Tuesday, 7 May 2019

A visit to Hawkshead Brewery


Staveley in the Lake District is easily reached by train from Oxenholme and is on the line to Windermere.

The Railway Hotel is no more, having closed around 2005 but that's no matter, a short stroll downhill from the station is Hawkshead Brewery, housed in a former mill. The brewery was started by Alex Brodie in 2002, just outside of the Cumbrian village of Hawkshead and relocated to Staveley in 2006 with a 20-barrel brewery. The company operates another brewery at Flookburgh, a 40 barrel plant, this expansion was made possible by a £3 million investment from the parent company, Halewood International, who are famous for the Crabbie's brand of ginger beer. Halewood International also own Sadler's Brewery and the chav's favourite sparkling perry, Lambrini. Halewood handle the distribution of Hawkshead beers. The Staveley Brewery specialises in brewing small-scale specialist beers, whilst the regular beers will be brewed at Flookburgh.  
Above: Some of the beers brewed by Hawkshead

The Staveley brewery has a beer hall attached which is open all day and serves food, you don't have to attend the brewery tour in order to have a drink here, the hall is open to all.
Hawkshead Brewery award-wall is large and impressive
The brewery tour begins with a video and explanation of the ingredients used to brew here. Unusually, possibly uniquely, the water is brought to the brewery via tanker rather than a mains connection. 
Malt ready to go in the grist case
Above: the mash tun
Above: the copper
Above: the fermenting room
The house yeast is unique, having been obtained from a now-defunct German brewery, a top-fermenting yeast from a former Kolsch brewer. 
Conditioning and racking room
Above: One of their small scale brews, ageing in whisky casks

Above: two multi-purpose vessels, can be used for fermenting or conditioning.

Above and below: the range of Hawkshead beers available in their Beer Hall, both cask and keg
The unusual range of beers included a Chuckle Berry Sour, a Berliner Weiss with Chuckleberries, having pressed Chuckleberries and tasted the rather tart cross of redcurrant, gooseberry and Jostaberry (a gooseberry/blackcurrant cross) it was good to see a use for this distinctive fruit. 

The brewery tour costs £10 (2019 price) and starts each day at 1300 hrs.

If you are in the area, make sure to take a trip to Windermere, the next stop up on the railway line, to visit the fantastic Crafty Baa.

If you're heading the other direction, a short but steep walk uphill from Oxenholme Railway Station is the Station Inn, offering good food and Wifi, the perfect place to spend a couple of hours filling in your refund form online for the trains delayed for over two hours due to a derailment! Thanks to Virgin Trains for a speedy refund though!

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Award-winning cidermaker opens micropub in Hereford



Herefordshire cidermaker Denis Gwatkin of Gwatkin's Cider in Abbeydore, has opened a micropub in Hereford's historic Buttermarket, serving a range of his award-winning ciders and perries as well as beers and lager from Wye Valley Brewery, either to drink in or takeaway. Denis, who has been making cider now for almost 30 years decided to open “Gwatkin'sHouse of Cider” in the Buttermarket as the building is undergoing refurbishment and regeneration with artisan food and drink producers moving in alongside the more traditional market businesses such as butchers and cheesemongers.
Above: Michael Sammars (Bar Manager), Theresa Roberts (Director of Gwatkin Cider) and Denis Gwatkin (Director of Gwatkin Cider)

According to Denis Gwatkin, “This is a great opportunity for us to be able to sell our ciders and perries in the heart of Hereford. We have a successful farm shop at our farm in Abbeydore but not everyone can get out to it, so this is our way of bringing our shop to the centre of the city of Hereford. We're stocking our full range of award-winning ciders and perries alongside other drinks and we are aiming our ciders to complement the range of food available in the Buttermarket. Customers are welcome to try our ciders and we have upcycled cable reels to serve as tables around our bar. We're very excited at this prospect and for the future developments in the Buttermarket.”


Hereford Buttermarket is undergoing a resurgence, along with new businesses such as Gwatkin Cider moving into the building there are plans to open up the upper floors to encourage more traders into the historic structure.



Gwatkin's House ofCider is open from 0900-1645 Monday to Saturday, in Hereford Buttermarket, High Town, Hereford, HR1 2AA


Tuesday, 12 February 2019

A visit to Black Sheep Brewery



 Hidden behind the White Bear Hotel in Masham is the town's other brewery, Black Sheep, housed in the former maltings of the Lightfoot Brewery, which was taken over by Theakston in 1919. In fact the White Bear Hotel occupies the former Lightfoot Brewery buildings, the original White Bear was destroyed by a bomb in 1941, not deliberately it seems, a damaged Heinkel was shedding it's bombs before it crashed.
The front of the Black Sheep Brewery is rather industrial, it's the rear of the premises where the impressive and more photogenic side is.
The ghost sign underneath the Black Sheep Brewery letters refers to the previous use of the building as a maltings.
 Whereas the outside blends the historic and industrial, inside there is a modern bar, bistro and shop
 There were more people on this tour than on the one a few hours earlier going around the Theakston Brewery, a lot more, there were 3 people on the Theakston tour, including myself, whereas there were about 25 on the Black Sheep tour, this could be put down to better marketing but also the Black Sheep Brewery has room for coaches in the large car park.
First up on the tour was a corporate video, explaining the history of this brewery, founded by Paul Theakston in 1992.
                                                     Below: The Theakston family tree
The brewery appears to have been designed with tourism in mind, from the shop and bar to the video room and walkways. A short walk from the video room and up some stairs we come to the tall and long room of the former maltings, now home to the mash tun and copper.
Both pieces of equipment were second hand, the copper coming from the former Hartley's Brewery of Ulverston, Cumbria which closed in 1991.
 Above: a close-up of the mash tun and Steele's Masher
Below: the copper
Back to the the other room for another copper and the hopback

