quite impressive for a small outfit. There is a smart beer hall upstairs with a 7 metre bar that sells the full Hawkshead range. There is also a wheelchair capable WC, although no indication how you would get your wheelchair up the stairs in the first place. On this occasion there were extra beers on the bar and a separate festival bar in the large marquis outside.
The outside bar posed one big problem, though. Health & Safety meant that only the dreaded plastic glasses could be used. However, H&S didn’t mean that you couldn’t take a proper glass to the bar and pour the contents of the plastic into it-right in front of staff. Go figure. Anyway after my second visit, I came across a gent of a barman who was quite happy to forgo plastic and serve straight into the real thing. Problem solved.
The festival bar did throw up some tasty treats. Hawkshead Lager, despite being 5%, was nice and tangy but was outshone by their Windermere Pale. This 3.5% little bombshell had a clean, crisp hop bite that punched way above its strength. Very impressive and my favourite of the day. I tried several on the main bar including Bateman’s GHA and Harveys but the guest ales were disappearing fast. With only a firkin of each, I’d suggest that next year they will have to up their beer order quite considerably.
Catching the once-in-a-blue-moon direct train back to Manchester made the return journey literally a snooze. Back in Bury, I was shocked to discover not one, but several hoppy beers on in the Robert Peel. Thoughts of an early night went out the window as my liver (and bladder) went into overdrive to cope with the likes of Acorn Summer Pale and Goose Eye Chinook.