BeerCast #3 – Northern Charms

Posted by on Aug 9, 2007 in BeerCasts, English Beer | 4 Comments

For the next stage of the global beer adventure, it seems reasonable to move the short distance over the southern uplands into England. English beer is all about tradition – even if the specific brewery is young, the methods used or the types of ales produced will probably have echoes of a far older time. With that in mind our third BeerCast takes in some classic varieties of English brews – Bitter, Golden Ale, India Pale Ale, and…er…a raisin beer…

1. Bluebird Bitter (4.2%abv)
The Coniston Brewery, Cumbria.
500ml glass bottle

Opened in 1995 behind a picturesque Lakeland pub, the Coniston brewery have already won numerous awards. Part of the secret might be the water they use, which comes from the surrounding Cumbrian fells. Located in the Furness region of the mountainous county, Coniston gained an unfortunate notoriety in 1967 when the intrepid Donald Campbell died on the nearby lake attempting to break his own world waterspeed record. The name of his ill-fated ship was the Bluebird, and it seems fitting the local brewery would take the name for it’s most prized beer. Bluebird Bitter was the Supreme Champion beer of Britain in 1998, as voted at the CAMRA British Beer Festival of that year (co-incidentally the 2007 festival is due to take place this week). The Coniston Brewery will probably be there, aiming for glory once more.

What They Say“Supreme Champion Beer of Britain 1998, a good session ale with a golden colour and a light, clean, quality taste” [Coniston Brewery]. “It has a massive orange fruit aroma from the challenger hops, balanced by biscuity malt. The tangy fruit lingers on the back of the tongue until it develops a hint of orange liqueur. It is, quite simply, a wonderful beer.” [Roger Protz, esteemed beer writer, CAMRA big-cheese and compiler of the Good Beer Guide].

What We Say
Richard – Very nice – light, hoppy, orangey – it tastes fantastic 8
Shovels – This is a very tasty session bitter with a nice colour 8

2. Daleside IPA (4.5%abv)
The Daleside Brewery, Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
500ml glass bottle

Despite the name, India Pale Ale is the quintessential English beer. First produced in London and the brewing mega-hub of Burton-on-Trent for the colonial market, the high alcohol and hop count aided preservation on the long voyage to India and beyond. Traditionally they have high bitter and malty tastes, with plenty of sharp citrus fruits cutting through. This particular IPA is produced specially for a small Lancashire supermarket chain – but the Daleside brewery, founded in the genteel North Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate, produce three draft and seven bottled beers. Another relatively recent company, they moved to their current premises in 1992, and pride themselves on the variety of hops they use – 18 to be exact.

What They Say“This IPA has a fruity malty finish, with aromas of flowers and toast, and plenty of hops.” [].

What We Say
Richard – This is a nice summery outdoorsy IPA 8
Shovels – More character than the Bluebird, but it’s just as good 8

3. Lakeland Gold (4.4%abv)
The Hawkshead Brewery, Hawkshead & Staveley, Cumbria.
500ml glass bottle

Moving on to beer three, which is an example of another English staple – the Golden Ale. Hawkshead Lakeland Gold is a less malty, more hoppy number from a Cumbrian company started by a BCC journalist who decided on a change of career. Begun in a listed barn near the village of Hawkshead by Esthwaite Water, they have now begun operations in a 20 barrel plant at the larger town of Staveley. Also on that site is a Beer Hall, containing the brewery tap, a sampling room, visitor centre and a beer shop selling all varieties of local ale. With noble organisation, their official website has a list of every pub in the Lakes that serves their beers – handy for fans of their brews. But what will the two-man panel make of it?

What They Say“A Golden Ale. Hoppy and uncompromisingly bitter with complex fruit flavours from the blending of a modern English hop, First Gold, with an American, Cascade.” [Hawkshead Brewery]. “A hoppy, bitter golden ale with complex fruit flavours. Champion Best Bitter at the 2005 SIBA National Awards.” [Good Beer Guide].

What We Say
Richard – Not easy to knock back, you have to work for it 7
Shovels – Too bitter and no all-round satisfying taste 4

4. Cain’s Fine Raisin Beer (5%abv)
Cain’s Brewery, Liverpool.
500ml glass bottle

The traditional English beer theme ends here, with our fourth teaser from the skilled people at Liverpool’s largest brewery, Cain’s. Finest Raisin Ale is very simple – a choice light-coloured hoppy beer, with a great big pile of Californian raisins added. This gives a fascinating fruity beer with a deep purple colour. An idea of the current owners, the Dusanj brothers – who rescured the brewery from closure in 2002, and became the first Indian-born owners of a British beer company. Cain’s really is a Liverpool landmark, having been opened by Irish immigrant Robert Cain in 1858. Today, their latest expat owners sit proudly behind a producer that rolls out 120 million pints a year. Each month they release a speciality ale – and every November it’s the Raisin Beer. It’s very popular – winning the Tesco Autumn Beer Challenge in 2003, and the honour of being the ‘Official Beer of Liverpool 2008 – European City of Culture’.

What They Say“A rich, fruity amber ale infused with succulent Californian raisins. Choicest hops give depth, density and complexity.” [Cain’s official website].

What We Say
Richard – Fruity raisins and the oaty/malty tastes – it’s like muesli 7
Shovels – Reminds me of prune juice – which is not a good thing 5

BeerCast panel verdict

Coniston Bluebird – 16/20
Daleside IPA – 16/20
Cain’s Fine Raisin Beer – 12/20
Hawkshead Lakeland Gold – 11/20

Panellists – (from left) Shovels, Richard



We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with Episode 4 – four beers from the South of England, tested by a panel of six BeerCasters. Stay tuned for details…and please leave us comments on the blog or iTunes, or emails. Cheers!


  1. Craig AS
    August 17, 2007

    Who composed the funky theme tune?

  2. Craig AS
    August 17, 2007

    Ulverston’s a town in Cumbria. Used to be in Lancashire. Stan Laurel is from there. There aren’t that many famous Cumbrians so its not hard for me to keep track of these things…
    By the way, don’t do a Wales podcast until I can contribute. We could go on a field trip to Oswestry (okay that’s not in Wales, but its near as dammit).

  3. Richard
    August 18, 2007

    The BeerCast Theme(TM) was composed by Andy, of Andy and Jess, and added with extreme difficulty by all concerned – but once we figured it out, I think it works rather well.

    I’ve never seen Welsh beer for sale anywhere outside Wales, which I think is the way they like it…

  4. Brad
    January 29, 2009

    You are a very smart person!

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