The fermenting room features round Yorkshire square fermenters which sounds like a bit of a contradiction in terms but, bear with me for this! The Yorkshire Square method of fermentation refers to the two-part open-topped fermenting vessels and the rousing pipe which circulates the fermented wort over the yeast. The multiplying yeast expands into the upper vessel, separating the beer from the yeast. Originally these vessels were square or rectangular but difficulty in cleaning  and sourcing new vessels resulted in the round Yorkshire Square being invented.
Above: An old Yorkshire Square at the brewery
Above: the rousing pipe and the yeast below
Above: cut-away diagram showing the Yorkshire Square fermenter
Black Sheep brewery are one of the few breweries using this method of fermentation.
Below: the racking hall
The tour guide on this tour was one of the most knowledgeable and informative guides I have been with on a brewery tour. Well versed in the history and function of the brewery plant, he also threw in a few amusing anecdotes, such as when the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, visited the German-born Pope Benedict XVI he took him a bottle of Black Sheep Monty Python Holy Grail beer!
Tours of Black Sheep Brewery cost £9.95 pp (2018 prices) and if you only have time to visit one brewery in Masham, I suggest visit Black Sheep rather than Theakston's as the tour is far better.

Masham is not short of pubs, however I only had time for a swift pint in the Bruce Arms before catching the bus back to Ripon.

Monday, 11 February 2019

A visit to Theakston's Brewery

 The small market town  of Masham is home to 2 breweries, Theakston and Black Sheep, both owned by different branches of the same family.
Theakston's was founded in 1827 at the Black Bull pub and expanded here, to Paradise Fields in 1875. Theakston's was owned by Scottish & Newcastle between 1987-2003 and some of the beers were brewed elsewhere, now the brewery is independent once more all the beers are brewed in Masham.

Masham is surprising in that it is home to to large breweries, as the town is quite isolated, to reach here by public transport is a bit difficult but is possible, there is a two-hourly daytime bus service running from Ripon (it's a City!) to Richmond. Ripon is served by an excellent bus service from Leeds and Harrogate, buses run every 20 minutes during the day and hourly at night, free WiFi on the very comfortable buses as well!

The brewery itself is rather difficult to photograph from the outside, not being on a main road but almost hidden down a lane in this flat market town, no hills to have a strategic view here.
The unmistakable Victorian Tower Brewery
Below: the former maltings of the brewery
The Theakston's Visitor Centre is tucked away around the back of the brewery, housed in the former brewery stables.
The visitor centre is named after the original pub that Robert Theakston had started brewing in, back in 1827 and the Paradise Fields that the brewery moved to 1875
The visitor centre features a bar and a shop selling plenty of Theakston's breweriana, though, unfortunately no book on the history of the brewery.
Above: The brewery yard from the visitor centre
Below:the malt on the ground floor of the brewery, waiting to be hoisted to the top of the tower brewery

 Above and below: the grist mill at the top of the brewery

From the grist mill to the mash tun, via, of course, the Steele's Masher

I did ask if this was the original mash tun as it looks it, the tour guide said yes, I then asked if this was the oldest working mash tun in the country, unfortunately the tour guide didn't know and replied that there were breweries older than Theakston's, naming Jennings and Robinson's, I replied that both have had major refits and don't use the original equipment. So is this the oldest working mash tun in the country? Harvey's or Palmer's may be brewing with something older but most other regional brewers have modernised or upgraded. Still if it works, why upgrade?
The day of my visit was a brewing day, so there was plenty of steam around to cause the autofocus on my camera to malfunction, however, the photo below is in black and white as it shows the steam rising into the louvered roof and escaping.

Back on the ground floor this fine vessel is the hopback
Below: the open square fermenters, although two at the end appear to be covered

Below: racking room

Final stop off was the cooperage, house in the old blacksmiths shop next to the stables. 


Then back to the Black Bull in Paradise for the beers



Three thirds of Theakston's beers are included in the price of the visit (£8.50 2018), yes the one on the right is the famous Old Peculier, named after the "Peculier Court of Masham", an ecclesiastical court set up in the twelfth century so that the Bishop of York did not have to make the long and dangerous journey to the town.
Overall an enjoyable visit to a brewery, although it's rare for me not to enjoy them! It's not often I visit an almost unchanged Victorian Tower Brewery, the heat and the steam
A bit let down by the knowledge of the staff, then again this was an ordinary visit, I often find the general pr staff unable to answer my questions! The only other fault is that in the extensive shop that sells everything from branded shirt to branded cake, there is no book on the history of this brewery.

The next post will be of the other brewery in Masham, Black Sheep.

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