Louise Allonby eats out at the Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley

You would think that one place to be avoided at all costs by someone doing Dry January would be a brewery. Yet that is from where I bring this week's food review to you, after lunching at the Hawkshead Brewery on Day 16 of my alcohol-free month.

Not, as its name more than suggests, based in Hawkshead, but in Staveley, the brewery - as well as producing ales, of course - has a two-level bar serving light lunches to go with all those Cumbrian ales.

I was actually on pretty safe ground on the sticking to Dry January front, as I have never drunk beer in my life.

Can't see what the fuss is about, frankly. Had this been the Hawkshead winery, my willpower might have been put far more to the test.

The brewery is housed in a small but kind of quaint industrial estate, which backs on to a pretty river.

Naturally industrial itself in style, there's nothing chic or elegant about the bar: it's for serious ale drinkers to indulge their passion.

Not for me - I "indulged" in a glass of lime and soda, womanfully averting my eyes from the range of gins also on offer; but my husband couldn't resist temporarily ditching Dry January for the seductions of a pint of Hawkshead pale ale, the lightweight.

The food at the brewery is as rustic as the surroundings. The menu isn't huge but there's a variety of light bites, main meals and puds.

I was very disappointed to see that the soup of the day was mushroom and tarragon, as I had been childishly hoping it would be pea.

Sadly, I was denied the opportunity to be able to report that the staff were able to organise a pea soup in a brewery, so I chose sausage, egg and beans on toast for £10, which was much posher than it sounded.

Duck and chilli sausages with a mixed bean and chorizo cassoulet and perfectly fried egg on a thick wedge of sourdough bread, it was almost as hipster as the bearded young men who work at the brewery.

The sausages were top quality and I'll be amazed if they were anything other than locally sourced.

A real kick came with these artisan bangers, complemented by the rich bean and chorizo cassoulet - of which there was a very generous serving. This was a really hearty dish and great value for a tenner.

Gordon, meanwhile, had chosen a Yorkshire pudding (£7.50), filled with beef braised in ale (it would be heresy for it to be braised in anything else) and topped with a horseradish sauce.

It wasn't the prettiest looking dish I've seen, although it would surely challenge the most artistic chef to make a Yorkshire pud look sophisticated.

This ugly sister dish, however, went down a storm with Gordon.

The beef was beautifully tender and there was masses of it, swimming in the rich ale sauce.

The creamy horseradish gave the dish more depth - and Gordon loved it.

Having ordered at the bar downstairs, we had decamped up to the next level to eat, simply because it was quieter than at the bar, at which numerous bearded customers and artisan types were chewing the fat over their pints.

I've been to the brewery once before - for a friend's wedding night do - and this second visit reminded me how challenging the acoustics can be in a building, such as this, with no soft surfaces. It's all wood and metal - and that means that even with only a few punters in, it's noisy.

We weren't tempted enough by the pudding choices (sticky toffee pudding, apple crumble or ice cream), so drained our glasses - Gordon with pleasure after that cheeky pint of beer, me with boredom and a fervent hope that February 1 comes quickly.

This was a good, hearty, rustic lunch. No complaints from me, apart from the notable absence of that pea soup in a brewery, which I just know I would have enjoyed.

Food 4

Service 3.5

Value 3.5

Atmosphere 3


Quality ingredients

Ales galore

Brewery tours available


No pea soup

Poor acoustics