Thursday 30th April 2015
The story of this much-respected brewery began in 2002 when it was established at Town End Farm in Hawkshead, which is to be found near the head of Esthwaite Water. The entrepreneur behind its creation was Alex Brodie who had finished his 30 year career as a foreign correspondent for the BBC. A 7 bbl (brewers’ barrels) plant was obtained from the Border Brewery of Berwick-upon-Tweed who had merged with the Hadrian Brewery of Newcastle upon Tyne.
It was installed in a 17th Century barn and so began the first epoch of the brewery’s life. The beers proved to be very popular and it was soon apparent that more space was needed.
So they moved the plant to a former wood mill behind the main street of the village of Staveley, which is on the other side of Lake Windermere.
A quantum leap was made in 2010 when a new glass-fronted building was constructed adjoining the brewery.
Thus the Beer Hall was created as a brewery tap. Interestingly it is built around two existing fermentation tanks which can be seen at the entrance. It has a fully equipped kitchen that is under the control of a renowned chef.
This structure is on two levels with a first floor drinking and eating area in addition to the bar room below. Behind the upper room is the brewery’s office and it possible to walk past this to a balcony that acts as a viewing platform for the actual brewery.
Also during 2010 the brewery’s equipment was renewed with a new capacity of 20 bbls per brew. This can deliver 120 bbls of beer a week to the fermentation vessels, of which there are eight. I did not see a bottling plant but they do produce a lot of beer in this format. It might be done off site. The annual turnover of the brewery is £2.5 million and they employ over 20 personnel including no less than five brewers.
Inside the main beer hall there is a very long bar with sixteen shiny stainless steel hand pumps and the furniture is mostly made of light coloured pine with a few brown leather sofas.
On the ground floor there is a wall with photographs of barley fields, along with names of all of the various malts used here.
On the first floor it is hops that are displayed in this manner with the names of varieties from all over the world.
There are six beers in the core range and these are Windermere Pale (3.5%); Bitter (3.7%); Red (4.2%); Lakeland Gold (4.4%); Brodie’s Prime (4.9%) and Lakeland Lager (5.0%). All six were available when Russell and myself called in. Five were offered in cask form except the Lager which was keg, although it can sometimes be found in cask. These six beers are known as the Lakeland range.
There is also the Speciality range. These seven beers were originally intended to be “one-off” editions but because of their popularity tend be brewed fairly often.
Three were available from the cask when we called in and these were: ITI (3.5%), made with New Zealand hops; Dry Stone Stout (4.5%) and 5 Hop Ale (5.0%) made with English and American hops.
Another two were on keg: Great White (4.8%), a wheat beer and IPA (7.0%), in the American style.
There is music every Sunday from 17.00 to 20.00 and often on other days. There are also brewery tours with tastings and they hold Spring and Summer Beer Festivals in March and July. Lots of things things are going on here and despite being in a village it is easy to get to.
The Hawkshead Brewery and Beer Hall, Staveley Mill Yard, Back Lane, Staveley,
Cumbria LA8 9LR
Tel: 01539 822644 (Brewery); 01539 825260 (Beer Hall).
Open: Monday-Thursday 12.00-18.00; Friday-Saturday 12.00-23.00; Sunday 12.00-20.00
Food is offered as follows: Monday-Thursday 12.00-15.00; Friday-Saturday 12.00-23.00; Sunday 12.00-18.00
Staveley railway station is on the Oxenholme to Windermere line. It is served by an irregular interval timetable that is not necessarily hourly, so you need to check times before travel. At Oxenholme there are connections to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Preston, Manchester, Birmingham and London.
From Staveley station turn left into Station Road. At the end turn right into Main Street. You will soon see Back Lane on the left. This bears left but if you continue straight on you will see the brewery directly in front of you.
Bus 555 starts in Lancaster (hourly, every 2 hours on Sunday) via Kendal, from where there are more (half-hourly, every hour Sundays). The 555 continues through Windermere and on to Ambleside and Grasmere to Keswick. It is a very useful route, serving many good pubs and passing through beautiful scenery.
In Staveley it stops at Abbey Square. This is at the intersection of Station Road and Main Street. So from this point the route to the brewery is the same as that from the railway station given above.