Few situations encourage spells of idle thought like long-distance car journeys. On the recent lengthy road trip to Cumbria, for example, several things crossed my mind on the three hour drive home. How do other service stations compete with the sheer awesomeness of Tebay? Would BeerCast Paul’s stag do have been improved by him wearing that Freddie Mercury costume? Will the Kernel eventually run out of hop combinations for their beers? And which is the best brewery tap in the country?
The answers to those questions are, of course, a) They can’t b) Enormously c) Not in my lifetime and d) … Hawkshead?
Despite the unremitting boozehoovering that took place over the weekend, two intrepid car loads managed to break up the journey back to Scotland at the Hawkshead beer hall for ‘lunch’. Actually, we did indeed have food – extremely nice it was, too – and this got me thinking about the perfect brewery bar. What are the kinds of things that it needs to have? Here’s our list…
– Lots of beer lines
– Plenty of wood
– Viewing panels onto sleek brewing equipment
– Chalk board with what beers are on
– Shop to take away bottled offerings
– People in boiler suits and wellies wandering around
– Regular beer festivals
– A decent range of food (or bar snacks, at least)
– Scents of the brewery wafting freely
*Would have been nice, following our camping weekend
The Hawkshead Beer Hall at Staveley fulfils all of these criteria – with the added bonus of being situated in a mini retail park of cool stuff. No Halfords or Pets at Home here – they are neighbours of an artisan bakery, with coffee places along the block, and an enormous mountain bike warehouse across the way. You could very easily spend several hours there, wandering between the units, picking up all kinds of treats for the journey home.
The brewery tap itself – which contains two bars – looks as if a whole pile of money has been spent putting it together. About ten cask lines were on, with beers such as Windermere Pale (England’s Jarl?), Brodie’s Prime, Cumbrian 5 Hop, USPA, Hawkshead Red – not to mention Lakeland Lager on keg. Actually, that Fyne Ales comparison might be a good one – they, like Hawkshead, are magnificent at strongly flavoured pale beers, and pack in a few stronger IPA’s when they need to (i.e. all the time, these days).
Fyne also have a brewery bar, similarly new and shiny – albeit smaller, due to the size of their farmstead. The Lovibonds beer hall in Henley has also become very popular. We had a fantastic few hours at the Camden Town brewery tap the other month – another example of someone bringing the people to the beer, rather than the other way around. It may be all in the mind that beer tastes better on the site of where it was made – but with these breweries making that extra effort, it’s something I’m quite happy to discover.
Which other breweries have their own bars built into their premises? Does it increase the experience of drinking their beer? Hawkshead also run their own beer festival – check here and here for two reports on just how good brewery tap jamborees can be…