Thursday 28th April 2016
Winster is a small village just over two miles south-east of Bowness on Lake Windermere. The Brown Horse is to be found just outside of the hamlet in the direction of the lake. Its origins go back to the 1850s when it was established as a roadside inn. As is not uncommon its early history is difficult to unravel, although it almost certainly started as a stand alone pub, not allied to a brewery. Quite possibly it had its own brew house.
At some time it came under the control of Dutton’s Brewery based in Blackburn. This information comes from a postcard of 1960 that clearly states on an outside sign that it is “a Dutton’s House”. Whether they acquired it when they took over a local brewery, or possibly purchased it outright, is not known. Dutton’s were founded in 1799 when the Bow Street Brewery was established in Blackburn. They underwent a massive expansion during the 1920s and 1930s, taking over many smaller breweries.
In 1964 they were acquired by Whitbread along with 784 pubs, so they were quite a large local brewery. Whitbread closed the Blackburn brewery in 1978.
I remember drinking their Mild and Bitter in the late 1960s. The bitter was sold as Trophy Bitter, often through an electric pump. Their beers were typically north-western products, yet none the worst for that.
Back in the Lake District the Brown Horse was purchased by Steve Edmonson in the mid 2000s, presumably from one of the massive pub companies created following the Beer Orders, who inherited it from the Whitbread estate.
It was said to have been a bit run down so he commenced its revitalization, to very good effect.
It became a renowned place to dine yet still retained its identity as a pub. The experience was enhanced when a brewery was installed in January 2010. Known as the Winster Valley Brewery it is of 2.5 barrels (bbls) capacity; a size the produces ten firkins of beer per brew. I believe it is at the back of the pub and the brewer is Gerald Lyon. Their beer is also sold outside of the pub and some of it is bottled.
The pub looked very welcoming when myself and Russell alighted outside; it was an unseasonably cold April night. On entering we could see the bar to the right and the area in front of it is dedicated to those who have come to the pub just for a drink. The dining area is to the left of the entrance.
The majority of the furniture is wooden and the floor is of flagstone. The walls, especially in the drinking area, are covered with old framed photographs, most of them hung in a rather wonky way, and the ceiling has oak beams.
It’s a good job we had a bit of time here as there were four of their own beers on offer as follows: Old School Ale (3.9%); Lakes Blonde Ale (3.7%); Hurdler Golden Ale (3.5%) and Best Bitter (3.7%). We tried them all but were disappointed with the Old School which we thought had a strange taste. The remainder were excellent.
Other beers they brew are: Dark Horse Mild (3.5%) and Chaser Red Ale (4.1%). There are also two keg lagers: Lakes Lager (4.0%) and Lakes Pilsener (4.8%). Some beers can be purchased in bottles.
All in all, a superb pub to visit. You can stay here as there are nine letting rooms and five self-catering cottages. Its food has a very high reputation.
The Brown Horse, Winster LA23 3NR. Tel: 01549 443443
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11.00-23.00; Sunday 12.00-22.30
Food is available: Monday-Friday 12.00-14.00, 18.00-21.00;
Saturday-Sunday and School Holidays: 12.00-15.00, 17.30-21.30.
This is an extremely remote pub and is not served by public transport.
The nearest railway station is Windermere and taxis are readily available from there.