As we arrived into Staveley I had mixed feelings, excitement that I was moments away from some fine beer and utter selfishness that I had taken hostages along the way. In the car with me were my three young sons (under 4) and my ever supportive wife. I say supportive as she enabled me to get to the festival, was open-minded about dragging the family along and was the default designated driver for the journey home. We set off from Bradford knowing it would be a brief visit before a dash home in time to get the kids to bed.
3 kids, 120 mile round trip, unknown territory, no sat nav, no road map…. nothing could possibly go wrong, but two hours later and after enjoying a slight detour around lake Windermere (see Learning point 1 below), our ETA was shot but moved seamlessly to Plan B: ‘Adapt and overcome’. By the time we sat down in the Beer Hall with food in front of us, and me with my first beer (a Hawkshead 6% Windermere Pale) it was 3pm and I knew I had some tough decisions to make. Sixty+ beers to choose from and roughly 90 minutes to pick a few and enjoy them while remaining in charge of my faculties. I did not want to be accused by anyone of being PUI (Parenting Under the Influence). We opted to sit upstairs (see photo above), away from a drunken group of foul-mouthed youths, and much to the amusement of the onlookers as we lifted a twin pushchair up the flight of stairs. But once settled in we enjoyed the friendly service, the burgers, hotdogs and chips, and a good view of two huge stainless steel fermentation tanks, a view appreciated by me anyway.
On my second trip to the busy bar was with baby 1 under my supervision, the number of comments to the effect of “ooo you’re starting him early aren’t you!“, five. I had barely sat back down in my seat with a Hawkshead Cumbrian Five Hop – a really moreish beer boasting a tropical fruit cocktail of hop aromas and flavours – before it was gone and I was back at the bar, baby 2 under arm, and more friendly banter and comments about my wingman. In between trying a Black Isle Yellow Hammer and a Red Willow Endless, I managed to say a quick hello to Matt Clarke (Head Brewer, Hawkshead). There were a few others I would have liked to meet, but time was up. One more stop was made at the bar to pick up a few bottles to take home, notably the outstanding NZPA, now rebranded and repackaged in 330ml bottles. Was it a bit crazy to drive so far for such a short time? yes! but did we all enjoy the road trip, the sunshine, food and family time? YES! It was of course a huge bonus for me to have visited a festival high up on my list, and I’ll be returning next year with anyone who fancies a jaunt to the Lakes.
- A map is essential. Hawkshead Brewery is not located in or anywhere near Staveley in Cartmel, but I can tell you that it is a lovely little village.
- Four year olds do not tire of asking “are we there yet”.
NeverAlways drink pint measures when visiting a beer festival for less than 2 hours.
- Hawkshead Beer Hall is well worth a trip.