This week saw the annual summer camping trip for myself and my little girl accompanying a long time friend and his only daughter. For the first time we headed up to the Lake District, staying at the top end of Lake Windermere.  Half the fun of camping is just chilling out, eating good unhealthy food and enjoying a couple of nice beers in the evening heat.

However this is England and on the first night the Lake District lived up to its name. After a promising start to the day in Bowness and a trip to Booths to pick up some beer for the evening from Hardknott Brewery, a beer producer I’d been dying to sample the output of for a some time, we headed to the campsite and the weather gods truly frowned upon us.

From 3pm until 8am the following day there was not a single break in the rain.  As soon as we finished setting up camp we drove up to Hawkshead and hid in the pub for tea.  There is a benefit to this in that I got to sample some beers I wouldn’t normally get to sample, and I could get rather partial to Hawkshead Lager, a lovely refreshing beer brewed nearby in Stavley with plenty of interest for the taste buds.

However what you do notice is the sheer number of local breweries in the Lake District area. Just looking at the Post Office / General Store there were at least 10-15 breweries with a good range of beers available in a variety of brewing styles.   Only a handful of the brewers I have tried before and most of those are single beers from the brewery.   For a beer ticker this would be hog heaven, but for me the Hardknott beers were the call of the night upon return to the campsite.

Being virtually imprisoned in a tent with sitting in the awning on a groundsheet which was rapidly losing its water resistance is not the night one dreams of when out in the wilds.  However certain things can turn what could be a pain of situation into something acceptable and that is good company and good beer and/or food. The company was high quality as always and the beer was certainly as good on this occasion!  Starting with the best, 8% Quebold is a fantastic flavoursome beer, full of the taste you expect from a hop loaded beer balanced with fruity flavours.  The strength never takes overs and leaves you refreshed wanting more which is a pity as we only got a bottle each in.

Next we tried the Code Black, a black IPA sitting at 5.6%.  The idea of a black pale ale is an oxymoron, but it works done well like this one.  The light flavour tinged with the hoppy bitterness of a classic IPA is mixed with the toasted dark flavours seen typically in a stout or heavier beer compliment each other perfectly.  The beer which works well when mixed in with others lighter than itself as we did, giving that flavour contrast when compared to its pale cousins.

We finished off the night with a bottle of their session beer, a cracking 4% ale in Continuum, again nicely balanced with the edge of the hops and the roundness of the citrus and fruit flavours exhibited in the previous two beers.  This is classic session beer of the highest quality and would form the basis of an excellent evenings drinking when mixed in with occasional bottle of the other 2 beers.

The real pity is that this brewers beers are not regularly available outside of the Lake District unless you are in a craft ale bar or order them online.   I only tried 3 of them and if I could have got hold of the brewery’s Cool Fusion, Infra Red or Azimuth they would have been in my basket and sampled on the second night when the weather was beautiful and the fry up went down a treat.  The bottles of Coniston XB, Lakeland Lager and Cumbrian Legendary Ales (modest these guys) American Invasion all hit the spot as well and would get space on my beer shelf anyday.

The night was topped off by the views across Lake Windermere at dusk towards Ambleside and the hills beyond it.  As I said when you have good company, good food, good beer and good scenery, what more can you ask for!