Another part of our (hopefully) year-long video project, A Year of Beer. looking at the idea of beer and seasonality - how different styles of beer are more appropriate to different seasons, weathers, festivals and so on. There will also be a bit of beer and food matching thrown in because, hell, we love to eat as much as we love to drink.
This week: Hawkshead Brewery
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I first stumbled upon a beer from the Hawkshead Brewery a few years ago, while spending a birthday weekend in the Lake District. The beer was Hawkshead Bitter, and it had a markedly bright, vibrant hop character, which at the time seemed more in keeping with American craft beers than it did with English ale. I didn't know much about the brewery then, and I don't know a great deal more now, but a bit of web research will give you these highlights: founded by Alex Brodie, an ex-BBC World Service correspondent, the brewery has grown quickly and relocated from Hawkshead to Staveley. I do know, via a friend who spent a stag afternoon at the brewery dressed as a Victorian gentleman, that the new brewery and beer hall is extensive and impressive.
And the beers, although perhaps not as extensive as the new brewery, are also impressive. Lakeland Lager (5%abv) is a good stab at the pilsner style, with a crisp, lemony bite and clean, assertive bitterness building in the finish. Lakeland Gold (4.4%abv) is as good a golden ale as I've drunk this year, with a wonderful softness to it, the pale malt working nicely as a blank canvas against which vibrant floral and citrus hops display themselves.
The surprise of the three beers tasted here was undoubtedly Brodie's Prime (4.9%abv). This looks a little like a stout, but the aroma puts flight to that mistake; lots of dark fruit and cocoa, with some dark chocolate, a very faint hint of smoke and an earthy spiciness in the background. A dark ale that manages to be both complex and drinkable. It's fresh and vibrant, but also has depth and body. Really very good.
Two other beers not documented in the video (you see, if you only watch these videos on YouTube, you don't get the full story) are Hawkshead Red which, as the name implies, is a rich red ale, with a ripe fruit and red berry malt character, and an Organic Stout which, I have to be honest, I haven't tried yet - I was contemplating trying it with some oysters, so that's still at least six weeks away.
Hawkshead Brewery seem to be on a roll at the moment. The beers are great, the range of beers is entirely appropriate to the size of brewery, and the quality is high. For sure, good things are beckoning for them.
NB - For the avoidance of doubt and the purposes of transparency I should probably mention that the owner of the Hawkshead Brewery, Alex Brodie, also happened to be on the panel of judges who anointed me Beer Writer of the Year in 2008. He's clearly a gentleman of no small taste and refinement, but that would count for nowt if the beers weren't great.