Thursday 30th April 2015
Ings is a very small village between Windermere and Staveley on the road (A591) to and from Kendal. Although the main building is obviously very old and really was once a watermill, the pub came into being in more recent times. It originated as a wood turning mill making bobbins, shuttles and cart wheels for the Lancashire Cotton spinning industry. I have failed to find out when the old mill was built but I do know it opened as a pub in 1990.
Its modern story began in the middle eighties when father and son Alan and Brian Coulthwaite were drinking in a pub nearby and decided that they wanted their own. At Ings the old watermill had been converted into the Millholme County Hotel. They purchased it as it would ultimately be ideal for their venture as it had space for a small brewery. They took it over on 11th May 1987.
It had a license to sell alcohol to residents only. There were 9 bedrooms, later reduced to 8. A lot of work was done to make it a proper Public House. Eventually it opened its doors to the general public on 8th December 1990. It was the first ever pub in the village! Then it went on to win a number of major awards for CAMRA and other organisations. However the desire for an in-house brewery remained unfulfilled.
The major problem preventing the establishment of brewery was that the village had no suitable sewerage drainage suitable to deal with the waste products.
The water company are particularly singled out for criticism as they were intransigent and stalled a lot regarding installing a modern system in the village.
In the end the Coulthwaites were forced to expend £60,000 on a treatment system.
The brewery equipment has a very interesting history. They bought it via an on-line auction and it comes from the USA. They collected it in Taccoa, Georgia and loaded it into a container. This eventually arrived in Ings and was unloaded in November 2005.
It is a 5 bbl (brewers barrel) plant which would normally produce around 20 firkins of beer. It came from the Hops Bar & Grill Brew Pub of Daytona, Florida which presumably upgraded.
A source, not connected with the brewery, says that it was constructed in 1997/8 at a New Jersey Correctional Facility. I think we would refer to that as a prison. If true, a very interesting story.
As mentioned before, the water treatment had been installed and after converting the kit to English conditions the first brew was undertaken on 4th July 2006.
A very appropriate date considering the ancestry of the equipment. The beer was Collie Wobbles, a regular in the current range of beers.
There are twelve regular cask beers that mostly have a canine theme in their titles; these are as follows: Collie Wobbles* (3.7%); Dog’th Vader* (5.0%); Shih tzu faced (7.0%); Golden Retreiver (4.3%); Windermere Blonde* (4.2%); Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby (4.0%); A Bit’er Ruff* (4.1%); Isle of Dogs (4.5%); Blackbeard* (3.7%); Ruff Justice (4.2%); W’ruff Night* (5.0%) and A Winter’s Tail (4.3%).
Obviously not all of the beers are available all of the time. I have placed an * next to the six that were offered on tap when myself and Russell visited. What’s more, in addition to the house products there were a number of guest beers on when we called in, as follows:
Theakston (Masham, North Yorks) Old Peculier (5.6%); Coniston Brewery (Coniston, Cumbria) Bluebird (3.6%) & Asrai (4.0%); Old School (Wharton, Lancs) Headmaster (4.5%) and Cumbrian Legendary Ales (Hawkshead, Cumbria) Loweswater Gold (4.3%). I think you will agree this a great selection.
Now an odd tale. Some of these beers are also available in bottle and cask under the Windermere Brewery Company name with different titles, see below. Original beer names shown in brackets. They are Orrest Head (Collie Wobble), Wordsworth Golden (Windermere Blonde) and Belle Island Bitter (Isle of Dogs).
The reason behind the management registering a new company in 2014 is a rather bizarre.
It seems that hotels and pubs wouldn’t stock their beers as they thought they would be promoting a rival for accommodation and dining. There’s nowt so strange as folk! Get real, it’s a beer, not an advertisement!
Needless to say, those pubs now stock the beers under the new name. What a strange story!
Inside the main entrance there’s a choice of bars. The one facing the road is smaller yet comfortable. The other is considerably larger. It has a door to a small beer garden and terrace overlooking the River Gowan and it also has a window that looks into the brewery cellar with a part of the actual equipment being visible. The bar counter is quite ornate and obviously had a previous use. I think that in summer, this pub really comes into its own.
There are plans to build a bridge over the river and there construct a new brewery along with a further eight letting rooms. I have seen the artist’s impression of what it would look like and its design is very sympathetic to its surroundings using a lot of local stone.
Once a month there is a story telling night. The pub has won a massive amount of awards including CAMRA Westmorland’s Pub of the Year no less than 14 times. It has also been awarded CAMRA Cumbria Pub of the Year 5 times, CAMRA Regional (West Pennines) Pub of the Year twice.
It was also second in CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year contest; and these are only the CAMRA awards. There have been many others from trade and tourism organisations. They are all displayed around a fireplace.
So, to sum up. This is a wonderful place to stay, eat or just pop in for drink, especially if you have a canine with you.
The Watermill Hotel and Brewery, Ings, near Staveley, Cumbria LA8 9PY
Tel: 01539 821309
Open: Monday-Saturday 11.00-23.00; Sunday 11.00-22.30
Food is offered: Monday-Sunday 12.00-21.00
There are bus stops outside of the pub. Bus 555 starts in Lancaster (hourly, every 2 hours on Sunday) via Kendal and Staveley, The service is more frequent from Kendal (half-hourly, every hour Sundays). The 555 continues through Windermere and on to Ambleside and then through Grasmere to Keswick.
It is a very useful route, serving many good pubs and passing through beautiful scenery.