Last Saturday was a big day for Mr T. It was his 26th birthday. As the birthday boy he got to choose the activity for the day and being the beery inspiration behind my ticking challenge he chose to visit a brewery (and taste a few samples). A few weeks ago we tried the well hopped range from Hawkshead Brewery, and really enjoyed them. Completely by chance (or an inspired bit of forward thinking) their brewery was only about a half hour drive away from the cottage we were staying in on our jollys. So, after lunch we drove down the windey Cumbrian roads heading for Staveley, where Hawkshead Brewery is now based. We found it snuggled away at the back of a bizarre industrial estate/artisan shop complex.
The brewery itself is an impressive building with modern designed glass frontage, and inside was a long bar full of Hawkshead's range of beer, as well as an offering from Brooklyn. Lucky me, I was designated driver... only fair on Birthday Boy's special day, or so I was informed! Mr T was like a child in a sweetie shop and excitedly chose a pint of USPA a 6% American hopped beer served on cask. I had a sneaky sip, and it reminded me very much of the well hopped range. Lovely.
The start of the tour was postponed, apparently some of another party booked on the tour had travelled to the other Staveley in the Lake District, and were rushing around Lake Windermere to get to the right one, providing Mr T with a chance to try the much acclaimed Windermere Pale. A 3.5% cask version of the 6% well hopped beer (my favourite of the three) and it went down a treat in the Cumbrian sunshine.
When the other tour participants arrived, we began in the hop loft. Mr T was in his element and his eyes lit up when he saw box after box of hops. The smell was impressive. I have seen hops before, and smelt them, but never on this scale. We got an opportunity to get a good whiff of different types. This was really interesting as you could pick out the flavours in the raw hops that you can smell and taste in the beer. In particular, Citra stood out, as it was very reminiscent of Windermere Pale.
Next was the malt loft, where again we got chance to have a good sniff and even a taste of some of the malts. The stand out was the chocolate malt, which had a lovely dark, rich almost coffee like taste.
We were then taken downstairs into the main part of the brewery and shown all the different components. The cold and hot liquor tanks, the mash tun and the huge copper. The beer making process was explained, which definitely helped my understanding, although a little still went over my head... apparently a home brewing lesson is in the pipeline to help me out!
The conditioning room was fit to burst with full casks and we were lucky to lay our eyes on a couple of secret experiments in whiskey casks that presumably will be available later in the year. Keeping fingers crossed that we'll be able to get hold of some when they're out!
After the tour had finished Mr T made the most of the visit, trying Cumbrian 5 Hop on cask and Lakeland Lager, that was beautifully refreshing. After making a few purchases at the bottle shop (which stocked bottles from a range of breweries) we headed home.
My first brewery tour that I can remember, and an informative and interesting experience, even without getting to sample to wares! Am surprised and glad that I am enjoying this education malarkey so much... Back to ticking soon though I hope!