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Wednesday, 02 March 2016

The Beer District

Those who lived through the (keg) bitter years of Watneys Red Barrel, Whitbread Tankard and Courage Tavern could never have imagined that 40-50 years later in Britain there would be such a choice of real ales and craft beers as there is now. ‘Real ale is on a roll,’ says the 2016 edition of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide and Cumbria provides as good an example of this phenomenon as anywhere. There are now over 1400 real ale breweries in the country (the biggest number since the 1930s and 1940s), with almost 40 of them in Cumbria.

That figure includes Yates, the oldest independent (1986), Hawkshead, the biggest independent and Coniston, producer of two supreme champion beers of Britain in Bluebird Bitter and No 9 Barley Wine. Coniston, Dent and Cumbrian Legendary breweries have lovely locations and like Barngates, Carlisle Brewing Co, Watermill, Winster Valley and Hesket Newmarket have close links to or are located next to pubs.

A small number such as Jennings in Cockermouth, Hawkshead and Hesket Newmarket do brewery tours; Eden and Hardknott are well known for their craft beers. Although there are plenty of food and farm shops where you can buy bottled Cumbrian beers - Rheged near Penrith and Booths stores have a good choice - the best places to savour the likes of Loweswater Gold, T’Owd Tup, Doris’ 90th, Tag Lag, Corby Blonde and Dog’th Vader are in the cracking pubs of Cumbria. And, like its small breweries, the county is not short of those either.

The Northern Beer Festival is at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal from March 11-13

The Northern Craft Beer Festival is at Hawkshead Brewery, Staveley from March 18-20.

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