Over the last few weeks I travelled to see, or spend time with friends in various parts of the country. Three things make up a good time when real day to day life is not adding the complexities of life. The first is being with the right people, the second is a good location, the third is good food and drink. The third one is an important element of my life 365 days a year, probably to the detriment of my figure, but going further afield allows you to try different things especially the local beers you can’t get easily in my home area of Calderdale.
It is also a chance to take some of West Yorkshires fine collection of beers for others to enjoy. So on my first trip to see a long time friend in North Wales, a selection of Summer Wine Brewery and Mallinsons beer was coming along for the ride. An early morning driving through the fine scenery south of the Snowdonia to pick him up from his house (located in the middle of nowhere and then a bit further from anywhere), then driving up to Portmeirion set me up for a cracking day. The village where they filmed “The Prisoner” is a stunning place to visit, with few places equalling it in the UK as a piece of complete architecture.
Stopping at the Town Hall Cafe after deciding that hot muggy weather is not the best time to go for a walk, we tried a couple of Purple Moose beers brewed up the road at Porthmadog, both of which are well recommended, the Snowdonia Ale (pale session beer) and Madog (reddish session ale) hit the spot, refreshing with a nice balance of hops. Then after spending another hour or two discovering more the lines of sight that its founder Sir Clough William Ellis designed into the plan, we sat in the Hotel garden overlooking the straits from which the Afon Glaslyn flows into the sea and chilled over a pint of nice european beer, not local I admit, but certainly what was needed in the increasing heat.
On the way home we took a diversion via Barmouth (made a lot longer by the Porthmadog – Harlech toll bridge being out of action). If you are ever in the town I implore you to try the Welsh Black Burger at the Anchor Restaurant on the front. Not cheap, but worth every penny and you’ll not find a beef burger this dense in many places. A quick pint of another quality local session ale (name forgotten) at the Cross Foxes near Dolgellau and then it was back for an evening of great home cooked food and equally good Yorkshire ales.
The following weekend I was up in the Lake District staying at the top of Lake Windermere for 3 days with another good friend, my eldest daughter and his daughter. This will be the 5th year we have done the annual summer camping trip along with the winter camping barn trip each year. Over the last couple of years since we started coming to the Lakes, we have been popping into Booths County Supermarket in Bowness to stock up on local beers. This consisted of as many Hardknott beers as we had a choice of plus a couple of other local brews.
Hardknott beers are not that common in the pubs I visit, so when I can get them I do rather gorge on them. The comment by my friend that the beer selection was “overkill for 2 nights” was proved slightly wrong when we ran out on night one. Queboid is a really interesting beer, with flavours from all directions. Code Black is a cracking example of one of my favourite styles of beer, the Black IPA (we also tried their own excellent Black IPA brewed by nearby Hawkshead Brewery). Katalyst and Continuum are two session strength ales, the latter being more traditional bitter with some great fruity flavours coming through, whilst the former is a lighter ale, with a crisper flavour. A return visit to Booths in Keswick the following day topped us up on several of these Hardknott beers.
During the day, we stopped at the Fish Inn at Buttermere after a very warm walk around the neighbouring lake, us adults not having benefit of swimming in the lake twice unlike the kids. With 8 real ales on tap with some of the bigger regional brewers as well as Keswick and Hesket Newmarket from the smaller local brewery pot, a couple of which went down very quickly after a few hours in the humid heat.
Sitting by Lake Windermere, watching the kids mess about in the water, enjoying a good beer as the sun sets over the Lake District hills and mountains is really rather nice place to be in summer, and is hard to beat, much like the beers we were drinking.