Where to begin? For ale enthusiasts, the Lakes has an amazing choice of locally brewed beers, and no shortage of brilliant pubs to enjoy them in. Cumbria is at the heart of what is being referred to as the ‘real ale revolution’ in Britain, with over 30 microbreweries, as well as the larger, well-established producers. Fortunately for Lake District lovers, the two essential Lakes activities of walking and enjoying an excellent pint go together extremely well. Here’s a selection of favourite Lakeland ales and the best ways to enjoy them.
Founded in 1828 Jennings brewery of Cockermouth can certainly claim tradition and experience on their side and have a fantastic selection of core and seasonal ales, all brewed using pure Lakeland water. The classic (and award winning) Cumberland Ale is the perfect mid-walk refresher, whilst the delightful winter brew Cockle Warmer is ideal for a cold evening by a roaring pub fire. You’ll find Jennings ales served in pubs all over the Lakes, but if you fancy getting a bit closer to the brewing process than a pint glass at the bar, you might consider taking a brewery tour (ending, of course, in a tasting session). Details here.
The Hawkshead Brewery represents the new wave of independent breweries springing up all over the country and produces some excellent beers, crafted for beer-lovers. As an artisan craft brewery, the emphasis is on high quality as opposed to cost or profit. Try their Windermere Pale or Lakeland Gold for a quintessentially thirst-quenching taste of the Lakes, but their specialty and limited edition ales are all worth a try if you spot one on tap somewhere, particularly the intriguing Damson Stout, made with local damsons from the Lyth Valley.
The Hawkshead Brewery also offer a scheduled tour three times a week (details here) and a visit to their Beer Hall, whether you’re doing the tour or not, is not to be missed, having been recommended in The Good Beer Guide, The Good Pub Guide, Sawday’s Special Places to Eat & Drink and Great British Pubs, as well as receiving a Cask Marque award for serving “the perfect pint”. They also have an excellent menu to wash down with your pint.
Also hailing from Hawkshead village is Cumbrian Legendary Ales, brewers of the award winning Loweswater which was judged Champion Golden Ale of Britain in 2011. Visit the Kirkstile Inn, the brewery’s tap house, and one of the most famous bars in the Lakes.
Despite being situated in neighboring Lancashire, Thwaites brewery produce one of the most iconic (and my personal favourite) ales, Wainwright. Named after the legendary fell-walking hero (and native Lancastrian) Alfred Wainwright, this is one of the most delicious and charming ales out there, and is also incredibly refreshing after a day of scrambling about the fells like its namesake.
There’s something unbeatable about going to the Wainwrights’ Inn in Chapel Stile for a pint of Wainwright. Its always on my list of things to do when visiting and is perfectly situated to serve as the end-point of a long and lovely ramble around the Langdales.
For a full list of breweries in the Lakes, visit the excellent brewedincumbria.com. They also have a great guide to matching ale with food, as well as information about upcoming beer festivals in Cumbria.