Cumbria breweries enjoy success in beer awards
CUMBRIAN beer has been toasting success yet again. DUNCAN BICK speaks to the brewers behind it
THE days of brewers producing "bland brown liquid" are over, never to return.
This is the confident prediction of one of the leading figures on the Cumbrian brewing scene.
Alex Brodie, who runs Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley, near Kendal, is confident that "people's tastebuds have woken up" and that the demand for real ales and craft beers - as popular with bearded urban hipsters as with the traditional enthusiast - will be a long-term trend.
Mr Brodie's remarks came after Hawkshead toasted phenomenal success at this year's Society for Independent Brewers (Siba) North West Independent Beer Awards.
It took home five gold awards - overall gold in the cask competition for Windermere Ale while Brodie’s Prime Export was overall small pack winner. Both also won in separate categories for cask standard bitters and pale ales and small pack premium strong beers respectively. Alongside these, the brewery's Hawkshead Lager also won gold in the small pack premium lager and pilsners category.
Hawkshead also took a silver in the small pack mid to dark beers for its Tiramisu Imperial Stout and again in the small pack strong bitters and pale ales round for its NZPA product. It took bronze in the smallpack premium bitters contest and pale ales for Sundown and its Chuckleberry Sour won the same prize in the small pack speciality light beer round.
He is optimistic about the industry's future.
He said: "These days there are so many breweries, nearly 2,000 in the UK. It has never been a better time for beer.
"There are more beers and there is more choice than ever before and I have been around it for a long, long time."
Things have now become so extreme that there is even a shortage of skills in the industry.
"As long as I have been in the business, people have been saying 'it will all fall apart," he added.
"What I think has happened is that people's tastebuds have awoken and that is not going to go into reverse," he said.
"There will be casualties, there always are in business, but I just think that in this country and all over the world people are producing really interesting and challenging beers.
"We are not going to say that it is difficult and instead we will produce bland brown liquid."
Head brewer Matt Clarke said: “I’m massively proud of what we achieve as a team, and gaining awards like these only add to our drive to push forward and keep brewing better and better beer.”
Other Cumbrian successes were Barngates Brewery in Ambleside, which took silver in the cask beers and pale ales competition with Tag Lag, Cumbrian Legendary Ales in Hawkshead, which took a bronze in the cask specialty mid to dark beers round with its Vanilla Oatmill Stout, and the Watermill Inn and Windermere Brewing Company won bronze in the cask standard mild ales and brown ales contest with its Balckbeard product.
Keswick Brewing Company was the only one other than Hawkshead to take more than one prize. It won three awards - a silver in the small pack premium bitters and pale ales contest for KSB, as well as a bronze for its Dark Horse beer in the cask porters, stouts, old ales, strong milds and strong brown ales category and another bronze for Keswick Bitter in the small pack standard mild ales and brown ales.
Owner Sue Jefferson said: "It was excellent because this is an award against all the breweries in the entire North West area and there are a lot of them."
Mrs Jefferson also had her own secret for brewing success.
"The condition of the beer is all down to the care and attention of the brewers," she said.
"You also need to put in a lot of hard work to make good beer."
SIBA competitions committee chairman Guy Sheppard said: “These awards are judged in blind-tasting by brewers and industry experts, so to take home overall gold across two categories is a first in England and something Hawkshead should be extremely proud of - I’d like to congratulate them and all of the other brewers who won awards as the quality of entries was high across the board.”
Hawkshead will now go on to compete for the national titles with its gold award beers.