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The UK Beercation 2019 Day 5: The Lake District

Here I’ll continue an epic series of blogposts about our trip to the British Isles this summer. Much like last year’s trip to Germany and the Czech Republic, this was a self-organized tour with our friends Jim and Lori Stroner, as well as my wife Sarajo (Sj) and myself. I’ll be posting a day-by-day travelogue of the trip as I organize and go through my multitude of pictures. While the posts won’t be fully about beer–there will be a focus on good pubs, real ale, distilleries, and food! So here goes: enjoy!

Keswick

Pronounced Kes-Ick, this is a larger city (versus the tiny villages we had been staying at in the Cotswalds), located in the Lake District, with a bustling central square. The Lake District is a region of England known for picturesque hills and lakes and is a very popular vacation spot. The whole region is designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site–our third so far this trip! We had lunch at the Royal Oak–another pub–but the food was bland (roast beef like shoe leather) and service was iffy so I wouldn’t recommend it much. The beer selection was pretty good though with a nice Marston’s bitter on cask. We wandered town a little and finally discovered a couple of antique beer bottles to take home with us in a combination antique/vinyl record store. I could have spent more time in Keswick but we were on a mission!

Castlerigg

Not a castle. Castlerigg is another of the mysterious stone circles, built around 3000 BC on a crag overlooking a valley and with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. The wind was up, whipping us around a little as we tried to take stable pictures of the ring with our tripods. There were a fair number of tourists wandering amongst the ring and around it so getting clear photos was difficult. At one point we had a group of about 10 people poised to take photos (our location was the best for photographing this site with the hills behind it) but one large and slow moving lady was completely oblivious that she was holding us up by taking cell-phone panoramas from the opposite side of the circle. It became quite comical at one point, as she (for the 5th time) tried to do this from too close to the circle and into the sun–with all of us scowling photographers surely being in her shot . Eventually she shambled off, but very, very slowly. The picture above was taken as she walked behind one of the larger stones. We all quick snapped a few shots before the next car-load of tourists came running into the circle and sitting on top of the stones.

Mystical Stones, Mystical Sheep?

Ella’s Crag

This is the view from the back porch of our B&B!

Our next stop was our B&B, Ella’s Crag, nestled right into the middle of some of the most jaw-dropping scenery we saw on the whole trip. Our room looked out over the Catbell’s and the sun was shining brightly for once. I think all of us wish we had stayed here another night–with more time to relax on the patio and gardens and enjoy the landscape. I highly recommend Ella’s Crag as a B&B.

Not content to sit around (I know Sj wishes she had stayed) we headed out for more exploration. We took a scenic (narrow, windy, and slighly hair-raising) road around the district and got some more fantastic views. Sheep, stony crags, waterfalls, and tiny clusters of cottages, all dotted the land around us. We pulled off several times to get photos of such…

Yes, there is a signpost for the town of Cockermouth…
We barely fit our car over this bridge…

Middle Ruddings Country Inn

We had dinner plans at Middle Ruddings Country Inn, a classic old inn and pub. This place has an old-school and slightly faded charm, but I liked it. Our meal was pleasant and filling, like most of the food we had on this trip. Much better than lunch had been . They had a small bar, but several beers were on cask and they had some hoppier English craft beer options for us to try out like The Kernel’s Mosaic Pale Ale.

Beer Taps

This seems like a good place to discuss some beer information. I’ve been focusing a lot on towns and scenery, but this is a beer oriented blog afterall! While we started drinking good beers in pubs from day one, I think it took a while before we really had some idea what the beer styles and culture really were. We were also in a lot of smaller towns initially and didn’t hit our serious pub-visiting stride until we got to to some of the larger cities.

I’m going to focus here on the actual taps and ordering of beers. At this point we Americans are a little spoiled with beer options in bars and pubs–with most places having anywhere from 6 to 30 taps to choose from. Most of the pubs in the UK that we visited had from 2 to 10 at the most. We specifically searched out pubs that were known to have cask or Real Ale available (more on this in a future post) and most of these places had 1-3 options for cask beer. In America, marketing is done by tap handles–I can walk up to the bar at Iron Tap in Waconia, MN and look at the tap handles in front of me and choose my beer. Fanciful designs and colors, brewery logos, spinning knobs, glowing lights, all differentiate one brewery’s tap handle from another. In the UK, most of the beer engine tap handles are built into the hand-pull beer engine and don’t change. So they’ve come up with removable signs that range from simple cardstock on clips, to plastic, to metal that clip onto the front of the handle.

An example of a classic Real Ale handle from the Red Lion

Most of the other typical CO2 carbonated keg beers are served from regular taps, but even these are mostly built-in 1-6 tap towers with small knobs as handles. These will usually have a small glass or clear plastic circular badge up front with the brewery name under it. Usually these don’t have information about the beer itself–just having the logo for Peroni or Budwieser, etc. Not always, but these were usually the more mass produced beers and were not usually local to the area we were in. Again, more beer info to follow in future posts!

A collection of tap handle labels from The Ship

Once done with dinner we stopped back in Keswick to take pictures of boats beached for the evening. Jim was to wake up the next morning at 3:30 to get down there for sunrise pictures. I was smart and stayed in bed. I’m sure Jim’s pictures are amazing, but he was a bit of zombie the next day. Braaaaiiiiins! We finished the evening in our B&B sipping some of our beers from Donnington Brewery and planning the next day’s trip to Scotland.

Up next: Scotland! Marshland! Adders! Scotch!

If you want to hear the episode of A One Pint Stand where Dan and I recap the entirety of my UK Beercation, click on the link below. If you like the podcast, subscribe so you don’t miss an episode!

https://www.spreaker.com/user/the4dpodcastnetwork/a-one-pint-stand-episode-38-2019-beercat

Running Tally

Pubs: 12

Neolithic Stone Circles: 3

Unesco World Heritage Sites: 3

Ruined Abbey/Church: 3

Castles: 2

Breweries: 2